Writing

5 questions

Katherine Rutecki

rutecki_katherine_work_19What is it that enables you to work? Childcare, family, a partner, the child’s father or something else? Please explain.

I’ve had major changes to my studio career since my daughter was born. I was with her father until she was 4 years old: he and I had a studio together at our house and she attended daycare three days a week until she was 3 and then fulltime. I was working on my first solo show when I was pregnant with FJ: I was even heating wax out of my lost wax moulds for the show when I was in labour, and then when she slept as a newborn, I cold worked (ground and polished glass). She flew out to Seattle with me when she was 2 months old to attend the show opening. He and I split up when our daughter was 4 and I moved with FJ to the US for 3 years to do my Master of Fine Arts in glass at Southern Illinois University. At SIU I was a fulltime student, fulltime mother, and university instructor. FJ attended daycare from 7:45 to 5:30 for the first year and then attended Elementary School and afterschool care. We very recently moved back to Auckland, NZ and I share parenting with her father, week on week off. I found a flat in a house with a studio and began working from there in August. 2018.

Has your work been influenced by being a mother? How so?

Motherhood very much took over my thoughts around my work in graduate school. I would drop my daughter off at school and I would go to university and attend my classes and teach, then everything after that normal work day included my daughter. She came everywhere with me, to all the art openings, all the visiting artist lectures, I worked mostly at home because I couldn’t work at the university studios at night. I took a class in cinematography studies and began making work around long winded stories she would make up off the top of her head: the lucidity of her thoughts was inspirational. It was during this time that I started a narrative about motherhood in my artwork.

Can you describe a normal workday?

A normal work day for me is dropping my daughter off at school and going to the studio. I work in mostly very dangerous industrial materials and I try to get as much done in the day as possible as 5pm is normally the time I have to leave the dangerous work behind. I pick up my daughter from afterschool care and go home and make dinner, and put FJ to bed around 8 and then usually back to work on research or drawing or wax carving at home.

What needs to happen to make it easier for mothers to work within the arts?

I feel that mothers often do not have the freedoms that other artists, male or female, have to take up opportunities in the art world. We are often tied to home and when travel opportunities arise, we have several airplane tickets and childcare to consider. Residencies often do not welcome children. Colleagues often do not understand parental responsibility. There is a stigma that a mother cannot give her all to her artwork.

What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

I’m still working that out: I think that the less I worry about what others might judge or misinterpret in my work, the better my work is. As I said before, the lucidity of the child’s mind is inspirational.

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about

Katherine Rutecki is a multidisciplinary artist who specializes in glass sculpture. She also creates work in bronze, cast iron, drawing and painting, and performance art. Rutecki has recently received her Masters of Fine Art in Glass from Southern Illinois University. She holds a BFA in sculpture from New York School of Art and Design at Alfred University. Rutecki has been involved in several international group exhibitions taking place at venues such as the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ebeltoft Glass Museum in Denmark. Also solo exhibitions in Seattle, Washington and Auckland, New Zealand. Rutecki has work in public collections in New Zealand and internationally, and has also taught widely both through workshops and at university level.

See Katherine’s current exhibition with unperceived existence HERE

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5 questions

Madison Omahne

IMG_3577What is it that enables you to work? Childcare, family, a partner, the children’s father or something else? Please explain.

After my first son was born, shortly after I completed my MFA in Sculpture from Brooklyn College, my husband (a tattooer) and I decided to pack up and leave Brooklyn to buy a house with a home studio in Cleveland, OH.  My parents also decided to move back to be near us and now live two blocks away.  With my husband also being an artist, we always make sure we each get time and space to work and now that my kids are a little older and not completely dependent on me, I bring them to my parent’s home a few hours here and there to work.  however, for the most part, the entire front of our house is my home studio/playroom, which is where most of the art making takes place.  We created our life around the essential need for me to be home with my children and in turn, my work and motherhood coincide.

 

Has your work been influenced by being a mother? How so?

