Feature: Artistic Motherhood


    Lisa Carter talks to three mothers working in the arts to find out how they find the time and space to be creative.

    Camilla Rutherford – Actress & Blogger

    How has being a mother influenced your work?
    As an actress, you are always observing people and thinking about what makes them behave as they do. Each child is a new personality, and when they are your own, you have the amazing privilege of watching them in different circumstances. This close up observation is good for understanding a character, which is key to playing different roles. Until recently, I have played women who are very young – at the start of adulthood – and watching children is extra helpful for that. I have begun to play older women and my role as a mother with its protective, nurturing instincts has been helpful in creating a more mature character.

    How do you explore the theme of motherhood in your work?
    In my latest film project, Alleycats, I play a mother who is expecting her second child. Her husband is a lying philanderer. It was easy for me to feel her pain, her anger and her protectiveness towards her daughter and unborn child. The love of children brings out an almost wild instinct to protect someone other than yourself. This powerful emotion can be can be readily called upon should a role require it.

    How do you find the time to be creative?
    Being creative is part of who I am. Mostly my “creations” are a form of styling. I draw, paint, take photographs – and I love to style and restyle my house, my children and myself. I set up my website, The English Mother, to document this process.

    Do your children get involved with feedback and ideas?
    When I am drawing, or painting, dressing or arranging – my children are full of opinions. Sometimes it is best not to ask them, on other occasions they can really help and it becomes a joint project. I have to be in the mood for teamwork. I don’t ask them much about acting, only what they might do in such and such a circumstance.

    Did your childhood have any influence over your career?
    I was brought up with old-fashionedvalues, doing things in traditional and sometimes elaborate ways. I feel especially comfortable in period pieces because of this. There have also been some strong, outspoken characters in my family who have influenced me and I would generally prefer to play a strong woman rather than a feeble one. theenglishmother.com


    Tabitha Webb – Fashion DesignerArtMothers2

    How has being a mother influenced your work as a fashion designer?
    It has made me more aware of how wearable and practical things need to be. So I focus on creating easy pieces with an edge. I do this by
    using bold and contrasting prints and colours – but on easy silhouettes.

    How do you find the time to be creative?
    It is often a grabbed moment when I least expect it. Some days, I will go downstairs to the studio with the team and we’ll make things – we are very organic in our design. I recently collaborated with Pippa Middleton and we created an exclusive dress and scarf in aid of the British Heart Foundation, too.

    Does your daughter get involved with feedback and ideas yet?
    Well, she is only three. I always ask her about colours and which her favourite prints are. Sometimes when I show her something, she will say, “Mummy, that is sooooo beautiful,” and it does make your heart soar, even though you know that probably means it is awful.

    Has your childhood had any influence on your career?
    It must have done. I have travelled a lot all my life, and I grew up in the States until I was 10. We never stayed in one place for long and this exposed me to a lot of different aesthetics. I definitely did a lot of shopping research.

    When did you realise you wanted to be a fashion designer?
    I have always been an entrepreneur, much to my family’s horror. I love colour and creating so I think that when I put those things together, it led me to fashion design.


    ArtMothers3Santa Montefiore – Novelist

    How has being a mother influenced your work as a writer?
    The more experience one has as a writer the better the books are going to be, and what are we if not sums of our experience? Having children has given me a depth I didn’t have before, an understanding of love but also of fear – because a mother’s anxiety is a tremulous layer beneath our day-to-day lives. I understand motherhood only because I’m a mother, and that is something I love to explore in all of my novels.

    How do you find the time to be creative?
    I only write when the children are at school, so I have to be very disciplined. I make sure I’m at my desk around 9am and refrain from emailing and taking phone calls until I feel I’ve done enough. I light candles in my office, put flowers on the desk, play music – make my office as comfortable as possible so that I can’t wait to get back to it. I would say the one vital tool I require to unleash my creative energy is music: big sweeping movie soundtracks. My favourites for my Irish trilogy are Howard Shore, John Williams, David Arkenstone.

    How do you explore themes of family in your work?
    All my novels are about family. Family is where we get our opportunities to learn and grow on a spiritual level. The older I get, the more I understand the complexities of relationships and there’s no better place to explore the entire spectrum of human emotions than within the family. My new novel, Songs of Love and War, available now (£16.99, hardback), is about four generations of a family based in County Cork starting in 1910. I’ve had such fun exploring all the different and very complex relationships. Human nature is eternally fascinating.

    Do your children get involved with feedback and ideas?
    Not at the moment. I hope they will one day. My son has come up with a really good idea for a children’s book, which my husband and I are now writing together. Watch this space. Sasha, who is 12, wants his name on the cover and a very large portion of the advance.

    Has your childhood had any influence on your work?
    My childhood has influenced me enormously. I grew up on a beautiful farm in Hampshire. We built camps in the woods, played on rafts in the pond that my father built us, roasted marshmallows on fires and played outside all the time, creating our own fun. I worry for children these days with all the computer technology to stifle and destroy their creativity. If kids aren’t allowed to be bored, their imagination will be a place they never visit. The Jacobean house where I grew up features in many of my novels and my love of nature is something that comes through in all of them. I would write very different books if I’d had a different kind of childhood.

    Photography: Helene Sandberg