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Posts tagged ‘children’

How She Does It: Ifrah Shahid Khurram

IMG-20181026-WA0009Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Pakistani mother artist and amazing jewelry designer Ifrah Shahid Khurram, currently residing in Canada. Ifrah has been featured in She Canada as a she-preneur of the month. Lets have a chat with the designer and explore the ebb and flow of her success story!

Hi Ifrah! Please tell us about yourself, your work, and your family.
Hello dear moms! I’m a busy mom of two beautiful girls, ages 9 and 5. I’m a home economics graduate and run the jewelry design business American Diamonds in Ontario, Canada. I love to play with colors and shapes to create and customize pieces. Today we are one of the best jewelry brands serving the Pakistani and Indian communities in Canada, featuring formal and bespoke bridal jewelry.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I belong to a typical Pakistani family, where dad wants you to be a doctor and mom wants you to learn cooking. So naturally I imagined myself as a doctor. But in my spare time I would find myself painting or hunched over some craft project I had either picked up from kids time on TV or created on my own. I even used to split my earrings into pieces to create more originative ornaments.

diamondsWhen did you explore yourself as an artist?
While I was super crafty throughout my childhood, I viewed at my creativity as a hobby and never thought of it as a career. Just after I moved to Canada, three years into my marriage and after my first child was born, I went into a career in the retail sector. To be honest I enjoyed in retail. I excelled and was content.

But life took a small turn after we had our second daughter. Initially, I took maternity leave, thinking I’d go back to work after things settled down. But with each passing day, my confusion about whether to leave my kids behind for work on days when my husband was home or drop them at day care when we were both at work — or quitting work and staying at home — multiplied. Eventually, I chose to stay at home and give my daughters the best early years.

Honestly, it wasn’t easy. I had been quite ambitious and focused throughout my career. While living far from my family of origin and not having any sort of domestic help, raising kids and fulfilling household responsibilities was a tough row to hoe.

IMG-20181026-WA0000-COLLAGEI found some time to myself when our older daughter started school. During those hours I explored various ways to stay busy other than housework. I was in search of a career that would allow me to look after my kids at the same time. My love for creativity and crafting jewelry returned when I helped a friend market her jewelry. It was challenging. With Almighty Allah’s help and my husband’s constant support and encouragement, we faced deadlocks and losses but persevered.

How has being a mom affected you as an artist?
I often found myself at sixes and sevens when I had both kids and work to take care of. Time and again I felt guilt-ridden and frustrated by work pressure and household responsibilities. I thought of quitting multiple times. During the transition my husband supported me to the fullest, showing me the brighter side of every negative thought that popped into my head. Gradually, the kids and I settled into a routine. I dedicated my unclaimed hours to work, which were mostly after putting kids to bed. I learned to manage time, home, and kids together.

My little one has seen me working since the day she started recognizing me as her mom, so she’s pretty comfortable with my work schedule, and I’m happy with it. With the grace of Almighty Allah, our perseverance has helped achieve some of our goals, but there is still a long way to go, InshaAllah!

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What keeps you inspired to create every day?
Being a designer, I’m inspired about the stuff around me. The weather, a flower, a piece of cloth, an animal, or even food can click an idea. I’m also in love with Pakistani fashion and look for inspiration in the latest trends and designs.

aa05dbbf2391a5d5bb5344f91cfd6be3d2f0af8f_111Which part of the day makes you feel most energetic and creatively driven?
I love it when I see a customer proudly wearing a piece of our jewelry with a smile on her face. The unique sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes with being an entrepreneur greatly surpasses all the challenges that come with it.

How do you think your struggle and success as a mom would influence your kids?
I haven’t gone to a single exhibition without taking my kids along. I believe parents’ hardships and success make an everlasting impression on kids. Watching their parents struggle and ultimately succeed help them follow their own dreams. They learn to cope with disappointments and hardships. At present, my daughters want to be jewelry designers like their mom, and the feeling is absolutely out-of-this-world.

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What is one strength that helped you make your mark?
One strength I always count on is my ability to get along well with others. My easy-going temperament and service orientation have helped me succeed.

What is your key to staying positive in challenging situations?
Challenges are inevitable. We have to face them no matter which field we work in. I’ve learned that while facing a challenge, remember to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, dream big, believe in yourself, and put forth your best efforts into achieving your desired goals.

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Tell us about your latest project.
Currently I am working on our SS19 bridal collection. My inspiration behind it is a “perfect bride.” To me, the perfect bride is someone who carries herself with a positive self-image. I want to design sparkling jewels that celebrate not only the big day, but the bride herself.

Who are your favorite artists/designers?
Some of the designers I’m highly inspired by are Art by Misbah, Shafaq Habib, and Deeya.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I envision having a storefront in Canada and expanding our delivery services worldwide, as currently we cater only to clients in Canada and the US.

Any advice for aspiring mom artists who might be on the verge of giving up?
The key to being who you want to be is consistency. While you’re busy working on your dream, stumbling blocks may delay what you’ve given your blood, sweat, and tears to. This phenomenon is natural. Be determined. Consistency will turn the tide in your favor.

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How She Does It: Kimberly Wachtel

Happy 2018 — and welcome to the first “How She Does It” post of the year. It’s a delight to introduce you to Kimberly Wachtel. Based in Western Massachusetts, Kim has more creative mojo than than we can really fit into a blog post. But we tried. Enjoy!



Kim_WachtelSM: Please introduce yourself and your family. Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
KW: Hello! I’m Kimberly Wachtel and I’m a painter, singer, gardener, wife, and mother of a 5.5-year-old boy and an almost-3-year-old girl. I have a design business, Where Earth Meets Sky Designs, where I make and sell paintings, paper cuts, and embroideries as original pieces, greeting cards, and archival prints. Where Earth Meets Sky Designs also includes my garden business: I work in clients’ gardens doing design, plantings, and upkeep in the warm months.

