This month's Mama Mash-Up activity was inspired by the work of Suzi Banks Baum. A woman who has inspired us in many other ways - not least of which is her work to give mothers a voice.
Here, Suzi shares the story behind her inspiring collection of words and art made by 36 mother artists: An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. What draws mothers to create? What stops us? And how can we find the creativity in every action?
This is a shortened version of an article written for Studio Mothers – you can read the full article here
An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice was borne into the world from the hope brewed in the hearts of women who cannot but express themselves; women who daily ask if they could possibly continue living their lives without this expression, because after all, wouldn’t it all be easier?
Dinner would be whipped up on time, thank-you notes would go out right after the party, and socks would match day after day if only we did not feel compelled to express ourselves as the wind is compelled to blow, as the seas to wave, and as the apple to ripen. We are women pressed to express. This urge exists no matter what our life conditions. Every single strata of our culture bears the blaze of women’s creative expression.
It is confounding at times to find a 10- or 15-minute span of time where all the wants and needs and rotting peaches on the counter settle and you can close a door, any door, but a door and write, doodle, read, rest, paint, knit, or whatever rings your chimes that counts for self-expression. Given the bus rides between two jobs, counseling your kids through witnessing life in America, shutting off the voices of self-judgment, containing the flood of input our culture serves us daily: all of these things clutter the on-ramp to quiet time.
I have long advocated and will likely go to my grave promoting the idea that the very act of being alive is creative, and the sooner we agree that the acts of magic performed filling the lunch bags or organizing a fund drive or negotiating work hours and sitter coverage are all works worthy of value and appreciation.
Long ago we were convinced that our daily lives are drudgery and only the things we do that are away from daily life are sublime. We swallowed the belief that nothing sacred or transformative happens in daily life, particularly with kids.
I differ with this. Slow is the new slogan. Slow food, slow art, slow time. Many artists today are tuning themselves to slow down and pay closer attention to their lives as a source for inspiration. Most mothers can tell you stories about slow. They have slow covered. They learned about slow when they watched their newborn see a sibling for the first time, the tracing of face, eyes, and smile that moved between subject and virgin observer. Most mothers know much about slow, having stood at the edges of puddles with toddlers. Or with six-year-olds eating cake. Or with seven-year-olds at the beach in a sandcastle construction project. Mothers know slow. And only in slow can the revelatory insight of inspiration come that all we have to be today is awake and beauty worth describing flows all around us.
This is the stuff of daily life. Material abounds when we raise the value of mothering from drudgery to playground. The struggle we all experience to express during the fulltime job of raising children can beat us to the typewriter or sketchpad. It can trip us en route to the studio. It can undermine us because of fashion failure, bad hair days, and the long recipe of low self-esteem invented by too little time for self-care. So we don’t write, we don’t shed light on our dreams, and we deprive the world of our value because we ourselves have not experienced that value. We have not made even a tiny step towards our dreams because we are too tired and weary and downtrodden.
In the beginning, I thought the book might be An Anthology of Babes: 20 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. But the response was stronger than I’d expected. So my title went from 20 Women Giving Motherhood a Voice, to 25, to 30, then 31, 32 and hovered at 35 until I had that one last post to complete the set. Thirty-six seems like such an abundant gathering of anything. I will take 36 peaches any day. Or 36 buttons. Or 36 stories of how women sew together lives rich with children, projects, businesses, and yearning.
Now the book is out in the world and has a place on bookstore shelves in the local author section here in my town, in the women’s sections of others, on the shelves at the Kripalu bookstore with other titles about women’s lives, listed on Goodreads, and now is available on Amazon.
I have given the book as gifts and sent review copies to bloggers who are celebrating its impact on the collective value of the creative expression of mothers. Mandy Steward of Messy Canvas and mother of four said, “It’s the most profound book I’ve seen for Mother-Artists.”
Please read the book. Share it if you like. And consider your stories. Yes, this invitation to be vulnerable will feel very much like your regular life, once you get started. Your life can fuel your paintings. Your birthday cakes are works of art that will lead to more works of art. Art that is every day and in every way sublime because it is your passionate expression of what it is to be you, in this life, not waiting for a certain state of perfection to arrive so you can don a certain outfit and then become an artist.
Writer after writer in the blog series reveal the vulnerability that has birthed courage, joy and transformation in their lives. They may not desire to birth books, but in claiming their voices they begin to revitalize their lives, they become as Miranda Hersey says in her piece, “a more spacious self, a more generous mother-heart.” Whether or not the world accepts their works of art, these women have discovered their own value. And it is this value born from vulnerability that leads to a well-built platform, if not for an author, then simply for an authentically happy human being.
Now I invite you.
Want to play?
And a final note from Pippa: An Anthology of Babes is a simply wonderful collection of art and words, made by mothers just like us. Treat yourself to a feast of inspiration and the recognition we deserve.