Welcome to Week 44 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.
"Many people have the desire to make art or be creative, but lack the self-love needed to overcome the obstacles to a creative life."
Carrie Bloomston is an artist, textile designer for Windham Fabrics, author of "The Little Spark–30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity" and creativity enabler living in a vibrant, loving little house in the desert of Phoenix, AZ, creating stuff with her family. An abstract painter her entire life, she now helps others ignite their own creative bonfires.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Carrie – can you please describe your family?
My son is 9. My daughter 6. And my husband is 44.
What is your business?
I'm an artist, textile designer, an author, and a creativity enabler.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
I grew up in Alabama. I painted all the time starting at about age 11. We had a studio in the house and I made huge abstract canvases on the floor. I also liked to dance, to make crafty things, to babysit, to be with my family and friends.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
Yes! My parents are both creative. My dad has always designed and manufactured clothing for several different brands over the years including his own. My mom painted and is an interior designer. I sewed with her as a kid–very basic stuff. Not garments!!! Usually it was home dec. In the 80’s we got into Dip & Drape. Remember that!? It was like plaster gauze and you’d shape huge bows on basket handles and let them harden over bunched-up saran wrap. We did casts of our bodies. We took writing workshops from Natalie Goldberg and drawing workshops including Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. So fun!
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 loved taking care of kids–loved babysitting and holding babies and playing with older children. But my path into art school took me into a very head-centered/intellectualized place. It took several years in my 20s to get out of that framework. It was a selfish place. I wasn't thinking about kids then. I wasn't ready. But I found my love at age 23 and Kris and I have been together since then. Slowly my body and heart let me know when I was ready to have kids. I was 34 when our son was born. Our daughter followed a few years later. Our body tells us if we can be quiet enough to listen. And if we are lucky enough that it cooperates.
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?
At first, my kids eclipsed my art making. And in my heart, they always will. They are far more interesting than anything I could ever do or make with my hands. But nonetheless, I still exist and I still have passions and desires to create things. It was while pregnant with my daughter that I had a completely hormone-fueled urge to sew and I started my entire new business because of her inspiration! My kids are the torches in the cave of my soul. They illuminate the path. They inspire me. My brand, SUCH Designs, involved a lot of sewing patterns for kid puppets, pillows and quilts. But now my new brand is Carrie Bloomston and I’m no longer selling those sewing patterns.
I wrote a book about creativity called The Little Spark–30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity, and it is meant as a loving mother’s voice sent to help people tap into their innate creativity, no matter what that looks like. I want to help people hear their own loving voice. Being a mother has allowed me the freedom to share that with people easily. Many people have the desire to make art or be creative, but lack the self-love needed to overcome the obstacles to a creative life. Many people never received the loving voice of support from teachers, parents or family around their creativity.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I have always been an artist and have always owned my own business but when the economy collapsed in 2008 our 15-year-old faux-finishing and mural painting business collapsed with it. I was lucky enough to step into my fullness and heed the whispers of my heart during that reset and with the total inspiration that came from being pregnant with my baby girl. She took me where I needed to go. She showed me the path.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
Yes, for sure. I actually always, always thought id be a “New York artist.” Not just an artist but one living in New York. After art school I finally moved to New York, and I can tell you that wasn't the life for me! I came running back to the desert and haven’t looked back for 15 years. I like sunshine and earth. I like driving to get groceries and affording my lovely little house and playing outside with the kids. I like to hike and garden and go to yoga and make stuff. Life here is easy by comparison.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
It has meandered but my kids are always my first focus. They are the big rocks in my jar and I pour all the rest of the sand around them. I try to incorporate them into my creative practice. As a family, we draw together, make stuff in the studio. I call it Super Soul Sunday when we all wake up on Sunday mornings and can spend a few hours being in the studio together, all working on separate projects and listening to music. My husband is an artist too and has now become a therapist. Art is a spiritual practice for me and my husband and we hope to show the kids that path.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
Being a mother has allowed me to be in my wellspring of Love. It cracked me open to tenderness, vulnerability, nurturing, LOVE. It helps me be gentle. Also, it rushes my hands–I’m forced to be more productive in less time…which is a good thing for me. I’m good with deadlines. Motherhood has become my funnel. There is a Bottleneck of Priority at the thinnest part of the funnel. All things must pass through that thin spot. If they are too big or time-wasting or extraneous, I just say NO.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work products?
It grounds me. It reminds me of all the parts of me–I am both soulful, abstract painter and maker of whimsical, playful things. It is OK to be both.
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?
Probably, in some ways they love being around so many grown-ups when I teach classes and workshops, they’re almost always included, but in some ways, they don't like when I have work events, meetings, conferences. So they learn from my work and they also probably resent it a bit when it takes me away from them. But then again, I feel the same way! haha!
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I think that sitting in your house and making stuff with your hands and then taking it out into the world and selling it is just like having a lemonade stand. I love showing the kiddos all the aspects that go into making and marketing and branding my lemonade stand. My kids LOVE Shark Tank. We watch it together. I think business is creative. They love to talk about branding and marketing and we dream up products and ideas together. I hope to teach them that business itself is a creative process–not just the product but the journey.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Good question: I’d tell people to crave and claw their way to what is important–to what turns them on and lights them up. For me, that might be a gesture drawing class or a glassblowing class. Both of those things might seem outside of the scope of my business and creativity but if I take time to honor my path and my desires, then my bucket is full of radiating light and inspiration and I can draw on that bucket to fuel my fire in other others. So my answer is–start with what feels the absolute awesome-est!!!! Then that will fill your cup and spread out into the daily aspects of your creative life and productivity. It is worth the few hours away from your kids. It is worth the babysitter or trip to grandmas house to drop your kids. Your kids will see you shining and feel that energy and be inspired to be just like you!!!
Thank you so much, Carrie, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Carrie in the following places: