• THE COLLECTION is just what it's name suggests. Between 2011 and 2016, The Mother Load gathered fingerprints and stories from over 100 artists in 10 different countries. We relied on a vast network of artists to connect us from person to person, proving that despite the distances, we are all woven together. As we invited each artist to contribute to our project, we had the unique opportunity to get to know their work and life. They printed their fingerprint alongside their children while considering their role as both mother and artist. This was a process of discovery and growth, ending with a beautiful collection of personal stories as well as copper plates that house their marks of identity.

    This web page is an online archive of this part of The Mother Load. Below, you will find images of the copper plates installed at The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas and the Hannah Maclure Centre, Dundee, Scotland. Continue scrolling to find dozens of personal narratives about the intersection of motherhood and art. Photos courtesy of The Mother Load, Kathryn Rattray, and the Dallas Museum of Art.

  • STORIES of Motherhood and Making

    Zoe Irvine, Edinburgh, Scotland.

    take/there is/there will be *ENOUGH* time/rest/energy/work

    a whole person that I am in different areas of life rather than different parts of me for different

    things including being a mother creatively as well as being a creative mother



    Shin Yu Pai, Seattle, Washington. When I chose to start a family, my life, my process and my artwork changed infinitely in a way that redefined everything that I had been up until that moment as an Asian-American artist/writer and a human being in the world. My life has been simultaneously enriched and complicated beyond description - I joined the collective to become a part of a conversation about that complexity.



    Nina Young, Brooklyn, New York. When I was 28 and still very single and childless, I was preparing my portfolio for graduate school. I remember telling a friend that I wanted my son or daughter to be proud of me and what I did. Fast forward to the actual reality of my toddler not caring what I do as long as I spend time with him and my more mature realization that it is me who wants to be proud of what I do. It is a struggle to make time for myself and my work, but when I do this, I feel good about myself and as a result, things are much better for my family. I love my son dearly and warmly. It is easy to love him and nurture him. The real challenge is to love and nurture one's self, my self.



    Andrea Graham, Ontario, Canada and Santa Cruz, California. Sadness as my work has taken me away from time with my boys...yet happiness that they have such great respect for what I do.



    Becky McDonah, Millersville, Pennsylvania. I always dream of having more time for everything, but the extra hours never seem to get inserted into my days. I thought it was perfect timing the day I opened the mail to find our piece of copper for The Mother Load project. My husband was at work and I got home late so our two boys had gotten hungry and fixed themselves a pizza for supper. There on the kitchen counter was a drip of the pizza grease for us to smudge our fingers in to leave the best prints possible on the metal! Although our lives keep us so busy that we are not able to sit down to meals together every day, we still have the closeness that fills your heart and I can't imagine my life without them. I know eventually the amount of time they want to spend with their mother will change and I will have more time to spend in the studio along with a stockpile of memories.


    Elizabeth Claffey, Bloomington, Indiana. Motherhood is a location: a social, physical, and emotional location. It is the Rubicon that one crosses, essentially alone, at the start of a long journey. We each create our own map but whenever possible, I stand alongside my sisters who have also crossed—women exploring an unknown space of heart, mind, and body.



    Jennie Miller, Fort Collins, Colorado. I had my daughter Zoe just as I graduated with my B.F.A In a sense, my career and Zoe were born the same year. I think being a Mom allowed me to develop my voice as a metalsmith over a longer period of time while juggling all the constraints on my time. In the beginning I wasn't pressuring myself to exhibit, just to make. I woke up early, worked during naps, and stayed up late. I continued to take workshops and carve out time for conferences. Just as Zoe became a confident outspoken teenager (and her little sister Ruby became a creative hysterical slice of entertainment in our lives)... my work became confident, entertaining and outspoken too! Looking back, I wonder how I ever had the energy.



    Junko Otake Foelllmer, Hamburg, Germany. Little by little and bit by bit.


    Ellen Frances Tuchman, Redondo Beach, California. My sons are on the top of all lists - my love, cares, and pride. Now adults, they are the light of my life. Even as babes, I still worked and they grew up with open hearts and eyes to our world.



    Kim Thornton, London, United Kingdom. I am delighted to share my family's prints with The Mother Load project. I did not embark on my art career until my children were at school so have always carried out my practice side by side with the needs of the family. My children have grown up watching my work taking shape, taking place and frequently taking over in the home and have learned to be the most amazing critics and mentors with thoughtful contributions and great inside. Our copper plate feels like a celebration of this.



    Marian Ichaso Lefeld, Dallas, Texas. Although I have had many excellent teachers throughout my life (and some bad ones too), I am so thankful to have actually given birth to two of the finest -- my daughters. As an expectant mother, I often fantasized about how I would teach my children many things. Instead, it is they who have taught me the most important lessons about life and love. Motherhood presents a mirror, not always flattering, with reflections of tolerance, acceptance, expectations, anger, fear, sadness, fairness, and ambivalence. My girls have taught me a great deal about my own humanity. Ultimately, for me, it has been a process of growth, often times beautiful, other times painful, but one that inevitably seeps into my work as an artist. Thank you for allowing me to participate in this project.



