I'm gearing up to open up my home to host a truly fantastic group of artists and makers for the West Austin Studio Tour on May 10-11 & 17-18. We came together as a group of mothers and a pre-school teacher at the South Austin Children's Co-op. Our pre-school community quickly opened up as a network of support for each other and our artistic endeavors. We recently sat down for a cup of coffee and play date to talk about art, life with little ones, and how those two worlds collide into something quite wonderful. Here are some snippets of our conversation:
On how having kids has changed how we work...
Roxanne Rathge: Becoming a mother has made me much more aware of the value of time and time management. There are far fewer hours in the day available to me where I can focus on my own pursuits, so when I have that time, I feel much more compelled to make use of it. I also use an app on my phone to keep track of ideas as they come to me, and this becomes a to-do list in those hours when I have time to create. Using an app to record ideas isn't something new and groundbreaking, and it's something I probably should have been doing all along - but having a child made me change my habits. It has actually helped me to have a list of go-to ideas, where before I may have said to myself that I don't have anything to work on.
Avery Orendorf: I'm right with you there, Roxanne. I'm so much better at using the little time I have now. And I have multiple to-do lists and idea lists going at all time.
Katie Spence: Before, I carried my 8 lb camera every day and shot scenes as I came upon them. Once I had my daughter Zelda I was no longer willing to lug my giant camera around everywhere I went and so I shoot less. I have to be more thoughtful and prepared to shoot. It's more intentional now.
Julia Herman: I am not a mother, but I am a teacher and have been for over 5 and a half years. My relationship with children has expanded and enriched my artistic focus in many ways. I became a teacher because I love and adore children and find them fascinating--but I also connect with their spirits in a very deep and emotional way. I find their emotionality to be so authentic and so real--in that way, I feel like I am a kindred spirit with children. Children need and take so much from those around them--that taking and that needing is what I am fascinated by. I take and I need in my romantic relationships, as we all do--what is "too much"? When do you pull back? Can someone understand and love my needs and my emotions? Those are questions I ask and seek to answer in my artwork.
On how kids challenge us as working artists...
KS: The biggest challenge for me is time. Time to dedicate towards artistic endeavors, time to think, time to absorb other art. I work part time so when I'm not caring for my kid I go to work. On the other hand Zelda is a toddler and lives in the moment, which is inspiring in its own right. She slows me down in a good way.
AO: They just wear me out sometimes.
On how kids have most benefited our artistic lives and work...
KS: Now that I have less free time, there's less time to waffle about what I'm making and how good I think it is. I just try to make it and put it out there when I get a chance.
AO: I never would have had the nerve to give a creative enterprise a try if I hadn't first quit my 9 to 5 to be at home with my kids. So without kids, I just wouldn't be an artist. I guess I needed an excuse to not make much money for the first few years, and being a stay-at-home mom provided that opportunity. Also, my kids have great ideas on what to paint, like a T-Rex chasing a honey badger, for example.
Valentina Dorsa: My son has definately inspired my new pieces for this west show, as it's a series called "Chaos!" This series started by us coloring together in a series of children's coloring books, and how no matter how many times I tried to be creative and color inside the lines using pretty colors that had a pleasing aesthetic to me, my son would always destroy my beautiful artworks of the various animals, dinosaurs or figures in the book. He had no concept of aesthetics or what we are taught about structure or balance. Kids are so free and they use their impulses. So being an artist and a mom is about finding balance in your life, but also accepting the unpredictability in life and being impulsive.. which is what my new works are about.
On how we introduce art to our kids...
AO: You know, I'm actually really terrible at kiddie art projects. All of those Pinterest-y crafts just don't happen in our house. But, my older son is enrolled in a preschool art program at the Dougherty Art Center that is really fantastic, and I am not at all scared of including them in some of my own projects. I had a furniture project involving the kids featured on Apartment Therapy, and have also been known to let my four year old use spray paint.
VD: I have introduced art to my son. I take him to galleries sometimes, and he loves the grafitti wall here in Austin. He also does a little art class at Wee Warhols in South Austin once a week.
KS: At our house crayons, pens and pencils are pretty standard. Her dad loves to doodle and so does she. When we're at the office she likes to play with the markers on the whiteboard. When she's older I'll take her to museums. Maybe we can look through my old art history text book.
RR: Art has always been a big part of both my husband's and my life. We both studied studio art, and our best conversations and disagreements always revolve around art. Our bookshelves buckle and sag with heavy books of our favorite artists, with lots of lovely, kid-friendly illustrations. We're also fortunate to live in this artistic town, where we have plenty of opportunities to appreciate art in all its contexts. That was our life before becoming parents, and that is how our life has continued with a child in tow. Granted, we keep much more reasonable hours these days.
JH: As a teacher, my goal is to introduce the richness and wildness of art to all the children that I teach. I want them to explore, use their hands, get messy, never be afraid to do what they want, find inspiration, and always feel comfortable with their own ideas. I hate when children in my classroom ask me "is it ok if I do this?"-- in reference to getting messy, or pulling out a new art material, or using an art material in a new way. I always say "you can do whatever your mind tells you to do--see what happens! what feels good? what feels right?" I just want children to feel invited into a safe space to create. I want that for myself and for any young child.
We'd love for you all to join in the conversation. Come and visit us at the West Austin Studio Tour on May 10-11 & 17-18. We are stop #235 at 707 W Live Oak St . Bring the kids if you'd like. We'll play!
In the meantime, see more of our work at:
Avery O Design - Avery Orendorf, murals and furniture
Your New Favorite - Katie Spence, photography
Little Bird Images - Roxanne Rathge, photography
Valentina Dorsa, paintings
Sally O'Grady, films