balancing series: Allison

Please give three cheers for my next guest Allison of Sunny Rising Leather - its been a gift really getting to know this talented lady in recent years. There is no doubt that whether she is singing beautifully, painting enamel, silversmithing, carving leather, conversing with her cats or caring for her dear little boy - she is doing it with exquisite style and thoughtfulness...
all images belong to Allison

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your family

My little immediate family consists of (from tallest to shortest) my husband Anthony, myself, our son Orion who is 8 months old and a wonderful feral girl cat named Janey. Anthony works in the video game industry, I run SunnyRising Leather and Metal from our house and the other two are perfectly adorable freeloaders!

2. What things in life inspire you most?
Learning new things...observing patterns in nature and city living...'domesticated wildness' would be the version of natural experience that I gravitate most toward in my work: creatures that inhabit our worlds intimately, the growth cycle of a bean, things left behind after death. I find that as I get older my interests get a bit more gritty, perhaps from the emotional shift of becoming a mother and the fierceness that accompanies everything now. I see life through a dramatically different lens.

3. How do you currently manage mothering, home, life and working on personal (and or) work projects? 
Oh this has been a hard balance to strike and I assume it will get a bit harder before it gets easier! I have a wonderful babysitter who comes every Tuesday and Thursday for five hours apiece to allow me space to really dig into the things I cannot do around Orion: solder, fire enamels, anything dangerous or chemical. On the weekends Anthony takes the helm with Orion and that gives me more space to work. Since so much of what I do is also administrative, I tend to do that work when O is down for naps and when he is awake I set up one of his huge 'play station' toys in my studio and we both pound on things for a stretch of time: me with leather and forming metal, Orion with cloth and wood and plastic! Most days we 'work' together in my studio for a total of an hour all together, the rest is spent taking walks, getting fed, rolling around on the floor and reading books. The whole gift of this setup we have is that I am able to experience my son's childhood with him. I never take a second for granted, I know how lucky we are. My In-Laws have been astounding with their help when I need to take classes to further my craft and that makes me feel encouraged about the future, about growing more in the disciplines I've chosen. 

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?
Selfishly I love that I am able to have a bit of my cake and eat it, too - I get to work and raise a child at the same time. These are both very important dreams of mine. It feels so empowering to continue making art while Orion is so young: in a sense creating is a habit and I was very worried after he was born that I would 'lose myself' in mothering. Even though he is the heart of my life and the sweetest baby I can imagine I take great pleasure in maintaining an interest in the world around me and interpreting my experiences through my chosen media. Our current set-up allows me to be so close to my workspace that the excuse of distance and time commuting is not an issue - when you are so busy keeping house and tending to an infant the fewer hoops to jump through the better!!

5. Are there things you'd like to do differently/better? 
I'd like to let my house go to hell. Really. I'd like to be more comfortable with chaos and dust bunnies. I tend to be a bit strict with myself, a bit too much of a taskmistress. Orion really helps ease this part of my personality: I'll be doing the dishes and he'll be in his high-chair playing with a soft toy and there'll be these delighted chirps as he converses with this little beloved and I shut off the water and sit with him, drinking it all in. He helps me breathe more. That reminds me - before he was born I went to a yoga studio four times a week for ninety minute classes. I walked to and from the shala at a leisurely place. Doesn't that sound like an impossible luxury now?

6. What is your favourite part of the day? 
Besides that first moment I pick Orion up in the morning and tuck him into bed with me all smiles and cheek-touching? Most definitely evening. We are getting a great routine going now that he's old enough for some structure. There's just nothing like a fresh clean baby, a pile of books and lamplight to make you feel like all is right with the world. Time spent with Anthony is also extremely important to me and even though we have to be a bit hushed, it's so nice to catch up over dinner.

7. What advice, if any, would you give other mothers about finding a good balance?
Ask for help. Accept help. State your needs clearly and without hesitation. I find that the more logically I lay things out for others the stronger I feel as a woman and as a mama. We had really wanted to save money and wait until Orion was crawling to get a babysitter for those two days a week but I was struggling so hard. I was overworked and the inner-well had run dry. When I finally said, "I need this" without hesitation everyone else involved got on board easily and without dissent.

The best advice I got was from a therapist I saw because I was so anxious in Orion's first few months of life. She said, "You are a wife, a mother and an artist. Some days you are allowed to be a better mother than wife and artist. Flip those job titles around any way you want to: just understand that you cannot be everything to everybody everyday." I continue to find great peace in that wisdom.