“The uncertainty of creativity and of mothering are what force me into a state of trust, openness, and humility. Uncomfortable, but worth it in the end.”
1. Describe your current family situation
We are a family of four, living in a riverside village in the least populated region of northern England. My husband earns a decent wage, and I have two small businesses, which I run from home. Our two boys, aged 7 and 10, attend local schools.
2. In your eyes, what does ‘creativity’ mean and why is it important to you?
Creativity for me is threefold. Number one: it is a way of scratching an itch, for example; it provides a way to escape the restlessness brought on by winter or a dark and rainy day. It can be a focus and a process to lose oneself in, from which we often emerge all brighter, more open and relaxed.
Number two: It is a means of making a living. This sort of creative practice involves learning new languages and techniques. It involves frustration, often followed by satisfaction or surprise. Working creatively in providing a service to others I find to be a lovely way to get to know people, and offer something useful, and beautiful.
Number three: Creativity is a flexible state of play and communion, in which all those involved (many or just one) lose their self- consciousness and become joyfully present and alive. In this state we become whole again, through acceptance, and sharing.
3. How do you carve out time and space within family life for your creative practice?
In different ways… Sometimes I feel a kind of fight welling up inside of me, then I go at it like a bull, because if I don’t then it will never be done. I knock out the perfectionist by acting quickly with loose lines and marks, this eliminates any anxiety and can produce some exciting results. At other times, particularly in relation to hand- lettering, it comes as great control and accuracy, line by perfect line, everything suspended until the last brushstroke is laid.
There are also those rare and quiet moments when I can delve deeply into an inspiring text or process, that rewards me by bringing me back to my self and my heart’s deep knowing.
4. What kind of creative activities do you feel drawn to again and again?
Digital drawing, chalk art with the kids, face painting, hand-lettering/sign-writing, and interior design (although I’d like to rename the latter as ‘creative home-making’ perhaps!)
5. How do you get inspiration flowing when you feel stuck?
Looking at work by other artists.
Loose explorative mark-making.
Playing with the kids.
Going somewhere new.
Recently I’ve been trying out flower mandalas, which is so simple and beautiful, and can function as a sort of meditation.
6. In what ways do you sabotage your own creative life?
Negative thoughts and ideas around not being good enough, wasting time, materials, etc. Allowing daily life to swallow me up, rather than creating a special time for creative focus and growth. Not valuing myself or creativity highly enough.. Forgetting that the whole world is borne out of Creativity!
7. Who or what are your creative allies or mentors?
My husband is a highly creative thinker, from a Maths and Physics background, who also shares an interest in art and design. He has been a great support, at times a bit of an Art Director, offering feedback and critique. My two illustrator friends I enjoy so much to be around, as we can dive into the ins and outs of creative life, with lots of empathic nods, “Mmms..” and cups of tea.
8. How would you describe the relationship between your creativity and your mothering?
Haphazard, changeable, but generally consistent. Open and hopeful too? Mothering feels extremely serious to me, an almost crushing responsibility, that I can hardly bear to think about; and if my anxiety gets her teeth into this thought then I spiral into hopelessness and shame. So I put myself into the work and play of both, the uncertainty of creativity and of mothering are what force me into a state of trust, openness and humility. Uncomfortable, but worth it in the end.
9. To what extent does your creative work generate a financial income for your family? How does this reality compare to your aspirations around this?
At one stage, when my husband became ill, I became the sole breadwinner. This was very challenging since my main income came from Face Painting! Nowadays, my earnings are far less than my husband’s, and constitute only a small proportion of our income. We are lucky enough to be subsisting on a single -salary, plus a little extra from my work. What is the ideal? I would aspire to earn more, but the reality is, that I have a whole house and family to support, friendships to keep, a condition to manage, and I think I heard that superwoman herself had a nervous breakdown? Or a nanny? I know my limits!
10. What would you say to a mother who is struggling to express herself in the midst of her family commitments?
It’s really tough. Do it small… Paint a chalkboard on your kitchen wall and scribe your shopping list or a quote for the week in joyful colours; on your lunch break go to the park/woods with friends or just a camera; put creative people in your ears via podcasts to spice up the ordinary; sing loudly and make up bad raps when journeying alone by car; journal a quick page when possible; paint something as fast as you can -then go back the next day and add more; start a collection; make a garden; or splash out on the odd thing for the home that makes you feel creative and inspired. Go for the things that make you feel happy. I’ve always said ( with a sigh) that I haven’t enough time, but I’m discovering now that there are so many moments in-between, into which you can throw some creativity. Oh and never be too afraid to be silly!!
11. Big yourself up, sister – share your current / most exciting projects, web and social media links:
There is no place yet where I share the my illustrations, who knows, maybe one day!
My little earners are:
Instagram: The Little Chalk Company
Ellie is a 38 year old Mother, who lives in the North of England with her husband, two boys, and two cats. She derives great happiness from her secret garden by the river, and makes pancakes every Sunday. Understanding neurodiversity, and her own struggle with ADHD has enabled her to live with greater honesty and courage. She is delighted to be getting old, and caring less, loving more, and feeling safe in the knowledge that we are not alone in this world; we are all ridiculous, fantastic, and really boring too.