Welcome to The Motherhood Takeaway a place to shine a spotlight on inspirational women leading the way in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sector… Women who just so happen to be mamas. This regular slot is designed to empower mums, with each Motherhood Takeaway drilling down on exactly how one woman makes family life and her career work in the real world. If there’s just one thing you take away with you that leaves a positive mark on your own journey juggling parenting and work, then my mission here is complete.
There’s a big conversation around not putting pressure on mums to do anything other than be mum, which is great, but for anyone who does want to be mum and have a career, then that’s great too and this is for you. Let’s face it, work isn’t a choice for most of us, it’s absolutely essential to keep our children’s tummies full and new shoes on their feet every five minutes!
The Motherhood Takeaway isn’t here to make anyone feel like they should be doing less mum and more work, or more mum and less work. It’s about inspiring that little vote of confidence for anyone with a business idea, side-hustle project, mums on maternity leave and mums returning to the workplace. It’s about never feeling guilty for saying “I’m the best mum I can be and it’s ok to want my career to flourish, as well as my kids.” Zero guilt attached.
Crammed with practical advice to inject into your everyday, this time illustrator, artist and mother-of-two Sarah Smart joins The Motherhood Takeaway, bringing a big dose of colour and creativity to the table via her stand-out wall art and unique greetings cards. Sarah has illustrated for big fashion names like Vogue, Selfridges, Bobbi Brown and Anthropologie and is often inspired by illustration work in magazines, mostly during the 1920’s and 30’s. Her eye for making beautiful botanicals (inspired by her idyllic Essex surroundings) and feel-good art celebrating motherhood, keeps us coming back for more.
The Motherhood Takeaway with Sarah Smart Draws
Sarah, with lockdowns, home school and running a business, how do you structure your working week with two small children?
Flexibility has been key for us. We definitely have a rough routine as the kids respond best to it. We have some good days, some bad days and some ‘get me the hell out of here’ days! Some days the kids need me to be around more than others, so I can’t always reply to emails and keep on top of admin as much.
You’ve worked in art departments for bustling fashion magazine. Have you taken any disciplines from that chaos through with you to motherhood and business life?
Such good memories of the magazine days! Yes, absolutely. You learn to work well under pressure. It’s all very different of course, but you have things (demands!) coming at you from all directions so it’s all about prioritising what you do first. And to work quickly. It’s stressful being busy but I also still get a buzz from it.
Tell us your ultimate time-saving tips for juggling a business and family life?
Write things down. In all honesty, I have lost many of those said lists but it helps me to visualise what I have to do and I get real satisfaction ticking things off. A large calendar for all the family to see (husband!) has also helped. And of course, CBeebies helps with the juggle on those especially tricky days.
How do you strike the balance between mum and business-owner? Do mini hands ask if they can help pack up Etsy orders at the kitchen table?
I definitely try and keep it separate! I’d get really cross with them if they mucked anything up when it’s not really their fault so I just try to keep it away from them. They watch me draw a lot and often want to ‘help’ or get their own pencils out (I definitely encourage that option more!) Although they do ‘help’ me take items to the village post office. On the condition they go to a playground afterwards, of course.
Share your tricks for staying motivated on those days when mum-life takes over and it feels impossible to get anything done?
I’m still learning on the job on that one! One thing that does go around in my head is that this is not forever and soon they will both be at school and I’ll be sitting in my studio, with a HOT cup of tea, missing them like crazy.
Have you found new ways to stay creative and inspired during lockdown?
I think I’ll always get a lot of ideas from magazines. I feel there’s such beauty in them and having worked on many editorial teams, I know just how much work is put into them. Since lockdown started, I’ve definitely been inspired more by nature and just being outdoors. The way it makes you feel and all of its beauty. I’ve also been trying new things like drawing on a larger scale, trying to use a brighter, more colourful palette and I’ve got back into life drawing (via Zoom) which I really love and find it improves my drawing no end.
What’s been your biggest business lesson so far?
Contracts. When I first left uni, I was approached by a friends brother who worked for a large company. I did a hell of a lot of work in ‘good faith’. It didn’t turn out well and I never got paid. It actually put me off wanting to work in the art world again and took me a long time to rebuild my confidence.
Any advice you’d give to other budding creatives
Building something takes a while and it’s easy to get disheartened. Don’t pin all your hopes on one idea, one client, or one direction. Do your homework, it might be a windy road but just work, work, work until you get to where you want to be. And when you get there – keep going. Never stop.
How did motherhood force you to adapt and run your business differently?
I used to work drawing fashion illustrations at live events or personalising products in stores, which I adored, but definitely had it’s challenges when juggling a toddler and baby that I was breastfeeding. I also work with a lot of brands and PR agencies that have very short deadlines, which if I have childcare is fine. But it doesn’t always work out like that, so I needed another outlet. I set up a shop with Etsy, started a shop section on my website and joined The Mamahood, which enables me to be a bit more flexible.
Can you share a nugget of advice you would go back and tell your pre-mum self about motherhood?
It’s true when they say, ‘you can’t do it all!’ I had these romantic thoughts of me basically having the same life as before and I’d just bring my baby along drawing with me, playing next to me while I draw… Oh, how wrong I was!! I would want to tell myself to be patient. That they grow in a flash and you will get that time and that drive back again. So yes, be patient with yourself would be my advice.
From illustrating for Carven to collaborating with Apple and illustrating a book, you’ve done some amazing things. What’s been the career highlight so far?
Being whisked off to Paris with Carven to draw fashion illustrations live in the centre of La Galleries Lafayette, is definitely up there! I illustrated for Glamour magazine’s beauty festival where my illustrations were blown up all over the Saatchi Gallery walls. I walked past groups of girls taking selfies next to my work and as I walked through the tunnel covered in my drawings, it felt like a proper ‘pinch me’ moment!
I bet! You’re fantastic at getting creative with the kids, we’ve seen you doing lots of expressive art sessions with them on Insta, getting them to join in with you on the art process. How can other mamas start incorporating more art into their little one’s worlds? Where do we begin?
I think kids join in when they see you do and enjoy something. I would suggest getting creative yourself and getting the kids to watch and join in if they want to. My mother-in-law is an abstract painter and father-in-law is a sculptor, so that definitely helps! We have Zoom art lessons with them and cookery and gardening with my parents. We have so many books in our house and drawing from the favourites is definitely a big hit. We also pick bits from the garden to draw so they feel more involved with the process.
Love your studio – it looks like the ultimate outdoor retreat. What’s your favourite thing about it?
My husband built it when he was on paternity with our second daughter, so I share it with him. (Mine is the messy side!) My favourite part, aside from having my own space away from little hands, (sorry girls!) is the views and the light that streams in through the huge windows. I always feel a sense of calm when I’m in there, looking out onto the fields through the trees.
What are you going to be taking away with you from the lockdowns and into post-lockdown life?
I have really enjoyed the free rein to work on my own prints, cards and stationery, as well as working on bespoke commissions and working with brands. So I’ll definitely continue this avenue. It’s just another path to add to my creative journey.
Sarah’s designs are available to shop at Sarah Smart Draws and Etsy. She is available for commissions, however big or small, so do get in touch with any questions at sarahsmartdraws.com and @sarahsmartdraws.
Stop back for the next slice of The Motherhood Takeaway soon. Don’t forget to leave your own advice for navigating motherhood and career in the comments below.
For heaps more parenting advice, head over to my Alex and Alexa column where you can find my take on life with Two Babies Under Two a Mum’s Guide To Nesting and a check list of What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag.