Studio Chats: Molly Magill of Cliff and Callahan

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A fellow Dallas creative, I began bumping into Molly all over Instagram earlier this year. Inspired by her color combinations, her many mediums she works in and her story, I’m so happy to get to share her work and journey with you. Molly and I both share a long history in corporate life, and I love how she turned a transformative career change into her next act unleashing her beautiful work for the world to see!

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Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m Molly Magill, founder of Cliff & Callahan, a creative studio focused on micro place-making through artwork and interior styling (currently).  I have some additional plans in the works for new products and offerings, but it’s early stage – as soon as I can share more, I will!

My degree is in Interior Design, but when I graduated from college I went to work doing visual merchandising and photo styling for Pier 1 Imports.  That started me down a path where I spent over 15 years in the corporate world, mostly retail corporate headquarters, working on visual merchandising, trend, and PR & marketing.   Though I had some amazing experience working for big companies, and learned so so much about branding, business, culture, and management, I was never fully ok with the path I was on.  I was always doing something on the side – I was an early blogger starting in 2007. When my niece and oldest child were babies, I had a baby blanket business. I styled photo shoots on the side, and many many other concepts have been branded and even have business plans.. . . always with the hope that I could bust out of the corporate slog.  Eventually I was swallowed up in a corporate re-organization that had me coming into work one day, and without a job the next.  Luckily, losing my job that way, vs just quitting, gave me a little financial breathing room.  .and when it was all said and done, I never looked for another job in that way.  I just left it all behind to start Cliff & Callahan.  That was almost 2 years ago, and I’m super proud of how far this studio has come.  

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What is your FIRST memory of being creative? My true first memory of being creative was in dance class.  I remember very early feelings of being moved by music and loving being on stage expressing myself through dance.   Music and dance have remained sources of expression and inspiration, but soon after that drawing, and writing, came into play as well.  

When did you find your way back to creativity? I think my creativity never really left my life, though, now having transitioned out out of the corporate world, I consider entrepreneurship and the act of managing my own business as much a part of my creativity as my art and design.  Before I started my studio, I found many ways to weave creativity into my career. . . working with amazing photographers, illustrators, movie makers, florists, makers.  . . . I just loved assembling people I admired to create content and stories that met our plans and strategies.  It was something I did very well, and that benefited the brands a great deal – and brought me a lot of joy in the process.  And today, it’s not that dissimilar. . . it is just on a smaller scale, and Im the one responsible for it all.  Which is ok with me!  It’s all creative when you run your own shop!

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What’s your creative practice look like on an average day? My daily creative practice is painting.  It’s the once thing I try to do, even if just for a few minutes, every single day.  I do a lot of other things for the business everyday, too, but as you can imagine, not all are creative in this way.   When I was first out on my own, but before I was selling my artwork or doing official projects, I would paint something every day and it helped me get clearer on a direction for myself and the studio.  

Where do you find your inspiration? My inspiration comes a lot from my roots in west Texas.  I look through family pictures, I take trips back home, and always find something in the patchwork of my life and my family history that informs my work.  I also try to take in as much artwork and expressions of others as I can, whether it’s an exhibit at a museum, a lecture, live music, or even podcasts and books. . . hearing other people’s stories inspires me as well. 

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Tell us a bit about your space and your tools. My studio is a converted garage in our backyard.  I love that it allows me to be close to home, but still walk out the door each day and go to a different work space.  I think that is really important.  

How do you approach creativity as a mom? My kids are all artistic in their own ways.  Each paints with me at times in the studio, when the spirit moves them.  My oldest has been drawing some beautiful line drawing portraits.  My middle child creates a lot of 3-d worlds with paper and blocks and boxes, and my youngest loves to paint.  My advice is to let kids join in when they want to. . . don’t make it such a precious exercise that it pushes them from it.  I remind myself that anything can be painted over or cleaned  up. . . and mostly, they make something that inspires me, too, or makes my work better.  

What advice would you give to anyone starting their own creative journey? Just start as soon as the thought hits you.  Don’t overthink it.  And remember to share your work confidently.  I started sharing my work before I was ready.  If you follow my instagram, you can see a major evolution .  . .  It was not really always great work in the beginning.  But it helped me to take it seriously, and to get better.  The feedback was a great indicator too.  I loved the instant response.  

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Rapid Fire Round.

Being creative means: telling my story in many forms.  It also means freedom.

My creative habit brings me: comfort, peace and also ambition.

My advice to anyone looking to push themselves into a creative life: My advice is to make something the moment you feel it, and share it with confidence.

Favorite book: Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, Code Girls by Liza Mundy, and Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

Favorite cocktail: a cold crisp glass of Cava 

Follow Molly and see more of her work @cliffandcallahan,  Facebook is Cliff and Callahan, and her website is https://www.cliffandcallahan.com/ (with ecommerce coming SOON!)