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: What do you struggle with most?
CO: Time, energy, and guilt-all three, for the good part of every day.
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 is your greatest indulgence?
CO: Art supplies, especially new watercolor paints. Oh, and naps. Delicious naps!
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!
thanks, carrie, especially for sharing about post-partum depression. i think it’s great we’re talking about that now, rather than in years past, when everyone who struggled with it felt they were totally alone. now there’s hope out of the darkness through sharing.
love that daddy-baby illustration, feel the love.
very nice to meet you, carrie. i love the whole idea behind your 365 illustrations project. i’d like to something like that, but i’d have to start with one something a week!
big hugs to you for your postpartum depression and for your brother’s suicide. i lost my mom to suicide, so i know exactly how it feels to be left behind like that and what it does to your sense of self.