Welcome to Week 35 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.
"My children have taught me to go with the flow, and it turn it's given me a more relaxed, personal approach. You can't have kids and work from home and expect perfection...and it's not even worth trying!"
Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew is known for her bright and cheerful fabric designs and her eye-catching, yet uncomplicated original patterns that allow even beginner quilters to enjoy the process of making a quilt and love their results. Her website is an inspirational treasure trove of projects and tutorials for not only quilts, but pillows, home dec projects, and even fashion accessories. All of her work seems to have a vibe that celebrates childhood and family and makes you smile just looking at it!
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Allison – can you please describe your family?
I'm married and have 3 kids: Benjamin age 8, Ryan age 5, and Sophie age 3.
What is your business?
I am a blogger and a pattern/ fabric designer.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
I remember playing a lot of make believe. We spent a lot of time outdoors in the woods around our house making hideouts and forts.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
I've always loved crafts and being creative. My Mom sewed and I grew up in a very creative home, so even though I never got the itch to sew when I was younger I was always very creative. In high school and college I pursued Commercial Art...and then went the complete opposite direction and became a Dental Hygienist instead because I knew I could always support my family with it!
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 wanted to be a mother. My Mom is amazing, and I was blessed that she was able to stay home with us and was there when I got home from school every day. I've always known I wanted that, and wanted kids pretty young.
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?
It was having a baby that really got me back into "creating." I had been working for a handful of years full time as a hygienist, and went to part time when my son was born. Having that extra time and someone to make something for was the push I needed to start sewing!
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
After. Sometimes I'm jealous of those that have started doing this before they have kids...they have so much time!!! On the other hand, being a mother and juggling and balancing is what have made this business what it is, and I've grown so much because of it. If I didn't have kids I never would have even thought to start quilting!
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I never in a million years would have thought I'd be doing this! I'm very practical by nature, and quilting and fabric is a complete change from being a Dental Hygienist. I don't think anything prompted me to start making my sewing into a business...it just evolved over the years. When I started selling patterns 5 years ago I felt like a natural step, not a business opportunity.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
I used to be very strict about keeping my "work time" and my "family time" totally separate. I waited until naps to answer emails and update my blog, and then I stepped away from it until the kids were tucked in bed. This business was built while everyone in my family was asleep! Now I'm more relaxed about it, my kids don't sleep as much, and I'm busier. I work in bits throughout the day, and if I need a bigger chunk of time to work I don't feel guilty about letting my kids entertain themselves and see me working. I think it's good for them to see me being creative and working on a business. The biggest change has been my kids getting older and getting more independent.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
I'm picky about what I say "yes" to, and what will take away from time with my kids. I also feel like I do everything in bits...a little bit here and a little bit there until it's done. It's a bit crazy but it works!
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
I wrote a book of simple quilt patterns especially for busy mothers...because I know firsthand how hard it is to fit in creativity and quilting! Being a mother myself helps me relate, and gives me extra motivation to make great products that are do-able and fun!
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
They've taught me to go with the flow, and it turn it's given me a more relaxed, personal approach. You can't have kids and work from home and expect perfection...and it's not even worth trying!
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?
Some days I think it's good for them to see me pursuing my creative business and working, and other days I'm not as sure. I remember as a child my Mom sewing and sewing, and me impatiently waiting for her to finish. I'm sure my kids will feel the very same way about me, but I think that's OK.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope from my experience that my kids will learn that sometimes the path we think is best is not actually what is best, and there might be something better out there if we trust and pray for it. I also hope my kids learn to do something that makes them happy first, and figure out the other stuff later.
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 rarely have a big chunk of time to sew, and if I do I'd rather collapse on the couch. Instead throughout the day I will sneak into my sewing room and for 5 or 10 minutes I'll do something creative. I'll sew up a quilt block, or press some seams, or even just pick out some fabrics. I have made almost all of my quilts and patterns in small bits of time here and there. Yes it's much harder...but it's the only way I could make it work. Also start small...make something little that will give you the satisfaction of finishing something, but not take you a month to finish.
Thank you so much, Allison, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Alison in the following places: