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82/ Celebrating Our Mother Artists

As a platform that champions such a high proportion of female artists, with so many of them being mothers, we think it’s so important to celebrate and shine a light on the journey, struggle, and joy that so many artist-mothers can experience.

This Mother’s Day, six of our artists, Bellamy JeanFlo Doyne-DitmasFreyja LeeJessica Jane CharlestonRebecca Sammon, and Noe Kuremoto, join a discussion on their personal experiences of being both a mother and an artist. Working in such a competitive male-dominated industry, this group of women embrace the tough balance between motherhood and work, often using their art as a way to express their experiences. They also share honest reflections on how motherhood has transformed and shaped their practice.

 
 
 
 

Have your experiences of motherhood influenced your work in any way? If so, do you feel this evolution has been conscious or subconscious?

Rebecca Sammon: The experience of motherhood does make you see the wonder in small things, all experienced from the first time, I don’t think it has influenced the content of my work so much but it has changed my working pace and processes. In my latest collection The Miniatures - I found working on tiny zoomed-in pieces had parallels with my new experiences - small focussed pockets of escapism into another world. 

Jessica Jane Charleston: Motherhood has changed my work and the way I work. I often tell people I feel more connected to drawing since becoming a mother, which is strange because I have less time for it now. Before, I would spend three days straight in the studio and lounge in the whole thing of it. The being in the studio, the eating in the studio, the thinking in the studio. When Lowen was born I was given slithers of time to draw in. Although in the first three months he slept so much and I loved to draw us together, to try to understand my new identity. I left my studio, I kept a desk in our sitting room to draw and write on, it suited early motherhood, snatches of drawing, and painting. My work became smaller, desk-sized, and slower. I started drawing and painting every day, even if just for 5 minutes, I became closer to my work through this tap tap tapping away.

 
 
 
 

How do you balance motherhood and your art practice?

Rebecca Sammon: It’s a very real challenge but the only option is to make it work in whatever way I can. I don’t have childcare so currently I work when baby sleeps. Without long endless time in the studio, the practice is condensed into tiny segments of time working from home. I guess it makes you value time so much more - quality time spent watching your baby and precious moments to create work. 

Noe Kuremoto: I had to accept that I cannot have the same insane studio hours I used to have when I did not have children. I actually write my artist statement early stage so my mind is still. I understand what is my question and what I am trying to deliver through my collection. Unfortunately, I never have time to just ‘play’ with clay these days! I have to be super-efficient in the studio. 

Have a good routine at home. The kids like a solid routine. Wake up early. (I know it’s hard when you are breastfeeding but I try to wake up as early as I can). Establish To Do list in the morning so my studio schedule is clear.

Clear communication with Ed so we both know what exactly is my responsibility as a parent. He is a bicycle designer so he loves what he does too. It’s extra hard when both of us love what we do! Every night we try to catch up and if we have a problem (even if it’s a small one), we try to resolve it so we do not take our today’s problem to tomorrow.

Flo Doyne-Ditmas: As a mother of a 4 month old baby I’m very much still working out the key to success when it comes to balance. Having my little girl was one of the wildest and most beautiful experiences I’ve had and so for creativity, I feel ready to burst. The real challenge is having time, something I have a whole new appreciation for. Whether it’s time spent with my daughter or small moments of calm spent on my own there never seems to be enough of it. As she’s so little I try not to put too much expectation on myself so when I do get a chance to be creative I can be in the moment and enjoy it.


 
 
 
 

Is there a specific artwork that inspires you or you resonate with as an artist and a mother?

Rebecca Sammon: I have always adored the Picasso Piece ‘La Maternité', I would have loved to include a historical piece made by another mother here but in all honesty, ‘La Maternité' is one of my all-time favourites, the woman and child as one in a world of colour is wonderful.

Jessica Jane Charleston: The Chantal Joffe painting 'The Squid and the Whale' 2017 is my inspiration. She is able to describe something so particular and strange and intense and loving in her self-portraits with her daughter.

Freyja Lee: The artwork I have chosen is by Kathe Kolwitz 'Mother with two children' in Bronze. But also 'mother and dead child' so profoundly moving.

Noe Kuremoto: Technically it is not an artwork but I’m hugely inspired by Dogu. Mysterious female figurines from prehistoric Japan (14,000-400BC approx). With big eyes, accentuated large breasts, and wide hips, they are widely held to be symbols of fertility, a promise of safe delivery for baby and mother, hope for the continuation of life. My Dogu lady collection is my interpretation of the ancient Dogu. A talisman for women today. Who build a career, a life and raise children. With no precedent to guide us - we work it all out as we go. My Dogu Ladies watch over us as we make history.

Flo Doyne-Ditmas: At the moment my inspiration comes from sleep! Still Life with Sleeping Woman, 1940, by Matisse.

 
 
 
 

Your work depicts figures in dreamlike compositions - has motherhood changed the way you represent the nude?

Jessica Jane Charleston: I have not consciously changed my work, it just worked that way, alongside my son. The figures in my paintings have changed. The breasts! The breasts are so the breasts of a woman who is breastfeeding. That elongated sucking. The endless milking. The figures are often depicted curling around each other or merging into each other and that is how it feels, this beautiful little creature who was inside you, now outside you, on you, or crawling and jumping and climbing on you all the time.

 
 
 
 

What is a message you would like to pass on to your children about feminism and motherhood?

Freyja Lee: It's such a huge discussion and my answer is one that I'm sure will evolve over time as I grow as a parent alongside my two small boys. Simply to be authentic, empowered, gentle and kind, loving with good boundaries, and with a celebration and respect of emotion! - that’s the ideal eh?

Making work has been my lifeline within motherhood, but also motherhood has been the making of me. So something about making work that I'm proud of alongside bringing up kids feels empowering to me, however challenging.

I am currently reading a book called ‘Baby on the fire escape by Julie Phillips which grapples with these musings. The line between and merging of, artist, mother and its creative tension. The question of needing solitude and un-interuption to create, but how to do it anyway amidst the chaos.

So my message to my kids on feminism and motherhood? I hope to lead by example by leading the life I want to live and fulfilling my creative needs and career. I can show them their mother as not simply a carer but a creative being with dreams outside of theirs. Then that may hopefully lead to respect, of not just their mother but of women.

Bellamy Jean: I feel that my partner and I have created a home where we support each other enough to fight stereotypes that could be portrayed through different roles played in our home. It is really important to me to raise my boys to respect women - as a mother, I want to know that they are educated and empowered enough to call out a situation where they see inequality against women and anyone else.

 
 
 
 

Are there strong creative mothers, throughout history or in the current day, who inspire you?

Freyja Lee: All mothers. But especially my contemporaries and peers that are navigating the challenging world of being a parent and an artist.


 
 
 

What does being a mother artist mean to you?

Flo Doyne-Ditmas: I’m at the very beginning of my motherhood journey so I’m still learning how having this new little person in my life changes how I work. Although I don’t have the freedom of time I had before she was born I definitely feel a new wave of confidence that came with creating life.

Noe Kuremoto: I never see myself as a 'mother artist’. I was just an artist and I become mother after a bit of a journey! Let me explain. My work always has been a huge source of pleasure in my life.  I feel lucky to have my artistic career but it is also the biggest curse. It’s cursed because there was never a good time to get pregnant and stop working in my 20s and most of my 30s. I always had a relationship with work at the expense of other things that matter in life. I had to overcome 3 big fears to being a mother and an artist. 

Fear 1. I saw children are the enemy of my professional success. How can I keep up with people who do not have children? The simple answer is, you cannot keep up with them. If you are keeping up with them then you are most likely not seeing your child/children. 

Fear 2. What if I am a terrible mother? (Well, I had zero mother instinct. What will change in 9 months? I cannot return a baby). I never believed my husband when he said “you will be a wonderful mum”. It never sat right with me. I was already feeling resentful before I even began my motherhood journey. 

Fear 3. What do I do when my husband finds out that I am actually a terrible mother and he regrets choosing me? Wouldn’t it be unbearable? All my fear was projecting a future of disastrous motherhood monster. Yet I had to voluntarily face this monster to become a mother. Making my art has been a license to face a challenge life threw at me. Deconstruct the monster inside of me. Peeling one layer at a time to discover what is inside of me. That’s how I started to make my Dogu collection.

When my first son was born, just like they say, life was never the same again. I had a tiny creature in my arms. I was called out for the most important responsibility of my life. There was no choice but I had to get my act together. I WAS NO LONGER THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON. This was actually the gift of motherhood to me.

It was the ultimate wake up call. Despite all my fears it turned out to be really good for me. Baby Issey threw me straight into a deep well of motherhood. 30-something-year-old me thought I was a mature adult. Turn out to be my eyes were only half open. I could only look at life in a mature way when I took this ultimate responsibility and I put my personal and professional interest aside. It was totally counterintuitive. This was the biggest discovery for me. Only then I understood I was trying to be an artist without understanding life’s fundamental truth. The motherhood journey produced a profound transformation and it produced a deep relationship with my art practice that cannot be substituted in any other way. 

5 years later we now have 3 children. The journey of motherhood ends up feeding my art practice even more. My eyes are more open, I see better after having children and sacrificing my life. Consequently, my art got better. Our little creatures brought our marriage so much unconditional source of love and joy and strength. It's a peak experience in my life. It’s mad. It's crazy. It’s fun. And fundamental human.  I have known nothing like it.

 
 
 
 


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