Hope Wallace is a collage artist and designer who works out of her home studio in the outskirts of Baltimore. Hope’s designs are sold throughout the country in boutiques and on her website. Her work has been featured in several major magazines including Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion Magazine and Somerset Studio’s Legacy Magazine. She also has written articles and provided artwork for other national publications. She loves working with antique papers and images that evoke a bygone era.

Website: Hope Wallace

What do you do and how did you start?
I am a collage artist and designer who runs my own online shop. I sell my own greeting card line, collage prints, ephemera and design services.

I first got started when a friend took me to her rubber stamp club and I found a piece of vintage sheet music on the table. I grabbed it and spent the whole night cutting it up and using it in little collages — I never even touched a rubber stamp or ink while I was there! The next day I went to an antique shop and found a box of old sheet music for five dollars… the rest, as they say, is history!

How old were you when you realized you wanted to do and how old were you when you actually began?
Since before I can remember I was always cutting up magazines and collaging them together on journals or poster board to hang in my room. I grew up with a creative mother who did craft shows and sold creations made from seashells. It was always a hobby for her, never something she considered as a career so I never really took being creative seriously. Then I found myself creating nonstop after the rubber stamp club night and I started showing people my work. I got such a positive response and several requests to purchase my work so I decided to pursue it. When I first started selling my creations in the summer of 2005 I had just turned 33.

What steps did you take to create your own business?
I really did not plan it out, it just all fell into place for me. I got a lot of encouragement from friends who are creative and have their own businesses, and they suggested that I start slow to see how I liked it and how my products would be received. I created a website for myself and offered a couple prints of my collages that I printed myself (I spent hours researching and testing papers to get something high quality). Since I got such a very favourable response, I slowly added more and more products.

What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I took one art class in collage which helped give me a basic foundation for design, but other than that I have no formal training. I am self taught.

How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
I created a website, which in itself was a fun and creative project. I then had two good friends help with the item descriptions… one is in marketing, the other a journalism major and they were more than happy to help. I started out just selling prints of my collages and was so shocked when people started purchasing them. Soon after, I moved onto postcards and eventually greeting cards. Some of my first customers, who have seen me grow in products and style, still shop with me today! I am always adding new items as I discover them within me.

I actually love the selling aspect of the business as much as creating the products. I love re-doing my website design and thinking up new ways to market my items. I feel lucky that I’ve taken to both creating the items and running the shop.

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?
The emails from happy customers are always wonderfully rewarding to receive. As a shop owner I strive to offer excellent service. The emails from other artists or people just starting out, finding their creative side, thanking me for being so inspiring, warms my heart and makes it all worth while. The frustrating thing for me is getting my name, work and product lines out there in a world forever dominated by large mass-market companies.

Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
My biggest fear is that some day what I love to do will turn sour for me, and end up being a heartless means to paying the bills. I really try to focus on the here and now and make decisions for Paper Relics with this in mind. So as I grow as a person, artist and company, I can stay on track and true to myself.

How do you deal with creative blocks?
When I get blocked while working in cut and paste collage, it is time for me to switch to digital work and vice versa. It’s as though I need to do both, and when the balance is tipped one way or the other I just need to change gears. If I am blocked by both, I find that joining a group project helps get me going again. Also picking up my camera and viewing the world through the lens for an hour or afternoon is always refreshing and inspiring and jump starts me.

What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
My biggest challenge is creating my own niche in the creative world. I am constantly getting off track and looking for that one place I can fit into comfortably instead of working on making a niche of my own.

What kind of work environment do you have? 
I have a home studio that I love. It is filled with artwork from all sorts of artists so that when I walk in to start on a project I am always amazed and inspired.

Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I really have a lot of ideas that I would love to implement if I had more money to spend. Then again, a year ago there were things I am doing now that were not financially possible, so who knows what I will be able to accomplish a year from today!

What is your definition of success?
Being happy with what I do and who I am in all aspects of my life. I feel strongly that all the aspects of my life are connected – if I am unhappy personally, I find I do not put in 110 percent to my company. So finding balance in my life and being happy is the best definition of success for me.

Who or what are your inspirations? 
Oh… So many! Photography really inspires me, the moments Robert Doisneau captured in his work makes my imagination soar. New Orleans makes me see creatively, it was the first place I really discovered my eye for photography which has played a major role in my work today. I love old typology and graphics. The huge network of online blogs and websites of artists small and large. Artist Maggie Taylor. My closet friends. That first warm day of the year. Cupcakes… I could go on and on!

Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals:
Follow your heart– It will not lead you astray. Sounds so simple, I know, but I spent such a long time fighting what my heart was telling me and all it did was cause confusion and pain. Once I started paying attention to what my heart wanted, things started to fall into place for me. It is so much easier following the dreams you truly want. You do not put in everything you can when you are chasing false dreams and goals.

Do you know any helpful/inspirational books, websites, organisations etc.? 
I find most art, photography, craft books, and magazines to be an inspiration. I love going to the bookstore and just browsing through books as they catch my fancy. The same goes for the internet. Find one blog that interests you and you can lose the whole night following link after link to one inspirational place after another.

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