MAW (Mother Artists at Work) is an organization for mothers who are also artists and artists who are also mothers here in the Central Ohio area. They have been around since 2005, making next year their 10th anniversary. They started with about 5 members mainly as a support group. In their own words “it’s very difficult to be a mother and also to pursue art. Both of those professions take a lot of energy and both are very intense.” They have put on kids arts shows in the past, as well as participated in showings of their own work. More recently, they have been focusing on collaboration and giving mother artists an opportunity to show their work, something that is very important to them. They still operate as a support group but when they get together to make art, “magic happens”.
For the Columbus Invitational, they’ve been a key group throughout its first three years. They won best in show and first place the first year. They repeated as first place winners in the visual arts division the second year. Their pieces from the past two years and this year are here in the Elijah Pierce Gallery at the King Arts Complex for this exhibition.
Here you can watch them discuss their previous three years of work.
How does MAW work?
“Early on, we tried to have meetings without the kids, because moms need that time. But then we decided that if you had to bring your kids, do it. So now our kids have like 7 moms. We try to be flexible, especially for the moms with younger kids.”
“[As far as the art goes], whoever can work at the time will participate int he pieces. We try not to pressure anyone. We understand that people have lives. We tend to work on one piece at a time. The Columbus Invitational has been the thing that has spurred us to work collaboratively on a piece. We’ll work together on a show but we really only collaborate for the invitational.”
Why is MAW important to its members?
“It’s a place that helps nurture you as a mother and an artist. It encourages you to make art even though you’re in the thick of being a parent. It’s a very caring, flexible, and open group.”
“After I left my first MAW meeting, I got home feeling like “That was great! They had fun and got stuff done. It’s a high. You come home and you’re like ‘I’VE FOUND MY PEOPLE!’”
We had a chance to sit down with each member that could come (there are about 30 members in all). We asked them why they were artists and why they did what they did.
Cyndi Bellerose – I just, this sounds really hoakey, but I was born an artist. The earliest memories I have are drawing. I loved being grounded, to go to my room with a pad of paper and a pencil and I’d stay there for hours just drawing. So I’ve always been an artist. I thought I might go into theater but I decided to go the visual art route instead. I started off as a commercial artist doing graphic design and illustration work and I still do that and I love it. It pays the bills and it’s nice to have a job that I really, really like. The fine art part of my life really started in about 2000, about 14 years ago, when I just decided that I need to pull out my paints and just see what happens. It became sort of a therapy for me.
Alissa Head – I, too, always loved art. I especially remember from high school where I did a lot of drawing and doodling. And I went onto college and I majored in visual arts in the studio. At that time, my medium was photography. For me, I think, what really lead me to art is that I felt like I needed a way to express myself as far as ideas and thoughts and feelings. I needed an outlet. I needed a way to say what I was thinking and get my message out to people. Even though I didn’t have an agenda or anything, it was just a way to get the internal message out. It’s kind of a collaboration for me; getting the inside out and then the viewer becomes a participant by interpreting it or responding to it.
I did photography for a long time but then I kind of got burnt out on it. The first mother artist show we did, I actually did some photography. But I was really into fiber art and sewing and clothing design and knitting. I was doing a lot of that and that gave me a new medium to work with. It gave new voice to my ideas. It started out with stainless steel wire covered with silk. It was something I won in a knitting raffle and I made a mask with it. I realized I could make forms with knitting; I could make sculptures, so that’s when I really started exploring that.
Lisa Horkin – I was born into art. It’s always been important to me from the very beginning. Currently, I am working in blown glass and introducing painting into the hot glass. I spent years and years painting and doing textile mixed media. I’m bringing some of the feel that I did in the textile mixed media into my new glass work. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to it, I just am. I’m drawn to all types of art. I’ve dabbled in all different types. In fact, I was thinking the other day that there’s not a lot that I haven’t done. Not to be arrogant, but I’ve played with a lot of work, a lot of different mediums. Part of that was doing education with kids and coming up with different projects; paper marbling, sculpting with paper mache, or 3D design. I love art, any kind of art, I’ll do it.
April Sunami – I do mixed media painting. I’ve been doing this professionally for about 8 years now. I’ve done it all my life. It’s just something that I’ve always done. In school, I studied art history and just fell in love with it. I took studio and fell in love with that. I’ve just been doing it ever since.
Lisa Metsker – I’ve lived here in Columbus for 8 years. My husband moved here for a job and I had just graduated college. I wound up having to stay home with my children. I went to school for animation in the beginning. He moved to Arkansas, of all places, and I had to start over. I ended up in Art Education and, when I graduated, I kind of lost everything. I lost family and friends and moved here. I’ve been kind of in my own little bubble up in Lewis Center. All my kids moved out except for one, and I was sitting there with nothing to do. I went to an interview at the Open Door Art Studio. I met Sharron, who turned me onto MAW. It was a group of mothers who do art and that’s what I’ve done my entire life.
Katherine Bell Smith – I went to school for art. I decided in high school that that was [what I was going to be]. My mom kept saying “You’re gonna be an artist, Kathy!” so I did, I became an artist. I just never thought of anything else except maybe music. And my mom was a musician and she said “No. Art.” I work in natural materials. I didn’t always, though. When I first started out, I was the traditional sculptor so I worked in stone and metal and wood. I stopped making art for a while, had my family, and did a lot of gardening during that time period. I gained an awareness of the world around me and just how incredibly beautiful it is. So I started collecting things when I was in the garden or out walking; bark seeds, pods. [My piece in our third collaboration] has milkweed pods. There’s all the fluff [in the first layer], then the second layer has all the seeds and the bottom layer is earth. So that’s what I do. I also like to work with copper, to put structure to these pieces sometimes and I consider that a natural material. You can mine that right out of the earth, pure and simple.
Mollie Hannon – I’m a photographer. I went to school and took traditional classes and studied photography. Then I kind of fell away but then I had my daughter and started taking pictures of her. It reminded me of why I liked doing it and it just made sense, so that’s why I do what I do. It just makes sense. And when I don’t do it, my life doesn’t make sense. Does that make sense? I do a lot of self-portraits. It’s mostly emotional work, what I’m going through personally. I also photograph other people but it’s usually to tell a story or evoke an emotion that’s completely personal for me. I think that’s why I do it; it helps me express whatever it is that life is throwing at you, especially as a mom and as a woman and all of those fun things. [Those things] that you either have to get out or you’ll go crazy and I don’t do crazy well.