I'm so happy to start off 2015 of Creative Mothers Interviews with Carolyn Mackin. I found her and her amazing work through Instagram. I love how much of a creative support system she has with other women creatives in her area. I'm kind of jealous actually, in a good way, but I guess that's why I started this series. To help others and myself connect with wonderful artistic and creative women. I hope you are enjoying the series and connecting with these wonderful ladies via their social media, websites, etc. So make sure if you love an interview comment, share it, follow the artist on social media, or email them to tell them how much you love their work. Trust me we all need and appreciate the support.
Thank you Carolyn for such a wonderful and inspiring interview! I'm so glad you are now a part of the Creative Mothers Series.
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.?
I have always felt that I was an artist. I cannot remember a time where I didn't think otherwise. Actually owning that title as an adult has sometimes been difficult, but I am very secure and comfortable with it now.
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I create because I am compelled to do so. When I create I feel that I am doing what God put me here on earth to do. I create because I feel disconnected, unproductive, and dissatisfied when I'm not creating. I create because it feeds my soul, gives me purpose, and brings me great joy. I cannot imagine a circumstance that would make it impossible for me to be creative. No matter what the challenge, I will find a way.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed the way you create?
I have always been serious about making art, and even went to art school and earned my BFA and MFA in photography. When I was not in school I always held a full-time job within the art field. I would make my artwork after work and on the weekends, and was represented by a gallery in San Francisco for several years. In 2007 I had my first son, and my second in 2009, and for several years while they were young I did not create very much, but I missed it.
For many years I was feeling compelled to paint, though the idea of starting with a blank white canvas petrified me. I had no idea how to begin. I found out about an online painting class through a friend, immediately signed up for it, and still to this day cannot believe how much it has shaped the trajectory of my life.
You see, my photo-based artwork kept me in front of the computer, doing the same repetitive tasks, leaving me feeling bored and unfulfilled. And my education, particularly grad school, taught me how to be very analytical and critical, which made it challenging for me to really be open to the creative process. I thought that I had to have everything figured out before I created so that making mistakes, taking risks, just working through it was not an option I was comfortable with.
But when I started painting large abstracts from my intuition while listening to some great music, I started to feel alive and passionate about what I was making. The process feels like an extension of my yoga and meditation practice, and brings me peace and clarity.
Since taking care of my boys takes up so much of my time, when I do get into my studio, I am motivated and focused. As soon as the kids go to bed, I take a short break to put my feet up and watch a little TV, and then I get into my studio, put on some music or a podcast, and get working. For me, having less time means I need to make the most of my studio time, and that has actually helped my productivity.
5. 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?
My schedule has changed greatly since the fall of 2014, because it was the first time both my boys were in school full-time. Being a stay-at-home mom had meant that I had very limited hours to myself during the day. Now, while everyday looks different, my weeks tend to consist of a mix of the following– yoga, meditation, emails, volunteer work, social media, art business related tasks, installing art shows, laundry, cleaning the house, setting up play dates, driving my kids to their activities, making meals, watching TV, playing with my children, hosting play dates, connecting with my girlfriends, spending time with my husband, general hygiene, appointments, meeting with potential customers, errands, etc. There is a lot to juggle!
On top of all that, we are currently putting an addition on our home. It is a big project, and something that is very difficult to live through. We are adding a lot of great functionality to our home, and I will gain a beautiful art studio on our 3rd floor. That had taken up a ridiculous amount of time, but will be so worth it in the end!
I am definitely a night person, and I tend to do most of my painting then. I find that I am compelled to check things off my to do list during the daytime hours, but in the evening, my brain relaxes and I am better able to get into a good flow. I typically paint 1 to 3 hours each night. I do not keep to any sort of rigorous schedule, as I prefer each of my days to look and feel different, and to be flexible as it is very necessary when you have children.
6. Carolyn, I saw your Instagram photo of you and your son making art together, can you talk a little about your creative time together? How do your kids inspire you and help your creative process?
Yes, I have had some wonderful evening paint sessions with my seven-year-old son, Jase. These evenings have been amazing. He is very interested in mixing colors, and is so intrigued by the seemingly infinite colors that can be made with quality paints. These evenings are special and provide a wonderful way for us to connect, relax, and enjoy each other's company and conversation.
However, I find that life with boys is often not like this. I am not certain why these particular nights feel so magical. Maybe it's the fact that Jase is more mature, or maybe it's the fact that he's ready, or that it is right before bedtime and he is a little more tired. I've tried for many years to have special creative time with my boys. In the past, I seemed to get absolutely nothing done and become an assistant to my boys. I end up succumbing to their demands for more paint, more paper and brushes, and then cleaning up all of the spills and huge mess that they leave behind. I'm really hoping that my special painting time with Jase continues, and that my five-year-old will be able to join us at some point as well.
Jase has been very helpful over the last couple of months, but not in the way that you might think. He is a natural born entrepreneur, and is often looking for opportunities for making money. This is a quality that I do not naturally possess. Jase and I have been brainstorming ideas for workshops for children that I could teach, and he will assist. It is so helpful to work with him, see what he responds to you, and understand what is exciting for him.
7. What have you learned from how your children approach their own creativity?
My five-year-old, Kyle (who absolutely loves making things) can go into a very quiet and happy place when he is creating, and come up with something really cool. What is surprising is that he will step back from a piece that he's worked very hard on, assess that it is terrible, and throw it away immediately! I am shocked that at such a young age he is so self-critical. I understand now that this is part of his personality, and I am working really hard to teach him about the value of mistakes and failures, and why perfection is not attainable or important.
8. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
My greatest challenge is working around everyone else’s schedule. I would love to spend the entire day painting, but do not ever want to neglect my family. My husband and I do a lot of negotiating and ‘divide and conquer’ most weekends so that I can get some well needed studio time in, while he gets quality time with the boys. And then I take the kids and give him some down time. I find that maintaining flexibility is key. There is usually a way to make it work so that everyone in our family gets what they need, but it requires an open-mindedness, and the ability to shift gears constantly to make it work.
9. What have you sacrificed in order to make art? What have you gained?
I've sacrificed a clean house many times. I realize that cleaning is a form of procrastination for me. And I also realize that it can take up all of my time, energy, and sanity, especially when trying to clean up toys behind two very active young boys. What I have gained by making art a priority is a sense of wholeness. My art making gives me purpose, a livelihood, a sense of joy and connection with others. These things are invaluable to me!
While I still prefer to have an organized and clean home, I continue to work on letting go of this in order to make time for my creative practice. I believe these are lessons that my boys will benefit from throughout their lifetimes.
10. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I have huge plans for my art career. I will grow my business through selling my original artwork, prints, teaching workshops, and being active on social media. I plan to continue to connect with other like-minded people, and share my art as much as possible. I hope to evolve as a painter, to push my edges, and always maintain a level of curiosity and joy in the process.
11. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers? Inspiration, wisdom?
Most evenings, after I put my boys to bed (8pm), I am exhausted and spent. All I want to do is eat chocolate and passively watch TV. So, you know what, that is what I do! And then by 9pm I am slightly bored and feel the urge to create something, anything, before the day is over. So, I get to work. And the funny thing is, I start to regain my energy and momentum, and once I start listening to a great podcast or song, I am hooked. I do not overthink, or plan, I just pick out some colors that feel right to me and begin painting. Many times the beginning of a session feels like a great release of tension from the day. I paint fast and with abandon. And then I settle into the process and paint more with intention, which feels more fluid and soft.
I work on many canvases at the same time, all in various stages of completion, so that I can match my energy to what each piece needs. So, my advice is, figure out what works for you, and do it. Do it as much as possible, and stop making excuses. Also, find a support system that keeps you energized and inspired, as they will carry you through the moments of self-doubt that inevitably creep up.
12. Do you have strong connections with other artists/artistic mothers in your area? How did you foster these connections, and how do you continue to make them a priority?
Yes! I am a member of the Wellesley Women Artisans, a group of about 15 creative women who live in my town. We can meet monthly, critique each other's work, and inspire, and encourage one another. We also do a yearly community art project, an open studio tour, and organize ‘Art Walks’ in local businesses in our town. Our group began just 3.5 years ago, with a few women who found each other through Etsy and our local mothers group. The WWA has been invaluable to me, and I cannot say enough about having a local support system.
Just as I important for me has been the virtual community I am fostering on Instagram and Facebook. Online I have found so many artists that I've connected with that inspire and encourage me every single day. Seeing others succeed is a huge motivation for me. I am amazed by the generosity, inspiration, and how much I've learned through these virtual friends.
13. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you? Can be living or not, famous or not. If website links are available please add them.
My neighbor and fellow WWA member, Abby Glassenberg, is amazing. She is the type of friend that I could talk to all day because she is engaging, smart, knowledgeable, relatable, resourceful, dedicated and highly accomplished. She has published 2 books, has a blog with an enormous following, and a podcast that I cannot get enough of. She shares things that others would never dare to online! Oh yeah- and she has three young girls as well! You must check her out at http://whileshenaps.com/
Are you a Creative Mother? Would you like to be interviewed? Contact Megan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Explore Past Interviews
Suzi Banks Baum
Shelli Bond Pabis
Elizabeth B. Borowsky
Kellee Wynne Conrad
Kisco Print Shop
Art by Megan