Nicole Johnson, of Mealy Monster Land, is someone that I’ve known through the amazingness of the internet for years now. She creates monstrous sculptures and art dolls. We even collaborated on this doll together via snail mail back in the days of Art Dolls Only. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and getting to know her even more.
How did this whole monster sculpting/painting gig start for you?
I have always been a artist, but life got in the way for a while and art took a back seat for a number of years. In 2008 I rediscovered my love for art through art dolls. I came across some art dolls on etsy, a new site to me at the time, and was like “what is this!!?? I want to make some.” From there I started researching materials that are used in the construction of art dolls. I liked the sound of polymer clay, bought some polymer clay from a local craft store and started figuring out how to work with the clay.
I have always been a fan of creepy and spooky art. All of my previous work has always been based on the darker side of life. So of course my sculptures fell right into the same category.
Was Mealy Monster land always a business venture, or did you start for other reasons?
Mealy Monster Land started out as a way for me to reconnect with my creative side. When I started making the monsters I had a different business going. I was unhappy with this business and it was not what I wanted to be doing, but we had become dependant on the income. In the very beginning of me figuring out polymer clay it was really just to reconnect with art, create, and have fun. Through my research I found that there was a market for art dolls and decided to try and sell what I had created. I can honestly say it was not an instant success. Over the years I slowly gained momentum with my art dolls and monsters and was able to close down my first business and solely focus on my art.
What happened to turn your monster making into something that would go towards a business?
As my sales increased with my monsters and art dolls I felt it was time to try and make a living off of art. When I was asked as a child, “what do you want to be when you grow up”, I always responded with “be an artist.” That response was never met with much encouragement. I guess if you don’t pursue a “real Job” then you are seen as a dreamer. I felt like maybe this was my chance to do what I had always dreamed of doing as a child. Become an artist. I was getting positive responses to my work. People actually liked it and wanted to collect it. It was selling, slowly, but still it was selling, so I jumped at the chance and went in full throttle to turning my art into a business.
What’s the hardest part about running Mealy Monster Land?
I think the hardest part is balancing life and work. When you work from home it is easy to just never stop working. To become consumed with it. I have to take a step back often and make myself stop and enjoy my family, friends and life.
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of Mealy Monster Land?
My favorite part is that I get to make creepy little dudes for a living. It is crazy and blows my mind that I was able to get to this point. I am doing my dream job. I work for myself, I get to stay home with my children, and I get to make art every day if I choose to.
On the flip side of that, it is very demanding on my body. I know that sounds weird, but when I am in my busy season my hands ache daily and my back has to get adjusted often. It gets depressing when you are in constant pain.
You do a lot of shows. What are your top 3 favorite shows?
I do. I find myself doing between 10-15 shows a year. I really enjoy the shows that Buffalo has to offer. This city loves art. I am not originally from western NY, but one of the first things I noticed about this area when I moved here was the strong art scene.
Each show that I do has it’s own appeal, so it would be really hard to pick 3 favorites. For example, the Allentown Art Festival, that happens in Downtown Buffalo to me is the kickoff for summer. The Lewiston Art Festival, in Lewiston Ny, is scenic and serene. The Elmwood Art Festival in Buffalo, NY is joyful. The Music is Art festival in Buffalo, NY is just fun and crazy. The Ghoultide Gathering in Chelsea, Michigan is Halloween Magic. I could go on and on. Each show that I do has it’s appeal and to pick just 3 is impossible for me.
If you could give yourself advice 10 years ago in regards to where you are now, what would it be?
That is a tough question. Mentally 10 years ago I was a different person. So I don’t think my 10 years ago self would of listened to me now. I feel like as I get older I figure more out and am more accepting of what life has to offer. Maybe I would tell myself to calm down, take a deep breath, it will all work out.
If you had to describe your work in a 9 word sentence, what would it be?
Inspired by Halloween and horror with a humorous twist.
Favorite dessert. Go.
cake, almost all cakes, except cupcakes. They don’t taste the same.
This was so much fun. Every artist has their own unique story. I’m so glad that Nicole was gracious enough to share a little bit of her world with us. You can visit Nicole’s site at: http://www.mealymonsterland.com, her blog, and become a fan on Facebook at mealy mOnster Land.