    Brooks Stevens, Ann Arbor, Michigan. My kids and I wanted to create a pattern by putting our fingerprints in a line. This way, each line was specifically printed by one individual. This marked a specific moment, day and age to the print. Love the reaction with metal as the soiled print leaves a mark that is left until cleaned or altered by another.



    Pernille Spence, Dundee, Scotland. There are so many young women pursuing art and design education and I feel it is important for them to be able to witness that it is possible (although not easy) to balance an artistic career with being a mother. It need not be a choice between the two. A supportive partner is one of the most important ingredients which help make it possible.



    Janet Chaffee, Arlington, Texas. This plate contains 3 of the most significant fingerprints I have ever known. The people who belong to them have filled my life, filled my heart and have helped to define my journey in ways that no words can express. The feelings are deep joy and gratitude.



    Mojca Perse, Ljublijana, Slovenija, EU. I am pleased that I'm one of first two Slovenian women involved in this project. Being a mom is the mission, happiness, joy and much more ... Until recently, I devoted all my free time to her and to my family. My daughter is now 14 years old and she is still the most important person of my life. However, I am now able to take more time for myself, to create, exploring and daydreaming. My daughter is a great critic and she always accompanied my process of work. Without her, I wouldn't be what I am.



    Susan Mollet, Dallas, Texas. As children grow, the “load” shifts, but we as mothers and artists are always unmistakably sharing that load, literally and emotionally. Since my sons were in elementary and middle school when I pursued my art as a full-time career, there was a balancing act unique to their ages. The whole family felt the stress of my time obligations to graduate school, but they were able to experience the importance of my career shift and supported me fully. They felt proud of me and my accomplishments and that time afforded a rich and fulfilling exchange between parent and child that is still a part of our relationships. But most importantly, my two sons are now loving young men who are most respectful of women and their careers, as well as being art enthusiasts on their own.


    Jasna Kralj Pavlovec, Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU. In my artistic life Martin brought out an order of the important things. Martin was and is always on the first place, even when I'm in the process of creating. Together with him, I discovered new images of landscapes, cities, people, and with him I've formed my relationship to the inter spaces, movements of people and communication among us.



    Jessica Fuentes, Fort Worth, Texas. When I was pregnant so many people (friends, family, and acquaintances) reminded me often that once my baby arrived, my life would be over and everything would be about my child. Though this was said jokingly, there was a hint of remorse perhaps about the paths their lives had taken after having children, but from the beginning I refused to accept this as my fate. It’s such an antiquated idea that as women we are just capable of holding one role at a time. I am an artist, mother, and educator and each of these roles are intertwined. I often feel alone in this aspect of my life, many of my friends are educators, or mothers and educators, or artists and educators, but through The Mother Load I feel connected to a community of artists and mothers who are also keeping the balance between family and artistic practice.



    Danielle Riede, Indianapolis, Indiana. I am part of the Motherload because I feel connected to everyone in the project. As a young artist I gave birth to a beautiful girl and found that it was the most challenging experience of my life. To be an artist and a mother means that you have to provide food, clothing, healthcare and love for a new little person, while trying to do the same for yourself. With the economic challenges faced by young artists without children, young women have to have great courage to become an artists in our society today. It is a risk, but a worthwhile one, to have a baby as an artist. Motherhood brings about discovery, reflection, transformation and growth. The Motherload links the voices of mothers who are artists in an eloquent way.



    Reuma Chayot, Tel-Aviv, Israel. MY WORDS on MOTHERHOOD:
    when I was young my art teacher (who was already a mother) told me : "You can not be an artist and a mother". This sentence has paralyzed me for a few years, but then it took a turn and made me want to prove her wrong.My 3 children inspire me!!! they make me want to be a better person, woman and artist. My goal as a mother is to inspire them and make sure they learn to follow their dreams and understand it is their right to do so! whether they are a boy or a girl!!! Children come to this world filled with ancient knowledge and innovation. We only need to pay attention and make space for them to grow in their own path. So I guess this is my basic rule on motherhood and on being an artist : Attentiveness!!!to yourself and to others around you, to details, to our everyday moments and to our extraordinary moments and to do it all with compassion and passion.



    Jen Rose, Dallas, Texas. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Dance. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Celebrate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Cry. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Love. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Throw Things. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Sit. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Move. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Flow. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Sit. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate. Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate.
    Stop. Breathe. Make. Meditate.



    Bobby Britnell, Shropshire, United Kingdom. Having had my two children later in life, could have meant major adjustments to an already established work routine. However, I found I just went with it, and allowed my children when it was possible to be a part of the creativity. This meant coming with me to see clients, working alongside me in the studio and generally getting messy. I found it was best not to fight the situation but embrace it and of course having a supportive husband and friends should not be ignored. My sons are now grown up and being creative is now part of both their lives.



