Welcome to Week 13 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.
"Assess how much space in your head and time in your day you have and plan a project that can be finished in the time you have. Unfinished projects sap our energies and discourage us from trying again."
I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with Weeks Ringle last month while at QuiltCon - and what a treat it was to spend the day with her! To say she's a real firecracker is an understatement - she has opinions (well-informed I must add) on the industry and isn't afraid to share them, all in the name of helping her students find more confidence and satisfaction in their work. And true to form of her interview, during the latter half of the class we got to meet her husband Bill as he arrived to teach his own class - and Weeks was leaving the conference the same day so she could get home to their daughter. This is a family who works very hard yet is still able to find the right balance between work and home.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Weeks - can you please describe your family?
Husband Bill, Daughter Sophie 13, me and whatever animal(s) we are fostering at the time
What is your business?
Modern Quilt Studio, we design and make modern quilts, write books, design fabric lines, publish a magazine and teach worldwide
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
Of course there are different stages of childhood but I spent a lot of time dealing with very serious asthma so unfortunately I spent a lot of time in doctors' offices and watching TV because running around outside with other kids wasn't an option for me. I would sometimes hang out with a friend up the block playing but for a variety of reasons I wanted creative outlets but didn't have the materials or guidance to bring those desires to fruition.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
I did a little sewing and needlepoint but I didn't have access to materials to make as many things as I wanted to make.
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 assumed I'd be a mother and knew that I would want to balance motherhood with a career, yet I didn't want to have children in daycare for a variety of reasons.
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?
We began our business in 1999. We adopted our daughter in 2002 so I worked a slightly reduced schedule before our daughter was in school full time but worked during every nap time and would get a lot of work done in the evenings after she went to sleep.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
Three years before.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
My mother-in-law was dying, I was working 70 hrs/wk at an architecture office and knew that it would not be sustainable for a pregnancy or as a parent. We found out that we were not able to have children the year we began our business so we started the very long road to adoption.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
She knows that both Bill and I have to travel for work but we typically tag-team our travel and parenting so one of us is always here.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
We have our daughter living in our home for a short time, right? I want her to have great memories of her childhood. If there's a work opportunity that conflicts with something really important to her I think about how important my presence is. For example I cancelled a class this summer at a big event when I found out the class was to occur on the day she's graduating from middle school. She knows that no matter how busy we are that we will stop what we're doing and eat dinner together. She also knows that I won't hesitate to discipline her via Skype if need be!
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
Honestly, the cost of college looms very large in my head. I don't want our daughter to start of her adult life with a huge amount of debt. Knowing that we need to save as much as we can led to our decision to write A Kid's Guide to Sewing with her. Bill and I gave our fee for that book and all of the royalties to her college fund.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
The biggest impact is that I realize that it's more important to me to be a mom who knows her daughter's friends' names than it is to me to have the top-selling fabric line or book.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
I think sometimes she wishes that her parents would stop talking about work but I think she has seen the link between work and money. She can see the packages that ship everyday from our studio. She goes to shows and sees how much merchandise is in the booth at the beginning and the end. She sees our magazine come together. I think it has shown her that you can start with a dream, work hard, make good decisions and earn a living.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope she will see that you shouldn't always wait for someone else to make your dream possible. I also hope that she will see that being a good boss and working hard yield their own non-monetary rewards as well.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Honestly, I would tell her first to get some exercise first because I think exercise gives you energy and stabilizes moods more effectively than any drug. If you're head isn't clear and you feel drained, it's going to be hard to be creative. After the exercise I would think about doing small, manageable projects that can be completed easily or an on-going project that doesn't require a great deal of attention. I used to knit charity sweaters only at our daughter's soccer games. I didn't have time to knit any other time but I'd start one sweater at the first game and have time during the warm ups and halftime to make a little progress while still watching the game. By the end of the season the charity sweater would be done. Assess how much space in your head and time in your day you have and plan a project that can be finished in the time you have. Unfinished projects sap our energies and discourage us from trying again.
Thank you so much, Weeks, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Weeks in the following places: