An Interview with Anna-Marie Still

This my second interview with an amazing, inspiring mama.  My hope is that these women inspire you.  Not only because they are pursuing their dreams and passions, but because they are mothers – just like you – that deal with the everyday ups and downs and challenges of raising a family and they take care of their own needs at the same time.  They have found a way to make it work, which means that you and I can make it work!

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Anna-Marie Still.  We met on Facebook not too long ago and I am really glad we did.  I am inspired by her every day.  She makes art, takes care of her cutie pies and does it all with true grace.

Thank you Anna-Marie, for taking the time to share with the lovely ladies on Visionary Mom about your life ~ why don’t you tell us a little about you and your family.

David & I have been married for 15 years and have 4 kiddos – Lachlan (12), Aedan (9), Kyla (7) and Ronan (22mths).

I am a mixed-media artist/instructor. I am passionate about art – painting, mixed media, designing, illustration, writing, teaching & public speaking. I have taught many art & crafting classes & workshops that have varied in size from 5 to 7,000. I find great joy in motivating and inspiring others to try new things and go with the creative flow in their artwork.

I recently opened an Etsy shop to more forward with my goal of balancing my teaching artist workshops & sharing my personal art.  Indigo Footprints is an embodiment of both my personal mixed-media art and my instinctual need to inspire others to nurture their own creative souls. I have been teaching artist workshops in one form or another consistently for more than 7 years.

Indigo Footprints declares accountability to not only “Evoke Art Everyday”, my blog mantra, but the importance of sharing that art with others.

What would you say your big dream is?

I’d have to say that my “big dream” right now is more of a “bundling” of a few dreams.  I’m fostering some big changes including moving & finding the balance between my work as an artist/artist instructor/mother & wife.  As a free-spirit, I love feeling the pull of a major shake-up such as a move.  The fresh-startedness of it all is sooo inspiring to me!

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I guess you could say yes, but in varying degrees depending on what point in my life you are talking about.  There were definitely times especially in my teens and 20’s when I felt a burning desire to be a working artist, but unsure of how to make that happen, my art just kind of simmered on the back burner.  Teaching art & art workshops for the past 7 years, has really been the foundation which has re-ignited my desire to put my personal artwork out there.

I love how you somehow manage to make art everyday. Has it always been like that? How did you get your life set up to support you being a true working artist?

It took a good 5 years for me to settle into my practice of “Evoking Art Everyday” (my blog mantra).  Making art everyday initially happened as a result of my becoming a Stampin’ Up! Demonstrator back in 2003.  What started as a hobby grew into a business fast & I was designing cards & scrapbook pages like a crazy person to keep up with all my workshops, classes & events.  In 2006, I was burnt out and miserable.  I loved teaching and inspiring others, but I realized that everything I had been creating for the past 3 years was out of necessity for a class, workshop, conference or event.  It was then I decided that I needed to take time everyday to create something everyday with no other purpose than to feed my soul.  There is a reason the stewardesses tells you to put your air mask on before helping someone else. I realized that I needed to feed my own creative soul each day before working on projects for others.

In doing so, I grew, I challenged myself artistically and I felt the pull of a different artistic life calling me which is how I’ve transitioned into being a mixed-media artist/instructor.

What things do you let yourself neglect (aka blow off) to make sure you are spending time expressing yourself as an artist?

If you popped by my home without calling first, you’d see that housework definitely takes a back seat.  Just call first before dropping by, okay 😉

That’s how it is for me too, glad I am not the only one that needs a warning first!  :) When you are really in the zone, being productive, making art and doing all the things you want to be doing, what does a typical day look like?

Ahhh…a day in the life!  During the week, if the stars are aligned, it currently looks like this:

I bring David to work and the big kids to their respective schools, come home and settle the baby in with his 2nd breakfast.

Check/answer emails, catch up on social networking, update my blog then put him down for a nap & paint or create journals, get ready for classes or shows.

Baby wakes up, I make us lunch, check/answer emails again and blog surf while I eat my lunch.

Try to get a little more work done then head to pick up the big kids from school.

Get them snacks, prompt them through homework and instrument practice, start supper prep, round them all up to go get David from work.

Feed kids, reading time, bedtimes.

Spend time chatting and/or watching tv with David.

Back in the studio to wrap up anything pressing.

Usually in bed by midnight.

Weekends are a whole other story!

I’ve learned that being flexible & willing to adjust to the ebb & flow of family life is the best way to get it all done.  Sure, there are times when I’m under tight deadlines and the baby is particularly needy or the kids need help with a school project, which seemingly messes with my “plan”, but I’ve learned that getting stressed about it doesn’t do any one of us a bit of good.  I try to “pad” my timeframes so that I can actually handle the interruptions without too much stress, even when I have a looming deadline.  (Ironically enough, as I type this, I’ve been upstairs 3 times to settle the baby who has a nasty cough & case of the sniffles.  I’ve finally scooped him up and as I comfort him I realize it’s time to switch gears, put this writing aside for the night and head to bed with him).