    Mojca Perse, Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU. Being a mom is the mission, happiness, joy, and much more...Until recently, I devoted all [my] free time to her and to my family. My daughter is now 14 years old and is still the most important person of my life. However, I am now able to take more time for myself, to create, exploring, daydreaming. My daughter is a great critic, and she always accompanied my process of work. Without her I would not be who I am.



    Bronwen Houck, Seattle, Washington. Until I was asked to join this beautiful project I had not considered that there was a group of people in the world whose identity as artists and as mothers join us as a community. People who share the same joys and struggles of balancing these worlds that I do. It is comforting to know that other women are experiencing these challenges and moving forward and finding inspiration in the madness. Being a photographer and a mother of two kids under the age of 4 means many late and some sleepless nights, finding time to focus on my work only after the kids are finally asleep. It means a tug at my heart as I photograph little ones dancing at an event in the middle of a long day away from my family. Often it means finding someone to care for my children while I go off to make images of other people's children. But it also means that I forever have a subject close at hand to capture with my camera, a pair of beautiful wee people to focus on that brings my life into focus. And having my 3 year old daughter talk to me about my images and ask me about my job as an artist feels validating in ways that nothing else does. Despite the exhaustion, it inspires me to keep going and keep creating.



    Jayne Wilton, London, United Kingdom. The Mother Load project captured my imagination due to its literal and subtle parallels to my practice. I record the humble human breath, so to contribute another indexical form to a wider project seemed a fitting way to show my gratitude to all the individuals over the years that have graciously shared their breath with me. This of course includes my two children whose breath on sensitized paper and copper form part of my continuing 'Drawing Breath' body of work. It seems totally fitting to have their fragile but precious fingerprints combine with mine into a contemporary family portrait, a surprisingly resilient record of a fleeting moment in time.



    Liz Lurie, Chittenango, NY. I chose to have a child a bit on the later side as I was not ready to break from my studio life. While totally connected and committed to my child I decided not to share my studio world with him. I need a space where he is not. I am a person who needs time alone to feel recharged and it was a huge shock to me to have a baby that was always attached!!!!!!!!!! Finding a balance between together and apart has been my struggle. In 2013 my son turned 6, his first year of kindergarten and was my re-entry into my work, and myself. We are ALL functioning as a family more cohesively now. As my identity as artist/potter reemerges and my work and studio world expand, I find I have more energy, feel more complete, am more generous, have more patience, and am fully present when we are together. I look forward to time with my son and I look forward to time away.



    Kate Kretz, Silver Springs, Maryland. It is my firm belief that the increased vulnerability and intensified emotions of motherhood have the potential to make artists' work stronger than they ever dreamed.



    Jennifer Pepper, Franklin, Tennessee. We 3. Miles' thumb nail has dirt under it-I relish the feel of their fleshy thumbs as we press them-and what a joy and treasure it is to have such curious and eager souls.



    Eti Wade, London, UK. I'm part of this project because I'm a mother who is intensely interested in what it means to be a mother and therefore make works of art (or just strange art projects) that help me try and work out what motherhood means.



    Linda Ridgeway, Dallas, Texas. Both of my sons are in the field of art. They have always been my inspiration.



    Robyn Goss, Vaud, Switzerland. In one sense, motherhood has been hugely damaging to my writing. To write well I need plenty of good, deep sleep, and a lot of quiet time to think about what I'm writing. For years I've had neither of those things and my writing has suffered terribly. I've had so many ideas - hundreds of ideas for novels, short stories, poems, children's books - and absolutely no time to write any of them, which is enormously frustrating. I've watched other writers once my peers - soar, while I've struggled to finish one book. But motherhood has also broadened my idea of myself as a creative person. Before children, I thought of myself only as a writer. But when writing became impossible I realised that I have an enormous need to create in any way I can. I've started sketching, painting, mosaicing, knitting, crocheting … anything I can do with the children around. It relieves my frustration and my children are old enough now to do these things with me, which is wonderful. And because of that, they see themselves as highly creative people.



    Nancy Cohen Israel, Dallas, Texas. I think most women feel the constant push/pull between their work and their responsibilities at home. Being a part of this project shows just how huge this sisterhood is and how it extends globally.



    Rebekah Tyler, Auckland, New Zealand. life as a mother is difficult enough without trying to be an artist - but creativity feeds me and feeds my children.



    Veroniccah Muwonge, Portland, Oregon. I am delighted to celebrate motherhood with fellow mothers and artists around the world, and to share our stories and experiences. It is a wonderful opportunity to be part of The Mother Load experience. Being a mother and an artist to me is a source of inspiration. Knowing that I do have another human being to live for, that looks up to me, and calls me mom, is big responsibility. Yes, it is very challenging and finding a balance between parenting, providing and making art is difficult. I love to look at my son as a source of inspiration, everything included, the hard times, the fun times and our future plans. Also, I want to inspire him to become the best young man that God created him to become. We as mothers are not only creators and nurturers of human race, but also the beautiful world for everyone to enjoy. Being mothers and artists is a favor from God and a blessing. We represent God's true purpose of creation.



    Ari Fish, Lee's Summit, Missouri. I am a part of The Mother Load project because of the undeniable connection between growing a human being (both inside and out) and creation/art in general. Fate, art, responsibility, consideration, and faith are all integrated parts of being both a mother and an artist. Thank you for this opportunity.



    Stella Ehrich, White River Junction, Vermont. Being a mother of young children quickly taught me how to focus myself intently on my work in the hours I had a babysitter. As my children grew into adults I realized that I could provide an example of how it was possible to follow your passion.



    Jill Gower, Sewell, New Jersey. I am a mother of two boys ages 3 1/2 and 8 months. With the addition of my second child I am still learning how to manage my time as a mother, artist, and full time educator. The value of free time has escalated immensely and every spare moment seems to be filled with necessary tasks. My children sometimes inspire the content of my work and also my way of working. I've always been fairly good at multi-tasking and the addition of children has really put this skill to the test! My boys make me remember to have fun, let some things go, relax, and enjoy life.



    Colette Copeland, Plano, Texas. The biggest challenge is trying to balance career and kids, is time - never enough time. Also when they were young - childcare!



    Leslie Murrell, Fort Worth, Texas. The challenges of being a mother and keeping on foot in the art world are nothing compared to the rewards of both.



    Martha Falsetta, Denton, Texas. I wanted to be included in this project because as a mother of three and grandmother of two, I felt an immediate connections to all mothers. My children inspire me, bring joy and happiness to my life - always. I feel blessed to be here as a representative of all the women I have known and who have nurtured me through life. MWF.



    Jin-Ya Huang, Dallas, Texas. I 'm a part of the mother load project, because....I don't know. I haven't a clue what I'm doing. Perhaps it's because I'm still learning how to embrace the joyous chaos of making art, and enjoy the wonderful world of mothering a child at the same time. These juggling lines have further blurred when I became a divorced mom. All we know is my son and I celebrate diversity (he is half Taiwanese and half Slovenian), we are honored to be a part of something so grand, that helps map these awakening roads to a sense of discovery in so may realms: physical, emotional, intellectual, visual and philosophical - the journey goes on.



    Caren McCaleb, Los Angeles, California. I am participating in the Motherload Conversation because I enjoy hearing about how fellow artists make their life work. Making art has kept me sane in a crazy world. The responsibility of raising a child makes it all the more important that creativity is constant because my child deserves a happy mother. It never was easy and it's not easy now, but it's totally necessary or I couldn't be me. I have switched mediums multiple times in my life, dancer, photographer, painter, filmmaker. The metamorphosis of motherhood only reaffirms for me that it is not the medium that is important, it is the act of engaging with a medium, any medium. Our children grow and change, our art grows and changes. The important thing is to do the thing you can do because art made is better than art unmade.



    Lilly Blue, Lindfield New South Wales, Australia. A moment shared, fingertip to fingertip.



    Mary Trunk, Los Angeles, California. I became a part of the Mother Load when I decided I wanted a child. I would not have been able to explain why I wanted to become a mother at the time but now I can see why it was necessary that I did it. It took becoming a mother to realize it was the only way I was going to learn how to be less selfish, how to get outside of myself and understand the world doesn’t revolve around me.
    When I was pregnant another mother said to me, “After your baby is born you lose all peace of mind.” And she was right. There is an underlying current of anxiety, worry, intense love, anger, frustration and joy that I feel about my child and it never leaves me. Some days the anxiety is
    in hyper mode, other days I am in awe of the amount of love I could have for this one person and then the very next day my frustration is at its limit. There is no other relationship like this one. Engaging my creative self is something I crave and need to do on a regular basis. It’s not logical or rational, it’s just there and always has been. With a child in my life, the need is still there and yet the perspective is different. It used to be that my dance company or my film work was my full identity, THE most important thing I was doing with my life. Always came first. My daughter now comes first. And surprisingly I welcomed that when I thought I would resent it. Sure, it’s maddening to be interrupted constantly, to be forced to change diapers in the most unlikely places, to help with homework because it’s due the next day and your kid had a week to do it, to soothe a crying pre-teen who has been bullied, to master a youtube hair braiding video because your daughter is desperate to wear her hair like that on her first day at a new school and the list goes on and on...nothing new to any mother out there. But now I actually feel freer to take more risks in my creative endeavors. There’s a freedom in the creative process that I wouldn’t allow myself before I had a child because I gave that part of me too much weight. There is a shift in my priorities, in the paradigm I had placed on my life. Because my daughter is the priority, the art making isn’t as constrained by expectations. I am experimenting more and taking bigger risks.

