Go to Your Happy Place
Artist Profile — Amy Flynn
The Illustration business isn’t what it used to be. But accomplished illustrator Amy Flynn is thriving.
“The way that illustrators work has changed three times over,” said Amy. At first, companies kept illustrators on staff. Then artists were forced to freelance, without company benefits.
And lately it felt like being a salesperson—not Amy’s thing—she quit Girl Scouts as a kid for having to sell calendars door-to-door. “I still enjoy painting and drawing,” said Amy. “But illustration became about marketing and nagging people into using your work.”
Unhappy in her chosen field, recently she was forced to make a move. Amy said, “About two years ago the economy was tanking and illustration work was drying up. American Greetings put a one-year moratorium on buying any freelance work.”
“My husband said to take a break and make some of your robots,” said Amy. “You are so much happier when you are making them.”
Amy went to her studio and rediscovered creative joy. She’s not looking back.
Amy’s fun and funky Fobots are selling out at the country’s best art fairs and at home-fashion trendsetter Anthropologie. Fobots even made their TV debut during one of the last episodes of Ugly Betty.
Fobots (found-object robots) are recycled art at its best.
“I’ve always had a thing for robots, and I love flea markets,” said Amy. “Eventually, the two came together like chocolate and peanut butter.”
“My first Fobot was made from junk in our basement — mainly the original doorbell to our house, built in 1920. You don’t get an old house without picking up some machine skills. I used to build props for local theatre companies — those skills came in handy…as did soldering, from years of working in stained glass.”
Amy finds her best junk near her North Carolina home. “Raleigh is blessed with a great flea market every weekend at the state fairgrounds,” she said.
And she tries make it each Labor Day weekend to the mother lode of markets, what she calls “Junk-a-Palooza” in Hillsville, Virginia. “It’s so big; they sell helicopter rides so you can view it all.”
Amy and her Fobots exude a sense of humor. Take for example their asymmetrical eyes, or the Madonna-like chests made from pointy metal pastry tips that some of her lady-bots sport.
“All the inspiration comes from the junk,” said Amy. “I see good junk, and it just calls to me and announces itself as a head or a body or a leg. They have a history and personality.”
Ironically, Amy still has to market her robots. But that is coming easier with the help and advice of her husband Phil, and artist- and gallery-owner-friends. After selling out of 100 Fobots at her first major wholesale show, Amy learned that her best return comes from selling direct to the public at top art fairs. Phil helps her man the front of the booth, which comes naturally to him.
Robot work is labor-intensive, and illustration has taken a back seat for Amy. “It’s all Fobots, all the time now.”
“I am so much happier,” she said.
Amy gets a kick from her customers’ feedback. Once a woman told her a Fobot looked just like her husband.
“I really wish I could have seen THAT guy,” Amy said.