Featured Designing Mom: CleoMade

by Cat on April 15, 2013

Cleo Papanikolas of CleoMade has found her way throughout the years as a mother and talented artist/illustrator by being adaptable, patient and true to the needs of her art and family. We’re delighted to share with you some of her valuable lessons and day to day rituals with balancing family and career. And stay tuned for tomorrow as my co-author, Meg Ilasco, makes a stop here at Mom Inc Daily too…
What was it like for you to be a mother and professional creative?
My manuscript for “Cook Until Desired Tenderness” and my first baby shared the same due-date.  I was able to keep up my freelance painting and illustration career until my second son was almost two.  At first I tried keeping a can-I-earn-more-than-I’m-paying-for-childcare? tally.  Don’t do that!  But, ultimately, for me, it wasn’t worth it.  There were too many stressful days when I had a sick kid at home and a deadline, and I had to throw candy at him and let him destroy the house in order to make a phone call, or draw a cupcake for an ad.
There’s a formula: If you want to get 10 minutes of work done, you have to spend 10 minutes setting up a project for the kids, and then another 10 minutes cleaning up afterward. So you had better make good use of your hard earned 10 minutes. It’s not easy to turn creativity on to full blast, and then shut it off in an instant, when, say, a toddler decides to sit down in the toilet water while still wearing his diaper and all his clothes. Even with 20 years experience painting by the hour. The cupcake ad looses its importance.
What are you currently working on?
I finished out the preschool years incubating my own projects. When the little one started kindergarten (yea, both at the same public school!) I felt I could afford the research time and production money to start my own press with the work I had amassed. The Tiny Paintings Project on my blog is a little wading pool of my crafty ideas and paintings.  In the deep-end, I’m working on “Pieces of Make-believe,” which are similar tiny paintings, packaged as kits, gifts, and books.
Each week of the Tiny Paintings Project, I give away a postcard-sized piece of art, with instructions for a DIY craft project using the art.  I try to encourage the use of leftover scraps of paper, and not exactly following directions.  I’m looking forward to seeing how my audience uses my art in creative ways that I haven’t thought of.
How kinds of projects do you work on with your children?
The blog posts are one of the first things that I’ve been able to work on with my children “helping” me.  I’ve learned not to have them around for delicate photo-shoots.  But they go crazy with the pile of materials on the table afterward, making some great variations.  At ages 6 and 8, we are starting to be able to work on our own crafts at the same time. And they give brilliant advise like, “Mom can you make that children’s book cover with
letters that I can actually read?”
Tell us about your workspace…
The studio is my clean peaceful sanctuary; it is finally nearing completion after 15 years of DIY construction projects.  Almost daily I fend off someone’s advise that it would be good for me to put their old couch in my studio.  I try to keep up the impression that it is a special treat for the boys to work in the studio. It makes rainy days more exciting, and they have to be respectful of my “work” supplies.  I do a lot of my computer work in the house though.  It’s warmer and I’m less concerned with controlling the chaos.  When I turn my back, the boys start playing a game they made up called “Friendly Peekachoo.”  It’s a combination of full-contact wrestling, karate, and indoor parkour, with ninja costumes and makeshift weapons, that usually ends with someone getting hurt.  And I’ve found that I can do Photoshop while shouting, “No headlocks!” “The top bunk is off-limits!” “The vacuum handle is not a shotgun!”  “Where’s your other shoe?”…

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Betsy April 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

So great to see this feature on Cleo! She is such an incredibly talented and inventive artist. Now that I know what goes on behind the scenes, I’m even more impressed! 🙂


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