Once in a while you meet a person and you just click. It's like their piece fits into the puzzle that is your life, and you wonder how you ever overlooked that hole in the past.
That's how I feel about the incredible woman I want to introduce you to...but before I even get to her name, I have to share her work.
This talented and strong mother makes cut paper collage, for fine art prints and greeting cards. She says, "It all started as a way to stop my two year old from hectoring me ('MOMMY! DRAW ME A DIGGER!') after I had already drawn him about 7000 construction vehicles." She framed them, photoed them, posted on Facebook, and people started asking if they could get copies. BAM! In business.
Mother of two (Ben and Joel), 45 years old
Lives in: North Vancouver, BC
What is your mothering story? When and how did you decide to start your family, and then tell me about the decision to grow your family, as well! The decision to have one is monumental enough -- tell me about that first one, and then talk about the decision to have a second!
I became pregnant with our first child in 2006. It was a rather eventful pregnancy which ended after three days of on-off labour and an emergency c-section.
The doctor giving me the epidural joked, "Sit still please. First time I've done this, eh!"
I told him I did it all the time.
Shortly after that, when my baby's heartbeat was "pausing," plugs were yanked out of the wall and off we went at a run. I was so full of drugs that I didn't recognise my spouse in the OR. When our baby gave his first cry, I asked - is that my baby? I was numb from the chest down for what seemed like hours but that was ok because it gave me a chance to enjoy being smeared with ice cubes by strangers.
Now that our oldest is almost 9, I see that how my pregnancy describes him to a T. A hurricane made of human, in other words :)
What does your day-to-day routine look like?
Wow. Lots of work in short bursts when kids are occupied. Occasional late-night work binges when a deadline is looming. Going on newspaper assignments with one or both of our children, who now take photos for my articles.
These days, we're on a run of seniors' stories, which has given my children some rare and beautiful opportunities. e.g. meeting a veteran of the 1944 Normandy landing by Allied Forces; a conversation with an Egyptian Jewish woman, who told us the story of her flight to Israel in 1949; visiting seniors in a home and hospital, in the middle of a high holiday (think seniors in feather boas with football rattles).
I go through weeks that are art-intensive, alternating with weeks when I focus on writing. I sketch when the kids are drawing or watching TV (if I am not making dinner, making calls or spamming Instagram). At the moment, because I am in a huge growth phase, it's hard to fend off marketing and packaging decisions, or research into new brands for joint ventures. That said, the crazy ride is fun. In a masochistic, insomniac sort of way :)
In all seriousness, though: I LOVE this stage of business development because it's about relationship building. That and on-fire, frizzy-hair-standing-on-end inspiration... At this point, I don't have the time or childcare to work all the designs in my sketchbook, but with September comes kindergarten for our youngest, and hysterical laughter from momma.
You are an incredibly prolific paper artist and writer. I am in awe of how quickly you seem to be able to finish a piece or a product! How, how, HOW do you do this? What do you do to get your work done?
I have been a writer and an artist since I was a child. Writing has been a daily practice for as long as I can remember. Writing is work, it's a passion, a way of relishing my solitude... It feels good. And I love the feeling of being "in the zone," where you can tune out everything that is going on around you, in the service of art... Once that place in your brain is there, furnished, lived in.. Well, you can't exactly rent it out. You just have to live there.
What has been your worst mother moment so far?
Having a chronically sick infant/toddler. I would describe this as unrelenting worry punctuated with outright terror. The daily fear that I would fail and that my child would die.
What has been your strongest mothering moment?
The realisation that struck me while a drooling beast climbed on my head, muttering gibberish and panting in my ear. (That led to a Globe and Mail piece.)
What do you wish moms would stop doing to each other?
Comparing themselves with others. Who is thinner (who cares)? Whose child is better at sharing (who cares?) whose kid is smarter (who cares?), sleep trained earlier (SERIOUSLY??), has the best manners (at what, TWO? Are you kidding??), and so on. The fact is, we all know that our kids are the handsomest, smartest, most interesting, creative and so on.
Because sometimes our kids aren't. Mine. Yours. Everyone's. Being a mom is hard. We're all in the same boat. We may as well row in the same direction. Why not ask, how are you doing? How did you sleep last night? Do you have dinner plans? On a scale of one to ten, how crazy do you feel today? When was the last time you put on some nice clothes and felt good about who you are?
What is your mothering wish for other mamas? What do you like to impart or share with other moms?Offer help to a stranger once a week. If you're at Superstore, be a superstar. Go and ask the mom with the screaming kid if you can get anything for her cart. Or help her bag her groceries. Even if she says no, at least you asked.
No matter what, you are never "just" a mom. You are so much more, and always have been.
If you hear a tiny voice in your head saying "I am not ok. I am not coping", if you feel as though your eyes are open but the world is still dark -- tell someone. We have all been fragile and scared behind our yoga wear and beautiful glasses. I know from my own experience that you can't always tell how someone is just by looking. Trust me when I say, there is love out there, and kindness. There is a safe place to land. Have faith in yourself and stretch out a hand - more likely than not, you'll find a hand reaching back.
You can read some of the wonderful and heartwarming stories behind Shula's designs at her Nifty Scissors site.
In her first two years of business, Shula's work shipped across Canada and the USA, as well as to France and England. "Marine Life" won a West Vancouver art contest and one element of the piece now flies above WesDel Marina in Ladner, BC, as their street flags.
From May 15-18 Shula will be attending the National Stationery Show in New York with Heather van Woerden, Nifty Scissors' Marketing Director. One of the show's presenters - who also edits three trade magazines - has already requested samples of Shula's work.