Do you feel like parts of yourself have been neglected since becoming a mom, or like things have moved to the back burner, so to speak?  How do you feel about that?

When I was a new mom, (the first 3-4 years), I felt totally fulfilled in my role as mom and I didn’t realize how important it was to take time for me.  I was perfectly content cocooning at home with my babies, with my entire focus on them.  When I started teaching art workshops & traveling, I realized how important maintaining interests & a role other than mom is.

Having that bit of separation is a refresher and even when I don’t want it or think I need it, I always come back refreshed and a better mother & wife because I had that time for me.

Thankfully, I also have a husband who is supportive of my passions and sees the value in partnering with me to achieve them.  When I am reminded of things I used to enjoy, for instance, juggling, he doesn’t bat an eye when I go online and order a set of juggling pins to toss around the backyard.  He understands the importance of nurturing the creative, playful soul.

I’ve also learned that it’s important for my children to see me taking time for myself to juggle pins in the backyard, and putting a value on my time in the studio.  I have an open door policy and they are free to come in when they please, but they understand and respect that sometimes mommy is “working under a deadline” and they may have to be a bit more patient in those instances.

What do you wish you had more time for?

Back to the housework – I really wish my house was neater/cleaner on a regular basis, but I’m not sure that given more time that’s what I’d do with it!

In declaring my intentions for 2010, I’ve laid out how I’d like to balance my time this year with a strong emphasis on getting my family outdoors more & balancing my teaching art & personal art.  If I can be true to that this year, I’ll be thrilled.

How do you connect with (or tap into) your own creativity and passions in those times when you feel tired and worn out from your mama duties?

I used to struggle with this one hard!  I’d push myself to stay up into the wee hours, burning out – it was awful!   While pregnant with baby number 4, I put a lot of emphasis on self-care & being peaceful so I just said no to pushing myself so hard.  Nowadays, I accept that when I’m tired, it’s best to rest and I simply shut the lights off, go to bed with no remorse looking instead to a fresh start in the morning.

If it’s during the day and I’m frustrated & tired, I opt for a change of scenery, get in the car and go do some errands (we always need milk, bread or something anyway!).

Bottom line is that it is counterproductive to “force” it when you are fried.

Do you ever feel guilty for wanting time away from your family? How do you deal with that?

Honestly, I rarely want time away.  I’m kind of a homebody like that.  I deal with my feelings of “not wanting to leave them” by recognizing the benefits that come from my time away.  Benefits for me and for my family.

What would you say is the single most important thing that helps you balance who you are as a mom and who you are as an artist?

For me, balance is a constant struggle.  Over the past year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to find a balance that sits right, not only in my heart, but in the hearts of my wee ones.  I want them to embrace art so I want to be sure that they never feel overshadowed by it as a result of my inability to balance the two.

What gives you hope and inspiration?

Different things at different times. I suppose it depends on what dreams I’m working toward at the time.  Right now, as I branch out into putting my personal artwork out there, I find hope and inspiration from those who have done the same.

I always find inspiration from my workshop attendees – seeing their excitement and sense of accomplishment always inspires and energizes me!

What do you see for yourself in this next year with regards to being an artist and being a mom?

This year I’m making some very bold moves in regards to being a working artist which is making me extra cautionary to ensure my role as mom doesn’t get “muddied”.

What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your family?

That we will continue to grow together; celebrating, recognizing & fostering each others individual passions.

How does YOU making art help make those dreams come true?

I think that when you are free to make art, and those around you recognize the value in it and encourage you to persue it, there a peace that settles into your soul allowing a give & take love fest to transpire.

Anything else you want to let us know?

Whether you are an artist for a living or not, it is absolutely possible for you to find a smidgen of time to “Evoke Art Everyday”.  I believe it is vital for you to do so.  “Art” is whatever you deem it to be – it is whatever burns in your heart and feeds your soul.  If you declare that bit of time for yourself each day, guilt-free, over time you will see all other areas of your life fall into place.  It really is a magical thing.

Thank you Anna-Marie for sharing about your life and your art.  You have reminded me how important it is to take time everyday for me stuff, things that feed my soul.  That time always makes me feel more connected and “there” for my family, which I think is what we all want.

You can follow Anna-Marie’s creative mama journey on her blog: www.annamariestill.com Check out her artwork and “Make Your Mark Journals” in her Etsy shop: www.annamariestilll.etsy.com

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