Welcome to the final post in this special four-part Motherhood by Design interview with Anna Maria Horner. You can find the previous posts here:
“Juliana has been the single person that can look at something and tell me no, that’s not your best. You can do better than that, or I see what you’re doing, but…”
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
I feel like the main work that I do is designing the fabric collections. The way that I do that is through a process that’s very often a kind of narrative - an idea. The collections are each about a concept, and I think about the broad sweeping influence that family has on those concepts.
My kids keep me very creative! Being surrounded by so many young and getting-older and developing minds, and having the conversations about when they did stupid things or letting them show me things that they’re interested in that I would otherwise never spend a second on myself - it keeps me pretty fresh and thinking and looking at new things.
It’s sort of like how aging fashion companies have to hire 14-year-olds to go out on the street and tell them what’s cool. I’m inspired by the wonder that they have and the interests that they have in things. I feel like I always have this sounding board – more so from listening to what they’re interested in and seeing how they’re dressed and what they do. From little to big – I think it keeps my wheels turning a little bit and experiencing things that I wouldn’t otherwise.
For my older kids who have a real artistic opinion - I love sharing what I’m working on and getting some feedback – it’s amazing. That’s been the case with Juliana for years now – even more so than my husband. I don’t think he would be upset by me saying that – he would really support it.
Juliana has been the single person that can look at something and tell me no, that’s not your best. You can do better than that, or I see what you’re doing but… and she doesn’t tell me specifically how to change it. She’s not physically analyzing something for it - it’s more like attributes and things…
So she acts like a creative director to you?
She’s basically telling me to work harder when I need to.
That’s pretty valuable.
It’s a kind of hate and love.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
I get to reciprocate with Juliana right now, which is interesting because she just signed a contract with a fabric company and a new company as well. I love knowing what my kids’ favorite prints are, especially when I’m working on a collection of prints. I love knowing what somebody’s favorite is and I love when one of them will come in – I’ll be working on something and they’ll say “Whose is that? I love that,” because they think maybe it’s not mine.
So that makes me feel like I’ve done something new and different. Again it’s the proximity of my family to my work, by working at home, that makes my family’s influence just inherently part of what I produce, whether it’s obvious or not.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
They watch me succeed and fail and struggle. It’s healthy because they know that it takes a lot of work to make something work when you do it independently. I don’t know…I feel like that’s an interview question for my kids. Yeah. I feel like I would be interested to know that.
Juliana graduated from college a year ago and she’s a very different person than me, we have similar interests but she’s wholly different. We should ask Nicholas. We should ask him.
(Anna Maria’s 17-year-old son Nicholas has walked into the room, and I repeated the question for him.)
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
Anna Maria repeated to Nicholas: How do my creative pursuits, including my business, affect you? Good or bad? Or neutral?
Nicholas: I have the opportunity to work.
AMH: Yeah, I pay him sometimes to do this …
Nicholas: And I have the opportunity to learn how businesses run and to know someone who runs a business. It’s really mostly good. I’ve never really had a problem with you having a business in the first place. It has never really gotten in the way of family life and what not.
Susan Fuller: Does Nicholas think that there are benefits to it besides getting paid to help you?
Nicholas: There are benefits because there are people coming to a store, it’s also kind of a crowd because we have some events where …
AMH: He’s thinking about Craft South just in the past two months of course.
AMH: Although we just did it last summer - we did Craft South. It’s a little pop-up series we had last summer.
Nicholas: Yeah, because she has events where she needs people to play music and that’s an opportunity for me.
AMH: Oh, yeah, yeah! I guess it’s changing. Craft South brought everybody in - everyone in the family contributed one way or another and we do have events where even my father-in-law will do music as part of the event, and Nicholas plays. My father-in-law plays music for us.
Nicholas: I get to hang around 12th Avenue.
AMH: There’s this whole new social component to having the brick-and-mortar store. I think we’ve been talking kind of about the history of me working at home (AMH directed this clarification to Nicholas) and what that has been like. I talked about how sometimes I feel guilty when I don’t make eye contact when you come home …
Nicholas: I’ve never been bothered by that at all.
AMH: OK. Well, that’s one out of seven responses. I think it varies by kid and age and how much they want from me to begin with anyway.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I just want them to know that A), anything is possible and B), it’s most possible when they have the support of people they love, because clearly my husband leaves his house everyday and comes back when I’m done or not done. Without his support, it would be a very different thing.
In a marriage, you struggle to give each other support sometimes because you’re so weary from the struggle of the other, whether you sympathize or not. You’re weary from it and so it’s a continual goal to be in full support and what that means and how it translates. I think I want my kids to know that if they work hard and they develop a craft and they humble themselves in situations, they can do whatever they want.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
I think just find small joys and satisfaction in small attempts. It doesn’t have to be a broad, sweeping, life-changing, everybody-falls-in-line-with-what-I-want occurrence. This is never going to happen. It doesn’t happen with me. I think people might perceive that it happens with me, that I have a successful operation that just falls in place on a daily basis, in order to do what I do. But there’s barely a process that I start and then finish that wasn’t interrupted or that I didn’t wish happened sooner or finished sooner.
But I think that just heading in one direction and being patient with yourself and the people around you, even if you take up a craft that maybe someday you would like to contribute to design-wise. If you think you would like to design cool patterns, just start quiltmaking without any real intent of selling the first piece. You will find something along the way that’s going to help you do what you think you want to do with it, and it might be that you don’t want to do it.
Often you have an idea – it’s usually based on other people that we witness doing something. We think to ourselves “I’m capable of that, or that was fun, I think I could earn from it or enjoy something about it”. Then the first step is to just go do it without any big ideas, and then take the next step and see how it changes. See how you feel about it, or if it enhances how you feel about it.
Heading down one path will always either let you continue, or the road will widen, or you will decide it’s a turn-off. So you go a different direction. But it’s doing something actively in increments – even if it’s 30 minutes a day. It’s helpful.
Of course it varies based on whether people are really looking for a business or just a creative outlet.
What if it’s just creative outlets, not business?
Well, I do think that if you can find something that you can do in the presence of your children, something that you find joy in. I think that’s going to be helpful, particularly if it’s something that there’s some version of it that your children could do too.
We started a social calendar at Craft South where we do a BYOB - it’s handcrafts and drinks and listening to live music. So we had a little bluegrass in there and we didn’t have anyone to come watch our younger ones for us to do that alone. So I needed to bring Roman and Mary Anna along, which was fine, but it meant that I probably wasn’t going to get to enjoy any crafting while listening to everybody.
So I thought well, I guess I’ll probably just draw and I’ll also bring along crayons for them. So bringing along something that was a version of what I was doing was helpful because they felt like they were doing it with me. Obviously I would do something on a different level by myself - it all depends on the ages of your kids and how many you have.
I think that if it’s something that can be done in the presence of your family, that’s great. But I also think that it’s OK to ask for permission. It’s like having a date with yourself and say you’re going to be “gone” for the next hour and that means you’re doing your craft. Get whoever is in your house to help you - this is your time. Sometimes you need that. Call a babysitter and go do it by yourself if you have to!
Links to the complete series of interviews with Anna Maria are below:
Thank you so much, Anna Maria, for sharing so generously with us this week! You can find Anna Maria Horner in the following places: