Carve Out Time for Art started with Artist Mother interviews. Though we've expanded this year to look at how all types of people find time to make art, we love to hear from creative mothers. Enjoy this interview with Cassia Cogger, who is an artist and also publishing a book in 2017!
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I am an artist, teacher, mother, wife. All of the above in varying order on any given day. I have a five year old son and a nine year old daughter. After growing up in Colorado, and spending 8 years in New York City I now live in a beautiful town in central Connecticut.
I spend my time creating and marketing my own work, teaching others to engage with the creative process both in person and online, and expanding more and more my belief that art is for anybody interested in exploring it.
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
My approach to creating my work has changed drastically since having children.
I used to paint quite large and work late in to the night (or early morning). Since having children and moving to CT my studio is detached from the house. If I am outside working in it I can't hear the kiddos and the kiddos can't find me which is both a blessing and a curse. I now have some large projects that unfold in the studio but also do a large percentage of my work in a smaller format on the kitchen table.
I used to like to explore lots of different mediums (dry pigments, solvents, etc). Since becoming a mother I have become more aware of material toxicity in an attempt to maintain a healthy long term environment for both my children and myself.
I am currently inspired to create works addressing issues that have arisen for me as a mother. This may boil down to the way in which they are created whether via small spurts each day as I undertake 100 Day Projects or in collaboration with my children who are often interested in painting and drawing together. I am also now interested in creating pieces that inspire challenging conversations. Some of these personal projects span tough issues I face each day surrounding the conversations I have with and the thoughts and ideas I "feed" my children, the way in which people speed through our neighborhoods, and the way I edit how I act and what I say in order to be a "good" mother (whatever that means).
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
For me creating is a non negotiable. Second only to food and water, if I'm not actively engaged in creating something in some way I am not happy or nice(true story). I did have to make a difficult choice of letting go of a mature business in order to fully nurture my children and my art in the ways that seemed necessary and honestly it seems I am still often coming up short.
I work early, I work late. I have become more disciplined as time has passed learning to say no to the non essential or non life affirming activities that are presented to me. We don't go to every party or play date or (fill in the blank) that we might be invited to.
I also find it helpful to work in project based format. If I have committed to a subject matter or medium or size for a certain period of time I always have a starting point to depart from even in the shortest windows of opportunity. I find this also forces me to expand my ideas and imagination and leads to some really great learning and discovery.
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
Being an artist keeps me in constant conversation with the world around me. A ceaseless observer. I now go out of my way to share the things I notice, colors, shapes, patterns, light, with my children as I encourage them to slow down and pay attention to their surrounding environment as well.
This ceaseless observation extends to my internal world as well and as a mother I am often questioning how I can become a better person in all realms in order to serve my children and ultimately myself.
As my daughter has gotten older she sometimes questions my choices and I constantly try to explain that my hope is that her seeing me pursue my passions regardless of societal expectations will allow her to do the same as she finds herself in similar situations. I hope that my son is able to find the same lessons as he matures.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
As mentioned above, I have a detached studio. We purchased a 12" x 16" shed and finished it out complete with electricity, drywall, and climate control. It is 20 feet out my back door. This allows me to work from home yet also transition from whatever is happening in our shared space out in to my own private enclave. I would love higher ceilings, more light, bigger spaces and... am so grateful for the space i do have!
I also create throughout our house, especially our kitchen table. It's kind of an issue. I have a tendency to start a small piece before making breakfast for the kids and then finishing it later in the evening. My materials have a tendency to gather and before I know it there isn't any room for anyone to sit down and share the family meals.
That being said paints and pens are always at hand so when the kids do want to create in tandem with me we just do. There isn't much set up, they can just grab what they want and get started.
I create a lot of art with my kids both indoors and out. My daughter is particularly interested and often joins me at shows or demos or teaching classes.
Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
I try to keep a pretty regular routine. I have an amazing husband who always helps out when he is around. I have also been very clear with the kids from an early age that "Nice Mommy clocks out at 8pm". This means if they aren't ready for bed and tucked in by then they make that choice at their own risk. Honestly, I still always help them get ready and read books together regardless of the time but sometimes I rush through it.
This year I signed a contract with North Light Publishing for a book that will be out in 2017. This did force me to go outside of my comfort zone and ask others for help with the kids. I found I have a really supportive, encouraging group of friends and family who were happy to step in and cover me for parenting duties. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am thrilled to say I have found mine.
As far as streamlining, delegating or outsourcing household activities I have a tendency to ignore things as much as I can until they can't be ignored any longer (laundry!!!). I am not going to win any housekeeping awards but as long as we are all healthy and happy that's what matters to me more than the piles on my floor.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
I oscillate between yearning to be a part of the canonical art world (galleries, museums, commissions) which is what I have known historically to wanting to exit the "box" completely. I have recently become very interested in creating works that inspire creativity, connection or community among others. This might mean a public art installation or a lovingly crafted tea bowl. It could be shared in a gallery, a school or a coffee shop. It has really challenged me to reevaluate what "art" really is to me and why I create the things I do. I am in a space where I would like process over product to drive my work and yet I would also still really like to earn a living.