    The process of raising a child mirrors what I feel I want to do in my creative work. We take on this role of mother knowing almost nothing of how to do it right (if there is a right way), having no clue what kind of child we will have, having to help a person become a responsible, productive, loving, caring human being in the world when we are still trying to figure that out for ourselves, making mistakes all the time and dealing with the pain of learning from them and then never, ever being able to abandon the job - EVER!!! We venture into this exciting, frightening journey of the unknown. And isn’t that what making art is all about?



    Lien Truong, Eureka, California. Before my son was born, I couldn’t fathom loving someone so unconditionally, and being so vulnerable as part of it. My son is now three. While our collective experiences of successes and failures could be analogous to art making, a sure difference is that I don’t have any sort of preconceived notion of what’s at the end. It is a journey of improvisation and a true collaboration. Being an artist is an integral part of my identity, just as I am a mother, and it takes some problem solving for both to work. Being a parent can possibly make one practical and conservative: when I only had to think about myself, I followed my art dreams quite freely. Is that possible as a mother? Having a child, an art career, a teaching career, and husband is a huge juggle. One or more of those roles is going to suffer at any time. As our family grows together, my husband (who is also an artist) and I are constantly striving to pair life down, find time for our son, ourselves and really focus on the things that matter.



    Amy Holmes George, Dallas, Texas. As a passionate artist and proud mother, I am continually learning to embrace the beautiful chaos of parenting with its many gifts—pondering the everyday sense of hilarity, absurdity, uncertainty and emotional overwhelm (which often feeds my photographic work).



    Harmony Padgett, Arlington, Texas. The idea of being in control is charming and attractive to me, but I am always working to let go of how things are “supposed” to be and embrace how they are. As a mother of a 10 year old that is non-verbal and completely dependent on care in every aspect of his life, I have learned to appreciate and celebrate small achievements. As a very detail oriented person, my artistic work focus on subtleties and nuances and tries to find a balance between control and chance. The un-spoken connection that I have with my son is strong. I pay attention to details and can detect minute shifts in his behavior in order to interpret what he needs. It takes constant vigilance and observation. I would like to think that my life as an artist has lead me to the ability to tap into the emotional, intellectual, observational, and creative skills it takes to be an important part of his life, and to be sure that he has the opportunity to have the best experience possible.



    Melissa Rackham, Spokane, Washington. Before my having daughter, I always had time. Time to create, time to think and time to "play" in the darkroom. My time is more precious now; I choose not to give as freely of it as before because of my new priorities. I am more focused when I actually create, multi-tasking and finding more efficient ways to do everything.

    Even now, as I write this, sitting on the bathroom floor with my 3 year-old in the bathtub, I am acutely aware of the juggling act I live within. Being a mother is the most rewarding and challenging role in my life. Trying to strike a balance between my roles as teacher, artist, student, wife and now parent is what it is. It is a struggle, a joy, what keeps me awake at night sometimes and the most valuable opportunity for personal growth I will have in this life.



    Catharine Ellis, Waynesville, North Carolina. Motherhood gave me the opportunity to see and celebrate the world from a child’s eye. Motherhood gave me empathy. I was a full time teacher of textiles while my son and daughter were growing up.My children watched me work at something I care about deeply. Now, retired from full time time teaching, I am at the height of my personal and professional life. They are one and the same. My “children” have become engaged adults. They are both doing meaningful work. They are my dear friends.



    Erika Winstone, London, England. I put off the decision to be a mother for many years as I was terrified it would mean having to give up being an artist, something that felt crucial to my identity and made my life feel meaningful. Since I also had to work part time to finance myself and saw so few examples of female artists who were also mothers around me, I had little hope it would be possible to do both. In fact I was so fearful about this that I didn't even know if I wanted to have children, I had somehow buried the possibility under layers of denial. Luckily before it was too late for me to have the choice, after a period of 9 months of counseling I chose in order to gain clartity, I realized that I really did want both just didn't think it was possible. I am now so grateful that I reached this understanding, and decision to try. Also that I was then blessed in my late 30s to have a daughter. In fact my experience has been the opposite of what I feared. My daughter has brought me the most joy ever, as well as opening me up again to life in new unexpected ways. This has actually helped enrich my work, and to remind me that my art work is about life and human relationships. not just about art itself.

    My daughter is now 16 and a lot of my art is made with her collaboration. She is an artist and performer in her own right. I feel grateful for the opportunity to take part in this Motherload and hope it may offer encouragement to other female artists perhaps facing similar dilemmas.



    Diane Durant, Fort Worth, Texas. For years I tried not to be an artist. For years I tried everything else. When I became a mother and began to let so much of myself go--wheat from the chaff, gold from the dross--creativity and creative expression became a necessity. My daughter is curious and brave, and I want nothing more than to show her how to live audaciously and free, to stand beside her as she makes the world a better place. Watching her trudge forward has reminded me that I too have a calling, that I too must boldly go. And so, being an artist creates a river along which I can navigate this crazy life; being a mother makes this crazy life worth it.



