An Interview with Shona Cole

This is the first of many upcoming interviews with inspiring moms, who are actively pursuing their dreams.   My hope is that you learn from these awesome mothers.  They have found a way to make it all work even though they struggle and face their own unique challenges.

And, if you are anything like me, please don’t compare yourself to them!  They are where they are and you are where you are.  Don’t forget that.

My first interview is with Shona Cole, author of ‘The Artistic Mother – a Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your Busy Schedule.’

Here we go…

Shona, thanks for taking the time for this interview.  Why don’t you tell us a little about your family.

My family is my husband of 15 years, Mark and our 5 precious children – 2 boys and 3 girls, all unique and beautiful and fun (and challenging!) in their own way.

Mark, an American, and I met 19 years ago in Ireland where I grew up. We did the long distance relationship thing for 4 years before we married and I moved with him to the states. We were married 5 years before we had kids. Mark works as an attorney from home and runs a small seminary.

We homeschool our kids and I take lots of photos, write poems about our life, and do mixed media collage. We go on a date night every Friday, which usually involves eating something yummy then going to a movie or sitting in Barnes & Nobles drinking coffee, reading and talking about life and our kids!

What would you say your BIG dream is?

To publish lots of books and create lots of photographs and mixed media collage art that faithfully reflect my world and can inspire other Moms and families to live creative lives together too.

Tell us about your book.

My first book, ‘The Artistic Mother’ is already in bookstores in the US and due internationally in March! It is a book for Moms who would like to do some mixed media art but have not yet found out how to regularly fit it into their schedules.

There are 3 parts –

1) a collection of essays about creativity and planning and organizing

2) introduction to mixed media art, photography and writing poetry – all the basic skills that will be needed to complete the third section of the book…

3) a 12 week workshop that guides Momma though making 11 art projects. It has a day by day schedule as well as the project steps.

The designer Marissa Bowers did a beautiful job with the design. So the book is pretty to look at which, I hope is inspiring in itself!

What inspired you to write about Creativity and Motherhood?

Well, long story short, I have seen in my own life that when I do something creative, something for myself I am a better mom! I have something that I can do and do well, that sense of achievement makes me content. Also, I like to have something creative to look forward to when the kids are down for the night or playing with the neighbors.

From Moms I meet I hear a whole lot of ‘how do you do all you do?’ and ‘oh, I can’t get anything done’, so I wanted to tell folks how it is I do get it done and hopefully inspire some young Moms to get creating.

Have you always been “artsy”?

Pretty much. I have always been drawn to artsy things, always liked pretty things, fancy papers and indie music. As kids when my brother did summer sports camp I went to the art camp. I was involved in theater, dance, took drawing and painting classes, write poetry…. I’m a dabbler, I kind of bounced around in the arts, with no clear vision.

Somehow I saw art in terms of ‘fine art’, where you had to be either super good at drawing or really wacky and way out. I was neither. I didn’t have the patience to learn a craft like knitting or jewelry making, but in my late 20’s when I discovered mixed media and then digital photography I found art that is easy, expressive and fun! I was hooked.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Kind of, over the years I have seen the power in the written word to move and inspire. At different points in my life I have wanted to write a novel and I have always written a lot of poetry (mostly bad). I believe that to be a great writer you must 1) be a reader 2) have something to communicate.

As I am not much of a reader I never really progressed in the creative writing field. I find writing difficult; I agonize over sentences and am then terrible at editing them once written. I like to write the way I talk and sometimes that doesn’t read well. I think at times I liked the idea of being a writer more than doing the actual work!

I come from Ireland, where poets and writers are revered. I tried to get into the poetry scene when I was in college, but found it terrifyingly unfriendly and I couldn’t understand half of what the poets wrote!

Also, up to now I really didn’t have a decent topic to write about. I guess I needed to find my passion – i.e. motherhood and art, before I could get anything worthwhile on paper!

What did you want to be “when you grew up?”

I never really had a plan. As a dabbler I was into to many things, on one day I would want to be an artist, another a lecturer, another a poet, another a photographer. None of which I really pursued. I am glad now I didn’t, because if I had found my passion before kids I might not have ever decided to have 5 kids, move out of the city, or even come to the States at all! I think that my vagueness allowed me the space to find the life that was waiting for me; one I didn’t even know that I loved.

How does your childhood dreams compare with your real life now?

Now my life is concrete, stable, vibrant, clear, and solid. I know that what I am doing is for me. I can’t be shaken by anyone. I am a mother. I am a home schooling mother. I do everything around my family and close friends. I want to express this life in words and images forever. It is right for me. Growing up I was unfocused, vague, confused, alone and miserable! I like where I am now a whole lot more.

I love how you manage to be creative everyday. Has it always been like that? How did you get your life set up to support you being a writer and an artist?

I was not always like this. It took me time to get over the culture shock of living in America, then spent 4 years working in social services before getting pregnant. During that time I was not doing anything particularly creative. It was when I quit work to stay home that I discovered mixed media art, photography, and re-discovered poetry.

But even then I didn’t know how vital it was for me. I didn’t know to have a vision and a plan. I thought doing art was a muse thing, a feeling, something natural and if I didn’t ‘feel’ it then I wasn’t really an artist.

When my oldest kids were very young I would be tired from momma duties and in the evenings watch a movie instead of creating.  I would not take the time to develop my skills; subsequently I would be disappointed in my efforts when I finally got to work. So I would then not want to bother. It went round and round like that until I finally faced the fact that I was depressed.

I was with screaming kids all day and nothing for me. I felt a little guilt at having been give a good education and some talents but I was not using them. I also felt disappointed in myself for not trying to work at any writing or art skills before kids when I really did have the time. I reached a crisis point and then determined to make a change and to get serious about doing this art.

I determined that I could pull myself together and do the work and make something of my talents. So I prayed a whole lot, wrote lists, visions, goals, told them to friends (for accountability) and stuck to them.

When you are really in the zone, being productive, writing, making art and doing all the things you want to be doing, what does a typical day look like?

Get up (late in terms of the rest of the world) and check emails, respond to any comments on my blog, put finishing touches on the next blog post, visit an art blog or two, clean the dishes, do a load of laundry, make/re-view my goals list for the day. Do school with the kids. Lunch, do a couple of fast easy things on my list before afternoon school while the kids watch a video or play outside. Afternoon school. Dinner, evening with the kids and my beloved. Then about 9 or 10 I will get to my computer for my art evening. I check emails, write an article, blog post, process some photos, make a plan for a collage. Around midnight I will go to my craft table, which is right next to the kitchen and do some hands on art until about 2am. Between 2-3 I wind down, emails, blogs, prayer time etc.

What do you wish you had more time for?

Yard work. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a gardener, but I have some visions of what we could do on our property – build a tree house, a sculpture path, and a permanent fairy house village. But these things all involve us learning to do carpentry and I just don’t have the time to pick up a new craft. I guess I miss antiquing with my husband. Before kids we would spend weekends looking for cool stuff for our house. I don’t get out that much now!

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

A little. As I homeschool I am giving so much to them already, so by the end of the day or on weekends if the neighbors or friends are over and the kids are outside playing happily I will get time for me and I feel it is OK- they had enough mom. They need space from me as much as I need it from them. That said my oldest son is a night owl, quality time person. He would like to hang out with me more in the evenings. I feel a little guilty that I don’t give him attention then, but I think he will look back and understand why I was so focused in the evenings.

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?

If I see myself slipping towards inactivity with regard to art and writing I have a couple of things I gravitate to in order to keep me connected: taking time to browse artsy blogs for connection and inspiration; watching the brilliance of an independent movie; listening to music. Those things make me want to go create too!

What are some of those favorite blogs that give you inspiration?

Ilka’s Attic
blu bambu
Nectar & Light
persisting stars
Misty Mawn
tender letters
Contemplating the Moon
Ruffles And Stuff

I could go on…. as you may have learned from me I hardly know when to stop!!!!

No worries!  I say you can’t get too much inspiration.  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?

My goals lists. I write it all down and keep everything in focus. If I see on paper I am doing too much art related things in the day then I can adjust to do more mom or housework stuff. Likewise, if I see on paper I am not getting enough done art wise then I step it up, look for a challenge or collaboration project to work on

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

My book proposal #2 is written and ready to send to North Light Books. I would love if they accepted my proposal so I could get going on the next book. That would involve both my art and writing.

What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your family?

That my kids will be healthy and achieve their dreams and live to their fullest potential. All my girls are artistic, but in different ways. I would love one day for them to do some kind of art that we could all collaborate on, like writing and illustrating children’s books or making a line of jewelry, or have an art show together. My son is super bright and I want him to find his path early on in life and achieve to the extent of his ability. I want them all to get married and have lots of kids so I can do crafts with my grandkids. I want my husband to achieve his career goals and for us to live happily together with our house filled with art making, vibrant conversations and children. Basically I hope for an extension of what our life is today.

How do you think pursuing your own dreams helps to make the dreams you have for your family come true?

This is very important to me. I am very aware of how my kids are influenced by my husband and myself. My eldest daughter already says she wants to be a mommy and an artist. They think it is normal for Mom to work at art and be published in magazines and now in a book. I think that will inspire them to work hard and find their path in life and not be afraid.

Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into your life, Shona.  I love how, over time, you have carved out space yourself to do what you love!  It is refreshing to hear how it doesn’t happen over night, but that if we just get started, the pieces really do all fall into place.

Shona Cole is a home schooling mother of 5 under the age of 10, collage artist who creates family focused art combining her own photographs, poetic words, paint and paper, author of ‘The Artistic Mother – a Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your Busy Schedule’, and is perpetually searching for the balance between self and service.  You can learn more about Shona on her blog, An Artful Life.

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