search  current discussion  categories  wanted/for sale - wanted 

need some real life advice -long

updated wed 24 nov 04


Eleanor Hendriks on tue 23 nov 04

Hello Elizabeth,
I'm looking at the "how to be a mother/potter" from some point in your
future! My chidren are 6, 4 and just turned 2. We aren't planning on any
more children -we're already outnumbered! I remember days of numbing
tiredness that prevented all creative thought (beyond how to get a shower
before I rot!)
Allow me to share some of the things I did that helped me make it to this
point with my potter's identity still intact.

To keep the pots and money coming (albeit slowly):
I shared childcare with another self employed mom -once a week -or so- she
would come over to my place with her kids and I would go to the studio for
the morning -Next time I'd go to her place with mine and she'd head off
into her office. Then we'd have lunch together with kid food for the kids
and grownup food for the grownups. Having this dedicated time every few
weeks gave me something to look forward to and things started that
required finishing.
I got really good at wrapping my clay work so that I could work on it
later -tho I still did end up with mugs without handles. During the times
when the kids were regularily cooperative about going to bed and staying
there (NOT when they were little babies) and when I wasn't in the dead
tired stages of pregnancy (OK so this hasn't been very much of the last 7
years!) I made a habit of going to the studio for a few minutes before
bed. Often all I would do is check moisture levels and rewrap but it kept
things on my mind and sometimes would result in a very productive work
session (and a nap the next afternoon with the kids!)
I kept goals to work towards by participating in a local Studio Tour every
year, accepting a few commissions and having a small quantity of work in
local stores that would require occasional restocking. I hung on to my
best craft show until after my second son was born but that would not have
been possible without my very supportive husband and his flexible work
schedule. He took vacation days to work the booth while I wheeled babies
around the building, nursed in the storage areas and napped sitting up
beside a playpen amid boxes of pots behind the curtains.
I extended my turnaround times from 1.5 months to 4 and then 6 months.
This is long and I did lose some orders because of it. Other people wanted
what I had to offer badly enough to wait -like the couple that ordered
dinnerware and serving dishes in July 2001 and got them Oct 2003 (on my
third child's first birthday)!
I didn't change my product line much during this time and I often wished I
had worked out all the bugs -especially glaze problems- before having kids
because I found the time to test was very hard to come by. It was much
easier to put time into known results than to develop new work -the energy
and focus for experimenting just wasn't there (it's coming back now -
When I was between intensive nursing and exhaustive pregnancy I taught
classes -it kept me in the studio, it filled the kilns so that my
turnaround times improved because I didn't have to wait for full loads to
fire. It kept me learning as I helped my students solve problems. And I
got to be the expert for a few hours in a week, rather than the parent
having to figure out everything as I went. Also -students PAY up front!!

The thing I did to keep my sanity included:
Reading Clayart and magazines and catalogues and websites or whatever I
could when I couldn't work in clay much. And unsubscribing and putting
them all away when I did have time to work so that I could get down to it.
Planning for the limited time I had in the studio during the sitting-stuck-
somewhere times that often happen to moms -especially with more than one
kid. I got more done in 3 planned hours than I used to (prekid) in a whole
Carried a notebook and my favourite pencils in the diaper bag I never went
anywhere without.
Answered a firm "Yes" to people who asked if I was still doing my pottery -
even if it had been weeks.
Told people honestly and only a little apologetically how long things
would take, how hard I would try, and explain that I couldn't maintain the
professional standards of service I aspired to while my children were
young. Most of my customers understood and were encouraging and flexible.
Carried pictures of my children AND my pots in my wallet.
Did creative things that could be done with kids to get away from the
feeling that I wasn't doing anything productive -so we have had great
birthday cakes, cool Halloween costumes, monstrous snow forts complete
with niches for sculptures and lots of collecting walks.
Tried something different if the present way isn't working -or waited two
weeks for something to change on its own! The biggest improvements always
came for us after the 4am feedings stopped, the big molars finished coming
through, walking started, speaking started, toilet training finished, and
biggest and best of all (its not as far in the future as you think!) -the
first day of school!
Smiled and nodded when people told me to enjoy the baby years because they
go so quickly -but did whatever I had to do to get through the 350
endless hours between dinner and bedtime.
Refused to let anyone store anything in my studio space -not in the
building or in my brain -even if it looked like I wasn't using it!
Always had a plan ready for when I would get a chance to work -now I'm
working on a plan for that not so distant future when my last child goes
to school. I used to plan for the next nap time when I didn't need sleep
myself, for the evening when my husband would be home early and put the
kids to bed, for the weekend my mother-in-law promised to take the kids
while my husband was gone.
Found something funny in the latest disaster, or tried really hard to
laugh when someone with more energy found something to laugh about -or at
very least tried not to bite the head off of the person with the presence
of mind to find something funny -except the time when my husband broke the
handles off of all the mugs I had made especially for him.

The things I still have a hard time getting used to:
Never having a large chunk of time to focus on one thing.
The length of time it takes to get something done.
How the noise level goes up every time I pick up the phone.
Never really getting enough sleep.
Being known as so-and-so's mom.
Having to leave things undone.
Mugs without handles!

Things I would have done differently:
Lived closer to the communities we are involved in -school, university,
church, husband's employment, recreation. I waste too much time driving
around and my husband's family time is eaten away by travel time.
Made my studio more pleasant to be in when there was time and funds to do
so -its ugly and fixing it is way down on the priority list right now.
Taken Ron Roy's glaze course before opening my business instead of waiting
13 years until this past summer.
Been more careful about choosing my claybody -this one requires too much
nursing along through drying, trimming and attaching.
Talked to more artists with kids in the early baby days -or even before.

My situation is not everyone's. Our choice to have a parent do nearly all
of the child rearing without paid childcare is not everyone's. Our
decision to have my husband quit his job 1.5 years ago and go back to
school for his Master's is probably insane and has eliminated all comforts
or conveniences that could be bought. Our solutions are not everyone's.
But I am happy to report that it is possible to keep a potter's identity
without making a living from pots or even making many pots. I am probably
a better potter now than prekid -I am certainly more thoughtful,
deliberate and dedicated. The dross has been burned away in the crucible
of time and energy restrictions.

Best wishes to you,
Eleanor Hendriks
P.S. Get a cordless phone if you don't already have one -it is not a
luxury -it is a essential parenting and potting tool.