Our artist mothers

Fundraising link

So recently some artist friends and I were talking about the issues in management of our lives. One thing popped up that gets a lot of artist’s hackle’s up. It’s a kind of touchy subject internally and in the artworld’s eyes. Artist mothers. Mother artists.

This is quite relevant to this campaign and my artist life, as I had to make some major life decisions when my husband and I decided to have children. How would it work out? What would be our source of income? How would I manage to deal with my creative side? I always knew that I wanted children. This is something that every woman artist has to consider and I dare say no one takes the decision lightly. For, when you have a child, you are creating yet another work – but one that takes considerable time and energy and is very often blocking your need and want for other creative ventures that makes us who we are as creative beings.

I looked forward to the creativity that comes with children and using my education degrees in conjunction with my art creating urges. What I didn’t expect is that my artist life was going to need to go on hold for a while, and doing full scale exhibitions was going to be out. So with my first son Kahurangi, I tried to channel my energies into things like monthly naked photo shoots of him, sewing clothes, making knitted squares with my craft group who became his surrogate aunties so I could actually knit for an hour while they took turns holding him. I made awesome bento lunches for his kindy in later years and took pride in creating amazing costumes for various events and making toys to entertain him. I made the decision to allow him to rule my world to some extent, and I enjoyed the journey. Watching him grow and learn and the fascination of the world through his new eyes was enough for me. The sense of wonder and passion that a toddler has is some of the most creative worlds we have. I pottered along with my art on the odd occasion he was occupied, but rather than get up and do art, I spent his naptimes cuddling with him instead. The creation I was making was building him up and the relationship of our love.

With my second son Te Pō Atarau, he was a very sickly and needy child. By the time he arrived 2 years later, I was starting to get twitchy that my art was progressing so slowly. And along came this boy who needed my attention 24-7 literally and wouldn’t go to anyone else but me. I loved him so much, but I started to resent that I could not get time alone to myself to go the bathroom much less do any art. It was a hard time where I cried a lot and tried to convince myself that I was doing the right things by him, but desperately needed a creative outlet other than drawing pictures of him on my breast as it was the only time he was content. I ended up deciding that he was a sacrifice worth investing in, and I tried to make time fade – as with a baby or toddler the days are so incredibly long, but the years go by so fast. It was a long arduous haul, but we did it together and the bond that I have with him and had during that time was massively intense. I consider that emotional relationship as a major contributor to my art these days with empathy and understanding that I had never felt prior. I decided that I needed to put my life, my needs, my wants on hold at least until he went to school and be done with the battle in my head that constantly said “you need to make! you need to exhibit! you need to keep up with the artworld and get out there!” It was a very hard decision that I agonized and fought myself over, but once I made it, I was much more at ease and time faded faster towards my goal of their self sufficiency and my return to my passions for creating.

So when both boys were in school, I finally had some time to think and feel about myself again and recognize my needs that had been only tinkered with over the years. I began working on relationships, telling stories with my work, gathering research as time permitted and was mommy for the rest of the day dealing with school lunches, home work, sports, and feral excited children who never wanted to sleep. This carries on to today, where I am the primary caregiver of my two greatest works. I watch them create and think and feel and just “exist” and this fuels my own fascination in them together with the kind of love only a mother feels. This feeds my work, and I will argue this point with anyone.

Most of my favorite artists made conscious decisions not to have children. They thought it intrudes too much into their plan, their passion, their work and without that focus, that they would never be good. Most of the time they are right. The most successful women artists traditionally have not had children. But the ones who did or tried to desperately are there as well. Those are the ones we need to really be proud of, as the artworld still has a stigma that puts mothers in the background as having less drive, time and attention for the work, therefore they are not as dedicated. These women should receive even more credo as they manage two worlds and successfully navigate between them. While I lost some determination to succeed as an artist for a few years, the years allowed more personal growth than I can ever have achieved otherwise. I thank these leaders for breaking new paths that we can navigate on our own terms.

So this brings me to where I am today. I have been working on my two projects that I am crowdfunding for since Atarau enrolled in school 2 years ago. My focus is now on getting that part of me that drew so much attention and energy put towards my work while still working on building the artworks that are my children. I can’t wait to show what I have been working on and see if you can interpret the input that my being a mother has had on the works – or not. Because my job work has been limited in the last few years, my artwork has taken longer to achieve due to finance. My artwork is generally not saleable content, so it must be self funded to be completed and shown.

This is where you come in! I would love if you could support these projects completion so that I can tell about the relationships, health outcomes and other stories that have been meshed into these works. I have a lot to say, and I need your help to say it. Please consider passing this on to your artist friends or otherwise as a thank you for doing what they do, and also consider donating to this campaign in honor of all artist mothers!