I sing and perform with my husband as Radio Free Earth. We present rare gems we’ve unearthed from the tremendous heritage of American and world music during the past hundred years, along with insightful, incisive, humorous, and moving originals. Radio Free Earth forges a coherent repertoire from diverse elements. At once irreverent and serious, humorous and instructive, acoustic and electric, political and spiritual, Radio Free Earth takes you on a musical journey that illuminates the human condition along with possibilities for transcending our present circumstances. I’m involved with other musical projects in my community as well.

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SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
KW: My dream is to have my life be my art and my art be my life. I have always loved singing, music, creating, and appreciating art — and a little later I fell in love with gardening. Slowing down to look carefully, listen fully with my heart, smell intently, taste the products of my and others’ labor, and to feel with my whole body is what brings me the most meaning and joy. For me, art, singing, music, and creating is about deeply connecting. I try to take moments in the day to do this even when I’m not in the studio or I’m not officially “working.” I pull the car over to take a photograph; enjoy the aroma, color, and textures of the plants I’m working with or the food I’m preparing for dinner; turn the music up loud to fully enjoy a song and let myself look out the window and get lost in a daydream.

Orange_and_Turquoise_Folk_FlowerThe year before I became pregnant and had my first child I grew interested in and passionate about looking back to traditional methods, particularly the folk art and practices of Poland, Hungary, and Eastern Europe, as a point of inspiration for my life’s work and art. In 2011, I spent six weeks in Poland and Hungary. I was part of a summer program at a university in Krakow where I studied, in particular, Polish folk arts. I spent quality time with my family in Poland and Hungary as well. My art, gardens, and cooking especially connect me to my ancestors who worked the land and had trade skills there. My goal is to learn more and return to Eastern Europe with my family to meet others who are the keepers of traditions, conduct a research project, and write about my connections there.

Humankind has taken a turn towards living a polarized, disconnected life. Often in our contemporary, capitalistic, consumer-driven culture we lose touch with our connection to the more basic and beautiful natural world and rhythms. The old peasant ways show us the natural life cycle rhythms that create a real and sustainable connection to our place on Earth. Learning from and practicing folk ways may be an antidote to what ails contemporary society: mentally, spiritually, politically, and socially. People who work the land are deeply connected to the seasons and their immediate landscape: plants, animals, weather, seasons, and life cycles. My goal is to reflect this idea in the images I create, in the gardens I tend, in the food I make, the songs I sing, and the research I want to do in future when my children are a bit older.

I’m happy that my desire to be an artist, a desire I’ve had my whole life, is reality.  As I grow my card business throughout the year, make new art in the colder months, and work in the gardens during the warmer months, I see that my work is connected to the cycles of the seasons of New England. Doing seasonally appropriate work helps my business become economically viable and keeps me engaged physically and creatively to the seasons and cycles. Along with my above-stated goals, I hope that my art and garden design work creates sustainable income for me and my family in years to come.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
KW: Motherhood has been mainly a blessing to my creativity. At the same time, being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom with my kids while they were infants and young toddlers. For about four years I stopped working for other people. I spent some of that time working on my own art business. This period, as I learned how to be a mother of two children, gave me space and perspective to reimagine the kind of work I really want to do and how I can do it. Being home with my kids during their young years really pulled me away from my studio practice and my ability to take on regular garden business clients. All of that began to change last spring when I found regular, full-day childcare and preschool for my kids 2-3 days a week.

Kim_Wachtel_garden
Before kids, I was really good at wasting time and putting others’ needs before my own. Now, as a self-employed mom with art, garden, and music projects, I can’t waste my time. All the extra tasks and attention that came along with motherhood definitely made it harder for me to waste time. I still struggle with work/life boundaries and get pulled out of my creative time to problem solve a family task, like putting away the toys littering my living room. I’ve become better at really using the three six-hour days I have to myself each week to get into the studio or out in the gardens to work. I am extremely gratified to see that getting clear on my artistic vision and abilities, taking risks, and slowly putting one foot in front of the other have added up to much meaningful, creative work and a meaningful, creative life with my family.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
KW: I do my art in my home studio, a lovely room we made out of a three-season porch the spring before my son was born. I had been working in our second bedroom but that had to become our kids’ room. I feel so grateful to have this beautiful space (with doors!) that is fully mine. I work outside in my gardens and others’ gardens. I practice music from my home and others’ homes and perform out and about, mostly locally. I travelled to Poland and Hungary in order to understand and connect with my creative muse.I plan on doing more of my creative work and research while traveling with my family when my kids are a bit older.

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SM:
Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
KW: Yes! Monday, Tuesdays, and Fridays my son is in kindergarten and my daughter is in daycare/preschool. I work best in the mornings. I try to get into my studio by 8:30 am to 9:00 am after driving my kids to school. I work for a couple of hours then take a break. Then I work until I need a walk around 1:30 pm — or I skip the walk and work straight through until I need to be with my kids around 3:00 pm. Daytime hours are best. I’m too tired and mentally foggy at night to do good work. I’m not good at working while my kids and husband are home. The threat of being interrupted looms large and is too much to bear. Sometimes I steal time on the weekends when my husband can be with the kids for a few hours. Music practice and performing is year round and mainly done in the evening after the kids are in bed. We practice music in the living room or in my husband’s “music shed” in the backyard so a babysitter is not needed, thankfully. However, having relationships with a few really good babysitters makes gigging out in the evenings possible.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
KW: Creative success means never giving up on your creative dreams and practices. Sometimes I have to accept that I will not get a lot accomplished or completed. This is hard. For example, in the three years since my daughter was born I have not made a new painting. All of that is changing now and I’m beginning to paint again and make new designs. Putting one foot in front of the other and making even the tiniest steps towards fulfilling an idea or meeting a goal adds up and eventually leads to completion or accomplishment. I feel most successful when I’m able to complete a project or fulfill a goal. It also feels really good to see my card business growing and my designs being enjoyed in stores. I’m happy that my art and garden business are able to bring in some money for my family. Creative success is engaging with myself and others to bring something beautiful into the world. The beauty shared may be a moment in a song, a sound or lyric sung, an image that reminds one of someone or something that is loved, or planting a beautiful garden that pulses with life and color.

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
KW: Laughing, smiling, cuddling, talking, teasing, reading, playing, and connecting with my kids. The moments truly connecting with my children make me and them feel really good! Growing and making healthy food and feeding it to my family also feels good, although I’m not sure how much the kids appreciate it yet. As I work on having clearer work/family boundaries I think I will more fully enjoy time with my kids and time with my work without feeling guilty, like I’m always pulled to do other than what I’m doing in the moment.

Kim_Wachtel_kidsSM: What do you struggle with most?
KW: I struggle with the endless tasks, messes, noises, to-do lists, and attention my family needs from me. These things pull me away from where I feel most at peace and happy, the quiet moments reflecting, appreciating and/or creating something beautiful. I struggle with feeling angry with myself and my family because I can’t always figure out how to create clearer boundaries and more space for myself, my work, and time to just enjoy playing and engaging with the kids.

It is hard to have so much work, so many ideas, and so little time to myself. Since my husband is the main breadwinner, his job and work responsibilities come first. At any time my work can be interrupted by a snow day, illness, holiday, or an absolutely must-do task.

SM: What inspires you?
KW: Beauty, beauty, beauty! Authenticity, imperfection, nostalgia, the handmade, nature, plants, desire, horizons, warmth, love, the sky, bright colors, folk traditions, seasons, life cycles, mystery, the moon and stars, passion…

My card designs are especially inspired by the folk-art traditions of my ancestors. I love the colors and patterns found in embroidery from Poland and Hungary. I love the designs that decorate pisanki (decorated Easter eggs), woodcarvings, paper cuts, and folk paintings.

SM:  What did you do in the last month that felt hard?
KW: The past month or so has been an exercise in me letting go and accepting that I can’t control my schedule. I had some health issues come up, out of the blue, that made it impossible to work for a few weeks. Then my son was home sick, we had a snow day, and finally the holiday schedule made it difficult to get momentum going in my studio. I’m working on new card designs and am preparing for two art openings in the spring. I have deadlines looming at the end of February so I feel the pressure to get things done. I find it hard to be the person in the family who constantly needs to adjust to changes in schedules because of health, weather, and holidays. This reality eats into my already limited alone hours for work.

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
KW: In a coupIe of years both kids will be in school fulltime. As this happens, I want my art and garden design to be a source of sustainable income. I want my body to continue to be healthy and strong so that I can keep up with strenuous garden tasks. I want to live in Poland with my family for a year and perhaps travel back and forth regularly to continue my study of Eastern European folk traditions. I’d like my children to see how other cultures live. I’d like them to learn another language by living somewhere where English is not spoken as a first language. I’d also like to learn Polish well enough to get around easily and converse with family, friends, and others I meet on this journey. I’d like to bring our music overseas and play out while we live and travel. I want my kids to be healthy and engaged, in a kind way, with the world around them. I want to share the beauty found in this world, firsthand, with my children and others through my art, music, and work. I’d like to engage in all this over the next 10 years.

SM: What are you reading right now?


SM:
What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
KW: I just started up my Instagram account and I’m a bit obsessed. I love posting pictures of beautiful things that I see as I go through my days. I also seek out the beauty that other people share from around the world about their lives and creative pursuits.

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I have a complicated relationship with Facebook. I love and hate it. Facebook is great for keeping in touch, even if superficially, with family and friends near and far as well as social and cultural events. I use it as a tool for posting my own events. I hate Facebook because it sucks me in and I can easily waste time. Facebook can really feed the things I find so ugly about our contemporary world. I must be mindful of what I read and post. I don’t want to feed my fears on Facebook’s extreme negativity and polarization.

I used to blog regularly and follow other blogs on Blogspot. I miss it and the relationships I made with fellow creatives around the world. Since my daughter was born, I no longer regularly write posts and read those of others. I have a “Musings” page on my website and think about writing more regularly there. Instagram feels like a shorthand version of what I experienced when I blogged, and is more doable with the time I have available.

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
KW: I wish I’d had more confidence and believed in my artistic desires, pursuits, and abilities 10 — heck, 20 — years ago! As a young adult, I put other people’s ideas, projects, and dreams before my own. In my 20s I was not super clear on what I wanted. I’ve been working on music and performing regularly with Radio Free Earth since I married my husband 16 years ago. I taught art, continued adult painting classes here and there, and never gave up on learning about and making art as a young adult, although I didn’t know then that one day my art would become a business. Luckily when I was 34-35 years old I was able to sort out some things for myself, get clear on my artistic vision, and begin to more deeply pursue art and creativity. This happened right before I had children. In a way, my creative self was born through maturing, preparing for, creating, and giving birth to my own children. When I look back on the last 20 years I see that I’ve been on a creative path all along. Everything that happened and that I chose was and is part of the evolution of becoming. This is the path I continue to walk. I’m not there yet and I still have a lot of work I want to do.

SM:  What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
KW: My advice is to quiet down and listen to that deep inner voice/pull. Make time to connect with it. Listen to your deep knowing and follow your intuition. Things happen in mysterious ways. Take risks, do the work, and make your needs and work important enough to give them proper attention and energy. Don’t push your creative desires aside for too long. It’s ok to hire a babysitter, find a suitable and loving daycare, send your kids to school, and ask for space away from your family. Something always has to be ignored in order to give full attention to something else. Just try to keep it all in balance. Even when your children are young, it’s OK to claim space and time for yourself, even though it can be very hard to do. Continue putting one foot in front of another, even if baby steps, towards goals. You’ll be happy and surprised that in a week, a month, a year, or 10, you’re able to get things accomplished and make your dreams become real.

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Creative reader! Would you like to be featured at Studio Mothers? Send a note to Miranda at ideas@mirandahersey.com.

How She Does It: Keiko Elizabeth

Keiko_ElizabethOf all the ways to combine creativity and motherhood, the performing arts are among the most challenging. But the obstacles inherent to this path are no match for the fierce passion, commitment, and intelligence of Keiko Elizabeth, who you may already know from her work on stage and television. I can’t wait for you to read Keiko’s highly articulate and introspective interview! (Spoiler alert: Inspiration by the boatload.)

Keiko is from in Sacramento, California, and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in biological science. After a stint teaching middle school science to kids coming out of juvenile hall in San Francisco, she decided to pursue a professional acting career. Keiko received an MFA in acting from Cal State Fullerton, where she studied with renowned Russian acting teacher Svetlana Efremova.

Since graduation,Keiko has worked on a range of TV shows including Days of Our Lives, Hawaii Five-0, and Hot in Cleveland. Keiko is a company member at Theatre of NOTE, where she recently originated the role of Naomi in Supper by Phinneas Kiyomura. She lives with her husband and two children just outside of Los Angeles. 


SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
KE:
I’m Keiko Elizabeth, I’m an actress, mother, wife, producer, writer (sort of). I work in television, film, and theatre and have a son and a daughter — 9 and 3.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
KE: 
I discovered acting rather later in life. I went to college with hopes to become a doctor, then I nearly went to law school, then I taught middle school students coming out of juvenile hall. It wasn’t until I was nearly 30 that I stepped on stage for the very first time. I knew right away it was something I wanted to do well and for the rest of my life, so I began applying to acting MFA programs with probably the least amount of experience of any MFA applicant in the history of MFA applicants.

Keiko_Elizabeth_4It just so happened that as I was applying and auditioning to MFA programs, I got pregnant. The funny thing is that we were trying. It just never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to do both things at once. I had very little experience with babies and I just thought they’d sleep all the time and not move or talk that much (oh, the naïveté). My son was born my first week of my MFA program, and truthfully, that first semester was blisteringly hard. I returned to class full time after two of the shortest and longest weeks of my life, and had to sit on a donut or lie down on a yoga mat in class because I couldn’t sit on a regular chair. I was not only the least experienced actor in my program, but I was now behind, my boobs leaked at random times, and I had to go into evening rehearsals for a play when my son was only 6 weeks old.

But I didn’t quit. In fact, I loved every excruciating minute of it.

And now, I’m a working actor in Los Angeles. I was just in seasons 3 and 4 of How to Get Away with Murder, I’ve been on a variety of television shows and films, plus a commercial or two. I’m a member of a theatre company here in Los Angeles called Theatre of NOTE. I love being a part of the theatre-making process — we are a democratically run company and we read and select all of the plays in our season as well as self-produce every show.

I’m also developing a couple of film projects — a documentary and a scripted feature.

supperSM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
KE: 
This is such a great question. My goal for my art is continued growth and expansion of myself as a storyteller. So that means playing complex women with lives, beliefs, and tendencies that are different than my own — that’s where the fun is. It also means telling stories on larger platforms that reach more people, and working with other artists who have similar vision.

You know, it’s interesting, acting is one of the arts that really requires other people in order to do it. I can do my own creative and imaginative work on a story or on a character, but at some point the creative cycle feels incomplete if you don’t get to play with others and for others. Seeking out collaboration and work is fundamentally important to being an actor. It’s like when you were little and you’d go over to the neighbors’ house and say, “wanna play?” Part of creative success for an actor is finding people to play with.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
KE: 
I really became an artist and a mom at the same time, so I only know myself creatively since becoming a mother. But I will say that being a mother focused my creative work in a way that nothing else would have. It raised the stakes on everything I was doing, and for me this was a good thing for a while, until it wasn’t any more. At first, I took my studies and my development as an actor very seriously, because it was taking me away from my baby, so I felt that in order to make that worthwhile I had to be good. But as any artist knows, at some point you have to give up the desire to be good to make anything remotely truthful. There came a point when I had to let go of tying my worth as a mother to my talent — “I’d better be good and successful, because so many people including myself and my child sacrificed so much for me to do my art.” That’s too much pressure for the muse to work under, it’s incredibly narcissistic, and it’s a belief that resulted in a lot of unhappiness. I had to get back to my mission as a storyteller, to my imagination, to my sense of play and aliveness, and my children helped show me how to do that.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
KE: 
I have a little nook in an upstairs dormer of our house that I’ve set up as a quiet creative space. Most of my work is imagination-based, so I don’t need a lot of materials. I also have an office studio where I have a light kit and backdrop for taping auditions, which I do fairly often.

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
KE: 
Every morning I wake up and do imagination work for 1 hour and 20 minutes either on a story I’m working on in acting class, or a play that I’m interested in exploring on an ongoing basis. This morning time is like imaginative barre work for me, so if I have an audition or a job that I’m preparing for, I’ll schedule additional time to work on it during the day. The consistency of practice every day, even on weekends, is really important for me—it keeps me emotionally, imaginatively, and spiritually accessible, vulnerable, and creative. I often need to be able to fall seamlessly into a story with less than 24 hours to prepare, and in order to be able to do that, my emotional and imaginative accessibility needs to be very high.

Keiko_Elizabeth1SM: What does creative success mean to you?
KE: 
Creative success for me has a lot of do with my ability to empathize and then translate that empathy into action within the story that I’m telling. So that means in every creative encounter — in every audition, every performance — was I able to put aside my own beliefs and life circumstances to step into the shoes of this other person’s life circumstances and beliefs, and engage with the people of my imaginary life as if it were my own? And can I do it every single time? And tomorrow with an entirely different set of life circumstances and beliefs? If I can answer yes to all of those questions, that is creative success. Beyond that, if people see it and want to pay me to do it, that’s cool too.

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
KE: 
I think the feeling of success as a mother comes for me in fleeting moments. When I see my child genuinely connecting with something in a pure and loving way, it feels like I also am experiencing that connection, and it feels really divine. For example when my son is really enjoying playing a particular piano piece (that maybe he hates playing the next day), or when I hear my children playing pretend together (instead of fighting and crying). It’s like a feeling of rightness, of coherence, of connection. I try to really inhale those moments into my bones, so that when I inevitably have shittier moments, it’s still okay because I know those good ones at least existed so I can’t be that bad.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
KE: 
I think what motherhood and acting have in common is that there is a lot that you can’t control, because both endeavors involve other human beings. So the best you can do is show up authentically, give as much as you can in that moment, and then keep engaging rather than retreating.

Since I tend to be a control freak, having to let go of that tendency was really, really hard, and continues to be hard. But when I do surrender control and go with the flow, I’m so much happier, everyone else is happier, and my work is better too. But it’s like I have to keep learning the lesson over and over again.

SM: What inspires you?
KE: 
Other women, especially artist moms who perform great feats of creativity and great acts of selflessness in the service of their children and families and humanity on a daily basis. I started a community for actors who are also moms called the Mama Actor community and these women, 100% of whom I did not know before starting the group, inspire me every day.

I also have creative mentors, three women who, at different times, gave me just the artistic gift that I needed. These women continue to provide creative nourishment and inspiration.

Keiko_Elizabeth_3SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
KE: 
In 10 years, I want to be developing and producing TV shows and films under the banner of my own production company. I want to be starring in films and television shows that I’ve had a say in creating, that tell the stories of interesting and unique and flawed women. In 10 years, my son will be going to college and my daughter will be just entering her teens years, so I imagine it will also be a time to double down on my family and what’s important for us to teach our children. Ten years from now is going to be the time of my life.

SM: What are you reading right now?
KE: 
I just finished reading Outlander, which was like eating the last piece of a rich chocolate cake — so indulgent and delicious, but now that it’s over I miss it! I’m not even sure I want to watch the series, because we all know how that goes. I just started The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferucci.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?

  • The Poetry Foundation
  • The Send Me SFMOMA project, where you can text a word to SF MOMA and they’ll text you back the image of a piece from their collection inspired by that word.
  • The Mama Actor blog and FB community. That’s my FB group, so if you’re an actor and a mom, find us.
  • Moms In Film. Doing great things to advocate for moms (and dads) who are filmmakers. They ran a childcare trailer at SXSW last year that got a lot of press.
  • The SAG-AFTRA Foundation has a huge resource library of videos for those interested in pursuing acting.

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
KE: 
I wish I’d spent less energy on self doubt, worrying about what other people might think, and feeling like I don’t belong. This one life we have is so precious, I just think to my younger self, “Go! Do it! Say it! Don’t be so afraid!”

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
KE: 
Three things. One. Just carve out time. It’s important. It’s important to you, it’s important to me that you do it — and I don’t even know you. If you have to leave 15 minutes early for an appointment and sit on the side of the road to have some quiet alone time, so be it (that’s a personal story; I guess it depends on what you need for your own creative expression, if it’s paint, maybe the car isn’t the place).

Two. Distraction is really the killer of creativity, and if you’re just returning to focused creative time after not having it for a while, it’s normal for your brain to be squirrelly. Don’t give up on yourself. Just keep showing up and the focus will return, even if it takes a year. It will return, I promise.

Three. Find a community of creative mamas. Like this one! I didn’t have one so I started one and it’s saved the lives of many of us who are in it. You may feel like an inferior imposter, you may feel a superior artiste, it doesn’t matter, you still need a community. These women will inspire you and give you their own pilot light until you can find the inner strength to relight your own.

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Connect with Keiko!

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Thinking About Role Models

role_modelToday I’m thinking about role models. Role models on the international stage, alive today, who are exemplars for ourselves and for our children. As we grapple with continually breaking stories about A-list sexual impropriety, sexual assault, questionable business dealings, and most every kind of NO YOU DIDN’T, it’s increasingly difficult to settle on well-known paragons of the behavior that we want to emulate and want to hold up as examples to our children.

What is a role model? In its deepest expression, a role model is a person whose behavior you want to emulate. Who embodies and exemplifies your personal values, interests, and beliefs. While on the one hand we understand intellectually that we all, as humans, make mistakes, we want our role models to be beyond reproach. We don’t want to have to say, “Well, this person is amazing and upright in 90% of his or her actions and speech, so I’ll ignore that pesky 10% of not-so-great choices.” We don’t want our most beloved icons to have feet of clay.

When I sat down to write a list of my personal role models — alive, well-known, and scandal-free — I had an extremely difficult time of it. I managed to come up with 30 names, but it wasn’t easy.

I share my personal list with you not because I want to create partisanship (my list is rather left-leaning), but because I want to contribute to an honest conversation about what we hold as important on a societal level; what we want to espouse as our legacy. With your help, I’d like to triple my list, which is notably low on artists (partly because many artists are not visible personalities).

The 30 people on my list are, to my knowledge, people of character. They are leaders. I may not agree with everything these people do and stand for, but I believe that their choices are guided by something I respect. I believe that these people want to make a significant and positive impact on the world — and that they share of themselves and their talents at least in part from altruism. My selections are people who are generally esteemed as “nice people.” I get warm fuzzies thinking about them.

My list, segmented by cisgender (for no good reason) and otherwise in random order:

Females

  1. Michelle Obama
  2. Brené Brown
  3. JK Rowling
  4. Helen Mirren
  5. Maggie Smith
  6. Judy Dench
  7. Oprah Winfrey
  8. Rachel Maddow
  9. Martha Plimpton
  10. Ellen Degeneres
  11. Malala Yousafzai
  12. Judy Blume
  13. Viola Davis
  14. Pema Chödrön
  15. Emma Watson
  16. Toni Morrison
  17. Byron Katie

Males

  1. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Pope Francis
  4. Justin Trudeau
  5. John McCain
  6. Neil Gaiman
  7. Steven King
  8. Nicholas Kristoff
  9. Trevor Noah
  10. Steven Colbert
  11. Gabor Maté
  12. Thich Nhat Hanh
  13. Gary Zukav

And you? Who are the role models, alive today and free of scandal, that inspire you and serve as guides along the pathway of self-betterment? Please add your thoughts in the comments. Let’s grow this list!

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Cars on the Ivory Keys: Becca Hitch

becca_hitchBecca Hitch is a musician, writer, and music therapist. She lives in England, just outside London, and has three fairly wild children under five. She holds as many degrees as she has children but is happiest pottering around her garden, writing songs, and getting behind the mic. She has found the highs and lows of motherhood to be both frustrating and inspiring in her creative journey, and hopes that when she has finished dealing with nappies, she will maybe have time to finish some creative projects. 

In the following post, written prior to the birth of Becca’s third child, she explores the inherent push and pull that come with creativity and motherhood. Becca’s story is very likely your story, too.


Becca Hitch

I have recently become aware of a feeling within me that has been difficult to name or put my finger on. Unconscious of its growth, I have come to a point where I can no longer ignore it. Brewing within me uncomfortably, like yeast expanding in a small space, it sits in the background. Present in my days, I cannot shake it from the front or back of my mind. It looms and wants to be acknowledged, though until recently I have not had the words to shape or describe it. It has been affecting my being; my coming and going; my loving and helping; my general joy and peace of heart. “Shouty Mummy” has been increasingly emerging — forget the children, I am currently the nutter in our household.

cardi-windowWhat, you say, can possibly be the matter? With two beautiful kids, and another on the way; the fittest and finest of husbands; the house; the happy extended family; the wonderful friends… I have it all in many ways. And I do. And I love it. There is nothing the matter, and there is everything the  matter.

I recently discovered a book called The Divided Heart: Art & Motherhood by Rachel Power [reviewed at Studio Mothers in 2009] and suddenly it all made sense. Someone had put into words what I was feeling. I am a creative person at heart — a musician. And whilst I have managed to keep little things going alongside being a fulltime mother, it has been minimal. I teach from home in the evenings, work gigging or doing session work occasionally at the weekends, and do a few hours of music therapy every week. I keep my hand in and this headspace open — mainly to help pay the bills, but also because, although I personally feel very strongly about being a fulltime mother where possible in the early years, that is not all that I am. And it is not all that I want my children to know me as.

However, as musical as this work is, it is not creative. It is not an outlet for self-expression. Before having children I used to spend hours writing or recording in studios, or at fellow writers’ homes, or in my own solitude. I would spend eons pouring over the details of lyrics, re-recording lines over and over again, rehearsing with musicians at anytime of the day and night until things sounded perfect. I was unaware of the precious nature of those minutes that I took for granted. And not just the minutes, but the freedom to do that at any time I so desired — to drop everything and wander through commentaries and thesauruses looking for that glimmer of the perfect lyric. To chew over; journey; ponder; wade through the depths of my soul in pursuit of my craft. To nurture, sculpt, and chip away at a song until its shape suddenly emerged from the stone and resonated with my eye and heart.

To create.

To feel something and express it.

To communicate.

Connect.

Vocalise.

Let the songbird fly.

To be myself is to make.

Not necessarily for a purpose but because it starts to hurt if I cannot let it out.

And so I find myself in this dilemma. Living in the tension between the beautiful call of motherhood, and the intrinsic call to create music. For who can really justify spending two hours writing a song when the dirty pots and pans cover the surfaces; when the laundry piles high and never seems to make it up the stairs; when the hungry little mouths call to be fed; and the grainy floors crunch under my feet like walking on the bottom of a toaster. The creation of a new song into the ether does not bring more money into the purse. It does not save lives or change the world. It does not change nappies or enable the cooking of dinner. And yet I need it. And crave it. I feel like my right hand is missing without it. And perhaps, it does somehow save me. Not just the creation but the expression. For what is an artist if not just a maker, but a public expresser of their art form? Writing only for the pleasure and viewing of the drawers that contain my journals is still creative but somehow lacks fullness if not fully released and heard by other ears — its journey is somehow not completed… like a grown up child who never leaves its mother.

