Playing with embroidery on a salvaged denim pocket.
A couple of months ago, I began seeing flyers around town for a creativity/art/something class. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what the class was all about from the flyer, but it sounded like the organizer felt the same way about art-making as I do: that it’s for everybody, and it’s important, and it should be a part of our lives. So I emailed her for more information. I realized we definitely think the same way. With her classes, she was hoping to gather a group of people and hold the time and space for creating. She’d provide the materials, and the participants would be free to create. I don’t need anyone to hold the time and space for me; art and creativity is fairly ingrained into my life at this point. But I would like to meet more people who feel that way in person. I know so many people online who understand what this need to create is all about, and I am grateful for that. But it would also be nice to know some people nearby so we could meet for coffee and bounce ideas off each other of in a back-and-forth out-loud conversation.
I thought about taking the class, but it was six sessions beginning in December, and it was a lot of money to spend in December solely out of curiosity. I noticed she was offering one session on a weekday morning and another on Friday nights, and I thought about how weekdays are difficult if you have children who aren’t in school or if you’re homeschooling, and how nights are hard if you’re nursing, and how in the days when I was trying so hard to claw out some time and space for creative work, a class like this wouldn’t have been accessible to me at all. She ended up deciding to make the classes drop-in instead of having people pay for six at a time, and I decided I could spend that lesser amount of money for curiosity and to try to meet other people who feel like I do. So in early December, I went, not quite knowing what to expect.
What I decided was that this is a valuable service, but I don’t need it. I have a ridiculously well-stocked art room. Almost anything I want to do, I can go to the right shelf and find the materials I want. I’m really good at making time and space to insert creativity into my day. If I don’t have time for digging into something deeply, I can still find time to write, or draw, or knit, make something that wasn’t there before emerge from the work of my own two hands. And if I’m going to spend money for a class-type thing, I need my investment to result in more than just chit-chat while I play with materials. I don’t take the money I spend on classes lightly; I want to advance my work in some way, learn something new or advance mastery of something I’m already doing.
But as I thought about this group (and I hope it takes off), I thought again about how, for a decade, anything I wanted to learn, I taught myself. I couldn’t swing classes while exclusively nursing babies who didn’t bother with bottles. I let all my babies nurse to sleep, and wouldn’t change the rules on them suddenly just so I could go take a class. Those times with each child were important and irreplaceable; of course, I had three of them, so it stretched out to a decade. During that time, I taught myself to knit, sew, and embroider. I played around with art materials and figured things out on my own. It was either that, or do nothing new until the last kid was weaned, and I’m not that patient.
I’ve spoken about this before: I didn’t begin facilitating art for my kids solely because I am a fabulous mother who wants them to be exposed to lots of different art materials and techniques. While I do want that, of course, I also wanted so much to get my hands back into paint and charcoal that it felt like a physical need. At the time, my youngest child was two and still wouldn’t sleep without my body beside her. The gradual expansion of my time that I’d expected by that point hadn’t happened. The obvious solution was to make art right alongside my kids. In between helping them and fetching what they needed, I could grab a few minutes here and there so I could create, too.
Art Together has “together” in the title for a reason. We adults aren’t just here to facilitate experiences for our kids. We have a right—perhaps even a duty—to make sure we’re getting our need for creative play satisfied as well. It would be great if the kids would quietly occupy themselves with their own projects while we work on our own (!) or if we could go out on Friday nights and have a glass of wine and adult conversation while playing around with paint. But that’s not possible for many of us, for whatever reason. Art Together—the series and the zine—is an invitation to dive into the same activities your kids are doing, to explore and have fun and relax and not think for a little bit. I came upon that solution the way most good ideas occur—by necessity. I had a need that wasn’t being met, and I had to find a way to fix that. Along the way, so many benefits accrued, not just for me OR the kids but for all of us together, the sum, as is often the case, being so much greater than its parts.
In a rambly way, I’m encouraging you to think creatively if you spend your days with children and you have a need that’s going unfulfilled. How can you work within your circumstances to make it a part of your schedule? Maybe it’s art-making, maybe it’s something else. Don’t wait for somebody to come along and offer to hold that time and space for you—that may happen, but perhaps not soon enough. Learn to hold the time and space yourself.