collabo : jen mccleary & alison corrie


welcome to collabo – a biweekly feature about artist collaborations
. . . brought to you in collaboration with Modish . . .

this week’s featured pairing is overflowing with artsy goodness in every which way. creative thinkers & doers Jen McCleary & Alison Corrie worked together to create collaborative collage books, postcards and giclee prints with paintings, collage, drawings and more – the results offer a nice departure from the everyday. nice work, ladies!

read Jen McCleary’s half of the story here – then click over to Modish to read what Alison had to say to Jena about this cool collabo.

[all graphics by Jena Coray of Modish]

Which came first: the idea or the partnership? Who approached whom?
I think it just came up in conversation. We’ve known each other for years (Alison is my boyfriend’s sister) but even though we always talked about whatever we were working on, it never occurred to us to do something together until a couple of years ago. I remember that I had been thinking vaguely about the idea of doing some sort of collaboration but didn’t really have any specifics in mind. I think she mentioned something about a collaborative project, and it was like “oh! we should do something!” I remember that this conversation occurred at Reading Terminal Market in Philly and that I was eating stuffed grape leaves and a strawberry smoothie, but I don’t remember the details of the conversation other than agreeing to do a collaborative book project.


What is the nature of your collaboration? (did one of you purchase the rights to use the other’s artwork, do you both receive revenue from sales, is the artwork on-loan for a limited time or # of pieces….)
It’s pretty casual and started out just as something fun for us to do rather than as a commercial project. It was actually kind of refreshing to make something knowing that it was not intended for sale. Last year we started selling giclee prints and postcards of some of the collage images from the books, but I still think of it as more of a fun/non-commercial project. We split revenue evenly since we have contributed equally to the images.


How did you coordinate the project work and determine who would do what?
We usually have two books in progress at the same time so we each have something to work on. The books are handmade- we take turns making them. We each add whatever we want to the book, then send it in the mail to the other person, who adds whatever they want. It’s pretty much wide open- it’s fair game to add to the other person’s images, even to totally destroy them, cut up the pages, whatever. We do a lot of collage work in the books, but also add paint, drawing, even some 3D objects like beads and thread and wire. We don’t really have a schedule for when to exchange the books, it’s just whenever we feel like we’ve reached a good stopping point. Usually after a few back-and-forth rounds we reach a point where we both feel like the book is complete. I’ve only recently started documenting each stage of the book rather than just the finished images. I’m really interested in how the images evolve and I like having photos of each stage of the book. I’m hoping to eventually put together some sort of stop-motion videos showing the evolution of the images.

Is the collabo ongoing or was it a one-and-done deal?
It’s ongoing. Books One and Two are complete, and we are working on Three and Four right now. Alison has Three and I have Four, but we’re about to exchange. I’d love to keep on going exchanging books unless one of us gets tired of it for some reason. I think it would be fantastic to do this for the next ten years or something and then have a big stack of books and have an exhibit of all of them!


What made you want to partner your art with someone else’s?
I think I wanted to do something to force myself to step out of my comfort zone. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, to keep producing the same kinds of things repeatedly, to keep using the same colors and the same imagery. Working collaboratively forces me out of that place in two ways- when I am adding to someone else’s work it gives me a starting place that I would not have thought of myself. And then it’s interesting to see how the other person reacts to and adds to my work. I think there’s something good about letting go of the idea of control, of the art being “mine.” Collaboration is kind of like a really long visual conversation, a give-and-take, and I love watching the images evolve over time.


Do you work with other artists to create collaborative pieces?
Yes, right now I am also doing a collaborative book project with a friend from art school that I recently got back in touch with after ten years – Marci Senders. links to our books: stage 1, my book and stage 1, Marci’s book. I also recently made some collaborative digital collages with my sister. I used some of her photos and combined them with some of my photos. Even though I did all the work on the computer since she doesn’t know the software, it was really a joint effort since we sat at the computer together for the whole process and decided together what to do with each image.


Do you have any suggestions for other artists who are considering a collaborative project?
Have fun, keep an open mind, and learn something from your partner.

If you could work with any other artist to create a piece together (famous and/or deceased included), who would it be and what would you make?
Joseph Cornell. I love his collages and assemblages. He would have been a fun person to do this sort of collage book exchange project with!
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Thank you, Jen! I really enjoyed learning how this whole process worked for both you and Alison!
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