Welcome to Week 38 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"You can’t get them back in your lap snuggled in your arms when they are in high school, so take those hugs and take a few minutes each day to savor it. You can create with them, and let them teach you how to play again."
Victoria Findlay Wolfe is a trained fine artist with a background in painting and sculpture, who resisted the pull of fiber work until she just had to give in and quilt (and how lucky we are that she did finally did!). Her award-winning work has lead her to teach all over the world and she's the author of "15 Minutes of Play," a book that encourages makers to take advantage of small pockets of time each day, try new things, and experiment - perfect for busy moms who need a creative fix but who can't manage to carve out hours of time.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Victoria – can you please describe your family?
My family consists of my husband Michael Findlay, and teenage daughter, Beatrice. I also have a grown stepson, and granddaughter.
What is your business?
I’m an artist… my preferred medium these last ten years has been fabric and textiles, and my outcome is a business of custom quilts, artistic as they are…
Within that area, I design dies for Sizzix, thread with Aurifil, fabric and books… I also teach and lecture internationally.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
We had little free time, as I grew up on a farm. There were always chores to be done, animals to be fed, fences to be mended, weeds to be pulled, lawn to be mowed etc… When I could, I spent my free time making with anything and whatever I could get my hands on - fabric, wood scraps, Legos, weaving, to coloring books and sketchbooks for drawing, painting…
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
We made everything on the farm, my mother made our clothes, drapes, etc. and my father also had an upholstery business on the farm.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
I always played with Barbie and my baby dolls. I knew one day I’d be married and have a family. I recall saying that in five years after high school I’d be married with a couple kids…. I did not really think about how to be, or what that really looked like…it ended up taking me a longer time than I thought to figure out who I was, first.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
I had to make time, after a slight “creative panic.” My beautiful daughter came in to my life at one year of age… and started walking three weeks later. I went from creating 12 hours a day to having no time what-so-ever, chasing around my child, which was wonderful and a blessing, but a shock to my creative system. I had to carve out time to create each day, and that is where my “15 Minutes of Play” started, and later became my life practice.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I was trained as a fine artist, and my career was already in motion as a painter/sculptor. So that was my “job." But after my daughter came along, I started sewing for her, and it turned into making an effort to make perfect quilts for her. I say “perfect” but they were anything but…
I was always creating, just as I was as a kid, and turned it into a business after a few years of blogging. It wasn’t 'til my daughter was 8 or so before I was quilting full time.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I recall in college taking the tests that help you figure out what your skills are, and it said I should either be a contractor, or any self employed person in a creative industry. I never really had a thought of what my JOB would be, I just always knew I’d be an artist… I had many random jobs for enough years to know I wasn’t going to be doing the sit-at-a desk-in-an-office kind of person. I had to be doing things that kept me bouncing around.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
I eased myself into the industry. I did a lot of work behind the scenes for while, and when I came out with my first book, I came out swinging. It looked like I came out of nowhere, but I had already several years quietly doing a lot of work. Being a farm girl, I work hard, and fast… and I use that in just about every aspect of my life - when I mother, I mother; when I need to feed my family, I grow it, can it, cook it…when I play, I play hard and when I sleep, I sleep hard.
It was the early years of being a stay-at-home mom that allowed me to learn how to be a mom, a wife, run my household, and figure out when I could get time for myself. My family always comes first. No matter what.
The amount I work and travel now has increased based on my daughter now being a teenager, and by how much less my husband has to travel. So that balance is something that is constantly being evaluated. I take everything day-by-day, I am not a long-term planner. I can only do what I can, each day. I have no idea what I’ll be doing a year from now, two years, five years… I do what I love now, I find I make choices based on timing, and if it will bring me joy. If I make a connection with a person or company that I really enjoy, I make it work for everyone involved. If I’m not having fun, then what is the point. I want to have a joyful life experience, with my creative life and my family life.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
My work is quite personal to me, so in a way they are my “textile babies.” They each have a story, just like I have my story. We all have a story to share, and I encourage my daughter to find her joyful story.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
My work has evolved in our household from a hobby to obsessively having a project in my hands. My daughter was not a fan of me starting to work after having been a stay at home mom to her. It upset her in the early years, like it was a competition, a quilt or her. We’ve had many talks about it over the years, and her life goal is to find her passion, while mine is to be a good wife/mom and have my creative life. I can’t see my life without either of those two things. After a while she got used to it and was interested in learning to sew, then decided it wasn’t for her, she wanted to find her own path.
Now she comes and helps me vend as her summer job and she gets to really see what I do when I’m not at home. We had an amazing summer experience this past summer, and her view has changed again seeing me lecture, talk to people, sell, and share my joy. She had many "aha" moments this year and made some goals for herself about public speaking and creating. It was exciting for me to watch her.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children? Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope that she will see that I’ve followed my dreams, and that my goal for her is to do the same. I think it will give her confidence that she can go out and make her own dreams come true. I talk a lot about living my life in search of joy. Life is too short to be doing anything but finding your joy. Each day is a gift - it's best to spend it finding something that feeds your soul.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Take 15 minutes (at least) for yourself each day.
Taking any small amounts of time, selfishly, will enhance your efforts being a parent. It’s easy to think I can’t take the time, but you will feel better and you can then do better by having rejuvenated your creative soul.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Today you may only get 15 minutes, but in a few years as your child grows and starts to fill their time, the more time comes back to you… and before you know it, they are off, not needing you as much anymore. Then you start to go backwards, wait, I want my family time, and all they say is, "Bye Mom, I’m off with my friends…"
This too shall pass.
Also, enjoy parenthood and those delicious early years. Your child may be a young one today, but before you know it, they are in high school, and you wonder where all those years went. You can’t get them back in your lap snuggled in your arms when they are in high school, so take those hugs and take a few minutes each day to savor it. You can create with them, and let them teach you how to play again.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Parenting is incredibly hard, but still the best job in the whole world.
Thank you so much, Victoria, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Victoria in the following places: