Last year I was fortunate to meet Sandra at a local art and craft show in NJ. Her table was right next to mine and we had a great time chatting. Learning that she was a mother too I had to interview her for the Creative Mothers series. I love when I get to meet and talk with other creative mothers in person, and I'm even happier when they want to participate in this series.
Sandra is a jewelry designer and maker located in New Jersey (we actually grew up in the same area). She creates while raising two beautiful little ones. Check out her awesome work and inspiring interview below. My favorite is how her daughter helps spread the word of her jewelry.
See, even when you don't realize being creative influences your kids, it does!
1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating?
I have an overwhelming amount of memories of me trying to create. I can remember being obsessed with writing and painting on my jeans back in the 80's. I would be sprawled across my parent's kitchen floor cutting up my jeans and making peace signs on them. When puff paints came out it was like a dream come true! Although, the very first memory I have, maybe my first unabashed attempt at being an entrepreneur, was drawing pictures of my neighbors' houses. I would then walk over to their houses and sell it to them for a quarter! So embarrassing!
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.?
I suppose the first time I actually felt like a creator was when someone actually purchased a necklace I made straight off of my neck! She said she had been admiring it and asked where I purchased it. When I told her that I made it and it was a one of a kind, she wanted it right then and there. She offered me a price and took it right off of me. Very surreal.
I also have this inner Martha Stewart that I can't suppress. When I see something I love or am inspired by, I don't typically say "I have to buy that!" I usually say, "How can I do that myself?" My husband usually just rolls his eyes, like he's thinking "Here we go again!"
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I create because it keeps me sane. There are times when I feel like my mind will literally explode from all of the ideas I have inside. It's a happy place that's different from my other happy places like my family and hobbies. It's a place where I can zone out and unload my stresses.
If I couldn't create anymore I think I would be lost. I think everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort in their lives. I need a way to express my emotions in ways other than words sometimes. My jewelry typically conveys my moods.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create?
Yes, I started creating long before I had children. My earlier endeavors had always been purely for self gratification. Now I feel like I have more of a sense of purpose. My kids definitely inspire me. Now, I get to create things FOR my children. I'm always asking my daughter "Do you like this? Do you want Mommy to make it for you?" Sometimes I think she just humors me!
5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
I think most mothers would say the balancing part of it. Naturally, my kids and family always comes first. I think for me though, it's necessary to stress the importance of creating and not to constantly put things on the back burner or allow other people to. I had a habit of doing this for a very long time because I thought that the fact that it's for me, it's not as meaningful. I started noticing that this is when I would fall into a rut.
6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
I often feel like my daughter is also a natural born maker. She is very imaginative and always wants to create things. Now that she's 7, we're constantly making jewelry together and she always wants to learn how something is made. She has assumed the role as my guinea pig for my children's jewelry. Many of her 'favorite' pieces don't actually even make it to market. Instead, she claims them for herself. There's an indescribable feeling when she wants to come with me to vendor shows, etc. because she thinks what I do is "cool". At least for now she does.
Actually, something funny happened recently. My daughter came home from a play date and said "Mommy, my friend's bracelet was broken and I told her you could fix it because you make jewelry. Then I told her mom that she should check out your website." Just humoring her, I said "Oh yeah, and what website did you tell her?" She replied, "I told her to go to Etsy and type in Mirror Mirror Accessories!" It was crazy to think that she really does pay attention to what I do AND she was promoting me! I told her I'm going to start giving her business cards to hand out for me!
7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art?
I'm not sure I'd say I have sacrificed anything. Maybe in a sense I have given up any down time I may have...not that there are many of those moments, but if there are, I always have something to fill it with. I am very fortunate to be home with my kids, but that also means that my so called "schedule" isn't always as structured as I would like it to be. Orders may get paused for cooking, photo editing gets paused for the school bus drop off and so on. But, I wouldn't call it a sacrifice because I choose to do this. For me, it's a wonderful blend of work and mom-work.
8. What have you gained from creating art?
I have gained an inner happiness that's hard to put into words. It's a time of mental freedom that, even for a brief moment, allows me to shut off and just create something.
9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I would love for my work to be able to grow and continue to flourish. I love learning new techniques and I would love for my pieces to evolve with that.
10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals?
Something I would change to achieve future goals would be to prioritize better. That's not when it comes to orders, those need to get done immediately. I am a sort of freak about that and pride myself on turn around time. It's when it comes to new concepts and ideas, I tend to put them off and tend to something else but it always sets me back and I get frustrated. If you see my work space, I'm guilty of having a million projects half completed. I would love to be better at seeing everything through from finish to end before moving on.
11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making?
No, I do not home school. I don't think I'm disciplined enough for that. I give parent's who home school a lot of credit. Patience used to be a virtue of mine way back in the day. I do like to be involved in their school lives though as much as I can be. Our "home schooling" begins when the actual school day finishes and consists of other teachings like learning through family life, traveling and building self confidence. We are big on family time in this house and we hope to provide knowledge in other ways.
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?
A typical day is getting the kids up and fed and my daughter on the school bus. I usually make a "To Do" list for the week (I am notorious for my many scraps of notes). For mental sanity, I like to physically cross something off my list. I usually have a plan of action going into my son's nap time. This is when I get the bulk of my must do things done. When it's his lunch time, that give me enough time to tie up any loose ends. The remaining time before my daughter gets off the bus is when I can maybe answer emails etc. because once 3 pm hits, I'm officially in mom mode until they are in bed. When my husband travels, it's easier for me to then put another 3 or 4 hours of work in with out feeling guilty.
I'm more of an in between person. That's my kids' fault. I hate the mornings but I can't stay up too late either because I know how much I'll hate the next morning if I do. I'm probably at my best potential between 9-2.
I don't have a schedule per se because online orders or custom orders can come at anytime but I do have a sort of structure to how I handle things on a weekly basis. I like to list items on my website during the first half of the week, so I photograph and edit during the latter.
As far as creating goes, I would love it if it was scheduled but it is most often on a "when I can" basis. That's partly because of what my daily life is like and also because I never know when inspiration will hit me. Sometimes I can dream about a new idea or I'll see a pattern that inspires me and I have to either create right then and there of at least draw it so I don't lose it. I also don't like to be rushed, so I tend to wait for a time when I know I can sit down and take my time.
13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom?
Maybe I can add a bit of inspiration. The only thing I would say is not to doubt yourself. Don't compromise yourself or your creativity to please someone else. You have to be happy with your art first before others can see the beauty in it. Art in all it's forms is so subjective and it's hard to not take things personally. Just be yourself and do what comes naturally.
14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?
I know it sounds cliche, but my mom is my inspiration...hands down. She has taught me so many things in my life and I'm so grateful for her. She has suffered many hardships in her lifetime but you would never know it if you met her. She is Vietnamese and originally from Cambodia and has survived things that I can't even begin to imagine; endless wars, poverty and all that comes with it. With limited means, she taught herself just about everything she knows since childhood, her multitude of skills, her education, how to speak English...you name it. She is an artistic inspiration because she is one of those people that can watch you do something once and then be able to completely replicate it, and that's pretty much with everything! No schooling necessary. She has always been incredibly creative and resourceful. My mom remains one of the smartest and well rounded people I know, never truly realizing and appreciating how remarkable she is until I became a mother myself. She has always taught me to follow my heart. I can only hope to become half the woman she is.
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