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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In with the old!

Tulip textile design by William MorrisI recently started studying Graphic Design and am absolutely loving it! For one of our first assignments we had to research a stack of historical art movements. The one that got me interested was the Arts and Crafts Movement [1850 – 1900]. The name of it is quite deceiving as it has nothing to do with knitting and embroidery in the craftiest sense of the word. Instead this art movement saw some extremely talented artists gathering to form artist guilds and societies to encourage top quality design and to support each other’s creative journeys. How nice! They worked together with a common goal of glorifying God through their creative practice.

Floral design by William MorrisI particularly love the work of William Morris (1834 – 1896), the father of this movement. He was an artist, printer, bookbinder, designer, poet, writer and craftsman. (No wonder I like his work!) He created the most amazing decorative floral designs!

William Morris designApparently he said: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I love it! That is pretty much the motto I like to go by when it comes to creating a home!

It seems this movement combined a whole lot of things I love! I can’t believe I did not recognise the beauty of the works from that era before…

Cray illustration by William Morris

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…

Reclaiming Christmas

No matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore the hype of Christmas around me each year.  Growing up, Christmas was quite a controversy and sometimes just about ignored in my family. So each year those bells ring louder in my ears: Where do you stand on the whole Christmas thing? Why don’t you have a tree? Should we give gifts or does it add to the consumerism? The controversy around the actual date, and now that I have a kid of my own, the added question of Santa’s existence. Small wonder that as soon as the bells start jingling and the carols start singing, I retreat, avoid, and disappear…

Enough already. I can either be a product of my past (and give my little girl a similar experience to mine) or I can re-write the present (no pun intended). I have chosen that I want my kids to have magical memories of Christmas as they grow up. I am reclaiming Christmas! Here are a few pieces of the puzzle so far…

For our first Christmas as a married couple I decided to re-introduce gift-giving into our family Christmases. I wasn’t going to give in to the consumerism of it all though, so proposed a recycled christmas.

The next year my in-laws forced into some family caroling around the piano, which was way more fun and significant than what I could ever have imagined.

Last year we heralded Christmas (our baby’s very first) briefly in the ED as I was extremely ill.  But even that wasn’t a complete write-off, because, sick as we were, we had the unexpected privilege of being flies on the tinsel in the home of our daughter’s loving god-parents: On Christmas eve we saw their special family traditions of reading the story of Jesus’ birth, and how they involved their boys (and our little girl) by ringing bells and praying together after they explained what made this day special. The next morning (too sick to get up) we heard the boys running to the tree and excitedly tearing open gifts. Later in the day we saw them return from a family feast – exhausted, but overjoyed. It made me realise that we could also make Christmas a special day for our family.

So a couple of weeks ago I started by decorating our home for the festive season. I made some upcycled Christmas decorations using an old wooden jigsaw puzzle and some fluoro paint. (These doubled nicely as my creative project for the week.)

Then, thanks to the gentle nudge from a good friend (aka Santa’s little helper), I finally succumbed and went in search of our very first Christmas tree.

I also decided to start some family traditions of our own: Every year each child gets to choose or make one new ornament for the tree (We can also use these symbols to teach the kids about the true Christmas story.)… That way, in a few years’ time we’ll have a lovely eclectic tree resembling the taste and development of our kids as they grew up, and reminding us of all the Christmases we have shared together as a family.

It might take a few years, but piece by piece I am trying to creatively re-introduce the marvel of Christmas into our family.