As a child, Holli Zollinger grew up in Utah and dreamt of flowing material. Little did she know how much that would become her reality and how much her family would tease her because of it.
With that kind of personal story and a passion for vibrant designs, bold hues and repeat patterns that exude her style, it’s clear she has a winning formula for success. A longstanding designer for Nerida Hansen Fabrics, Holli recently sat down and had a virtual chat from afar with blog editor, Jacqui Taylor, about her blossoming career, finding the missing puzzle piece and the importance of staying true to herself.
Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Utah, but I have spent a lot of time travelling and living in different cities and towns in west United States. I finally settled in a small southern Utah town called, Moab. It is an extreme desert, but vast and beautiful. It is the gateway to massive red rock formations and known for its beauty.
When did you start work as an illustrator/designer?
I have been a visual artist (drawing and painting) for almost 30 years. I first got interested in fabric in 2008. It kind of fell into my lap and I have not looked back since. I feel as though I was waiting for this medium to become available to me. It is a perfect fit for my work. After the first year I was completely hooked and it was like a missing piece to my puzzle.
Tell us about your design style. Have you always had this style or has it evolved/changed over time?
It most definitely has evolved and changed from the moment I started designing, and it still does. I knew nothing of this industry when I got started, so I included trend watching and research as a large part of my daily work. I love lots of different design styles, so you might think me many things depending on what you see. Some of my favourites are earthy, minimal, maximalist, eclectic, rustic and bohemian.
Talk us through your creative process.
I tend to need a visual inspiration point to get started on a project. I use Instagram and Pinterest liberally to stay current and to find something that inspires me. From there, I get out my sketch paper and start drawing. This process may take a minute, an hour or all day. Next I import it to my iPad Pro to finalise the drawing. Working with Adobe products and iPad gives me a chance to work seamlessly between devices. Then it goes onto my desktop. Once I have all the pieces assembled and imported onto my desktop, I can commence building the repeat. I do this generally before I do any colouring. Finally, after building a solid repeat I can start playing with colour and coordinating the prints into a collection – the fun part! It can take as long as a week to find the right colour story. I take this part very seriously.
Have you always been involved in this industry? What did you do in another life?
I began designing textiles in 2008, but before that I was trying very hard to make a living as a working visual artist. This meant having a very active role in selling my work in my community and beyond. I attended a lot of shows and art markets toting around product to keep myself afloat.
When and how did you meet Nerida Hansen?
Nerida reached out to me a few years ago back in 2012 with an invitation to be represented by her in the Australian market and abroad. We got to physically meet few years back at a Surtex show in New York.
Talk us through your typical day.
I have a 12 year old son, so he consumes a large part of my day. I have him home 100 per cent of the time now that we are home schooling. It can be challenging to find time for myself and to stay structured in my daily routines as an artist. But for most part, I hop on the computer, answer emails, post on social media and then dive into my creative work. It can vary widely. If I am working on something specifically or just designing without direction.
What is your mantra?
Just do it.
Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by a lot of things. I think what gets me the most is when I see things that I have not seen before – designs with a fresh viewpoint. I can be swayed so easily into varying styles so a lot of things inspire me.
What would be your dream project?
Writing and illustrating a design book.
What is in the pipeline for you?
Hopefully writing/illustrating a design book (she laughs).
What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as designers/illustrators?
Design and illustrate what you love and do it A LOT. Repetition will give you a chance to grow and build a portfolio. Once you’ve put in the work, people will notice. Stay true to your own style!
Words by Jacqui Taylor