    Lisa Ehrich, Dallas, Texas. Being a mother is a rich and challenging endeavor. At the same time my life and time management became more complex and limited. My perspective and resources for artistic content expanded exponentially. Even though my child is now in college and living away from home, my art work continues to be informed and impacted by my motherhood.



    Adriana Martinez-Gonzales, Katy, Texas. The roles of parent, artist and educator come together at times, also independently. To me it is a matter of choice, like everything we do in our lives. It is not a trouble-free skill to balance all these tasks (and more), but it is a pleasant effort trying to get my child involved in the process. Sometimes he is the learner, most of the times he teaches me. He guides me through the motherhood and educator paths. I try to lead when it is about performing as an artist while exploring creativity and life-long inquiry.



    Elaine Palowicz, Dallas, Texas. STAY WHERE YOUR FEET ARE.



    Jane Keith, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom.
    My life with children as an artist: - chaotic - focused
    - fun - creative
    - colorful - stimulating



    Miyuki Akai Cook, Huntington, West Virginia. In my profession many women choose not to have children. But I chose to have a child, work, and art. I want all. My life cannot be completed without my daughter! At same time I need to be connected and understood by other mothers of crazy mom's life.



    Anila Quayyum Agha, Indianapolis, Indiana. I was an accidental mother. In my early teen years I became a mom to my siblings and that experience made me wary of being a mother again but once my son was born the love was instant and fierce. And I have been an artist all my life, although I consciously decided to follow an artistic path in the 6th grade. I followed a circuitous route, vending my way through different day jobs, countries and continents. In my early thirties I decided to become a professional artist. That created economic hardships, which never bothered me until I saw the effect poverty was having on my son and his education. I realize art making has added value to my life encouraging me to take risks, bringing despair but also great joy to my heart and soul. However the life of an artist didn't always sit well with motherhood, and consequently I carry guilt with me resulting from the time spent away from my son. I have realized over time that I need to forgive myself because I cant be everything for everyone. I did my best and will continue to do the best for my son and my own life, which is forever intrinsically connected to both, my son and my art.



    Ann Coddington Rast, Champaign, Illinois. My daughter is such a huge part of my life, she has always influenced me as an artist. In fact, I have an ongoing piece called "mother/memory" that explores our connection.



    Masumi Kataoka, Houston, Texas. As a mother of three year old boy, I was delighted to be part of this project. Having a child has been a great experience but has also included much work and compromise. I feel that this emotional change can be only understood by people with the same experience, or at least, I could not have imagined beforehand. I am still struggling to find the balance between being an artist and a mother. There are priorities one has to make. I asked a lot of women, not necessarily artists, about their experiences of motherhood and a career. I am at the point where I need to find my own way and balance. I hope that this is an organic process that will develop over time.



    Danielle Rene' Khoury, Denton, Texas. I was very honored and excited when asked to be a part of this project. I became pregnant with my first child when I was in the last year of my MFA Candidacy at Texas Woman’s University. I was scared by how the experience began to take over every part of my life, including my art making process. My art started to became about something and someone else; I started to look at life differently. Ultimately, after putting my fear aside, motherhood has made me a stronger person and artist. Time is much more limited now and I seem to have more focus on my art in the small amount of time that I have set aside for it. When I read the idea behind the Mother Load project, I immediately felt a connection. The goal behind this project is something that I have explored and will probably continue to explore in my own work. I feel it is exciting and necessary to have a connection with other artists, especially artists who can relate to similar experiences and situations.



    Leisa Rich, Atlanta, Georgia. I am lucky to have had (and to still have!) four major loves in my life: art- the love that found me at 15, my soul mate- who I married at age 25, and the joy of bringing into this world and raising two beautiful, smart, creative and funny daughters. The husband- lucky me! is still there beside me, sharing life's challenges; the art- still there to nurture me, to give me a voice with which to speak my feelings to the world; the daughters well...they are finding their own way now, at ages 25 and 16. I lied though... I now have five loves in my life, with the addition of my grandson! Some people give up their art to have children. Some people give up children to have art. I was always a "have my cake and eat it, too" kinda girl. I demanded - with great effort, pain, compromise and equal parts selflessness and selfishness - ALL those things. As I look to the future a nest empty of children sits before me. I have sat on my eggs diligently and with love, but soon my role as nurturer will be done. I will be happy for all I have given my children...but, I am also happy to give to myself. It is a balance act, life a pendulum that swings, hovers in one spot and then swings again. It is soon my time to create with no responsibility, with no worry, with full concentration. Bring it on!"



    Kathy Lovas, Dallas, Texas.
    an invitation
    three babies, an MFA
    to create, to share



    Marina Shterenberg, Frisco, Texas. When I became pregnant with my daughter I was single, working abundantly on my art and being very active in the artist community in San Francisco. I ran a non-profit art organization for children that I founded, taught at the Art Institute and worked in an amazing studio at the Headlands. I loved my life and I loved making art! I had no illusions that becoming a single mom was going to transform me, but I felt no reservations about it. The first thing that happened in relation to art, was that I became much more critical about the art I was seeing around me. I almost stopped going to shows and it was already when my daughter was one, that I was again moved by a painting. It is as if now I had no more time for 'poor art', it wasn't worth my time. That was the beginning of knowing and valuing time in a completely different way that i ever did before. I used humor to keep my sanity and would joke to my art colleagues that I was working on a residency project and it was going to take a few years.

    I always found children's art to be exceptionally honest, original and powerful. I was already working with children making art in public schools and community organizations in NY and SF for many years. Becoming a mom of course is tremendously different from being a teacher. I am more of a role model now and everything that I do, think, feel and experience is shared with my daughter and has an influence on her. She is four years old now and it has been very very difficult to balance my desire and demand for time to make art and my desire and demand for time and energy to participate in my daughter's continuously changing and surprising and challenging world. Her world, which is filled with creativity, seems even more interesting and fresh than my own intellectual and labor intensive creative process.

    I had a solo exhibition when she was two and a year later she surprised me with a question: mama, when are you going to have another show? What struck me was not only that she remembered the event, but must have witnessed how full and fulfilled it made me feel and she wanted me to continue. There are many similarities about being a mother and an artist: sleepless nights, dedication, long hours, low pay, full heart, creative fulfillment, magic, need for others doing the same to support you, transcendence, tireless invested interest, curiosity, multi-tasking, surprises, making many decisions at once, deadlines etc… These two professions are perhaps the most demanding and most interesting in our times and finding a way to fulfill both well is nearly impossible. It is a territory that changes every day and demands decision making on the go. I am still learning how to do it. We have started to make art together with my daughter. I cannot wait to discover what this natural collaboration may bring forth.
    Thank you for inviting me to contribute to this conversation!


    Elsa Cappelli, London, England. To be truly creative, I first need to feel a bit bored and restless. As a single parent, and a working mother, there was little chance of this for many years. At first I was overwhelmed by the changes in my life. Delighted too. I tend to be a bit all or nothing. My creativity was ploughed into trying to be the best mum I could be while financially supporting my son and I through teaching. When I had time alone I was too tired to think about making artifacts. But these challenges were more than compensated for by the blessings being a mother has brought. Finding a decent local secondary (high) school was hard, my son had the opportunity to go to a good private school – but it was boarding.

    At first I was bereft. But after a period of adjustment I found I needed something to fill my spare time. Thus began the return to my own creative practice. I immersed myself in studying, developing my design ideas conceptually and technically, rediscovering who I am outside of being a mum and a teacher. I don’t find it easy to do everything at once. I tend to compartmentalize. I still switch from one role to another. Maybe this stops me from becoming bored though. I think my work has improved in recent years, but it is hard to say whether that is due to being a mother or not.



    Sasha Duerr, Berkeley, California. Being a mother is the only other profound and soul calling vocation I have ever felt besides being an artist and an alchemist. Creativity for me is being connected to the dirt from where I came and where I am - where I want to go. My baby boy, our youngest of three, just turned 9 months today. His first word - "dirt."



    Ana Lopez, Fort Worth, Texas. Why am I part of the Mother Load? Because two friends and colleagues who I enjoy and esteem have initiated it. As a working mother, artist and educator I don't have "extra" time, whatever that is. I prioritize, I work nights and weekends, and the whole thing balances precariously with the aid of an extremely supportive spouse. Whatever needs me most gets me, and this changes constantly. I try to impose deadlines within my art making from without - exhibition deadlines, application deadlines - so in a way those activities can have their turn at demanding my attention just as a pile of ungraded projects or a sick child does. I am fortunate that the teaching job which pays the bills also demands that I be a productive artist because it feels as though everything else in my life wants to take away that studio time, including the administrative needs of that teaching job. When I received my piece of copper I knew exactly what I wanted to do to it. I hit it with a planishing hammer (traditionally used to achieve a smooth surface in metalwork) until the surface area was greatly increased and cracks began to form at the edges from the stress of deformation. That seems a perfect (although possibly heavy-handed) explanation of a busy mother's life. Although the birth of my daughter does not appear to have had a significant effect on the content of my work, I consider my life to be fuller and richer for having her in it.



    Iris Bechtol, Dallas, Texas. I accepted the invitation to participate in this project with some hesitation. I love being a mom, but it is extremely difficult to balance my innate need to be in the studio with my overwhelming desire to be with my child. Whenever I do steal time for my practice, I feel an immense sense of guilt. There are moments that can be shared with my child during the act of making, but there are many days when I crave solitude. Some days I feel as though I've lost myself in her and other days she inspires me. It's in those moments of inspiration when I realize I have truly been given a gift to experience the world all over again through her. Ultimately I decided to participate in the project because I believe in the power of the collaborative voice that is artist and mother.



