Interview: Heather and Marissa from Carve Out Time For Art
“Our mission is to empower people to stop dreaming and start doing, especially when it comes to carving out time for art.
We are passionate about building community, encouraging others (especially women), and connecting people.
We want to cultivate a positive and nurturing community for creatives who want to find time to satisfy this part of their identity. We do this by fostering conversations, connecting creatives with resources, and showing people they are not alone.”
— Marissa + Heather
We are really inspired by your message to make time for art, no matter what your life looks like. When did you originally come up with the idea to start your community?
Heather: After the birth of my first child, I floundered a bit in trying to define what a mother artist looked like and was disheartened by the lack of examples. A few years later serendipity put Marissa in my path and once we joined forces and created an Instagram account it just all happened so organically. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that the community itself is a force to be reckoned with in terms of its positivity and creativity. We were lucky enough to take that drive and focus it the best we can.
Marissa: I think the true answer is that I have a rebellious streak in me and was aggravated that so many people tell women (and also men) how they will never be able to do anything for themselves once they have children. There was an inherent suggestion if you wanted to do something for yourself, you were selfish. I took many of these comments as good natured because that’s what people say. But it bothered me because that is what many people truly believe. How many women don’t have alternative examples? Of course life will shift and yes, the early days of motherhood can be tough, but let’s encourage each other instead!
There was a moment that the message and idea of COTFA formed for me. I was asked by a designer to do watercolor illustrations of her interiors, but they had to be done right after my son was born. I was on maternity leave from my day job, and had my mom in town. I decided to go for it. I had to break up my process into 20 minute blocks, but I got it done. I will never forget the relief of sitting down that first time to paint. I felt like myself. I was not just a person with the slightly scary responsibility of keeping another human alive, but I was still me. And it gave me the thread to my life before motherhood and gave me hope that I could do things my way. I wanted to find others, and share their stories and had a secret goal to write a book on this one day.
How did you meet each other?
Heather: We haven't met. Ha! True story. We are virtual friends. I found Marissa when someone I followed on Instagram was featured in her mother interview series. I thought, "Where have you been all my life?" this was just the thing I was hoping would of existed in my first year as a new mom. So I said just that in a comment and from there became an interviewee...the rest is history. I am amazed at what a great relationship we have formed never meeting face to face.
Marissa: I have to remind myself often that I have never met Heather in real life yet! I have a clear memory of our first phone call. I suggested we talk because we were both interested in writing a book on the same topic. I knew in 10 seconds that we would be a great fit and remember blurting out, “Let’s do it! Let’s figure out how to write a book on this together.” There was instant chemistry, nonstop talking, and such a deep personal interest in helping other artist mothers find their own way. Oddly, we don’t speak often, but when we do it is always epic.
What kind of influence has your website and community have on your own art making? What positive changes have you seen in your own lives because of COTFA?
Heather: The COFTA community has been such a positive place for me. It has made me simultaneously aware of the unrealistic pressure I put on myself and provided confidence to go after big goals.
Marissa: It holds me accountable to practice what I preach. Our community makes me braver, kinder to myself and more confident with my work. In terms of positive changes, it made me realize that I’m a connector – whether that is ideas, resources or people. Connecting others lights me up, and feels like a fun problem to solve. (For example someone looking to do a meetup in Chicago and I can connect them with others). On a personal note, COTFA emerged during a lonely time in my life when I had moved back to Florida from and was spending much of my time at work or commuting. I missed my friends in Philly, and my family who I wasn’t getting to spend as much time with. Being able to take 5 minutes on a coffee break to “hang” with friends on Instagram was renewing during really tough months.
What is a common obstacle that's keeping artists from creating based on your observation and what are some tips to help overcome these blocks?
Heather: Doubt and fear top that list, followed closely by time. I think having a bit of grace with yourself is important. The "why" you create is something to continue to come back to. It helps to cancel out the noise and refocus on the joy you find in making art. As for time; I think adjusting the way you think about it can help. You don't need hours on end. Make it work for you within your day. I found that sometimes being force to walk away actually helps me not overwork a piece.
Marissa: The damn comparison trap! Looking at someone else and thinking they have it all figured out without regarding their circumstances and own struggles. Feeling like there is no point to do anything because it has all been done before and nothing is original. Basically the recurring existential crisis that some of my friends and I have. I’m writing this with a smile, but it feels like crap when you’re in that valley. My advice is to just mix paint colors for fun or paint with some ink and make shapes. Don’t think at all, just enjoy the pure bliss of brush to paper. Arrange some leaves. Draw with your kid. Just do anything. We started a hashtag #CreativeCrankiness (https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/creativecrankiness/) because I get that way if I don’t create something with my hands for too long!
From your experience, is it possible to have a full-time career or raise a family and be an artist? What words of encouragement would you offer someone who is scared they can't do both?
Heather: Hell yes!!! It may be seasonal, and it is a juggle but no one is checking your time clock. Your work speaks for itself and ultimately people will believe what you do about yourself. Make art, you're an artist. You may wear a lot of other hats too but that doesn't diminish your artistic endeavors. If you are scared that you cannot do both my advice would be visit our community. You can check out examples of all the different ways artists make it work. There isn't one way. Remember to have confidence in your creative self. Artistic sensibility, more times than not comes with an amazing ability to think outside the box. Use that to your advantage and find a way to make it a part of your life.
Marissa: What I want to tell everyone is this---I think you can have anything you damn well please, but you can’t please everyone, it may not look like you think it will, or what others think it should. (Not the catchiest motto for a t-shirt…) It took me a long time to call myself an artist again, and in many ways motherhood forced me to own it in a good way. When I was facing limited free time, a new baby, a full time job, and the casual side gig, I realized art was what I most wanted AND needed in my life. That must mean I was an artist after all. So I prioritized it in my free time or woke up early. I feel strongly that becoming a mother made me more efficient, decisive, and confident in my art work. I no longer wasted time procrastinating by rearranging my workspace if I was scared to mess up a project. I knew I literally had 20 minutes before Henry woke up and I better make it count. That is the part I want people to know that is not uncommon. This is why Heather and I are going to find a way to make a book for others on this, even if it’s all on our own.
My advice is to find supportive people who understand your needs for both. I have so many artist mother friends from COTFA who understand that a need to create is in us, and if it doesn’t come out, we’re miserable. I’m also lucky to have a supportive partner in my husband, Mike East (www.mikeast.com). He’s an artist and former art professor who always encourages me to find time to create, and reminds me why it’s worth it when I’m feeling cranky.
I will say that it can be hard at times, as all life is. I’m sad that I’m with my coworkers more than my family, or that sometimes I get home from work and my son is asleep. There have been many tears. There is also a longing to have more free time for my own work, but guilt to not cut too much into my time with family or friends. But hell yes. It is possible. There are no rules. Make your own and just let other things take a backseat – preferably vacuuming.
Name a few of your favorite aspects of COTFA.
Heather: Our followers tops that list. They are incredible and always inspire me. I am grateful for the connections that I've made. I also really love our Artist Takovers ( https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/artisttakeovercotfa/ ). It's so cool to see a day in the life of fellow creatives.
Marissa: It gave me a home base when I was feeling adrift as stated above. And so many amazing people that I consider true friends. As in real friends – that mean something special to me.
How can our readers get involved and support your organization?
Instagram is where we are the most. We always encourage people to join our newsletter too it's the best place to not miss when we do challenges and events. You can use our hash tag to tell your story and share your work. That is where we find the artist we feature too. We encourage your readers to spread the word and invite others to join us.
Marissa: I absolutely love the #CreativeConvosCOTFA (https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/creativeconvoscotfa/ ). Each week or so we ask a question. Some deep, some light hearted, and we get the most vulnerable, wonderful, and thoughtful responses. Conversations are started, ideas spread. Come join in there first, it’s a great way to instantly feel part of the gang (and anyone who is a nice person is instantly part of the gang – that’s how we roll).
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?
Heather: Marissa and I would like to finish our book! We are also going to introduce a Creative Pinkie Swear challenge to help our community accomplish some of their goals with the accountability of the group.
Personally I would like to expand my wholesale sales and make some room for more commission work as well.
Marissa: I first want to humbly celebrate a personal win for myself this year. My goal for 2017 was to license a pattern and create a fabric collection. Heather told me to enter a Minted.com competition earlier this year and I won several Editor’s choice awards there and now have 6 patterns in 5-10 colorways each for sale on fabric, lamps, pillows, etc. This has been a new direction for me and I put a lot of work in to learn Adobe Illustrator and the pattern processes (still learning). To balance that out I want to finish our book. We rehashed what we wanted to do and the new version makes me so excited that I can’t wait to get all of my other commitments over with so I can focus on it! We are going to make this happen, somehow! https://www.minted.com/store/marissahuber
Heather’s Photos: Head shot credit is: Kirsten Smith Photography.
Marissa’s Photos – Marissa took them..