|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.|
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.
Hello! I am very happy to be back with a new Art Biz Mama interview! This time we have a really lovely lady and artist, Faith Evans-Sills.This is a really great interview with beautiful and thoughtful answers. Thanks so much Faith!
Could you please share a bit about you and your business?
Hi! I’m so excited to be a part of your great interview series, I have loved reading about how other artist mama’s make it all happen! My name is Faith, I am an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York with my husband and two young children who are almost 6 and 3.5. I sell prints and cards of my paintings, and small originals, online in my shop Leaves and Feathers, I have a blog of the same name where I talk about my life and what inspires me. I also sell my prints at a couple of shops in Brooklyn and show my original paintings here in Brooklyn at Swallow Gallery.
So let me start by asking when did you make the decision to start your creative business?
My art has always been the driving force behind most of the big decisions that I have made in my life. I was an Art major in under-grad at Skidmore College, then moved to New York City back in the late 90’s to try to figure out the art world here. After having many art related jobs, showing my work here and there and meeting lots of wild interesting people, I ended up getting my MFA at Parsons where I met my husband who is also an artist. I went on making and showing my art right up until I had our first child in 2004. With an infant I was not able to go to the warehouse studio that my husband and I shared, I also no longer had the luxury of time to work like I had before children. I knew that I had to keep making my art but I also made the commitment to being home with my children while they were young, I realized that the way I had made my art before was going to have to change. So, I moved my studio into our home and went about re-inventing the way that I made and thought about my art. Working on my art in my home studio served the main purpose of having a place in which I could create, but I started to feel like I was alone in a solitary vacuum of my own head and studio. I also really came up against the stereotype that many people seem to have about women being an artist (or any other job) OR a mother, but not both. When I would tell people that I was an artist and a stay at home mother people always seemed to think that I couldn’t really be doing both seriously. The fact that my husband still worked in our old warehouse studio space just seemed to give him more credibility as an artist. I kept bumping up against the walls that people place around being a “homemaker” and feeling surprised and hurt that people didn’t take me as seriously as an artist now that my realm was in my home.
Then, a couple of years ago I started looking at art blogs online, I think that the first one that I found was SouleMama after reading her book The Creative Family, which really spoke to me as a creative mother. From there I began to read many other artist blogs and I realized that there was a whole community of artists sharing right there on the internet! Reading what inspires other artists and how they also made their art between nap times and play times and refused to accept that being an artist and parent were mutually exclusive roles, really helped me to feel connected to a professional community in a way that I had not felt for years! I was especially inspired by the way artists were marketing their own work on Etsy, and other online marketing sites. This blew my mind right open as I realized that this was something that I could integrate well with my working at home and parenting. I opened my Etsy shop shortly after that, and started my blog both with the same name Leaves and Feathers. The whole thing evolved, and is still evolving, very organically and I did what felt “right” with each step.
How has having children affected your business and creativity?
In every way possible! I don’t think that I would have gotten so involved with this amazing, vibrant online world right now if it had not been for the evolution of my working style since having my children. Marketing and selling my work online became part of the natural evolution of artistic motherhood for me. I feel very strongly that I want my children to see their mother doing work that she loves, I think that there is no better way to prepare them for eventually following their own passions. For me, having my studio in our home, and integrating as best I can my art practice with our family life serves this purpose. Being a mother also greatly inspires my own creativity, I am always looking for inspiration in our everyday lives. Shortly after I began blogging I started carrying my small camera with us everywhere and just this practice kept me always open and aware of inspiration. The flood of moments of beauty that I experience with my children is amazing! As much as I can I try to take the world in through their eyes, and celebrate the small things that I know are important to them. They are only very young for such a short time and the commitment that I have made to dedicated motherhood has been so full of life lessons and changes for me. The internet direction alone is a direction that I never would have foreseen before motherhood. I can say that I know more about who I am as a creative person, and my goals are clearer, than at any other time in my life.
Would you please share what a “typical day” is like for you? Is there school or childcare, etc. while you are working on your biz?
Even though I have become good at combining my work and family life with my studio in our home, I definitely need quiet time alone in which to get all of my focused work done. I actually thrive on time by myself in my studio. Once I have that time to myself and focus my thoughts, then I am able to continue working on a project during other times…sometimes even at the kitchen table with all of our beautiful family chaos going on around me!
As far as having that alone time I have to be very organized. Right now we are just starting our first year where our oldest is in “full time school” outside the home, he just started Kindergarten, so that is a big change! Now, five days a week he is at school from 9am to 3pm and our youngest is just beginning a Waldorf playgroup so she will be out of the house for 4 hours a day three days a week. This is totally new for us and will give me much more time to devote to my art and business. I am looking forward to seeing what this new time allows me to do!
A typical day now includes all of us getting up early to get the kids out the door to their programs. One thing that we love about Brooklyn is that we can walk to school, starting my day with a walk fully wakes me up. On a day where both kids are off to their programs I am home from dropping them off at about 9:20am, then I take a shower and evaluate what I need to focus on that day. I am very much a morning person so this is the time in which I fill orders for my shop, go to the post office (also just a short walk away), and get my best painting done. I have the good fortune to have a husband who has flexible working hours as a freelance artist, so when he is not working on a full time job, the two of us try to work out a balance of childcare. This means that we split picking the kids up from school, so every other day one of us gets a longer working day in the studio until about 4pm. On the days that I pick up the kids I only work until about 12:30pm, then I go to get them and spend the afternoon at the playground with friends and then come home and make dinner. Family dinner is a very important part of the rhythm of our days. On Mondays and Fridays my youngest is at home full time, this is a very special time for us and we spend all day doing fun projects or outings together.
I also want to share that when my children were small I had a wonderful babysitter who would come over to our home for 4 hours a day two days a week. This was my time to go into my home studio. For me this was the best of both worlds as I was still there in the house so that if I needed to nurse them or help out in any way I was available but still separate. This worked very well for me and it was the only way that I was able to make much of my art when my children were small.
How many hours do you give to your business each week? Are you working during the days/evenings/weekends?
This varies week to week and season to season.
For example, over the summer I had my children with me full time, all day everyday, so I gave up all expectations of being in the studio and just let everyday unfold in an easy relaxed way. I did manage to fit in some good studio time when my husband’s schedule allowed him to take the kids, but for me letting go of any expectations about having that time was the key in my just being able to relax into a schedule with the kids.
Last year was my first holiday season as an Etsy seller and I was totally taken by surprise by how much a huge selling season it is, so this year I am already beginning to prepare for the holiday season and am starting to dedicate more time this fall to the studio for this. I am also preparing for my next solo show in November at Swallow Gallery here in Brooklyn. Right now I am spending about 15 to 18 hours a week in the studio total, this includes the time during the days when the children are at school. I am usually too tired in the evenings to be very productive but I spend that time answering emails, creating blog posts, visiting my favorite blogs and social networking on Facebook
I also know my limitations right now. As I grow my business I have plans for working on licensing my art, growing my blog and website, but I know that these are things that I do not have time and space for in my schedule right now. I am happy with the work that I am creating and with the energy and nurturing response that I have received from this wonderful online community, and I am enjoying things as they evolve. I have to say no to things sometimes and be OK with that, and know that as long as I am giving as much as I can to my family and art right now, that is enough.
I know this is a subject that is always being addressed but I need to bring up balance. Do you feel you have a healthy balance between your work life and your family?
Balance is one of those ideas that I really struggled with until I read this inspiring article by the amazing Danielle LaPorte, I felt like she finally gave me permission to voice what I felt in my heart which was that sustained balance is impossible and was something that I was beating myself up with. There is always that wobble of energy and focus going to the place that needs it the most at any given time. Sometimes this doesn’t feel like balance at all. If I am not able to pick my kids up from their playgroups for days because I have to get work done in the studio, or if I am staying up too late and feeling tired during the days, this feels very unbalanced to me, but, just noticing my own patterns has made me good at self-regulating. When I start to feel like the drain of energy is too much in one direction then I make an effort to change course. This requires a lot of energy and a lot of honesty with my husband as he is often the one to point out to me when things are getting out of whack. Truthfully, one of the first things to go off balance for me is the house cleaning, when things get beyond the point of organized chaos then it is time to pull back!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us today? Any words of wisdom for other artists/moms out there who wish to create a business out of their art?
The thing that I always tell other moms is that, “you can do it!”, whatever “it” is for you. After having my own children I have done labor support doula work and through that I strongly have come to believe that we all need a cheerleader, someone who truly sees the work that we are doing and tells us that “yes, it is good work, and yes, that is just what you need to be doing right now!”.
Often, other moms will say to me, “How do you do it all?” and I try to be really honest about my journey. I especially let new moms know that I took time off after having my babies, when I had my first child I took 6 months off from doing my work as I slowly moved my studio into our home, and then I had a show scheduled so I had to start getting back into the studio. After I had my second child I took a full year and a half off from painting as I adjusted to the wildness of having two children! That was just what had to happen during that season in my life and there was never a moment where I doubted that I would get back into the studio and make my paintings again. Making my art is part of a life long journey for me, and integrating that part into the other aspects of my life takes effort and commitment everyday. I truly believe that we make time and space for what we really want to do, and it is OK to be honest with our selves about what those things are. Don’t put too much pressure on your self and remember, the best things come with the sweet rewards of time!
Here is all of the contact info for Faith plus the links to things that she mentions in the interview.