Breakfast with Carrie
Ah, the first Breakfast interview of 2009! Meet Carrie O’Neill, artist, mother, and blogger. You caught a glimpse of Carrie’s work last week, when she won our weekly creativity contest for the prompt “gift.” Her work is irresistible. Enjoy a bit of New Year’s inspiration with your coffee this morning!
CC: Please introduce yourself.
CO: I’m 34 years old and live in a 113-year-old house in Olympia, WA. I’m married and have a 3-year-old daughter. I’m an artist and illustrator, and sell/show my work in town and through my Etsy shop, 365 Illustrations of Love. I’m also in the process of having my illustration work distributed through a stock illustration company.
CC: Tell us about your artwork and other creative endeavors.
CO: I love to paint with watercolors and ink. I’m currently working on a series of paintings exploring my family history. I’m fascinated by the contours of the many relationships within a family and developing personal imagery for expressing that topography. I’m also in the midst of a yearlong daily illustration project. Each day I create a small painting and post it to my blog and Etsy shop. I started it as a tool to help me practice and develop my drawing skills. I also try to do the Illustration Friday challenge each week.
CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
CO: Honestly, I started my blog, Whole Cloth Designs, on a whim. A little over a year ago, I had just started doing little felting and sewing projects when I came across crafting blogs. One morning I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I would create a blog, too. Fortunately, there are so many accessible (and free!) blog-hosting options that I found the whole process really easy. Whole Cloth Designs is a catchall for my art projects, creative process, parenting adventures, and gallery for my daughter’s art projects. I try not to feel weighed down in maintaining a certain focus in this blog, since it is really just for fun. I love that I can keep in touch with far-flung friends through blogging.
My second blog, 365 Illustrations of Love, is my gallery for my daily drawings.
CC: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
CO: Since beginning to seriously pursue art in the past year, I have found so many avenues that I am excited about exploring in the years to come. I would love to do children’s book illustration and freelance illustration in addition to my personal artwork.
I studied art while I was in college and believed at that time that gallery representation was the sole path for the working artist. One of the things I love about the Internet is that it has unlocked the potential for artists to make a living off their artwork. Whole communities are sprouting up online for artists to show and sell their work directly to people all over the world.
CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
CO: I think motherhood has changed every fiber of my being. When I quit my job right before my daughter was born, I planned to stay home with her because my job at a senior center didn’t pay enough to cover the expense of daycare. As a family we decided to live really frugally for a few years; walk instead of drive and make do with what we already had. I had always planned to go back to work.
What I hadn’t planned for was the postpartum depression I sank into in the months following her birth. It developed when she was 3-4 months old, exacerbated by my brother’s suicide. I really struggled to maintain a sense of self, but being a “stay-at-home mom” really didn’t fulfill me in the way I thought it should. It wasn’t until I started working on little craft projects that I was able to get my footing again. I studied art in college, but gave up making art after graduation while I worked various jobs. The gift of motherhood has been my return to art making. In the past year, I’ve gone from making a little needle felted pin for my friend’s birthday to showing and selling my work online and in my community.
CC: Where do you do your creative work?
CO: I have taken over our small spare bedroom. It’s on the main floor of our house, which has proven to be very convenient. I can go in and work on a few things in between fixing snacks, reading stories, and playing with my daughter.
CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
CO: I have a few times each week devoted to art making; specifically, one weekday morning when my daughter goes to daycare and Saturday mornings. My daughter had been an excellent nap-taker until recently, so I’m adjusting to our new no-nap routine. I’ve recently tried getting up before her and getting a bit of time that way. Otherwise, I wait until she has gone to bed.
CC: Where do you find inspiration?
CO: Looking at other blogs and Flickr illustration/drawing groups inspire me each day. I also tend to check out stacks of library books on any particular subject that I am drawn to. (However, I don’t always get the chance to read them!)
CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
CC: What are you reading right now?
CO: Middlemarch by George Eliot.
CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
CO: The first thing I would like to suggest is that if a mother is feeling blue, to see her doctor right away. Get help, and when you’re feeling better, make something about your experience.
CC: Thank you, Carrie!