March is Women’s History month. In our 2018 Membership Survey, we learned that approximately 86% of our members identify as women. In fact, women constitute 63% of Canadian artists, but in 2013, only accounted for 36% of solo exhibits at Canadian institutions.
It started with a seemingly simple question: Can you name five women artists?
Throughout March, we will be highlighting some of the amazing women artists that make the BC contemporary craft community so strong. Each individual highlighted will write a blog post and take over our Instagram for a day to share their experiences!
Our first blog post is written by Louise Perrone. Louise is a Canadian jewellery artist who works with materials from domestic and industrial waste, employing techniques that combine the traditions of goldsmithing and hand sewing to explore the values attributed to traditional women’s work. Take it away, Louise!
#5WomenArtists campaign this year is about action, so I decided to share some practical advice for women artists like me who are also mothers. My career as an artist was put into stasis for seven years when I had children (I hadn’t intended to take this much time away from my work, but I was diagnosed with post partum depression and anxiety when my second child was six months old). It’s never easy getting back to work after having children, but the illness made it a lot harder. It wasn’t until I had got the illness under control with medication, counselling, sleep, exercise and diet that I felt well enough to even attempt to make art, let alone undertake all the other work that goes with exhibiting and selling it.
Here are some of the things that helped me get back on track:
I changed the way I work
Silversmithing and anodizing aluminum is not safe or practical around small children so I devised a way of working with fabric and hand sewing that I could bring with me to the park, the dentists office, the play gym… I had to work when I could and expect interruptions.
I joined social media
In 2011 Facebook was fairly new and Instagram didn’t exist. I started making friends from the jewellery world online and posted images of my work. My Facebook became 80% career 20% personal. It was a way for people to discover my work and for me to keep up to date with what was going on in the craft world. I still find out about a lot of opportunities through facebook, but instagram is taking over.
I made my own website
When I graduated in 2002, a fellow ACAD student made me a website, but in 2011 Squarespace allowed me to create and update my own. There are many other platforms you can use including Wix and Weebly.
I decided to go to the SNAG conference in Seattle 2011. I printed business cards with an image of my work on them. I made lots of contacts with local and international jewellers and gallerists, which resulted in my next point:
I got involved in the local and international craft community
After a couple of years, I joined the board of the Vancouver Metal Arts Association. I also did voluntary work for the Craft Council of BC and the Society of North American Goldsmiths. My circle of friends became less focused on the parents of my kids’ friends, and more on other artists and crafts people. I found my peer group.
I got a part time job
Teaching one or two jewellery classes at Lasalle College not only helps me financially, but is part of my practice as an artist. I learn from the students and they learn from me. It is very rewarding. You would think it would take time away from my own work, but it inspires my research and broadens the scope of my work.
What would I have done differently?
When I look back over what I just wrote, that list seems rather daunting, no wonder it took me seven years to get started again! Fortunately, there are lots of groups working to support artists who are parents that have sprung up in the last few years. I have not personally been involved in any of them, but if I was a new mum now I would be all over this!
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Mother Maker Blog
A network for exchange and dialogue for mothers trying to find their way back into their art/design practice after having children
Mothers Who Make
A UK based initiative aimed at supporting mothers who are artists
Arts organisation supporting the development of contemporary artists who are also mothers working across art-forms
Desperate Art Wives
A space for activism and motherhood
Artist Residency in Motherhood
A self-directed, open-source artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers.
A non-profit organisation exploring maternal thinking, theory and research within the arts, culture, philosophy and the society at large
An online magazine featuring conversations with artists who are mothers
If you are feeling sad, overwhelmed, anxious during pregnancy or at anytime after the birth or adoption of a child please talk to someone about it, go and see your family doctor, a walk in clinic or go to these websites where you can find help: