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How She Does It: Michelle Templeton

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Michelle Templeton, a visual artist and writer living in Seattle. In the studio, she paints and makes woodblock prints. At the keyboard she writes fictions and is at work on a novel. She has exhibited work in a variety of Seattle venues in both group and solo exhibits. Her literary work has appeared in Firefly Magazine, Lunch Ticket and Helen: A Literary Magazine (forthcoming). See more of Michelle’s work at

Michelle Templeton

Michelle Templeton

SM: Please introduce yourself and your family.
MT: I am a visual artist and writer in Seattle. I live north of the city in a woodsy spot with my husband and ten-year-old son.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
MT: I paint in acrylics and mixed media on canvas and paper. I also make woodblock prints, carving images into wood and printing the image on paper with ink. The themes of my visual art center around the world of childhood and family life. I like taking small moments that might not seem meaningful at the time and capturing them on canvas to tell their story.

I am also a fiction writer. I just completed an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. I’ve had a few stories published and I’m working on a novel. The novel is the story of three generations of women from the same family; their struggles and successes. It’s about grief and learning how to make your own life.



SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
MT: For a long time, I believed I had to sell lots of work to be successful. It’s very gratifying to sell work and have that validation but I’ve learned that the real success is being able to spend my days doing work I love. That’s a luxury many people don’t have and I feel really fortunate to do it.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
MT: Motherhood taught me to make every minute in the studio count. It feels like I never have enough time there so when I do have a block of time to work, I make it matter. I have no internet in my studio; nothing to distract me from working. When I’m there, I’m intensely focused. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to get things done when you don’t have the luxury of unlimited time.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
MT: I have a studio away from home, about a ten-minute drive from my house. When my son was a baby I worked at home but there were a lot of distractions. It’s so easy to stop working to do a load of laundry, clean house, waste time on the internet. What I love about my studio is that it is my safe, distraction-free place. No kids, no household chores, no internet. It’s a place dedicated entirely to my creative work.


Michelle’s studio

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
MT: This question made me smile. I try hard to have a schedule but my son’s schedule is my top priority. I schedule blocks of work time for myself during his school hours, but I also have to balance that time with time spent on my bread-and-butter job. It’s a challenge, and that’s not including the days my son has no school, gets sick, or has a dentist appointment. It’s not easy; flexibility is a requirement.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
MT: My primary definition of success is that I get to spend my time making art and writing fiction. Having said that, sharing my work is important to me too. It’s deeply gratifying when someone loves one of my pieces enough to spend their money on it; to make space for it in their home.


Watercolor portrait

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
MT: My son’s happiness. It’s important to me, of course, that he does well in school, that he learns what he needs to know to become a successful and contributing adult. My bottom line, though, is that I want him to feel loved and to enjoy his life.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
MT: Never feeling like I have enough time. Doing the multi-tasking mom-thing makes it a challenge to have long, uninterrupted blocks of time for my work. It can get frustrating at times.

SM: What inspires you?
MT: Other women. They are managing careers and full family lives and making it work. Everyone is working so hard and with incredible grace.



SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
MT: By then my son will be in college and I think my daily schedule will have opened up. I look forward to having more sustained work time.

SM: What are you reading right now?
MT: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. I’m only about 75 pages in but it’s wonderful so far.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
MT: I love art supply websites like Daniel Smith and Blick’s. It’s fun to drool over all the fabulous paints and tools. I also love writerly sites like, Brain Pickings, and Lit Hub. My steady go-to is Facebook where I’ve built a strong network of other artists and writers.

Easel and prints

Easel and prints

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
MT: Feel the fear and do it anyway! For a long time, I felt I had to feel ready (unafraid) to jump into a creative life. Eventually I realized that there is no such thing as feeling ready so you have to take the plunge in spite of the fear.

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
MT: Persist! Even if you have tiny children and you can only manage ten minutes a day of creative time, keep going. Whatever you are able to do will be enough to keep the spark alive inside of you. Don’t give up.


Lucy: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood

Editor’s note: In the fall issue of The Creative Times, I previewed The Rainbow Way by Lucy H. Pearce, a positive, nurturing, practical book that will help you unlock your creative potential within the constraints of motherhood. I was glad to provide Lucy with advance praise for her work — and invited Lucy to share her story with the Studio Mothers audience, as I know you will relate. *In celebration, we’re giving away two free e-books! To enter, leave a comment below before 5:00 pm eastern time on November 15, 2013.* And don’t miss Lucy’s invitation to join her blogging carnival of creative women!

Lucy PearceMany of us dream of becoming writers, or artists, or dancers. And then, one day, when babies come along, whether by accident or design, out go the books or paintings with the baby’s bath water — whether through busyness, lack of support, or the misguided belief that we should now dedicate ourselves entirely to our children.

I know. Because it happened to me.

There I was in No-Woman’s Land. Tattered creative dreams in one hand. Children in the other. With little support and no way of knowing how to move forward, how to reclaim my lost self and dreams.

Over the years I have created a new dream for myself: that of the creative mother — writer, artist, editor, and entrepreneur. Out of necessity and a need for sanity. Sometimes the balance has tipped further towards motherhood, at other times creativity. But both elements have been constants in my life. No matter how tired, how overwhelmed, I was never willing to relinquish either my almost-fulltime mothering role, or my creative work. It has been an adventure, and one for which I had few real-life role models.

When I first started out in motherhood, I kept comparing myself to other women who seemed content in their role as stay-at-home mothers, and concluded that I must be doing it wrong. I was happy and recharged when I had my creative time; impatient and mean when I didn’t. But this need, this urge, was not a whim. It would not go away. And so I learned, little by little, to honor it and build my life around it.

The Rainbow WayAt the time I thought I was the only one feeling this way. But in researching my book, and talking to other mothers, I found I was not alone. We are not celebrated by our society. But we are here, wiping little bottoms and writing poetry. Making sculpture and breastfeeding. Writing books late at night and on the bottom of shopping lists. We are here. And we matter.

I wrote The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood for myself, for the mother I had been, and all the creative mothers who contact me every week feeling stuck and unsure, lost and confused about how to be both mothers and creative souls in this busy modern world. It came to me and demanded to be written. And so I scribbled notes on any piece of paper I had on hand, wherever I was, in doctor’s offices, car parks, and at the kitchen table. Read more

Carmen Torbus: The Artist Unique

Long-time readers of this blog — as well as those who are hooked up to the creative blogosphere at large — are likely acquainted with artist and mother Carmen Torbus. Last year, Carmen’s book, The Artist Unique, was published. It’s apparent — just a few pages in — that Carmen’s book is different from other hands-on guides in the “use creativity to express yourself” category. (If you don’t have a copy already, I highly recommend that you add this book to your creative toolkit.) I asked Carmen to join us for a belated stop on her book tour. Enjoy!

Q: What inspired your book? How did you develop your clear message?

The Artist Unique was inspired by the realization that something was missing in my artwork… me.

I was spending a ton of time creating. I was in awe of many of the mixed-media artists I was seeing in books and magazines and I was giddy about the art projects I was completing. I was so excited when my work came out looking as good as theirs, but they never really felt like they were mine. They were replicas. Knock-offs.

When I realized something was missing, I started exploring. I wanted to take inventory of all the little things that make me unique and then incorporate them into my work. I like to describe signature style as, “You, on canvas.” Soon after I felt my style was emerging, I developed an online workshop called Spill It. The class description was as follows:


All the little things that makes you unique
will make your creative endeavors unique.
And in this workshop,
you will put all of those little things
that make you, you
on your palette
and Spill It onto canvas.
We will explore Mixed Media technique combinations to help you
discover and project personal creative style.

While teaching that workshop, I realized that there was more to this idea than a small online workshop and so the idea for a book was born. I wanted to stick to inspiration and techniques and encourage exploration. I did not want to write a book with step-by-step projects because I wanted to empower creative play and allow room for improvising, brainstorming, and light-bulb moments.

Q: What was the process of writing a book — expanding your workshop framework into a full-on manuscript — like for you?

It was interesting because I didn’t just pull from my own experiences. I really wanted the book to focus on the reader and empowering them to play and try new things so their signature style can emerge. To do that, I asked 15 artists who I feel have a distinct style to share one of their favorite techniques. I shared their artwork and the steps for using the technique. Then I used the technique in my artwork to illustrate the different outcomes that came come from using the same technique.

I also wanted to inspire the reader and give them hope that regardless of their skill level or where they are in their artistic journey, they are becoming a unique artist — just like the contributing artists. The stories of each contributor were a joy to share.

The process of writing and pulling all of the information together was a bit of a challenge for me. Truth be told, I don’t do well with deadlines. They paralyze me. Especially when they are months away. Once you have a contract to write a book, there are several deadlines set. There have to be. It feels like you have all the time in the world when a deadline is months or even a year out.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator. (Who am I kidding, I’m a complete procrastinator!) I do my best work when time is crunched. I prefer shorter deadlines if I have to have them at all. I did most of the writing literally a week or two before each deadline.

My publisher and editor were wonderful to work with. I highly recommend Northlight for any creative folks that dream of writing a creative book.

Q: What do you most want your readers to take away from your book?

Inspiration and the belief that they can develop their own style as a creative person or artist. My hope is that readers will take inspiration from the contributors and explore their creative desires.

Q: What’s on deck?

I’m not sure what’s in my future. I’m exploring a few options right now. And to be completely honest, the unsureness (is that even a word?) is leaving me feeling a little vulnerable and uneasy, but sort of free at the same time.

My dream is to encourage, inspire, and empower big dreamers to actively pursue their wildest dreams. I’m not 100% sure what the best avenue is for me to support my tribe, but I’m bound and determined to keep trying until I figure it out. I’m about to begin formal life coach training and I’m currently working with a limited number of coaching clients.

I’ve spent the last three months focusing inward, specifically on my health and happiness. Which has taken the form of regular exercise and a better diet, resulting in weight loss, feeling better, more self-confidence and an overall healthier, happier me. The best ripple effect of this happier healthier me is improvement in my most important relationships. I love it and it’s inspiring me to expand my vision and dream a little bigger — even to the point of incorporating health and wellness into my coaching practice along with a healthy dose of creativity.


Please join me in wishing Carmen the very best in her future adventures. You can stay in the loop at

New Resource: Eric Maisel’s World Salon

Eric Maisel, prolific writer and creativity coach extraordinaire, has launched a new creativity resource with his wife, Ann Maisel. This new venture is the World Salon, an interactive resource for creatives around the globe. And I’m thrilled to have the inaugural column in the Coach’s Corner! Opportunities to contribute abound, so don’t miss out. More about the World Salon, from Dr. Maisel’s introduction:

Think­ing about writ­ing a mys­tery? Need to raise money to pro­duce your album? Need help as a begin­ning cos­tume designer? Want to give more pow­er­ful audi­tions? Look­ing for inspi­ra­tion as a tex­tile artist?

You’ve come to the right place!

My name is Eric Maisel and I’ve invited cre­ative and per­form­ing artists from around the world to share their expe­ri­ences and their exper­tise with you—for free. Our World Salon is a world­wide com­mu­nity of cre­ative indi­vid­u­als from all walks of life who are look­ing for com­mu­nity, resources, and a place to feel heard and under­stood. We hope that the World Salon will become that place.

Our fea­tures include a library of Ten Tip pdfs that you can down­load imme­di­ately, read, and use. And we’ll be adding more all the time! We have a fea­ture called World­wide Per­spec­tives where more than a hun­dred cre­ative and per­form­ing artists from around the world share their expe­ri­ences in “Let­ter From” columns (for exam­ple, “Let­ter from Los Ange­les,” “Let­ter from Lon­don,” and “Let­ter from Berlin”). We have other fea­tures, too, like an artist’s voice fea­ture, links to great arti­cles, a coach’s cor­ner, a philosopher’s corner—please look around!

I hope that you’ll want to con­tribute to our com­mu­nity. Many of our fea­tures are open to you. Look around, see what inter­ests you, and join our world­wide com­mu­nity of contributors!

Please enjoy your visit.

Check it out!

Our new e-course listings!

In case you missed the news on Facebook, Studio Mothers now has an ongoing e-course listing. (See the new tab above.) There’s so much great stuff happening on the web — now you have an overview tool for making sure you don’t miss anything that really appeals. This list includes e-courses and e-books on creativity and creative living that are especially relevant to creative mothers.

We’ll be regularly updating this listing — so please don’t be shy about letting us know about an online course you loved or your own upcoming class. Just send the info in an e-mail to creativereality (at)


WOW! Women on Writing

wowWOW! (Women on Writing) is a useful website and complementary blog that the writers among us may enjoy browsing. The website hosts a flash fiction contest and a collection of useful articles, including:

From the site’s About page:

WOW! is a global magazine, designed to support women’s creativity, energy, blood, sweat and tears, throughout all stages of the writing process. We envision Wow! being a favorite watering hole for professionals, the up-and-coming, and the recipients of our labors — the avid readers.

Our concept is unique, as it fills in the missing gap between writing websites and women’s magazines. We are dedicated to raising the overall standards within the writing community, and devote an active profile within writing industry associations, organizations and websites.

Ultimately, WOW! hopes to contribute to the love, enjoyment and excitement of producing quality writing — so that the reader in all of us will never want for good material, in any form.