My current work would not exist if I didn’t become a mother.  My work has always reflected on my “lived experience” and motherhood being one of the most profound experiences in a woman’s life- it has shaped the person I am today as well as my body of work.

 

Can you describe a normal workday?

My 2 year old wakes me up to nurse, he falls back asleep, I go let our two pets, a pig and a dog, out, make coffee, check my e-mails & Instagram, work in the studio and/or read and do research. My boys come down and we then hang out in the back and make breakfast- dad goes to work and after lunch, I nurse the little one and put him down for a nap and work in the studio while the big one watches some shows or plays in the back. After dinner tub time and nursing to sleep, I hang with dad on the couch and work on a large scaled crocheted work I’ve been working on for over 3 years. Give or take- that is my 5 days a week “workday”. There are also lots of walks and gardening and cooking and reading to my boys in there too!

 

What needs to happen to make it easier for mothers to work within the arts?

For me, once I learned that becoming a mother was becoming a whole new person, I learned to let go and follow my children’s needs. Life became much easier and I was able to value my “mothering”.  I was able to make my work because I wasn’t trying to fit my children into my life as an artist- I worked within the context of motherhood and that shaped my body of work into something I never knew existed.

 

What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

I should have listened to my oldest baby and slowed down instead of trying to keep up with the world I once was in.  As a mother, I am thankful I am an artist and have a way to convey my lived experiences by creating artifacts. My professor once told me- It’s always better to be at the beach, thinking about being in the studio then being in the studio and thinking of being at the beach.  In my case- I created my life to have both!

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about

Madison Omahne (Madison Hendry Married name) lives and works in her vintage home and studio space in Cleveland, OH with her husband, 2 boys Angus and Huckleberry, and their dog and pig.  Madison graduated with honors with her MFA in Sculpture from Brooklyn College in 2011 and went on to become a certified Breastfeeding Educator in 2018.  She has exhibited work internationally, including being showcased in Project AfterBirth; the first international exhibition based on early parenthood.

 

5 questions

Jaana Pirskanen

10 lokakuu.jpgWhat is it that enables you to work? Childcare, family, a partner, the children’s father or something else? Please explain.

My partner takes care of the children a lot when I perform in Finland or travel abroad to perform. Also, I create new acts at home in our living room. Whenever I can I do my stage makeup to reduce how much I am away. Working at home as much as possible enables me to do art.

 

Has your work been influenced by being a mother? How so?

I work with my body and having been pregnant three times, having two children and three years of breastfeeding are part of my history. Also being a mum is an important part of my life. In burlesque and drag I deal with issues such as rigid gender norms, getting older, failing, pleasure, owning your body, sexuality and gender. Being a mum is an important part of my everyday existence so it does affect the way I think about human emotions, growing, learning, time and values. I think being a mother does affect the art I do. I need to practice at home late in the evenings and there is not much space so that has an effect on the choreographies I create at the moment. If I had more time for myself I would practise more and create more.

 

Can you describe a normal workday?

At the moment I work for a human rights organisation in the daytime and then take care of the children after work and do my art in the evenings and on weekends. I have very little time to cook, clean or relax as such. I don’t watch TV. If I did there would not be time for my art. In addition, I also take a week’s leave from my day job several times a year to make my art.

 

What needs to happen to make it easier for mothers to work within the arts?

Free or very cheap childcare! I am lucky that in Finland the childcare is free or you pay a very affordable fee if you don’t earn much. It makes it possible both for me and my partner to work.

 

What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

Nothing. I love my children. I would still like to have the two of them and spend a lot time with them. And yes, there were some years when they were babies and toddlers, when I had very little energy or time for my art because I wanted to take care of them myself, but everything become easier when the children grew a little bit older. It is easier to be away or travel abroad if needed now. 

 Pusyy by tiia herrala

about

I do drag, burlesque, collaborative art, film, and workshops. I am educated in dance, philosophy, psychology and gender studies and also work as a psychologist. I perform internationally. 

 

5 questions

Amy Shearn

signing bookWhat is it that enables you to work? Childcare, family, a partner, the child/rens father or something else? Please explain.

