How She Does It: Meet Becca Ellis
Photographer Becca Ellis lives in a small beachside community in Kitsap County, WA (right near me, we just figured out!) with her husband and three children. When she is not behind the lens, she enjoys running, gardening, writing, fine art modeling, exploring and hiking in the beautiful PNW, sharing a cup of coffee or tea, painting, and creating music. I hope to soon meet Becca in person for a cup of tea—but in the meantime, the following interview *feels* like having a cup of tea in person—which we can all share together. Enjoy!
SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
BE: I live in a sleepy little beachside community on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state with my husband, three kids (ages 7, 5, and almost 1 year), and cat. I grew up a city girl, but after falling in love, getting married, and having kids, we moved back to where my husband grew up and have settled into a simpler, slower, rural lifestyle and absolutely love it. We spend much of our free time exploring different beaches and parks, gardening, and taking walks in our own community down to our local beach.
SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
BE: I am the owner of Soma Art Photography, based here on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. I specialize in maternity, birth, and newborn photography. While I tend to have a documentary approach to photography, I am also heavily drawn to creating strong portraits of women, particularly mothers, acknowledging and celebrating the unique role they play in the world and memorializing the season they are currently in.
I also love to capture the connection shared between family members, which is why I am so drawn to birth—the raw emotion and sacred bonding that takes place when a baby is born is unlike any other experience I know. I originally ventured into professional photography out of a desire to become a midwife. I was invited to attend births as a photographer for a local doula, and after a few births, I was hooked! After a year of attending births as an amateur and building my portfolio, I launched my business in spring of 2015.
I also run a personal blog, B.E. Blog, which began as a way to document and write about simplifying our family’s lifestyle in just about every aspect from our home to what we eat to parenting and more. Today the subjects are more broad and cover different interests and questions I find myself asking, but I still find myself centering on simplicity often.
My latest project is PenCraftLove, a shop I started on Etsy where I create and sell organizational templates, planners, and fun and inspiring wall art printables. I hope to expand as time goes on, but it has been a fun new outlet for my graphic artist aspirations.
SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
BE: I am a maker and always have been since I was young. I have a tendency to jump from one project to another as I follow my interests—I have always had the mindset that if I want to make or do something myself, there is nothing stopping me (short of finances), other than devoting some time to education and practice. So, my art is fluid and changes with time, but I know I will always create. My “life’s work” feels hard to pin down, but I have enjoyed settling on photography these past few years and developing my craft and personal artistic style. My greatest hope for my photography is that I will create something that my clients cherish forever and that it will emotionally stir people and form a connection with them in some way.
SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
BE: Motherhood has helped me see the beauty in creating just to experience the process. With kids, the process is really the important part of exposing them to art and different mediums. Most of the time, they aren’t going to end up with a masterpiece (even if we feel sentimental about their preschool watercolor prints ourselves). I love devoting time to creating with my kids and it has always been important to me that they don’t become bogged down with worrying about creating something perfect—I want them to have fun and simply enjoy the process of experimenting and creating something uniquely theirs. Learning this has helped me loosen up and give myself permission to explore different ideas without worrying about the outcome being perfect. Sometimes I can devote hours to something that ends up feeling like a total “flop,” but what I learn from it is actually very valuable. Actually, many times I end up loving something that I created which happened completely by accident!
SM: Where do you do your creative work?
BE: We live in a small house without much of an office space. I used to work with my laptop in bed or on the living room floor with Netflix in the background. I still paint and draw in the kitchen, due to it being convenient and I can keep an eye on my kids, and I often will do my editing work with my laptop down there if it is the middle of the day. I also set up a desk in our loft where I can work at my computer and have my printer and other supplies handy. When I have a designated space it makes it much easier to sit and get more work done than if I feel like I have to pick up my work and put it away every time we have a meal or need the table for something.
SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
BE: Right now, with three young kids at home (two school aged, one under a year old) and a husband who works full time, I generally work when he is home in the evening after the kids go to bed or on the weekends. I am able to get some work done during the day when the kids are in school/napping. It has worked OK to just work when I have a moment without it planned out, but for the new school season, it feels important to schedule out some specific time that I can be uninterrupted on a regular basis. I really believe this will help me be more productive and present with everything I do, whether it be for work or family.
