Tricia King, from The Itchy Eyes, has used her Ergobaby to balance parenting with her other great passion: photography. This passion has also found its place within her bonding with eldest daughter Cody through their joint photography projects, and their first formal collaborative piece “The Alphabet Two Ways”. To hear about Tricia’s latest adventures head over to The Itchy Eyes Facebook page.
I have often been heard to say to new (or expecting) parents “I don’t give out parenting advice, but what I will say is ‘Get An Ergo’ – it’s the only way I survived”.
Now I think survival is such a strange word to use for parenting, but so honest and apt too. I think the definition of survival is in the eye of the beholder – are you surviving in sleep, in life, in keeping on top of the washing, still having a social life or even just keeping your wits emotionally – but for me, it was a survival meaning the ability to still be able to keep my head above water enough to do the things which I love – mostly art.
My first child was a walk in the park as they say. I’d bundle her up nice and snug in the Ergobaby carrier and we’d go for long walks where I would get infinitely inspired and take hundreds of photographs. It was wonderful and productive and I produced great bodies of work that were inspired by the bliss of parenthood that I was in. But the second? Not so.
I didn’t consider with number two that I’d have a very mobile number one to look after. Where was my time for art when I had a baby to nurse and a three year old tugging at my jeans! I was reading books with one hand, drawing sunflowers and rainbows with another, changing nappies with my third hand and cooking dinner with the fourth…..and I hadn’t picked up my camera for what felt like an age.
There needed to be a way to survive. I was not prepared to surrender my whole to exclusively be a mum – I think having my own identity and desires was entirely required to balance out how I raised these children otherwise I would grow weary and they would grow up with a skewed view of the world and the role of women. And so I combined it all (with the exception of the making dinner part which my fourth hand was doing – my lovely husband took over culinary sustenance). Cody (my eldest) and I would do an art project TOGETHER. She already had a camera which she’d been using since she was two – it sounded so simple! It would be spectacular – we’d bond and share and collaborate and invent.
And we did.
I asked Cody if she wanted to make a book. Happily she said yes. I asked her what book she would like to make and she told me that she would like to make a book of letters. And so “The Alphabet Two Ways” was born. Cody was just learning about letters so it was a wonderful way to explore this with her. We’d think about A and the sound it made and what words we could think of which sounded like that. We’d grab our point and shoot cameras and we’d document. She’d take the photo her way and I’d take it mine. We’d set up scenes and hunt down letters and go for long walks to find the right image – all the while I’d have little baby Mika safely on my chest. Parenting win.
The Alphabet Book turned out great. We juxtaposed our images together to highlight the differences in our visions and our perspectives. A gallery in Brisbane contacted us to have a launch party and we threw a great party and sold out of our first print run. We made a second print run that we entirely gave away to kindys and kids we met and local libraries. All the time we said proudly “everyone can be an artist if you just see”. I think we both learned so much.
Fast forward to now – my photography business is growing and my art practice is more solid than ever. Cody has become the sort of artist we overhear other parents at her kindy pointing to her art and saying “wow”. Balancing art and children is a matter of survival and some days I sink to the bottom so deeply I wonder if I can ever manage to be productive AND a good mother. And some days I feel like superwoman.
This year I started blogging a project I’ve been doing since my girls were born – taking a photo of them every day. So without fail and without missing a day, no matter whether I’m at shoots all day, even if I leave before the sun rises and after the sun sets, I take a photograph of my girls. Again, I have incorporated my children into my art in order to keep my art sustainable. The project has been amazing for me. I’ve grown so much as a photographer because I have to document art and beauty and uniqueness everyday. Thankfully, I see art and beauty and uniqueness within them every day.
So to those struggling to maintain creativity and inspiration I say harness the young. Not only do they have awesome ideas, but the make for pretty fun collaborators too. What they will teach you about art is something that in almost twenty years of photography I had almost forgotten – just do start and it will come.
Afterthought: I should add that I’ve asked Cody what our next project together should be and she has said that she would like us to work on a photo book about how to clean up your room. The irony of this is lost on her.