Here’s a quick video I made with the kids about artists and artist mothers last night. They’re a bit shy, but they know how important and hard it is. They are also coordinating a bake sale and drawing sale for Sunday in order to help with my campaign with my amazing nephew. I couldn’t be prouder of their ambition, love and concern for me and these projects. Also here’s a little drawing I did just a wee while ago when Atarau came and fell asleep in my bed at 3am.

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Being an insider

Most people in my world would recognize me and my work as an artist and teacher or maybe a mom or academic. But what I am really going to talk about today is to speak about the issues of mental health that I have experienced and my thoughts about how we might move things forward – along with you all.

I would first like to acknowledge that there has been a lot of work put into what to call people like myself, and I still struggle to find an adequate and comfortable fit with any of them. Service user, consumer, client, patient, all sound rather “labelly” and don’t represent the rich and diverse people who they are applied to. So I have given up giving a good solid suggestion, so I like to refer to myself as an ‘insider’ but also fully embrace the word ‘crazy’ in all its definitions, (but prefer “mentally interesting”). “Insider” embraces the idea that it is something that others may not understand or appreciate, and is also a nod to the duress and battle that happens on the “inside”.

So what does this have to do with my campaign, my art and my life? One of the two exhibitions that I’ve been working on for a couple years that I’m gathering funds for is called Patient Property. It started a couple of years ago when I had a drug interaction after a surgery that caused a condition called Seratonin Syndrome. It caused a chemical storm in my head like nothing I have ever experienced and I became very unwell in various ways. One of the ways was an extreme heightened anxiety that was like a panic attack that was 24 hours a day. Long story short, I ended up in hospital to deal with the physical and mental manifestations of the condition. While there I started to deal with my situation by attempting to soothe with my art and writing. It was one of my only coping mechanisms and after the syndrome faded a bit and I was sent into a deep depression as the doctors played fiddle-the-meds in an effort to help, I started to talk to other people. I heard story after story about the mental health system in NZ and the failings it had, but also some good stories. I met extraordinary people who were often brushed aside by doctors, their communities and the world in every socio-economic, ethnicity, or gender you can imagine. It was an extremely awful, dire time for me, but also one that was enlightening.

I began to document people’s stories and produce art in response to all that was happening around me, and was adamant to retell some of what happened over these years in some form visually. So many, many people are struggling and dying and not getting the help they need due to inadequate funding, overstressed mental health sector, and a general misunderstanding from the world as a whole about what mental illness is all about and the many forms it takes. I made it a promise to myself that I would do whatever I could to lobby government, assist those working the battles to have better outcomes, and grow with my own black dog nipping at my heel. And so here I am.

Patient Property is important. One in 4 people has mental illness in our world. If you don’t, I guarantee you know someone who does. We can not get anywhere hiding these issues under the carpet and we need people to stand up and say that not dealing with these issues has social, political and life affecting consequences.

This is where you come in! I need funds in order to help get this show out there! I plan to exhibit the art that is currently half completed and needs further funding to finish – a mix of all sorts of media works and writing about my own journey and others’. I hope to make this exhibition part of a dynamic workshop with panels, speakers, writers, artists, doctors and work together to advocate for change in society and addressing how our mental health system is working. You may not know how to help someone who is in the throws of mental illness (though, ask me! I have ideas!), but contributing towards this exhibition and playing a part in making art meet social change is definitely one way that I would love! Come on board and see what we can do together. Let’s help that one in four “Insider” around you!

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The Top 10 Things Life Lessons as an Artist

And here we go! We’re just on our journey to get this campaign running and already we’re doing so well! I have been flattered and feel very honored to already have so much support and love from some very kind and generous donors – most of which whom want to be anonymous. Even those who can’t contribute financially have been amazingly supportive and curious about the art and the ideas.

To those of you who have donated already, a huge hug filled with fluffy clouds, fuzzy kittens and rainbows! To everyone reading this, I challenge you to share this site, or to talk about these projects with one person today. Please spread the word! Have conversations! Lets move mountatins together!

I’d like to share what was on my mind from my sketchbook a month or so ago. Here’s my list of

The Top 10 Things Life Lessons as an Artist

10. You use gel medium to fix a run in your pantyhose.

9. You haven’t slept properly since you were 7.

8. You refer to old magazines as “photo reference” and death comes to anyone who tries to pitch them out before you can get your hands on them.

7. You can do wonders with an old shower curtain, 3 nails, an old tube of ochre paint and a styrofoam meat tray.

6. You learn to smile when people say “Oh…. you’re an artist? But what do you REALLY do? I just LOVE Thomas Kinkade!”

5. Every article of clothing you own has a small handprint in paint or glitter somewhere on it.

4. You use an xacto knife to cut sandwiches and apples for the kids lunchboxes in a pinch when all the silverware is in the running dishwasher.

3. Upon meeting someone you’re not afraid to say “You have an amazing philtrum, Can I draw it?”

2. It is possible (though not advised) to live for periods of time eating only ramen noodles, cereal and caffeinated products.