SM: What does creative success mean to you?
BE: In the past, I think it would have meant that I am busy all the time (high demand for my work) and I have many fans and admirers. Lately though, it has much more to do with being true to myself as an artist and individual and having my work mean something to the people who connect with it.
SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
BE: I think it is both important for my kids to see me work hard to achieve my goals and provide for my family, and also to be present and available to them. It doesn’t happen every day and we all extend a lot of grace to each other when we fail to pay attention to each other’s needs, but I can see the difference in everyone when we have settled into a daily rhythm that works for our family—life doesn’t feel so rushed and we have plenty of opportunities to connect throughout the day. There is a feeling of peace in our home. This is when I can rest easy knowing I have given them what they need from me as their mother.
SM: What do you struggle with most?
BE: Self-promotion and placing value on my work. I have always been a very self-conscious person. Each year, I get a little older and a little wiser and I care a little bit less about what others think about me—it has taken a long time to get to where I am today! Yet, I still doubt and overthink things and worry that I’m just not “that good” or that anyone will see any value in my art, or even care to see it. To be truthful, I get a lot of anxiety over sharing my work on social media sites, so I am constantly struggling with figuring out the balance in marketing/networking and what feels good to me.
SM: What inspires you?
BE: I draw inspiration from many sources. Books, nature, music, my kids. When I see or hear an authentic voice in another’s work, writing or art, it moves me. When I see someone share a photograph or piece of art that they created that you just KNOW they put their soul into, because you can feel it—this inspires me. People embracing and sharing the beauty they see makes me want to dig deeper and find those extra minutes that seem to be hiding from me to do more. I find a lot of inspiration on Instagram [you can find Becca on Insta here and here] and am mostly drawn to following accounts where I see this—people developing and sharing their craft with a passion that truly reflects who they are. I can always tell when I am not being authentic and am just trying to be more like someone else, because I think it will gain me popularity points. I try to stop myself in those moments and take some time to re-center and remind myself who I am and what unique perspective I have to bring to the world, even if it isn’t going to get the most “likes.”
SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
BE: When I dream of the future, I envision a small house on some acreage with rows of flowers dancing in the sun. I see myself waking up to the morning light seeping in through the slits of the curtains and sitting at my desk and writing and painting with my cup of tea or coffee. I see working with clients and families who appreciate and value my style and are eager to invest in my artwork. I see my husband and I working together for our own businesses, sharing the load of household and careers and embracing a simple and sustainable lifestyle, deciding our own schedules and investing in our values. I see creating a space of community and gathering with others. I don’t know exactly what my art might be in 10 years, because I hope it will always be evolving as I grow and learn more and go to the places life takes us, but my hope is that it will become richer with each passing year and give something back to the community I live in.
SM: What are you reading right now?
BE: I always have about 5 open books on my nightstand and can hardly help myself from picking up more every time I’m at the library with my kids. I just finished Jewel’s Never Broken and it was so inspiring and ribbed with truth. I am currently reading Writing Wild by Tina Welling and am learning so much about tuning into my own creative process from it.
Click’n Moms also has some great articles and breakout classes all about photography, although I have yet to invest in taking one, I have heard great things about many of them.
I also tried out the SkillShare App for a few months and really enjoyed the online workshops I took—there are so many different subjects to learn directly from experts and artists from business to photo editing to social media skills.
SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
BE: That it’s okay to laugh hard and let tears fall, that you can’t live up to everyone’s expectations and you will always be too much or too little for someone—so just be you and do the things that are burning inside without worrying so much about what everyone thinks.
SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
BE: Just start. Every day, even if it is only ten minutes or fewer, it is that much more than nothing. I have found that starting is the hardest part—once you get going, it will be easier each day to find the passion and motivation you need. Of course, there will always be slumps and days you don’t feel like doing it; don’t let that get you down forever. Take a break, re-center, and go at it again. Also, don’t be too worried if something doesn’t turn out. Chances are a lot of things aren’t going to, but the process is so important and you will grow from it until you really discover what it is you have been waiting to do all this time.
Connect with Becca!