Becca_Hitch_kitchen.jpgI have learnt to adapt my writing for this new season. Song ideas are hastily jotted down on paper amidst the battleground of cooking dinner with children attached to my legs. I record snippets on my phone either in snatched moments whilst children sleep; or to the accompaniment of screaming, demanding voices, and shared instrument participation from tiny hands. I am pleased by this. It is something (although my recordings could not be understood by others).

When little heads hit their pillows I try to force my eyes to stay open and push through the tiredness of body and mind to write something. Anything. But to find the flow is hard. I have learnt to create in a stilted, jilted, unrelentingly jagged sort of a way. Gone are the days of finding momentum in a thought and running with it; of getting lost for hours in the resonant, all encompassing chords of a piano. I learn to snap myself out of the creative dreamland and push myself into the reality of the need of that mothering moment. To stash little ideas away, collecting them like shards of shiny, broken glass until at some point I can open the box and have time to put them all together. My pace is slower, my frustration higher. But it is something at least.

I have memories of breastfeeding my four-month-old daughter backstage in the dark before flinging her into the arms of a waiting grandparent and launching myself onto stage. I have found an ability to, somewhat jarringly, shift myself between these extremes. It seems pointless at times to put myself through this just for an art form. But surely the call is not give up what has always been the gift? I cannot just give up and let it walk away, even though the network of musicians I have worked with seems to ever walk further and further away from me. The gap increases. Their journey and ascent goes on to ever dizzying heights. I plod. And with my fingernails scrape together a creative offering that seems so small. And yet I am aware that motherhood has distilled it down. There is a focus and a fragrance to it that was lacking previously. An urgency and purity of form that is new. And surely this must be good? The loneliness and isolation of motherhood is my filter. I cannot now do everything, and so I now do only what I absolutely must. Only the finest work gets through the net. I catch it and treasure it. But is it enough?

Motherhood, like some huge sieve, drains me, but amongst the residue is something of the best of me, too. Can I continue to live like this? Ever swinging from the demands of motherhood and into the guilty arms of the creative space? I have no choice but to try. To eke out the best creative life I possibly can, whilst ever working out how to be the “good enough” mother that British pediatrician and psychoanalyst DW Winnicott describes.

And who knows if I will ever be the “good enough” musician?

For what does “good” mean, anyway?

I must be more intentional. More expressive. More proactive. Be gone with the resenting of the sacrifice and figure out this new battleground. Surely it is possible to be and do both? To walk the tightrope of tension between motherhood and creativity? Guilt surround the two for many different reasons, but I cannot suffocate under the weight, responsibility and rigours of motherhood. I am a better mother when both parts of my life are expressed.

The practicalities of this overwhelm… but I shall keep trying. Keep dialoguing. Keep yearning. Keep crafting, solitude or no solitude. And I shall buy myself a piano. And write my clunky, not-quite-masterpieces as the kids run their cars up and down the ivory keys.


Find Becca on Instagram @livinginthetension and at her website.
Photos in this post by Emily Walker.

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Painting in Between: Kim Rohrs

Kim_Rohrs

Kim Rohrs

Kim Rohrs is a mixed-media artist and mother of two who, when faced with the challenges of raising a family, learned to adjust her working style in order to continue creating. Rather than feeling like she was just making do, Kim’s new process actually facilitated her success and led her to reframe possibility and outcome; skills that are serving her beautifully in the face of a difficult medical diagnosis. If you need a hand on your back — or a motivational kick on the rear — Kim’s story will have you rushing to your creative work, that pile of tired excuses left behind like last week’s dirty laundry.


RockSlide

“Rock Slide,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

My story begins fairly typically. In 2014, I was a stay-at-home mom to two incredible girls, ages four and one. We had busy lives full of playdates, errands, housework, and fun. But when my youngest daughter was almost two, I began to feel a sense of loss of my identity as an artist. I had not consistently made art since she was born. I was finding it difficult and frustrating to find any significant amount of time to build up my practice. On the rare occasion when I had over an hour to paint, I’d be frozen with doubt, anxious that this could be the only chance I’d have to make art for weeks. Inevitably, I would make nearly nothing and feel even more frustrated than when I started.

I finally decided that I was done with this cycle. I was done craving time to paint and then feeling too anxious to paint when I did have the time. Instead, I started looking at what I did have. I had small amounts of time here and there, and the times changed from day to day. I had the desire to have a brush in my hand. I had a creative voice that was ready to be heard.

Bursts of Opportunity

And so, I started with these positives and slowly developed a way to let these guide my work. I decided to put away the materials that required long set-up and clean-up times. I got out watercolors and ink pens, even though I never considered myself a watercolor artist, and painting with watercolors was not the end goal for me. I did know, however, that watercolors were the materials I needed to build the habit of painting because they are quick and easy to get out and put away. I usually paint in an abstract style and allow paintings to evolve over time and contemplation. Instead of this usual way of painting, I decided to find microscope slides and use these images as inspiration. That way, I could pick up my work, look at an image and get painting without much thought in deciding what to do next.

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“Enough for Everyone 2,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

This method began to work well for me, and I was finding five-minute breaks in the day to grab a brush, put down a few colors, and walk away. I tried painting at the dinner table while my children ate snacks or played with Play-Doh. I painted while they were playing on their own. I even grabbed my brush while walking by my materials and just added a few colors while still standing at our cabinet where my materials sat. Sometimes it went great, sometimes it was a huge challenge. I tried waking up early to paint, or staying up late to paint. I learned that all of these habits served good purposes for me at different times. Enjoying the variety was a new skill I was building.

