By Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue of BIG Kids Magazine for Mamamia.
When I woke up the day after giving birth to my first child I was surprised to find that, though I was holding a seismic shift literally in my arms, my passion, creative drive and self was still entirely intact. Amplified if anything. I think I imagined there would be a softening or transference of my creative drive into motherhood. What I learnt to be true over the next 11 years is that creativity and motherhood are deeply connected, and each fuel for the other.
In fact, with the arrival of each child came a distinct honing of ideas and accelerating of the desire to create new work. With my first child I was back performing, choreographing and feeding backstage during the interval. With my second, during a short stint of unexpected post-natal depression, I began writing long distance dance scripts and collaborating across countries. And with my third, in the middle of a night feed at about 9 months the seed of a creative kids magazine whispered insistently. There was serendipitous magazine whispering too on the other side of the country interrupting the nights of Lilly and her baby girl. Within days the whispers between Perth and Sydney became a roar of collaboration that began BIG Kids Magazine and provoked a creative conversation that enabled us to both continue and drive our work as artists in a new kind of virtual ‘studio’.
We created the first issue entirely without speaking or seeing each other –with 4 young children between us I think we instinctively knew there were already too many voices in the mix! Every creative and business decision was made first via Facebook messaging and then email. Our girls were 10months and 22 months when we began. They are now 4 and 5. We operated our work schedules according to the (mostly erratic) sleep cycles of little ones and school terms. My eldest son Luca was present in the role of ‘senior’ editor from the outset and all the children fast assumed a creative ownership of the magazine that allowed us to work both literally with and around them while staying at home. “But Mummy I already have my magazine that I made!” said Lilly’s daughter Twyla on receiving another children’s magazine in the mail.
Just this week our senior editor was sick and had to come to my rehearsal in the dance studio. Having him beside me as we watched the last ‘run’ of the day was a feeling I had always imagined would arrive when I was first pregnant. This shared side by side experience was a joy so simple and immediate in a clear moment where both being a mother and being an artist each amplified and intensely fulfilled the other.
As a new mother I felt invested in the world both more personally and globally – possibly due to the accumulation of sleep deprivation, midnight walking and wondering corridors that links you to all of the other mothers holding restless babies at all hours around the world. Invisible threads connecting a community that has been weaved together since forever. Motherhood brought me closer both to myself and connected me to a greater continuum. This dual affect is often profound on artists and their work and it was this impact that propelled our desire for a broader conversation with the creation of the Mother Artist Network. Life as a mother artist is a richly curious, expansive, challenging creative place shared with the children by our sides.
The Mother Artist Network Forum co-chaired by Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue is at 10.30am on Sun 25 May