This is ever-changing for me. I feel like I’ve lived about five different mother/writer lives. There’s no such thing as “finding balance,” have you ever noticed that? It’s just always shifting. When my two children were babies I was home with them and exchanged babysitting hours with other mother/writers I knew to make writing time, or stole moments during the kids’ naptimes. Often I’ll sneak away on weekends to cafés or writing spaces while my husband watches the kids or takes them to the park. Now I work fulltime, and the children are off at school and afterschool, and I take my lunch hour to write. The lunch time writing hour never feels like much, and it doesn’t work for thinking big, or revising. But in terms of cranking out pages? Since I started setting aside my lunch hour to write a year ago, I’ve written 4 essays and 4 short stories, all at tiny Manhattan café tables. So I guess the answer is, right now what enables me to work is the New York State law that full-time employees are entitled to lunch breaks. (It’s much more civilized than my shifts when I was a stay-at-home-mom!)

 

Has your work been influenced by being a mother? How so?

Of course, and in ways I’m probably not even fully conscious of. I know I’m less precious about everything now. In graduate school, for instance, I was weirdly religious about writing rituals; I couldn’t write unless my apartment was spotless and I had baked a loaf of bread and I had done a spell with my talismans at my writing desk – I mean, I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. And yet, I’ve probably written my best work on park benches when both the kids fell asleep in the double stroller and I scribbled notes on an envelope. When you’re a parent all the bullshit slips away, you know? I used to get wrapped up in those existential questions that can silence you as a writer: What is the best kind of thing to write? Does the world really need another short story? Why aren’t I as good as X? I write now because I have to, because I become incredibly crabby if I don’t. It’s maintenance. In that way it’s almost more pure – like the writing I did as a kid in a spiral notebook on my bed, just because I felt like it, because the idea was there.

I also suspect I think about my characters differently. I’m more forgiving of people in general – like it’s become clear to me just how complicated and fragile every single human is. So I think my characters have more depth, and are written with more generosity and love.

 

Can you describe a normal workday?

My days right now are extremely bourgeois. I get up around 5:30 or 6 and either write or go to the gym. I’d rather write, but feel like going to the gym now and then might make me, like, not die. Which seems good. Then I go to my day job as an editor for a website – which is good practice for a writer. Editing others’ work is so much easier than writing, first of all. You can see immediately what’s not working with a piece and why. In your own work it’s so much more murky. My editing job helps me to be a better editor of my own work, and gives me more sympathy for the many editors I’ve worked with in the past!

I set aside my lunch break for my own writing. It doesn’t always happen – you know, doctor’s appointments, lunch dates (but I often have lunch with writer-friends and we discuss our creative work so that counts as writing, kind of, I think) – but I try for 4 days a week. I have a couple go-to spots near my office in lower Manhattan, and I bring my laptop and pound out words for a solid hour. It’s kind of the perfect amount of time to write because you don’t have time to reread or get lost or berate yourself or procrastinate. It’s been years since I’ve had time to procrastinate!

Anyway, then I finish my work day and pick up my kids. My husband works late so it’s just me and the kids in the evening, and I try to be present in my time with them, help them with homework or play a game or make them help me with chores and we talk about our days, and we have dinner together and do bath and all that, and I read to them which is probably my favorite part of the day. That also counts as writing, I feel. We just finished The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is such fun to read aloud, and which made me think a lot about pacing – the pacing in that book is really impeccable for a children’s novel. And about characterization too – has there ever been a more complicated and efficiently drawn character than Edmund?

Then I tell myself, The kids are in bed! I can do some more writing! But usually I fall asleep instead. It’s okay. These aren’t the most creatively productive years of my life, but I am able to fit in enough work that I feel well (I really become insane when I’m not writing at all). My kids are 7 and 9, these really fascinating ages, and it’s important to me to be as present for them as possible. Having a day job isn’t glamorous but contrary to popular belief, I’m not sure how helpful it is for an artist to be broke all the time. I also reached a point with my novels where it became very clear that I didn’t know how to write the kind of book that was going to make a lot of money. That’s fine; I want to write the kind of stuff I like writing, and having a day job takes all the pressure off my novels and short stories to earn their keep.  And I’m taking in and absorbing a lot – which is part of the work too of course.

 

What needs to happen to make it easier for mothers to work within the arts?

Well, on one hand, it’s the same thing that’s needed to help women succeed in any career: affordable, good childcare. Had I had access to any kind low-cost childcare for even just a few hours a day when my kids were tiny, it would have been a great boon to my creative work and mental health. Here in the U.S., especially in expensive places like New York City where I live, childcare costs are just outrageous. I didn’t go back to work at a media or publishing job full-time until my kids were in school full-time in part because I literally would have lost money paying for full-time childcare. It was the right decision for my family, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to be home for all those insane, amazing baby and toddler moments. But as generations of women have found, even if you’re as lucky as I am – I was able to keep freelancing and writing and publishing while I was home, and found it relatively easy to step back into my field – still, you know, seven years out of the workforce = seven years’ wage gap. It’s not easy to hop back into a career, and it seems stupid that it has to be one or the other.

When it comes specifically to creative work, I think a lot about how it’s hard, in our culture, to call something “work” unless it brings in income. There is so little respect for process, for creativity, for the written word, that even I have a hard time calling my writing “my work.” I mean, it’s my life’s work, yes. But when I say, “I’m going to work,” I mean paying work. Sometimes that’s writing, but not usually writing fiction, which is my true love. So even within a family, if a mother says, “Okay, I have to go do my work now, let us pay the babysitter $20/hour so that I can not be with my children and instead do my work,” and that work is writing a scene in a novel that will take 10 years to complete and then maybe not even be published, it becomes hard to justify. It’s like a weird atavistic vestige of the industrial age, when “work” and “life” and “art” became different things, and wage work became all we considered to be “work.” We still have that tainting the way we see all the many kinds of work in our lives.

 

What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

Well, I think it would have made a lot more sense for us to move back to the Midwest, to be near my family. When the kids were really small, if my mother had been able to watch them for a few days a week, I surely would have been able to write much more, and have much better balance in my life. And the cost of living would be a lot cheaper. Maybe I wouldn’t even have to have a day job now, and could just fiction write all day. That’s sort of hard to even think about actually.

But then again, I have to remember that I’ve lived in Brooklyn for so long that I take it for granted, and assume I’d be just as happy anywhere – when really I specifically love this specific place a whole lot, and remember first coming here and feeling this great sense of relief, like Oh this is where all the weirdos like me are! I love that my kids are NYC kids. It’s such a fun place to be. So in short I guess my advice to myself would be: live near your family, preferably somewhere inexpensive! But I doubt I would ever take my own advice because my tendency has always been to make things difficult for myself. SIGH.

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about

Amy Shearn is the author of the novels The Mermaid of Brooklyn, How Far Is the Ocean From Here, and the forthcoming Unseen City. Her essays and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times, Slate, Oprah, Electric Literature, Catapult, The Rumpus, Brooklyn Quarterly, Nimrod, and elsewhere. She worked with Anchor + Plume Press to publish a posthumously-discovered novella written by her grandmother, Frances Schutze, called The Little Bastard. Amy received a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and has participated in residencies at SPACE on Ryder Farm and the self-directed Artist Residency in Motherhood. She has hosted and curated many literary events in New York City, including a reading series called Lit at Lark and an author talk series at the Brooklyn Public Library. Amy has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and currently lives in Brooklyn with her family. You can find her at amyshearnwrites.com or @amyshearn.

Writing

The Relentlessness of Morning

The Relentlessness of Morning

 

About

Minna Dubin is a writer, performer, and educator in Berkeley, California. She is the founder of #MomLists, a literary public art project, which she is working on turning into a book. Her writing has been featured in Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, MUTHA Magazine, The Forward, and various literary magazines and anthologies. When not chasing her children in circles around the dining room table, she is eating chocolate in the bathroom while texting. You can follow her lists about motherhood here:

Instagram: @momlists

Facebook: facebook.com/momlists

Tumblr: momlists.tumblr.com

 

The Relentlessness of Morning was first posted on a bulletin board at a San Francisco grocery store called Falletti Foods @fallettifoods.
 MomLists’ was then published on social media (Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) on October 4th, 2016.
Writing

What am I to you?

Laura trying to swop the lil one for a Jorge Manilla brooch
Laura trying to swop the lil one for a Jorge Manilla brooch

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.

 

Writing

So now you want me to write a business plan?

26906385_564872160531531_1635415565_oBy Laurie Schram.

 

Being a single mother is quite radical. It’s a sprint that turns into a marathon and then at the finish line you get beaten with a stick because accepting a bad relationship is “graceful” and leaving is “sin/stigma”. 

My child is now 15 months old and no longer has reflux but she is still a high needs baby who refuses to sleep alone or for more than 2 hours without nursing. She has the most powerful hearing and could easily work for the CIA as a living device for eavesdropping. The things that wake her up most regularly are eating, scratching my head and clicking or double clicking my laptop, forget about turning a page, if I so much as touch paper she will wake instantly. As I still live in a studio apartment (with a view on better accommodation I hope to move to though not for another 6 years’ or so) I have to work around this.   Since setting up Mother Makers a lot has happened. We have launched a range of merchandise, we did a crowd funding campaign and raised money to exhibit in Munich. We have also started publishing “Leading Voices”. For better or for worse, people know who we are and what we are doing. Those are humble but real accomplishments. 

Things change as a baby gets older, some things get better (no more puking) and others worse (intense public tantrums). What does not change is that a child needs constant care. I have managed to complete one piece of work with the help of my colleague who is blessed with childcare and a partner. I have also contributed significantly to Mother Makers but cannot keep up with my colleague who dedicates much larger chunks of time. There is guilt, much guilt and no support.  

        Three hours of childcare  

I now have 3 hours of childcare a week and I want to use them to write a business plan, make work and be in the world participating but what I actually need is to rest, to take a shower, eat a nutritious meal and recover from all the other hours piled on top of each other. Putting my personal needs to the side I sit at the computer and try anyway. 

I don’t succeed and try again at nap time. Getting the focus back is murder and every time I finally get a sentence going I click too hard and I’m stuck nursing her back to sleep for 20 minutes. If, for I have a roughly 50% chance of escaping after that, I manage to Ninja my way back to the computer I get to it sleepy and confused instead of focused and fired up. I’m losing the motivation because within 400 words I have already had to get back into it 3 times with a massive hit of sleep hormones sucking the life out of me. I am a badly blown up balloon doing the job a hacksaw is supposed to do while rapidly deflating. But I am a deflated balloon with a mission to create meaningful employment so that my child will not have her mother’s depression for breakfast every day. It’s not a healthy diet, I know this from experience.  

        I have no hope in hell 

I am not complaining, we are quite happy in our tiny abode because it is cute and full of love, music, dancing and fun. We make the best of it but there are unexpected consequences to raising a child in a studio apartment. Your parenting choices are not all really yours. Crying it out, Aware parenting, Attachment Parenting, Continuum parenting, not your choice to make: your space decides for you that you are an attachment parent and being a single parent decides for you that it is running you into the ground. Attachment Parenting on your own is like running a busy restaurant without staff and doing the cry it out method without a bedroom is like stabbing your own eyes out. These are facts but that doesn’t matter because everyone has opinions about how your kid should be able to sleep through the night (until they get one that doesn’t themselves).  

Being this tired is a really boring non-story but the incredible lack of support and respite single mothers face is not talked about enough. Combining motherhood with an arts practice is really hard in itself. Doing it as a single mother is something of a miracle. I am an advocate for mothers with arts practices though unsure if my own can survive. Am I a hero or a sinking ship? This question depresses me on hard days but I do believe that even the sinking must be documented. I don’t want to disappear. Many women before me have disappeared without being heard, some into the river. It’s really time we lose the stigma and start rewarding this marathon.