By Laura Bradshaw-Heap
I visited Munich Jewellery Week last year with a friend and colleague. We both brought our babies and were excited to introduce our ‘schmuckbabies’ to our jewellery world. I have had an exhibition of one sort or another at this fringe-style festival all but one year since 2011 and was happy to be able to visit as a tourist and not have to constantly promote an exhibition. While I knew that we would be viewed differently as a result of our procreation (the year before we had both attended sporting swollen bellies) the majority of our experiences were positive. However one conversation still haunts me. Greatly paraphrasing, it went something like this:
Exhibitor: so what do you do?
Me: oh, hum… now that is a good question… well… where do I start …
Exhibitor: … well I am sure you are busy being a mom!
Me: ….. ummm…..
Now, anyone who knows me will understand why I paused at being asked what I do. I am a jeweller with an anthropology Masters; a maker who rarely makes objects but rather focuses on social experiences; I have curated, written, exhibited and have a strong interest in collaborative, co-created projects. And yes, I now add “mother” to this list of roles – but this addition does not cancel the others out.
This woman’s assumption grated on me, irritated me and offended me. I had made it all the way out to her not so easy to find obscure exhibition, somewhat off the beaten track, which was part of a largely hidden jewellery event in a country over 1200 km from my home.
With a nine month old baby.
On my own.
That’s a lot of effort for someone “just” busy being mom.
For this last year I have kicked myself that I did not contest her assumption and defend my professionalism. Why had I not stood up for myself – my professional self – more strongly? But it also reminded me how in the past, pre-motherhood, when parents, often mothers, had come to visit the exhibitions I ran I too had not even considered to ask them if they were professionals in my field. I saw the children and nothing else. These little creatures are as effective as Harry Potter’s invisibility clock; the parents (and let’s be honest, more often the mothers) behind them seem to melt away and cease to exist beyond this one singular role.
This year as Munich Jewellery Week rapidly approaches I know that this will not be an issue this time. I, in my usual manner, reacted against this sense of invisibility and, seeking to make myself visible, agreed to run, be in and organise three exhibitions. This is the most I have worked on at any one time to date. And all while looking after my toddler. Am I insane? A little I think – yes. Can I do it, hell yes. I am mother, I am maker and I am here.