We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly McClelland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, why did you pursue a creative career?
I pursued an artistic and creative career mostly because I couldn’t imagine not doing that.
My first job in high school was working for a friend’s dad who owned an advertising agency. I did sketches and learned how to use a stat camera and act like I was cool. Then I had to get another job as a waitress and wear pantyhose, and that lasted one day.
Science was super interesting to me, and math was not super interesting to me – not in the math way. I used to check out Calculus books from the library when I was 10 or 11, so I could copy the way the math “looked.” I liked the way my pencil felt on the paper, the weight of a line, the sound of something important. I absorbed way it looked, the way the lines, arrows, letters, and numbers seemed to live together and solve problems.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
So I am a graphic designer, story facilitator, as well as a painter. I love the way these 3 things seem to balance with me. Solving visual challenges, working with people on finding insight and moments in their stories, and getting my hands elbow deep in paint – I am fed by all of these.
After I worked for Ouray, I worked for Chaco, a footwear company that was, at the time, located in Paonia, CO. I designed webbing pattern design for sandals, and all of their printed materials. Then I decided to work for myself and have been doing so ever since, mostly for nonprofits like Denver Public Health and High Country News.
My work with StoryCenter is unique, and is very different than my graphic design work. We help people in our 3-day workshops find and listen to their first-person stories, and teach them the tools to create a 3-minute video about moments. I like to say it’s sort of a cross between long-division and creative writing, because the 2-sides of the brain are working together. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer while I had just started facilitating for StoryCenter.
The painting part of my creative work always comes back to layers. I paint in layers. Layers of math and maps, lines and words, patterns and texture. One layer is put down, takes time to dry, then another layer, then another, and I pull out these layers as I paint the next layer. Lately I have been working more on the immediacy of a line, and how that feels, and when to leave it alone, or how hard it is to let it be let alone.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, it’s COVID-times, so this looks very different now… but before COVID, we go to MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is one of my favorite spots to escape and have conversations. Before going there, we’d go to Brider for some great brunch and mimos (mimosas). And before that, we’d go to a Beth Sanchez yoga class and sink into our mats.
Or instead of staying in the city, let’s get up super early and head to Niwot Ridge for an alpine hike/ski and look for mushrooms. Then come back for a beer at Edgewater Public Market, because my wife, Trace and I live blocks away. We’d invite my mother-in-law, Lucia, who also lives blocks away.
That sounds like a perfect day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many have influenced me, supported me, encouraged me in my creative work. From my kindergarten teacher to my Grandpa, both who are heroes to me. I got to work for 7 years with my best friend, Nancy, at Ouray Sportswear. I was the first creative artist to be hired there. As we were growing the company I got to hire Nancy. Imagine working with your best friend in a creative industry? It was Google before Google, in the sense that I was able to make the argument that creative minds need to do other things than sit at desks all day. We need to spark that creativity sometimes by walking on the railroad tracks while juggling, or having a dart board in our office. The Art Department grew to something like 15 people before I decided to move on to other things.
I worked for Chaco for 4 years after that, and found a soulful connection with Dawn Rae Tylak (Knoth), who hired me there. We are still connected now after many years and I treasure her.
StoryCenter deserves a big shoutout too. I took my first workshop in 2010 in Lyons, CO, at Stonebridge Farm. Daniel Weinshenker and Allison Myers were my facilitators/teachers, and now I am teaching with them.
I was fortunate to be involved with Women of Color on the Frontlines, a response to the observation that BIPOC providers are underrepresented in the art, media, and reporting around the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I did the logo and about 4 or 5 portraits of people in their PPE while working through the pandemic. Dr. Sarah Rowan, who my wife works with at Denver Health, reached out to me about helping out, and I was on-board right away.
So many friends and family were my support system when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2014. It’s also when I met my wife Trace… so that may be a story all in itself..