What is it that enables you to work? Childcare, family, a partner, the child/rens father or something else? Please explain.
I am extremely fortunate that I have a loving and supportive husband who understands the demands on my studio practice and academic career. Without Mike, bouncing back from childbirth and back into work would have presented even more challenges than there already are. There are however limitations, as my husband also works a full time job and we live away from any family support. My son just turned 10 months and due to the nature of my work it’s not possible to have him in my studio (jewelry) let alone juggle caring for him and making at the same time. We rely heavily on our current childcare where my son spends most days, and the kindness and support of close friends and colleagues in our transitory university town of Athens, Georgia.
At this point I have to be very protective of my time, so during the week I keep a studio/academic schedule which allows me to be with my son in the early mornings before he goes to childcare and be home in the evening to quickly make dinner and get him ready for bedtime. During the week every minute of my day, at the university and in my studio, is filled, without any time to spare. I work hard during the week so that I can have time to detach on the weekends and focus on my family.
Now – there are always exceptions to this rule as I often travel to teach workshops, give lectures, and do research, in which case I am pulled away from home. Being away is difficult and FaceTime in the morning just isn’t the same as getting those snuggles in real time, but I try to keep in perspective that these times away are short and that they will ultimately enrich our lives in the long term as I continue to carve a place for myself in the field.
Has your work been influenced by being a mother? How so?
I think much more about the safety of my practice, and how to work in a way that isn’t hazardous to my health or the health of others. That being said, I am starting to consider my material usage more carefully, and the processes I use day to day. I have always used CAD in my work, but I now find myself using it even more to have things produced more rapidly when it comes to cutting materials. I use laser cutting and water jet cutting more often now as I don’t have the same amount of time to sit and cut things out by hand.
On a semi-related topic, after having my son I also developed a strange fear of flying which is quite a hindrance since I travel often. Dealing with that has been an added layer to my entry into motherhood.
Can you describe a normal workday?
Typically my son Elias wakes up between 7-7:30am. We see my husband off to work, who has already gotten Elias’s bag packed for childcare. Elias and I have breakfast, we have play time and I take him to childcare by 9-9:30am. From then onwards I am either at my studio/teaching or doing other school related work until about 5:30-6:30pm. Meanwhile my husband picks Elias up from childcare at 5pm. I then arrive home to make dinner and play. Routines of bath time and bedtime are carried out, and if all goes well Elias is asleep by 8:15pm.
Now all of that sounds great if it actually happened that way on a regular basis! But there is always an exception to our typical daily schedule, like early morning meetings at school which means Elias has to be taken to childcare earlier than usual, events at school in the evenings in which I miss bedtime routines, nights when Elias is teething and we are up every other hour consoling him or studio deadlines which keep me working after Elias goes to bed and leaves a husband alone on the couch for most the night.
Going out of town is another case where not only does it disrupt our schedule but we also have to figure out additional childcare support to help get Elias to his nursery as it opens after the time which my husband needs to report to work. But to counterbalance all of the above, I do have some flexibility with my schedule at the university so there are some days when Elias doesn’t go to childcare until the afternoon and we can spend more time together.
To add to that I would also like to mention how fortunate I am to be part of a supportive department at the university which welcomes my family during school events and the like, and allows me to balance both parts of my life.
What needs to happen to make it easier for mothers to work within the arts?
I must say I am still getting used to this new role and things in these first few months have changed quite rapidly as I watch my son transform into a walking talking version of both my husband and of me. For me, the thing I struggle with most is time, trying to acquire the time to be at work and in the studio and also trying not to feel guilty about needing that time. For me it’s an internal battle that I impose on myself – do I dedicate this hour to my work or do I dedicate it to my family? How do you choose? – especially when time seems to be on overdrive.
I honestly don’t have an answer to this nor do I know what to do to help navigate these questions. I do know that having a support network around you does allow those waters to feel more manageable. And I am lucky to have connected with many of my colleagues in the field and within my institution who have been so helpful and supportive to me and my family.
On another note – at this point, with my son being under one year, I don’t think it would be made easier by being able to have my son with me in the studio or by bringing him to my office at the university. I personally find it very difficult trying to be mom and being fully present at work at the same time. For me, I need those things to be separate so that I can give my full attention to both.
In regard to that, affordable childcare is essential, as I don’t have the luxury of leaving my son with grandma and grandpa for a few hours to get things done in my studio. It’s a much different feeling leaving my son with childcare professionals rather than a family member – again another struggle.
What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
Ooof- really, it’s too soon to tell, I am just trying to keep my head above water meeting the demands of my tenure-track position and my studio practice. I can tell you that the idea I had before Elias was born about getting lots of reading and writing done during my maternity leave was a pure fantasy! I thought – oh great, those two months that I am on leave the baby will just sleep a lot and then I can get so much work done…..ha! Maybe that’s what happens for others but it didn’t for me.
Demitra Thomloudis is a studio jeweler, visual artist and an Assistant Professor in the Jewelry and Metalwork area at the Lamar Dodd School of Art located at the University of Georgia. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she received her MFA from San Diego State University and her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Her work is recognized nationally and internationally and has been invited to exhibit, lecture, and teach at institutions/fairs/events such as SOFA Chicago, Athens Jewellery Week (Greece) and the Penland School of Crafts to name a few. Artist residencies include a yearlong appointment at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and Smitten Forum. Demitra is included in publications such as, 500 Plastic and Resin Jewelry and 500 Enameled Objects, The Art of Jewelry: Plastic & Resin: Techniques, Projects and Inspiration. Demitra’s work is represented by Charon Kransen Arts-USA, Alliages Organization-France, and Penland Gallery located at the Penland School of Crafts- USA.