This week's interview is with artist Claire Sherwood. I don't remember how I became connected with her on the internet, but I'm glad I did. It is so amazing to find a creative mother who is a sculptor and a photographer. I love seeing her journey into photography and her work is beautiful!
She touches on the subject of time here and I couldn't agree more. Having and managing time is a big necessity in order to be creative. I also think telling the creative muse when we have time for it is important too. I struggle with feeling very creative once my head hits the pillow. I either have to say to myself, "No, it's time for me to sleep" or write it down so I don't feel I missed an opportunity. How do you manage time for your creativity? Do you ever feel your creative spark comes at inopportune times?
Please feel free to comment on these interviews, and connect with these mothers on their social media outlets too. The main part of these interviews is to create connection with each other as mothers and creatives. So don't be shy!
A great big "THANK YOU" to Claire for sharing her creative insights!
Fine Art Website: www.clairesherwood.com
Lifestyle Photo Website: www.splitpeaphotography.com
Facebook personal: facebook.com/claire.sherwood.35
Splitpea Photography: facebook.com/splitpeaphotography
Until the birth of my daughter I worked full time as a tenure track assistant art professor at Marshall University in West Virginia. While pregnant with my daughter my husband and I relocated to our hometown in upstate NY and I taught part time. After working in academics for over 10 years last year I decided to step away from that arena. I am now starting my own photography business, working as an artist in residence at a local art center and blogging.
1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
I was lucky in that I was raised in a very creative household. Thanks Mom and Dad!! My two brothers and I were always building and making things, playing outside or drawing and painting. I distinctly remember building “wooden things” from the ‘kid’s scrap bucket’ in my dad’s basement workshop before I even started kindergarten. In kindergarten I remember how exciting it was when the easels were set up and you’d get to ‘paint’ on the easel-that always felt like a big deal.
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.?
I never thought I was “talented”. I had two brothers who were very good at observational drawing and since I wasn’t as strong of a drawer as them I considered myself to not be as strong of an artist. I went to school for ‘art therapy’ and the second I took a sculpture class I was hooked. When I could start to build sculptures bigger than myself I knew that is what I would pursue and I actually thought of myself as ‘an artist’. The best lesson I learned in art school was that “talent" wasn’t half as important as hard work and creative thinking.
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I guess I create because it is such a habit. It’s such a part of how I solve problems and how I navigate through the world. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t making something or creating some thing. I’d probably have a clean house and be in better shape. I get very ‘antsy’ if I don’t have a project to work on, but honestly it’s rare I don’t have some kind of project I have to work on. I don’t feel balanced and I definitely get cranky if I feel like I’m ‘behind’ or haven’t had that work time that I need.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create?
I was a much more active artist before having children. I hate to admit this, it goes against everything I was told while growing up-that I could do it all…but the truth is (for me anyway) that once you have children there is simply not enough time to do it all. Not having large chunks of time to think creatively, question decisions, talk to other professional artists on a daily basis has affected the artwork I make for sure. I don’t like to think of it as a negative because I would never change having children-I certainly love my kids more than my artwork. If anything, having children lets me see the larger picture, gives me a completely different perspective and keeps me grounded.
5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
I’m sure you will hear me mention this a lot in this interview, but TIME. As a mother there is never time for yourself. Finding time and working on artwork (not being distracted with the hundreds of other household/motherhood duties) is my biggest challenge.
6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, and ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
My kids are definitely involved! Whether it is by default or of my doing. They always come to openings, they have many times been in galleries for installations, they have been at conferences when I am presenting and my studio has always been in my house so by default they are always around. Being a mother in general has inspired me, my last body of work was large sculptures built based on the rocks that my children consistently collect and fill their pockets with. My six year old son took the photo of me outside my home with our dog and his sister by our stoop. I told him where I was going to stand, I set the camera, told him how to carefully hold it-walked back and prayed he didn’t drop my camera. He of course didn’t drop it and I love this image.
7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art?
Everything. I think any artist I know would answer this question the same. Choosing to become an artist is a labor of love. You sacrifice a stable income, sometimes health insurance, and retirement. You spend much of your time (before children) in a studio, working (mostly alone) you sacrifice time with ones you love to finish work for deadlines. It all of course is worth it in the end.
8. What have you gained from creating art?
My husband would tell you I have gained two storage garages and a basement full of artwork. I would say I have become excellent at solving problems and meeting deadlines. I can build things, fix things and have learned to use tools I would never have learned to use if I wasn’t making artwork. It certainly made me a more independent woman.
9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I really want to push myself into an entirely new body of work. I am trained and have been a working sculptor since undergraduate school (just about 20 years. gulp!) But now I am working in the genre of photography. It’s a major shift but it just feels right. I am much more interested in making images or creating photographic documentations of an actual object, rather than focusing completely on the three-dimensional object itself. I think a very large part of this is due to my lack of studio time. There just haven’t been enough hours in my day (nor equipment and space) to create objects like I used to. Because I need to always be ‘making’ something photography just became an easy medium to work with while kids were around. I can’t weld next to my kids but I can photograph with them around. I also think the contemporary photography world is so invigorating, so fresh. My current goals all have to do with learning as much as I possibly can, experiment and grow.
10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals?
A CLEAN HOUSE! You can tell anytime I have a deadline because the house is a disaster, the basement is full of dirty clothes and there is no food in the house. I’d sacrifice a cleaning and laundry any day! At this time what I think I need to change in order to reach my new artistic goals is to be less timid about making new work.
11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making? No, I don’t home school. My son is in first grade at a public school and my daughter is in pre-K. My studio time is while they are in school. I would not have any creative or alone time if I home schooled. I also don’t think I would be a great teacher 24/7 to my children. I want to enjoy them and help them-but if I was their ‘teacher’ on all things, knowing my personality; I think my patience would wear too thin.
12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can?
I am definitely more of a morning person. My typically day is probably like most mothers I know. I get up around 6:30-pack lunches while I drink coffee get kids dressed and make breakfast. Then the crazy rush to get out the door and to school begins. Most days I’m still dressed in P.J’s/yoga pants at school drop off. For the first time since my kids were born, this year I have a 21/2-hour window of time daily to myself! (My youngest is picked up at 12:30 from pre-K) During this time I’ve been trying to be scheduled. One day is ‘job focused: networking/searching for freelance photo work, or blogging. One day is laundry/cleaning/groceries; the other days I run then spend the remaining time working on studio work. Those 2 ½ hours go incredibly fast but I try to make them productive. After I pick up my daughter we go home and try to do something fun together. That is how my blog: Artboundmomma.com started. I want to involve her in my creative life in this small window we have together. This winter has been very cold and we haven’t done as much as I wanted to-but the idea was to bring her with me once a month to review some local exhibitions before we pick up her brother from school at 3. After we pick her brother up, we head home –start dinner, clean up, do some homework/reading/maybe TV time and wait for ‘Dad’ to come home, eat dinner and the dreaded bedtime routine begins. I usually fall asleep reading books to my kids-I don’t stand a chance being a night owl. Wish I did, I get a lot more work done.
13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom?
HA! I can offer lots of advice, whether I hold myself to the same standards is an entirely different story. The one piece of advice I try to follow myself is that it’s OK to both love and dislike how children have changed your life. There are moments with my children I wouldn’t trade for all the exhibitions and grant/award money in the universe. There are also days when I am not even alone to use the bathroom and I questions the decisions I’ve made. The loss of alone or studio time is one thing I dislike about motherhood. Artists need time more than anything. Time to think, time to create, time to question their decisions and what they have created. Without TIME I will never produce something I really feel proud of and sadly alone time for mothers simply, rarely exists. My advice would be to try to carve out some alone time weekly (any that you can) hold it sacred, and don’t feel guilty. Even if it is just to sit down and LOOK or READ. I’ll let you know when that happens for me ☺
14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?
Many woman artists inspire me, with their drive, their focus and their devotion to their career.
Just a FEW of my favorites that I know are also mothers are: Jenny Holzer, Lorna Simpson, and Sally Mann. For me, these women were trailblazers, true individuals and proud to discuss the connection/hardships between motherhood and art making.
Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need.
I'm no longer doing Creative Mothers interview, but this will remain as an archive. Thank you for all of the love!
About the Series
Let's face it, being a mother can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding thing. Being a mother who needs to be creative can be even more challenging, it can even feel lonely at times.
So let's dig deeper into the lives of creative mothers, share their amazing work, and get some insight into creating while parenting. Hopefully, inspiring other artistic, creative mothers, and women who may one day be mothers themselves, along the way.
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