As I persisted, a shift began to happen. I began to see other times in my day when I could be painting, and because I always knew what I was painting next, these chunks of time became very productive for me. With the unwavering support of my husband, I very gradually went from painting for 5 minutes at a time to consistently painting 10-15 hours a week. Once I had the habit of painting, I revisited my acrylics and my traditional way of abstract painting, which I loved. I even felt ready to experiment with new materials. I started applying for shows, and after a handful of rejections, my work began getting accepted. What started as my five-minute habit was becoming my part-time job, and I loved it.

Artist Statement: “I enjoy giving attention to the many parts that make a whole, specifically the way in which cells provide life for all living things and therefore allow for consciousness to occur. I do this by drawing inspiration from cellular forms. These forms flow, oscillate and intersect in my paintings. At times obsessively painted and at other times concealed or muted, the cellular form drives my paintings and allows me to explore themes through this most basic representation.”
—Kim Rohrs

Dealing with the Unexpected

Fast forward to April 2017. On Easter weekend, I began to develop neurological symptoms that grew and developed over the course of weeks. I entered the realm of medical tests, hypothesis, trying not to Google everything, and waiting. Between April and June I struggled with vision loss, numbness, a feeling of pins and needles over my body, and tremors. On some days, my tremors were extreme enough that I could not paint and on other days I could not trust my vision to help me mix the right colors I needed. I did not paint for a full two months.

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24"x24" acrylic on canvas)

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

In many ways, this was a difficult two months of my life. I felt as though I did not know my body anymore, and each day presented with something different I needed to adjust to. My paint palettes dried up, canvases remained still and incomplete, and I stopped looking for shows to apply to. I was not sure what was happening to me, or how long it was going to last.

What surprised me the most in these months of sickness was that I was not upset about not being able to paint. Instead, I found myself filled with gratitude that when I was able to paint, I DID paint. I was so glad I did not wait until the circumstances were perfect. I did not wait until I was in the right mood. I did not wait until the entire house was spotless. I painted in small bursts when the opportunity arose, and I found ways to build a regular practice from there. I let my body feel sick without the added weight of guilt that comes with “what if.”

The official diagnosis came in: multiple sclerosis.

"Plant Cell Study One," by Kim Rohrs

“Plant Cell Study One,” by Kim Rohrs (8″x10″ watercolor and ink on paper); The first painting Kim completed after committing to painting for five minutes at a time in bursts.

The Current Condition

By the time I was diagnosed with MS, the episode was calming down and I was able to paint again. I have since had to adjust my expectations and cut back on deadlines until I get to know this new companion in my life. I am still so thankful for and so proud of the body of work I have completed, and it helps me to understand that change takes time. Developing this disease and not being able to paint as much as I used to does not necessarily feel like a step backward in my progress because now I know there isn’t a linear path to being an artist. It’s up, it’s down, it’s cyclical. It’s five minutes here, an hour or so there.

"Glacial Movement 2," by Kim Rohrs

“Glacial Movement 2,” by Kim Rohrs (12″x12″ acrylic suspended in polished resin)

For me, making art is not about waiting for the right time, the right mood, the right state of mind, or the right state of body. It’s about showing up over and over again with the only expectation of putting paint to canvas. I have found when I am focused on this simple goal, I can achieve it repeatedly. And really, isn’t that most artists’ goal anyway? Using tools to make marks and images over and over again.

Having limited time raising young children allowed me to see that building an art practice can be as simple as I need it to be. Developing MS allowed me to value this simplicity. And now, when I have the time but not the physical ability for the long hours in the studio, I am able to remind myself that five minutes at a time is enough, today.

 


About Kim Rohrs

While earning my art therapy degree at Bowling Green State University, I took as many art studio classes I could cram into my schedule, specifically painting and ceramics. Although I wanted to become a professional artist, I felt a stronger calling to help others discover the healing capacity of art making. After graduating, I moved to Colorado to pursue my master’s degree in art therapy at Naropa University. It was there that I learned to meditate, to listen, to be curious, and to open my heart to help others. I practiced as an art therapist and play therapist, focusing my attention on children and families. 

When my husband and I started having children, we felt the Midwest calling us back. We returned to Ohio and at that time I decided to commit my time to raising our children and making art. Today, I am a mixed-media artist. I work with acrylic and resin, encaustic, and watercolors. I am inspired by microscope slides, cycles found in nature, living mindfully, dreams, and art therapy. I paint whenever my kids are asleep. In other words, I am living my dream while my girls dream.

Connect with Kim

Facebook: Kim Rohrs Art
Instagram: @kimrohrsart
Email: kim@kimrohrs.com
Website: www.kimrohrs.com

To follow Kim’s MS journey, connect with her on Instagram: @ms_mindfulsimplicity.

My daughter and I painting together

Instagram: “My daughter and I painting together at the dining room table in 2015. This is when I was painting with watercolors and our dining room was my studio space.”

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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!


PictureOfBecca

Becca Ellis

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.

SomaArtBirth3

Soma Art Photography

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.

SomaArtBirth

Soma Art Photography

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!

MyDaughter

Becca’s daughter

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.

Becca's Desk

Becca’s desk

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.

MyYoungestSon

Becca’s youngest Son

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.” 

SomaArtBirth2

Soma Art Photography

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.

PictureofBecca2

Becca and son

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
BE: For photography inspiration/eye candy I love LooksLikeFilm and the 5 Minute Project.

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.

HandletteredPrintfromMyEtsyShop

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.

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Connect with Becca!
Blog: beccaellis.wordpress.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/soma_art_photography
Instagram: www.instagram.com/pencraftlove
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/somaartphoto
Facebook: www.facebook.com/somaartphotography
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/pencraftlove

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