Thursday, July 15, 2010

Art Biz Mama: Jennifer Swift

An ARTIST, a MOM, a CREATIVE BIZ OWNER. What happens when you combine all three? Welcome to Art Biz Mama.  A series of inspirational interviews about being a mom, an artist and a creative biz owner. 

And in case you are wondering why:

In an effort to connect, share and get to know some of my favorite artists (and I am sure they are yours too) a bit better and because I am a mama who has creative biz visions myself I have asked for a sneak peek into their very busy lives. To share a bit about just what it means to juggle these roles and how it all really plays out.

I know this is a topic that has been discussed plenty but for me (and you) I need to hear these stories. To know there are others reaching for their dreams and maybe stumbling at times, all the while caring for themselves and their family.

I believe we will glean a bit of insight from these smart and talented women that can inspire us all.

I am back this week with artist Jennifer Swift. Jennifer is a wire sculpture artist. She has a shop on Etsy, Bird From a Wire where she sells her beautiful stitched wire sculptures and functional art. She also has a great blog called Art As Usual which in her own words "is all about living an art filled life." Please do check it out!

A huge thank you goes out to Jennifer for being here. It means so much to me that she took the time out of her busy day to share with us.

Would you please share a bit about yourself and your business?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m a mom. It sort of defines you, doesn’t it? My creative business is called Bird From A Wire it’s on etsy and I make wire sculptures and then stitch fabric to them. It adds color and pattern to what would otherwise be black. I really enjoy creating, the business part is much more of a challenge for me. I’ve had my business for just about 2 years.

Can you please share when you made the decision and what led you down the path to start your creative business?

Again, my path as a mom and an artist are completely intertwined. The first year of my son’s life I was incredibly sleep deprived and pretty irritable. When we rolled into year two both my mom and my husband told me “to get a hobby”. They recognized that I needed to create to be happy and they both wanted me a little happier. LOL- I must have been horribly crabby. Getting started seemed hard though and I decided to dedicate just one night a week to creating. I remember just sitting there in the beginning, not knowing what to do with myself.

I chose fabric to begin with, because I was attracted to the art quilts I’d seen. It was something completely new to me as well. At the same time I started playing around with wire. It was something I’d encountered in college and I remembered loving it. I wanted to just enjoy myself and not judge my work, as I would have if I began to draw again. In retrospect I was choosing a fresh start.

Soon I was a mad woman, creating constantly and getting quite a pile of sculptures. A friend told me about Etsy and really encouraged me to give it a try. It was really scary to list that first item and know that anyone could see it and judge it. But it was a start and a definite turning point in my life.

I know you have a 5 year old son. How has having a child affected your business and creativity?

He’s GREAT for me. I’ll finish something and he’ll say “mommy I really love your art”. He tells me I’m pretty all the time too. Fabulous for my self-esteem. Kids also look at the world a little differently, they have that sense of wonder completely intact. Because I’m with him I’ll see things now I would never have noticed before.

Would you please share what a "typical" day is like? Is there school, childcare, etc. while you are working on your biz?

A typical day would be me trying to work on whatever project I’m working on in snatches throughout the day.  I try to do a few minutes on this, then do some cleaning, and then I’ll throw in a game or two of go fish, a couple of books, and then work a little more on my art. It’s really opportunistic creating.  During the school year my son was at preschool for 2 ½ hours a day, four days a week. I laugh because it’s as if the clock starts ticking as soon as I walk out of his building.  I try to do a blog post, my post office run, check my e-mail, read other blogs etc. during that time.  Next year he starts school full time. It’s going to be a huge change in my work day. I’m hoping to do more marketing/promoting of my work then.

How many hours do you give to your business each week? Are you working during the days/evenings/weekends?

My work schedule really gets squeezed into little increments of time during the day and then I’m free after 7:00 when dinner’s done and my husband takes over the play. He puts Jasper to bed as well. If I need time on the weekend to finish something up my husband will take him out with him on errands or to a movie. I’d say I get 15- 20  hours to work each week. More during the school year.

