Bravery is keeping on working even through gnawing doubt
The mother artist experience is? Controlled chaos. It’s feels like trying to answer what it feels like to be a female human – I don’t know any other way of being alive! The two are intrinsically linked and probably feed each other in ways I’m not even aware of. Essentially being an artist and being a mother is beautifully busy. I usually feel like I’m not doing a particularly good job of either but I struggle on and it’s wonderful.
How has becoming a mother enhanced, limited, provoked and/or disrupted your creative practice?
Initially, becoming a mother made it blindingly clear that I was in fact an artist simply because I missed it so much. I had three years away from performing when I had my babies and I’m so happy that I took that time to be there for the precious days. By the time I came back to working (very gradually!) I was so amazed and grateful to be continuing that every minute in the studio was fantastic – but on the flip side I had such a low tolerance for time-wasting. No more indulgent conversations with choreographers or dancers – I was in and out of rehearsal like a shot and back home to my darlings.
Imagination is the stuff the comes into your head in the shower or when you’re waiting
Has mothering impacted your actual creative process and ways of making work?
I am much more efficient in my creative process now. I also value what I do as an artist more highly I think – because I want my girls to grow up believing that art is important and that a creative life is an option. One of the first commissions I had after having the kids was to make a solo for a curated season – I’d plonk my toddler and new baby on the couch next to each other and choreograph the work in front of them – as if I was doing some kind of fun show for them. To my credit I could usually hold their attention for about half an hour at a time. And the piece got made.
Do you ever collaborate with your child, respond to each other, or work side by side to create work?
Sometimes their objects and their way of playing creeps into my work. I’ve been known to steal some of their craft stuff/games and take it in to rehearsals as props/instigations. Their collection of toothpicks were used in the DUAL image and it’s one of my favourite photos.
We often work side by side, me revising the day’s rehearsal, planning a class, writing a grant, them doing their homework, drawing, playing. Seeing the way they play together is totally inspiring – their games last hours, they have incredible stamina for imaginative worlds. They can go on tangents in ways I can only dream of.
Generosity is handing something over without expectation of getting something in return
Has it become easier/changed over time?
Definitely easier, largely thanks to my incredibly supportive partner (and collaborator) although I miss my squishy, sweet-smelling, chaos generating babies. It’s been awesome, tricky, tiring, hilarious, deeply wonderful being a mother. If you’d told me my life would look like this 10 years ago when my young (somewhat overwhelmed) self found out she was pregnant I wouldn’t have believed it. Raising children and making art = a very good life.
Stephanie Lake is an award winning choreographer and dancer based in Melbourne. As a performer and choreographer Stephanie has worked with companies including Sydney Dance Company, Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc and BalletLab and has toured extensively nationally and internationally.Read more about her work here.