The Mother Load Project


We were contacted by Lesli and Natalie last year and drawn instantly  to their inspired installation/conversation project The Mother Load. We said a huge yes to their invitation to take part in the work and  loved the process of pressing our fingerprints alongside our little ones into the copper plates to send back across the world. The resulting exhibition was a stunning visual exploration of the connections between being an artist and a mother.

Natalie Macellaio and Lesli Robertson on their collaborative studio practice:

So much our individual story of being an artist and mother is wrapped in our work together. In the summer of 2012, we began to work in the studio on a collaborative project called Trestle Designs. This collaboration came out of our direct need to get back into the studio after having our children. Lesli’s son, Liam, was 2 years old, and Natalie had twins, Milo and Fina, who were 6 months old at the time. We both felt the pull of all aspects of our lives – the demands of motherhood at times contradicted our need to be in our studios. Since we both were in this place, we found the support necessary to continue developing as artists, while finding new directions in our work through collaborating.  As we began to work on Trestle Designs, the conversation continued to turn to sorting out our new lives and how to learn to balance and adjust so that each element did not oppose one another, but motivated. We talked about other artists who became mothers – and from afar, looked at their lives. And through these conversations, The Mother Load emerged. The project is an ongoing installation which involves sending small copper plates to each artist, asking them to leave their fingerprint and that of their children. The copper plate will oxidize over time, gradually revealing this form of identity – one that changes the moment you become a mother.


In looking back, our studio practices have grown to places we did not know they could, employing techniques and creative processes that each of us brought to the table. Having children allowed us to find new ways of exploring our own disciplines that we simply would not have found otherwise. As we continue to develop The Mother Load, we have found even more motivation to work in collaboration, not only with each other, but with the artists who are contributing to this project. In sharing about The Mother Load, countless conversations have emerged that reflect the struggles and successes of being an artist and mother. What we value so much about this creative process is that in the end, we get to be artists and create a work of art that enables those involved to reflect on our lives. Through the fingerprints of each artist and their children who are a part of this project, this work will visually record a conversation of what our collaboration is about, what MAN is about, what BIG is about, and what countless other artists are exploring through their work.

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Our lives as artists are driven by curiosity and conversations. We found BIG and the Mother Artist Network (MAN) through talking about our project – one thing leading to another and another – eventually to Jo and Lilly. What is wonderful about this discovery was the immediate feeling of mutual understanding and camaraderie we felt. There seems to be this sense of understanding of when talking about why we work and how we work. It is refreshing.

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Bravery is…  being scared to death but moving forward despite it

Imagination is… finding a world you never knew existed

Generosity is…not thinking about yourself before you act


Bravery is… Pushing forward through the fog.

Imagination is… unimagined curiosity with limitless boundaries.

Generosity is… giving when you have nothing left to give