I know this is a subject that is always being addressed but I need to bring up balance. I know as mom's we are dealing with this in all areas of our life. Do you feel you have a healthy balance between your work life and your family life? 

Definitely NOT! When I’m working I feel like I should be doing more with my son. When I’m with my son my mind will wander to whatever project I’m working on. I try to create balance by alternating between the mom stuff, the housekeeping duties, my business, and creating. I’ve learned it works well to limit my online time to first thing in the morning and after dinner each night. I try to get on and get off. It doesn’t always work like that though. If I feel like I’m too focused on a project I’ll take Jasper out of the house. We’ll go to the zoo, or the park. Getting away from the computer and my work helps me to concentrate solely on him.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?  Any words of wisdom for other moms/artist who wish to create a business out of their art?

Don’t think you can’t follow your dream just because you’re a mom. If you’re a creative type it’s most likely necessary to your sanity and sense of self to give yourself some time to create.  Be kind to yourself and know you can’t do it all, and yet challenge yourself to do more than you think you can. I have moms ask  me all the time how I find time for my art. I tell them I haven’t mopped the kitchen floor for months. It gets a spot clean when it’s dirty. My neighbor is outside hosing down her driveway. I don’t do that.  My house is nowhere near as clean as it was before I started to focus on my work. You can’t do it all. I try to give my attention to what’s the most important.

I’ve also found it’s really important to have goals for yourself, for your work, for your life. Crazy audacious goals. The kind of goals that kind of take your breath away. I mothered my son, ran a business, volunteered my time, and wrote a book last year. It takes time and it takes goals, and it definitely takes the support of your family. BUT it CAN be done.

The book Jennifer is referring to is Creative Bloom  and it is available for pre-order on Amazon!!

To see more of Jennifer's work please visit her at:
and on Etsy at Bird from a Wire .


stephanie levy said...

thank you Jennifer and Dana, a great interview! it really is inspiring to read about creative moms who are all struggling and juggling the same issues :)

jacqueline said...

wow this is amazingly inspiring! I adore sweet Jennifer's work. Thank you so much for such a wonderful interview! Have a lovely merry happy day and love to yoU!

Cristi Baxter Clothier said...

Way to go, Jen! Congrats on your interview! We creative Moms need to stick together.

kelly@thebluemuse said...

A very inspiring and wonderful post, very real and down to earth. Love the wirework, just gorgeous! Yes, housework definitely goes down on the priority list when you have your own business, but I'm pretty sure that's a good thing!

Mousy Brown said...

I love this series so much Dana! Thank you for introducing me to another amazing, creative Mama - I am off to look at her blog, book and shop! :D

amy friend said...

you could post a mama biz interview every single day, and i would never get tired of the topic. i learn something new, and get inspired a little (or a lot) more with each story.

congrats jennifer. you are amazing!

Amelia said...

hi dana, great to read about other mother's journey with creativity. A lot of this sounds similar to me ie. my house isn't as clean as it should be ;)


AG Ambroult said...

Fantastic interview. Thanks for introducing us to Jennifer. i had somehow not come across her work before. And how so absolutely creative and beautiful! From one wire writer to another, heh.

I laughed because my neighbor also hoses her driveway clean, which baffles me. Even if I did have extra time, i don't ever imagine hosing my driveway off!

jacqueline said...

Dearest sweet Dana, i hope you are having a lovely week so far! Love to you!

Anonymous said...

what a great interview dana! i can totally relate to jennifer, and what amazing work she does! i seriously love her pieces.

Jo said...

Such an inspiring interview, Dana, thank you. I too love Jennifer's work and very much enjoyed finding out how she manages to juggle both her family responsibilities and managing her creative biz - inspiring, encouraging but so 'down to earth' too! And to think she is about to launch a book aswell - isn't it amazing what Mums can achieve! Woo hoo!!

chrissy said...

dana...thank you SOOOO much for this interview. i am going to have to pre.order jennifer.s book. i am a mom to 5 myself and struggle with ALL the same time and creative concerns as an "artist and mama". i am so thankful that you are sharing these stories.
happy day.

Kerri said...

very cool art she has- loved the large photos you included thru out the interview!