1. You come to realize that whether you like it or not, you have both the blessing and the curse. You are an artist.

Thanks all – will keep updating on our journey!

Kohacon16 Day 2 – Koha Community Organisation

To start day 2 Paul Poulain and Jonathan Druart talked about the way the Koha community is organised.

Paul talked about that there are two different needs to balance

Developers
  • Want to fix a problem a problem
  • Want to do fun things
Users
  • Want stable and usable applications
  • Care less about technical things as long as the software works
Importance of community

When you choose software, you choose its community and its way of doing things.

  1. Look for the features you want
  2. Then how is the community organised
Organisation
  • Release manager
  • Release maintainers
  • QA Manager
  • QA Team
  • Documentation manager
  • Translation manager
  • Packaging manager
  • Bug wranglers
  • Wiki curators
  • Newsletter manager

We need tools

The ideal life of a bug

New bug -> Assigned -> Needs Signoff -> Signed off -> Passed QA -> Pushed to master -> Pushed to stable -> Resolved

But it might hit Failed QA, or Does not apply

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Workflow difficulties
  • Time – it can take time to get a patch in
  • Inactivity – we might not know it is important to you, or see it
  • Strong QA process
Whats next?
  • New Search engine
  • Clean code
  • Performance optimisation
  • Large libraries
  • Always better coordination
  • Always better long term view

Who has two thumbs and a perspective on LIANZA 15?

I thought I may as well jot down my thoughts about this years LIANZA conference, as everyone else was. Peer pressure, I succumb to it. But I figure as a ‘vendor’ (not your typical vendor, but one nonetheless *) my perspective might be a little bit different.

First off, the exhibition hall was great, it was spacious, things were laid out well, the food and drink were good.

But it was slow, perhaps the slowest LIANZA I can remember, thankfully it was slow for everyone not just our stand. I think this was due to the fact the conference was totally packed with things to do, there was barely a spare minute in it. Plus, if I was you, and the sun came out, I’d go out on the waterfront too.  Having said that, it was still most definitely worth being there, the people who wanted to come talk to us, found us and did. We also caught up with a lot of our existing clients, and made a few leads for new ones. You kinda just have to be there, so that when you respond to an RFP people have heard of you.

From what I could tell from the tweet stream and from Liz reported back, the majority of the sessions were fantastic. They keynotes all seemed to hit it out of the park, (Gotta admit, I did like that one of the Keynotes was from one of the earliest public libraries to use Koha in the USA, and Koha got a shout out in another one).  There were a few recurring themes, one of them was a push towards one ‘library’ for all NZ. Which I think is a great idea, as long as it is flexible enough to accommodate the vast differences in the sector, and it is run on non-proprietary software of course.

The conference dinner was fun again, I think we might have been one of the few to go for 70s glam, vs 1920s glam as our costumes. I am still finding glitter.

The photo booth was a great idea too

And the hallway track and pub track were also awesome, I made a lot of new friends and reaffirmed some bonds with others. All in all, a great conference.

* We give away a library management system, no license fees for the win.

Future of Libraries summit 2015

I know, I know, the future of libraries is to endlessly discuss the future of libraries, I had the same level of skepticism going in to the day as well. I have to admit that a lot of my cynicism comes from the overabundance (and let’s be real here, 1 is 1 too many) of self described futurists in the library world.

Happily though this was not one of those come and listen to someone lecture you on what he (and it is pretty much always a he) thinks the future is going to be. I have science fiction books for that, and they are a lot more enjoyable.

This was instead a day of guided group discussions, which I think resulted in some actually useful outputs. While these kind of days are always a mix of frustration and useful discussion, I think that by the end we had more of the latter. This was due to the people in the room, but also due to the desire of the organisers for the day to result in some concrete outputs. Which meant we were pulled back on track a few times when it felt like we were going in circles.

I am not going to say that I think the day has resulted in people having a clear idea of where libraries are going to be in 2025 but I think that it resulted in some ideas, and some more ideas how to get there.  I am not going to try to summarise them all here, I am sure there will be much better write ups than mine.  But I  will list some of the takeaways I had. First of all from my kids 2015-07-31 11.13.25

In our group we consistently returned to the role of Libraries being all about people, and that equitable access to information is a major driver. We talked a lot about the need for better collaboration and cohesion in the sector. Funding of course was mentioned more than a few times as something that will be a major influence on what libraries are like in 2025. We also talked about training, and how to bring in and keep new workers.

This happened 

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Then I learnt about the 3rd man rule, to paraphrase “If two men have just spoken, don’t be the third one” which is a great rule.

Karaitiana had some great advice (as always)

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAnd as always happens, I managed to get myself an impossible job

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It was near the end of the day when I went into full on random blurt mode.

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Cath chipped in too

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAll the random blurting may have resulted in this

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Or it may have been this

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Finally I’d like to leave you with this image, which came from one of Wendy’s typos, but I think it works as it is