Kelly: Taking chances?

ruby-lights-1-600I got a call about a week and a half ago from an internet marketing company. It was Friday afternoon, nearing dinnertime so the girls were following me everywhere as I tried to take the call, but I held on and listened. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I’ve been contacted by internet marketing companies in the past telling me they came across my website and thought they’d be able to help me market the site better, and therefore hopefully, bring in more business. This has never interested me much because, between my arts festivals and my random website and Etsy store sales, I honestly have about as much business I can manage while also holding down a full-time career, raising twin five-year-olds and playing around with other art mediums. I think I’ve held off on any real marketing because I was afraid of what it might bring; sure more steady sales would be a nice bonus, but more sales might also mean I might have a hard time keeping up! I suppose that is not a bad problem to have…to a point. But still, I listened.

This guy had done his research. He knew my site well and seemed genuinely impressed with my work, the layout, the photography and the navigation. Overall, he truly liked the site. He said he found me on the 24th page of a Google search for “artisan jewelry” while doing some research for another client. And yep, he was right; very few, if any, people are going to find me on the 24th page of a Google search. One of my goals for my jewelry business this year was to investigate more internet marketing opportunities, and maybe he just caught me at a good time. He offered me the search phrase “lampwork jewelry” at what I thought was a pretty reasonable rate. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, so he gave me some examples of other clients he represented and the search phrases for them, and I checked them out while I was on the phone with him (the benefit of having broadband internet service!). After talking to him for about 30 minutes and pulling up his business online while I was talking to him to make sure he was truly legit, I finally bit the hook. So, now what, you ask? Well, enter “lampwork jewelry” into your Google search bar and see what you get. It only works for Google, but Google is pretty darn popular, don’t you think? Only time will tell if it’s worth it or not, but it’s month to month and I can cancel at any time so I figured I’d give it a few months and see what happens! Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are just around the corner. 🙂

Cathy: Writer’s Handbook

Most people peruse right past all the weird little articles and ads in the backs of magazines, but not me. I find all manner of wonderful surprises in the nether region of the print world. Some of us avid readers have to literally read every little thing. Recently, I was trying to finish off a month old mag I had lying around, in the same way I read all sides of the cereal box during breakfast as a kid. That endeavor wrought this gem from the back of the Winter 2008 issue of UU WORLD:

The New Writer’s Handbook: 2007 and The New Writer’s Handbook: Volume 2. Ed. By Philip Martin. Scarletta Press, 2007 and 2008: $16.95. This annual anthology of articles by notable authors, journalists, writing instructors, editors, agents, and literary bloggers offers writers advice on their craft and careers, including how-to pieces and topics on professional issues and the creative process.

I immediately regretted using my recent winnings from the weekly creativity contest for a Santa purchase. I may have to wait until father time welcomes his new baby — and the approach of my birthday — to splurge on this for myself, but maybe the rest of our writers might be able to benefit from my neat find. Maybe you can drop a stocking hint to your husband, by leaving your laptop open on the kitchen table where he can see this blog 😉  Enjoy!

Online Resource for Writers: Fiction Lounge

I recently stumbled into Adam Maxwell’s Fiction Lounge, and I’m glad that I did. While clearly a vehicle for promoting the author’s work, Maxwell’s site is attractively designed and offers a free writers’ prompt tool, which might just be enough to prod you out of a fit of writer’s block should you happen to experience that nasty affliction. There’s also a fun character name generator, which is mildly addictive, and an award-winning podcast of Maxwell’s short fiction. Enjoy!

Online Inspiration: Creative Every Day

Periodically, we post reviews of online sources of inspiration: websites and blogs that encourage creativity and connect creative souls. If you’d like to suggest a favorite site for a future profile, please e-mail your pick to

Creative Every DaySome of you may have noticed the Creative Every Day icon in our sidebar. This site was created by Leah Piken Kolidas, an artist and blogger. Part of the site is dedicated to the Creative Every Day 2008 challenge, which encourages daily creativity regardless of media or creative outlet.  Leah writes:

“Here are the basics first! Creative Every Day 2008 is a new challenge I’ve started to help infuse my life and lives of others with daily creativity….Creativity is meant in the broadest sense, so it doesn’t have to be something art related. Your creative acts could be in cooking, taking pictures, knitting, doodling, writing, dancing, decorating, or making art in the form of collage, paint, or clay or whatever!”

Every time I visit this site, I am impressed by the wealth of what others are creating. I like Leah’s broad application of creativity, because it helps me to be more mindful of what creativity really means. All of those “other” creative outlets serve to bolster my “real” art, if I let the edges blur together. For me, blending creativity into the mundane parts of domesticity that I can’t escape (cooking, cleaning, driving, etc.) make me feel less like a drone and more like a creative person who lives in the moment, taking in the beauty even if it’s just lying quietly in a bowl of perfect tangerines.

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