C ella Pippin hadn't been on stage in 20 years, so when she found out she'd been cast in the Flowertown Players performance of “Chicago,” she almost cried. Although performing had been a part of her youth, the last two decades had been consumed with raising three children, returning to school and now working as a case manager at Crisis Ministries.
It wasn't easy juggling rehearsals for “Chicago” plus an 18-year-old son and two daughters, 14 and 4. Pippin brought the kids along to practices, and soon they began to see their mom outside her role of “mom.”
“They know how much I've had to sacrifice to be a single mom,” Pippin said. “My kids know how much I've had to put off because I want to see them succeed. They respect me and love me for that. And they know how happy I am when I can be on the stage in front of people.”
Whether on stage or behind a canvas, more moms are giving themselves permission to be creative and take some time to explore their own inner artist. And a growing number of businesses in the Lowcountry are helping moms express their creativity.
The benefits of creativity
West Ashley mom Allison Merrick opened SpaceCraft Studios a year ago in the Avondale community. Offering both classes and a workspace for individual projects, SpaceCraft has attracted quite a following of moms looking to get creative.
“For the moms, what I generally see is a desire to have time and space that's structured and that's out of their house,” Merrick said. “They're not as distracted as they are at home. They can have a glass of wine or a beer and do something creative in an atmosphere dedicated to that.”
As a small-business owner and mom to a 3-year-old daughter, Merrick knows first-hand how tough it can be to carve out that coveted “me” time. But she also knows how important having a creative outlet can be.
“Nurturing ourselves and our own creativity allows us to become better moms, wives and employees,” Merrick said. “Practicing our creativity has a powerful outcome. Using our brains in different ways and buildings things with our hands produces a quieter, creative mind.”
Summerville mom Sara Armistead began acting and directing with the Flowertown Players in 2008. She admits she sometimes feels guilty about leaving her two daughters while she goes to rehearsals but she recognizes the need to nurture her own interests.
“It's important to have your own life and hobbies, so you're not just a slave to (the kids) and the house,” Armistead said.
Moms are people too
Moms also find their kids aren't resentful or complaining, but rather proud of their efforts and encouraged in their own artistic endeavors.
Armistead has brought her girls to theater rehearsals and “they dig that experience,” she said. “I get some pretty good 'cool' points with them because their mom's on stage.”
Heather Speizman, owner of Wine & Design in Mount Pleasant, sees lots of moms who come in for a girls' night out to enjoy wine, friends and painting. But what she loves hearing are the kids who brag on their moms, referring to them as “famous artists.”
Speizman opened the studio five years ago and about 70 percent of her clients are moms. A mother herself, Speizman knows how tough it can be for moms to commit to a series of classes. That's why moms enjoy coming out for one night, having a glass of wine with friends and going home with a painting.
“There's a huge thirst for women to do a couple things for themselves but they don't feel guilty because this is not a long commitment,” she said. “It's a very fast way to get a self-esteem boost. You laugh, escape and walk out with a painting.”
Failure is an option – and a good one
The pressure that moms heap on themselves can be daunting. They are juggling careers, families, social calendars, household chores and more — often with a self-imposed expectation of perfection. That's where engaging in a creative outlet gives women a chance to simply try something and see how it goes.
A no-pressure, judgment-free zone is what Daniel island mom Angel Roberts has worked to create since she started teaching women hip hop seven years ago. Women are often nervous about trying a class with Peace Love Hip Hop, but Roberts stresses that her classes are suitable for everyone. “Don't be intimidated,” she said. “Who doesn't love a dance party?”
At SpaceCraft, Merrick makes it her personal mission to work with women who claim they aren't crafty or creative. She's created a non-threatening space where people can simply try a project or craft.
“We talk a lot about failure and how it's an important part of the creative process and the scientific process,” she said. “Don't be afraid of it – learn from that and move on. It's OK to take a risk.”
When it comes to painting, Speizman's motto is very similar. “We're all so computer strapped and type A. Art requires you to take it down a notch. When you're using a paint brush, you can't 'undo' like you can on a computer,” she said.
“Now I've learned to go with the flow. It's OK if it doesn't end up on your mantle.”