    Christina Medina, Oak Cliff, Texas. I recently watched a documentary about Alice Neel, in which

    her sons seemed to blame their dysfunctional lives on their mother’s decision to choose painting over them. It’s hard for me not to be irritated by the fact that if Alice Neel were a man, there would be no discussion about her “abandonment” of her children, there are no such discussions about Picasso’s abandoned children in documentaries about him. Rather than make an art film focused on Alice Neels’ work, a documentary was created with the overarching theme of how because she was a good artist, she was also a bad mother.

    I recognize this choice. If I want to spend the necessary quality time with my son, I must sacrifice the necessary quality time it takes to make art. The decision to become a mother was a very calculated and sought after aspect on my part. I intentionally wanted a child and waited a long year for him to come along. Now that I am a mother, I see the full reality of what being a mother is. All the time, effort, pain, sweat, glory, unrecognized sacrifice that no one other than another mother would ever know exists stares me plainly in the face each day. No one but another mother knows. Women without children do not know. Fathers who act as single parents do not know. To be a mother is a singular experience only known to women who care for children as their own.

    The “woman” aspect of being an artist has always frustrated me. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you can’t help but make art like a woman, and in this world, that can be seen in a number of negative ways. Hopefully this will get better, but I don’t see that yet. Add “mother” to the equation of artist, and if you make art about being a mother, watch your art get dangerously close to being completely disregarded. The same old double standards still exist.

    I feel I have this choice to make, or rather, I already made the choice. Devote your life to one thing and do it well. The other parts are just extra. It’s a daily struggle. Who I was before can no longer exist. I must constantly remind myself not to be selfish, and also to be selfish. But how can we balance it all, the full time job/career, the family life, friends, art, physical and mental well being is still an elusive act. So I must surmise that there is no such thing as balance. One part must be more important than another, but try not to sacrifice yourself completely or you could get lost. If I don’t take that time for myself it will take its toll on me, and affect those around me.

    I love being a mother and it pains me so at the same time. In our society I feel that mothers are not allowed to tell it like it really is. It is this burden that we bear, we must keep secret from the unmothers, so that they will want to have children and procreate to further the gene pool. Being a mother is wonderful, and it is all consuming, sad, full filling, and overwhelming. The best and the worst. Being a mother makes me an entirely better person. I have to be better at everything. I have to be more patient, more prepared, more organized, and on and on. I just always have to be better, and it never stops changing. As my child grows, I grow with him.

    Art comes second. I have made this conscious decision, that my child will come first. Art will be what I can do if I get a chance. Being a mother of course completely affects my art and maybe that’s why I am not interested in making “things” anymore. I prefer the installation, the experience, the performance to making an object that hangs on a wall. Maybe it has to do with who my child is, how we interact together. I don’t know, but I know I am different because I am a mother.

    I am part of the Mother Load project because I am very interested in how women, mothers are treated in society. All of what we do, goes so undetected, unrecognized, it is amazing to me the selflessness in which mothers act. In our ever evolving global society, how can women still struggle with so much stereotyping and unequal treatment? Especially mothers, who do so much for the world, how can mothers not be seen as authority figures, beacons of knowledge, leaders of communities? As artists, how can mothers not be seen as an entire genre, art movement or legitimate art historical perspective? The Mother Load seems like a good place for us to begin/continue. So let’s tell our story.



    Natalie Macellaio, Dallas, Texas. As a new mother of twins and in the middle of a job search, I found myself in professional meetings and interviews trying not to let it slip that I had children. It felt wrong to not be sharing this major change in my life and yet I felt it was necessary in order to be taken seriously as a professor and artist. After settling into a new job at Brookhaven College, Lesli and I began to collaborate on a limited production jewelry line. As much as we both wanted to fully submerse ourselves into our project, we found ourselves telling stories about our kids and talking about the challenges of wanting to spend time with our kids and spend time in the studio. It was refreshing to share the joys and struggles that come with having kids and having a career in art. The Mother Load spawned from these conversations. I have always known I wanted to be an artist and I have always known I wanted to be a mother. I never knew how they could happen simultaneously. I am finding ways to balance the need to nurture my kids and the need to nurture my work. Hearing stories from other mothers and artists makes this path seem possible in rich and fulfilling ways.



    Lesli Robertson, Dallas, Texas. I had always considered having a child. The search for who I would become, the fear of what I would lose, always caused me ask (probably too personal) questions to any woman who I found out was an artist and mother. I remember meeting these women at conferences, through my work, and plying them with questions about balance, identity, and how this could be managed to still have a productive studio practice. And whether this was manufactured by me, or by my environment, I was not entirely secure in talking about this beyond these personal one on one conversations. The Mother Load grew out of a desire to acknowledge the contribution that artists and mothers have had on my practice and to create a visual conversation for other women looking to engage in this dialog.


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