@ConditionalConfidence is a creative body of work touching on memory, trauma, and sense of self. Here, Sarah Reynolds and Sally Lynch share with us the creative process behind the collaboration with APTO Skincare to launch a Holiday Box.
What is your trained artistry and how long have you been a creative?
Sarah: I was trained in studio arts and graphic design at the Northern Michigan University School of Art and Design. Early on in my digital classes, I began combining vector elements with photographs I had been shooting. I was experimenting with digital collage and abstract expressionism within the practice of graphic design.
Sally: I’m self-taught! Mostly. I spent ten years in a writing organization aimed at teaching youth journalism. I think my love for writing about discovery was born from that experience. I’ve also worked in public radio, commercial blogging, and medical copywriting. I guess I’ve always been a creative in some capacity.
When did you launch "Conditional Confidence"?
The first post was August 1!
How would you describe “Conditional Confidence" and the message you are creating?
Creative Confidence is about exploring the sort of art that moves us: that which instantly captures an experience or feeling that maybe you’d previously never seen or felt expressed in such an out-loud way before. Art that exists as if someone has access to your mind, your traumas, and your darker or even selfish thoughts.
Our work looks at how we tell our stories and how that goes on to shape our perspectives. We hope to offer people a space to process their own philosophies of self, receive artistic empathy, and solidarity.
What is the process of making your work together, especially when you live in different cities?
Sarah: We’ve been a pretty strong team on this front. Lot’s of text messages, email threads, and facetime calls. More independently, Sally will send me her poetry work and I will begin putting together imagery that visually expresses or references the themes and motifs of the poetry.
Sally: Yes, we do pretty well here. Working together has been easy because I think Sarah has the need to create for the same reasons I do. I initially reached out to Sarah with the idea to explore memory, trauma, and sense of self because I knew she was not only an excellent graphic designer but also a person who has a deep need to understand personal growth as well as our socialized behaviors.
How did you arrive at the name “Conditional Confidence”?
Sarah: We were writing down phrases and word pairings from selections of Sally’s poetry and this particular phrase stood out to us as the perfect summation of our experience with mental health and being women – topics we heavily focus on.
Sally: Right, the idea that we’ve often felt the need to express ourselves as very confident with strong knowledge of self but that there are frequently limitations to this confidence and conditions we’ve got to agree to before we are allowed to exist in many spaces.
How are you using instagram as a platform for artistic expression?
Sally: It’s funny, initially I think we chose Instagram as our platform for expression because we’re covering such intimate topics. There’s something very freeing to be grossly honest about your mental shortcomings, perceived weaknesses, and anger when normally we strive to keep these things protected and out of sight. Sarah and I are both originally from a small town and there are mornings where I’ll text her to make sure something is really okay to show people because I know how quickly gossip spreads. But Conditional Confidence is about living your process, learning to evaluate your experiences in a very unashamed way.
Also, it’s easy for both of us to run an Instagram account remotely and we’ve both got experience managing social media, so it made sense.
How did you cross paths with APTO?
Sarah: APTO’s social media manager reached out to us inviting us to collaborate and make work for their Instagram feed.
Why did you decide to work with APTO?
Sarah: We checked out their page and really loved the art-forward expression APTO employs in their marketing and overall ethos.
Sally: We started off with a small project before the Holiday Packaging and found working with them came naturally and was really fun. We also tried their products and felt seriously strong about the quality—I don’t think we would have continued to work so closely with them if we didn’t love their products and their mission.
How can skincare and artistic expression relate to each other?
Sarah: Skincare and self-care relate to recognizing yourself, validating your identity in the way that my artistic expression and practice do as well. Creating art is a way of confirming my existence and importance of my self.
Sally: It’s funny, so often I find myself taking stock of my self while doing my skincare routine. I’m evaluating the stress of the day and providing myself with nurturing only I can provide. The same is true for when I write: I’m giving an honest look at my experiences and taking care of myself in a very intimate way.
What is the inspiration and story behind the APTO Holiday box?
Sarah: The holiday packaging came out of the desire to develop poetry and visual art that expressed themes of celebrating the self and creating joy from within.
Sally: It was really important to me that we touched on what the holidays can mean for many of us—joy and celebration, yes, but also a sense of distance and loneliness at times too. Holidays can be very stressful and are spent focused on others; a skin care routine asks us to stop and focus only on caring for ourselves. We wanted our packaging to provide an opportunity to celebrate that.
What visual and poetic references do you draw upon in your work for Apto?
Sarah: I draw on the work of Henri Matisse and Jeff Koons when working with illustration and collage. Conceptually, I am influenced by artists such as Marina Abramovic, Uda Barth, Annie Leibovitz, and Carolee Schneemann.
Sally: As a poet, I’m heavily influenced by Anna Akhmatova, Audre Lorde, and Sylvia Plath, naturally. I like a poet who can write a little angry and very sad. For this project I focused more on allowing the reader create their own understandings and personalized phrases they could whisper to themselves.
Describe beauty in 150 words or less?
Sally: Oh, this is a tough one because beauty means so much! Beauty as it has been taught to us is a lie. It’s not enough to say having confidence is beautiful or being unaware of your shine is beautiful.
The real beauty is looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling content. Sometimes contentment is in feeling happy with who you are and what you are able to do for yourself, but sometimes it’s just as beautiful to feel uncomfortable in your skin and forgive yourself for not being happy just yet.
Beauty lies somewhere between nourishing your inner-self and putting your best outer-self forward.
What is your overall skincare philosophy?
Sarah: I use the mindfulness technique of taking time to notice what is happening to my skin and think about how to offer care and kindness to my body. I love finding and adding great skincare products like Apto’s Healing Mask to my go-to collection.
Sally: I once had a friend look through my face care “routine” and scoff so loudly that I felt totally embarrassed! She taught me to never let your face dry out, skip products containing alcohol, and never go to sleep with make -up on. I knew that last rule, I just never followed it. I’m a fan of vegan products and things that leave me feeling refr