There is one question that other makers / creatives, usually of the female variety, ask me “how do you do it?” be a full time mother and run a business at the same time. My answer usually consists of shoulder shrugging and mumblings of it’s hard work and I don’t really know!
For those of you that are interested here is my more thought out answer!…
I’ve been a creative probably forever, I’ve always drawn tiny things, been obsessed with making things, cutting and sticking, colours, writing lists and stationery in general. I also love ideas, long thought out idea’s, researching, looking and gathering visual information and ideas that simply pop into your head and I am compelled to act on them!
If you put these things together I think that you get a jewellery designer, my career wasn’t planned or thought out, it just came about with what I did along the way, accident, compulsion, obsession, hard work and laziness, all play a part in Rock Cakes.
So I have a husband and I wanted a baby. When I fell pregnant my life was at the point where I had been self employed for almost two years, Rock Cakes was a website and a few collections of precious jewellery. I had a few customers, a trickle of sales and lots of time, then I had Matilda. My husband (a self employed photographer) and I never spoke about future work plans, who would make the money, who would look after the baby, who would do the housework, looking back I’m quite surprised that it was never discussed, we just got on with it. I guess with the assumption that I would stay at home and work when I could and he would continue with his career and be the main earner.
When Matilda was shiny and new she slept a lot, I was doing new things, buying baby clothes and toys, being awake all night and drinking coffee again, my mind was all pingy with new thoughts and ideas that fed my creative compulsion. I was at home a lot which meant I had time to play online and mostly on Etsy, whilst little Matilda was snoozing.
I slowly filled up my Etsy store with listings of my collections, one day I had a “ping” and it was an $800 Etsy sale, it was literally at that moment when I realised that running a business and looking after my daughter full time could work. I knew then that if I wanted to continue to make precious jewellery there was no way that I could do it myself, blow torches and babies don’t mix, so I took a leap of faith and employed somebody one day a week to make my designs, that way I could focus my time on Etsy and general promotion.
I also began to make laser cut jewellery at this point, I can’t actually remember why I did, probably a combination of still wanting to make things myself, have some lower priced products for my Etsy store and to realise some ideas that I had. I googled laser cutters in the uk, emailed them about working on my designs and began production of pieces that I could work on at home. I took part in an Open House when Matilda was eight weeks old (which in hindsight was a bit silly). I got my work into a little handmade gallery in on St James Street, which turned out to be Kirstin Stride‘s cooperative shop and I began to do maker fairs on the weekends.
I went to “hello Etsy” in Berlin, got my jewellery into one Conde Nast publication (just the one so far!…), helped in the running of Craftaganza and organised the Craftaganza Live events. I also began stocking a few galleries across the UK.
Matilda by this time was growing more and sleeping less, becoming more amusing and also needing more attention. My creative desire is quite strong and there were times when I felt I could not do the amount of work I needed to in order to have my business reaching its full potential. Finding a balance and not feeling frustrated was sometimes really hard.
I have followed my head and heart at the same time, most of the cuts in my time have been to other activities such as less time with family and friends, no television, no reading of fiction, less shopping, sometimes less meals and way, way less sleeping. There have been moments, especially in the lead up to Christmas and one particularly horrendous week last summer, where I have been taken to the edge of my capabilities both physically and mentally but I wouldn’t change what I do for the world.
I have not missed one thing that my daughter has done, her first steps, first words, first drawings, first jokes. Matilda is calm, confident, cleaver and loves making things too. I have not upset any customers, been late with any orders and my business is growing.
As I write this Matilda is just settling into pre-school so I have more time to work. I have a sense of relief, guilt (for having a sense of relief!), excitement that both of us to have new chapters of our lives beginning and a little pang in my heart that my baby is not a baby anymore and my selfish days of having her all to myself are fewer.
So being a self-employed creative and a full time mother at the same time is doable, especially with internet sites such as Etsy getting more and more popular. You’ve just got to love being creative, learn to manage little pockets of time and be prepared to allocate less time to other aspects of your life.
My plan now is to work incredibly hard on the business that I love, be a good leader for the Brighton Etsy Team and always be waiting at the gates when Matilda finishes school.