Honest thoughts on motherhood (from an artist’s perspective)

I love this mama’s honest yet inspirational take on what it means to be a creative mama and how her kids play such an integral role in her creative journey!

One of the most frequent question I get asked about my artistic career is “How do you do all of this with two kids?”

Oh man…. Why did you ask that?  You want the honest truth? I don’t.

It’s messy and crazy at times (ok, no, 90% of the time.) That question overwhelms me and I have no solid answer for it. My two little girls are quite young, and come to the studio with frequently.  They create tiny watercolor paintings, do school work on my art table, we eat too many snacks, we break out in random dance parties, go on sunny walks, I drink too much coffee and have a 2am bedtime, and my housekeeping skills are shameful.

Over the past year, as my business has grown, I have caught myself slipping into the mindset that my kids are standing in between me and my creative work.
The slippery thing about…

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Galleries and Toddlers: Anish Kapoor at the MCA

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed visiting galleries. I love the idea of being that artsy-looking person who goes to galleries with my leather satchel, visual diary and drawing materials, spending hours capturing my intrigue and impressions of the myriad creative ideas contained within one space…

But actually, I am the mummy with porridge on her shirt, a pram, a busy toddler, a nappy bag with Vegemite sandwiches, sultanas and water hidden inside, trying to keep my little person remotely contained to avoid any huge insurance claims against our name!

All the same, I think galleries are awesome places for little people to explore creativity and be exposed to interesting colours, shapes and concepts. When she was still contained and immobile, I took Belle to the Picasso exhibition for my birthday – her very first art exhibition. What a treat! A few months later we attempted the Sydney Biennale and again it was relatively easy, and she seemed to enjoy it too.

I recently took my Belle to the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the MCA, Sydney. His work is so intriguing  – deceptive mirrors throwing back millions of one image; deep blue and red pigment-toned voids and concave forms; polished mirrors distorting the world to appear upside down…

Needless to say Belle was intrigued! So much so that she wanted to go right up to the works and touch them and say hallo to the million versions of herself smiling back at her – which resulted in a rather loud display of her vocal capacity, as I held her back. But other than the glances one would expect from the patrons in a supermarket when one’s toddler chucks a tanty, the gallery patrons just smiled and somehow understood that this little mind wanted to, just like them, get up close and enter the wonderful world of Anish.

An added bonus afterwards was the free Art Play session at the aptly named Bella Room, which contained Emily Floyd’s interactive artwork The Garden, consisting of sculptural objects, wooden blocks and other creative objects, specifically developed as a sensory experience for toddler to explore. Belle loved it! We finished the day off with a coffee at The Rocks, enjoying the sunshine and blue waters of Sydney Harbour. All in all, a very worthwhile experience – and one that reassured me that visiting exhibitions are not completely out of my reach now that I have a toddler.

No princess throne in my house!

My last project brought up a few questions about my motives and philosophies around parenting. I had won an old princess-themed kids chair from a Recycled Kris-Kringle game, intending to re-upholstering it to match our lounge. In the mean time Belle started using the chair – and loved it!

One night, when she had gone to bed I set to work taking it apart to make it new. But I felt a tad guilty for changing it to my taste and style. Would it break her heart to find the chair changed? Did she love it for its size or its pink-princess look? (She is only 17 months – surely she does not have very clearly defined princess-prejudices?!) So I turned my dilemma to my facebook friends, and got some interesting replies:

A few design and interior-decorating type friends urged me to cover it asap. A few recommended I use the original cover to make something for her dolls – like a little cushion or quilt cover, but cover the chair with something nicer.

An interesting comment which really got me thinking was: “don’t get me started on Disney princesses and the socialisation of little girls…this way, Belle will have a beautiful, stylish “grown-up” chair, which makes her part of the company!” I agree. While I want my little girl to always feel loved, respected and beautiful, I guess it is also important for her to know that in this life she won’t be able to always have everything her way.

Belle did a double take the next day when she saw her chair (without any covering at that stage), but kept going. Later in the day she came and enquired after it in her toddler-way, and I let her play on it. She tried it out and was happy. Phew!

When princess Belle woke from her beauty sleep a few days later, she found a newly covered little couch instead of a throne… She tried it out and seemed pretty happy with it. Her and the cat now have constant battles over whose chair it is, and I don’t hate the thing for spoiling my lounge decor.

The upholstery might not be perfect, but I figure: My lounge – my style. One day she can decorate her lounge in her style (which I am sure won’t be princess-themed anyway as I am trying to teach her to have her own unique style and taste – not the commercial rubbish that gets thrown our way in the media!

50, 51…52 Creative Projects in 52 weeks!

I entered this year creating…. and set out to do so for 52 weeks. Sometimes I lagged behind, and sometimes I ran ahead of schedule. It is the last day of 2012 and I am 95% percent done with my last project (not wanting to wake bub by sewing the last bit!) I can’t believe I did 52 creative projects in 52 weeks! (probably one of very few – if not the only – new years resolution I have ever successfully kept!)

I learnt so many things along the way – about myself, about being a mum, about creative process, and about various crafts:

  • I couldn’t be too precious about my work: a week is a very short time. I had to get started and just keep going. There was no time to be a perfectionist.
  • I found inspiration in the most unexpected places: an old stained tablecloth, a moth-eaten map, a piece of lace, looking at the mist on Cockatoo Island, or cruising down the river in Chicago.
  • It is important to keep filling my creative tank by attending workshops, courses, markets, galleries and op-shops.
  • I love writing! (maybe that Journalism degree wasn’t a complete waste of money after all!)
  • If I don’t contemplate the complexities of a project too much, I forget to tell myself how difficult the projects will be, or that it requires a specialized skill… and so I just do it! (like re-upholstering a kids chair, baking a very fancy-looking cake and writing poetry!)
  • When I work consistently on creative pursuits I am more energetic, enthusiastic and motivated in other areas of life, than when I don’t.
  • I really enjoy stitching things together – especially paper, and fabric.
  • Just because I am a mum doesn’t mean I have to only do macaroni-on-a-paper-plate type art and craft!
  • Doing creative stuff on a regular basis helps me stay happy and healthy and intentional as a mum!
  • It helps to have a hubby who gets how important creative time and space is for my sanity.

Where to from here? Will I do it again? Doing creative projects have become a way of life for me now. I will keep doing it, but maybe take a slightly different angle this time (because I get bored pretty quickly when things get too predictable…)

2013 will see new challenges and projects… I hope to study Graphic Design, and I hope to grow Kettlestitchmama to become a community-space for moms who value their creative process. For more detail about the slant my creative projects will take next year, watch this space…