Creating a Circle


From the start of this project – it seemed to grow legs and move on its own. Spreading like wildfire – the word got out and women from all walks of life and locations – unknown to me – have reached out about this project.

They all seem to sing the same tune- about how thrilled they are that I am speaking up. That I am following my heart. That this project is unique in that it speaks honestly and bravely about the truth about being a mother artist.

If I would have started this project a year ago – I don’t think the outcome would be the same. The idea came, the audience was ready and I finally had the nerve to share what has been on my mind for years. I feel somewhat like a seamstress. I have a pattern, I have an idea, I have the fabric, the thread.. the machine and with each mother artist I meet- I am carefully stitching together a beautiful garment.

It takes patience on my part- as I have been known to move quickly because I am not the most patient person in the world.  It takes focus and organization. It requires my professional side as well as bravery. However – I don’t get hung up on any of it because my heart is truly in it. I believe in this project just as much as I believe in myself. It took a lot of years to get to this point.
I had many soaks in the bathtub thinking this project over. However, I didn’t have to stress or strain about it because it was all there.. before me. All I needed to do was vocalize and capture what I was witnessing around me.

I have had the honor to meet and photograph five amazing and beautifully talented mother artists. I have twenty-eight other women who have come out of the wood work, contacted me and are on a “wait list” to be photographed.

Did you know that there are that many mother artists in your city?! I certainly didn’t!

One of the artists – and I will tell you more soon- made me realize how small this mother artist circle really is. I drove all the way to Bloomington, IN to see her. I sat with her and we had tea and discussed art and motherhood. I photographed her in her studio along with her beautiful children. I was so pleased with how everything turned out and to top it off -I made a new friend. I got home and checked my Facebook to learn that she and I had actually gone to middle school together!


After all this time. Being friends on Facebook and meeting because of this project- we had no idea that we were once in the same health class together!  It truly made me smile and made me realize how we are just dots on a map- we are all connected and the world is not so big after all.

This blog is to be a reminder that you are not alone in your thoughts or your situations. That somewhere – there is a mother much like you, sewing or painting or writing a song in the middle of laundry and changing diapers. I realize-  No one could have prepared you for what motherhood would truly be like- but someone can remind you that balance is possible- thats my goal!

Mothering is one of the hardest jobs that we will ever have and the most rewarding in the long run.  I now have a 15 year old son and he has watched me paint since he was old enough to sit up on his own. Yes, I cried a lot – longing for the days that I could paint without him eating the tube. Or long for the day when I could go to an art show without arranging a sitter. However- I quickly learned to be flexible. I was creative enough to make it work – so I worked with what I had. If he wanted to eat the paint,  I gravitated to photography. If I couldn’t find a sitter- I took him to the art show. I am proud to say- my love for art has rubbed off ..and he just had his very first art show at the Murphy.. not too long ago.

Art is therapy for me, and it can be the same for you. It is my voice when I can’t speak. It makes me feel better and when I feel better.. people notice even my children notice and life seems to balance out.

Being creative – what ever that means for you as an artist..  is to get us through those times when we don’t know what to do with all of our “out of whack” hormones. When we feel like a constant milk jug or a broken record. When we catch ourselves  questioning who we are or what we are worth. When we don’t feel like getting out of our pajamas. When we feel like no one understands or appreciates us …and you know, this does happen. Art is an outlet.

With each new artist that I post here – I hope to create a circle. To bring to light – every mother artist  that I possibly can and her story. Each story is unique yet we all are cut from the same fabric. We are all striving to nurture ourselves through our passions all while nurturing the family we love so much.

Let this be a place of inspiration.

Tonight I will be sending out my questions to the mothers I have already photographed. Once they return their answers – I will begin blogging their stories along with the beautiful photographs I have taken. This project will be on going – so please if you know anyone who might want to be featured here – please pass this along.

Until then – thank you for being so supportive!

Savannah Norris

Savannah and Arti Norris

Savannah and Arti

1. When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist? 

Always. I have always created tiny worlds both in my head and in real life. The ability to conduct a team of people into really, truly creating these fantastical scenarios is a life long dream come true.  My work feels pretty dream-like at times.  when I was younger these fantasies would play out in my head and sometimes I would forget what was real and what wasn’t – now though, it is an even bigger problem.

2.When did you become a mother? 

Artemis was born almost exactly a year ago – February 9th.  We had a very quick pregnancy. I think some women become mothers when they realize they are going to have a baby, for me, it was in the weeks after she was born.  I never had that blissful moment of connection they talk about, when you first see your baby –  our love was formed from the many weeks after as we got to know one another.

3.What are your challenges as a mother? 

Balance, most of all. Scheduling child care, juggling work, and school, and jotting in times to remember to breathe. It’s really, really difficult to have it all – a loving relationship with your partner, a successful career, an attentive mother. It’s a lot of titles to try and balance and I constantly feel six steps behind. blogger-image-581854844

4. What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?

See above ^ ha.  Also because I have to.  I have this overwhelming force in me to create, and if I ignore it, it destroys the rest of my life.

I also have felt this year an urge to be a positive role model for my daughter. For me, it’s important that my daughter sees that you can have a happy career and have children and a significant other, or any combination of these things. I try to surround her with strong women so she has examples in her head when she’s learning (much later!) who she wants to be.

5. Do you have a studio?  Where is it?

Much of my work happens wherever I happen to be – I work mainly in photographer’s studios, but sometimes on location. This past year, I’ve worked in the Rivoli (an abandoned theatre on tenth street), several construction sites, a mid century modern home, a jungle themed mansion, a storage facility, and many other strange locales I can’t think of at the moment.

6. When do you spend time making art? 

I generally work on set one day a week, although much of my work time is spent shopping, visiting locations, searching for items, meeting with shop owners, and researching designers.

7.  What is your favorite medium? 



8. How many children do you have?

One tiny girl

9. Have you ever considered giving up being an artist in order to be a mother?

I can’t do it, it would crush me.

10.What is your advice for a new artist mom? 

I’m still in the thick of it, I’m still figuring things out. I don’t think I can give any advice because I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’m not still learning.  Maybe, get a doula? Have someone with you at the hospital who has done it before – when I was in labour, and the days afterward, I just wanted female friends with me.  There’s a reason midwives are traditionally women.

11. Do you have support from family and friends while making art? 

Yes, I have a very lovely boyfriend who fully supports what I do in every way.

12. Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist? 

Yes. I try to have a matter of fact attitude about it.  Sometimes if a photoshoot runs over time, Jesse has to drop arti off with me.  I try to act like its totally normal, like ‘of course I’m steaming clothes with an infant strapped to my back, why shouldn’t I?’ It is difficult though, at times. The first few months trying to find a place to pump on set was just a nightmare. I eventually evened out enough that I could just wait to pump until after, but my gosh it is painful.

13. Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?

I think no different from any other artist.blogger-image--400424161

 14. What do you say when someone asks you “what does your husband do for a living?”

Well, it depends on who asks.  Many times people are asking about his music, which I usually let him explain for himself. Just as often, they’ll ask about my work as well, so I’m not offended if that is what’s implied.

15. What is your story?  

Our little Arti was a tiny surprise.  We had discussed having babies, but not seriously and not anytime soon. I was still in school and Jesse had yet to find his dream job. It’s hard when the decision is taken from you; you feel very sacrificial-lamb. You have to give up so much as a mother and it is really hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced that to understand how that can affect a person.

If anything, motherhood has driven me to succeed, to not accept less than what I am worth. It makes me ruthless, not for myself, but because I cannot fail my daughter. I have become selfish with my time and abilities because I must be able to provide for her. Everything I do, I do with her in mind.

Savannah Norris lives in Indianapolis, IN with her partner Jesse and their little Arti.

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Documenting Reality

While I was on my way to my first photo shoot of the day, I realized what an honor it is to be able to document a part of a persons life story. It can often be an emotional time, to meet with a total stranger – within the walls of their sacred space to discuss their lives. You never know where the conversation will go.
Mother & Son
Though we are both fully aware as to why we gather – I begin to ask questions- to peel back the layers in order to reveal something personal – their story. The same story that is often set aside- over looked, put on a shelf, covered in laundry or forgotten like a grocery list on a kitchen counter.

As we lock eyes and I reach for my camera , I share my story and my reason behind the project. During a series of goose bumps -It seems to hit a soft spot. Their body language changes and  they often pause and reflect. Thinking about their journey as an artist that turned into a mother. The sleepless nights and the constant caregiving. The start and stop process of working on a project. The painting in the basement that never saw the light of day. The sketch book that was purchased but never touched. A time of self sacrifice – a time where the season of life changed, turning a new chapter. It is what we call LIFE.
What is also realized – is that the Mother Artist Project sheds light on the truth behind self sacrifice and the balancing act of the two worlds. My mission behind the project and purpose of meeting them is not only to take their picture but to listen to them. Making them aware that they are not alone in their journey.
The beautiful thing is – as I document each mother artist , a circle is forming – a circle of raw, honest stories about the lives of dedicated mothers who love what they do. Who work so very hard to obtain a sense of balance in order to create harmony in their lives.
Every story is different and while words are passed back and forth, tears are sometimes forced back into their eyes or wiped away . Or she pauses to quickly instruct her children to be patient. After all – they are often kindly waiting for the interview time to end.
Even a simple interview – is an act of balance. The toys they brought may not entertain for long – and oh, we just ran out of snacks . The child may not want to participate or sit still long enough for a photo- but I take the pictures anyway. Reminding the mothers – this is real life.
 My favorite part about this project is that  I am not out to take pretty, and flawless- happy photographs. I am after the real story. Documenting reality. The truth about the balancing act . The real lives of hard working , dedicated mother artists!
The beauty here is rawness. My hand is pulling the curtain back to shed light on this beautiful thing called balance. I believe in it and I hope to help you believe in it too. It takes a dedicated person to seek and find true balance. To be able to nurture everyone else and still find time to nurture yourself is an art form of its own. It is my sincere mission to capture the beauty of their reality – the same beauty that society may label as chaotic, imperfect or messy.Sometimes the mothers are quick to admit that balancing both worlds isn’t so easy. I admire them because, It takes courage to say motherhood can be difficult and being an artist/mother can be even harder. Everything revolves around the family nest. Even the push and pull of what takes priority .. A “real” job or being an artist  can be a painful decision. If you’ve done it- then you understand. Often times what takes priority isn’t that one blissful hour of total peace and quiet in the studio, but three baskets of laundry. Sacrifices- The common thread among all of these mother artists.

However, what Ive noticed beyond the self sacrifice and hard work, Is that  they possess a unique drive. A strong desire to remain in touch with themselves. Using their passion as a voice and often times this voice-  is the one that they are the most comfortable using..   And that they seem to be saying the same thing – here I am, take my work seriously. This is not just a hobby!
I have discovered and I am confirming – through this project that we are all connected. That we are not alone in how we feel, what we love to do or what we struggle with. I hope this project can inspire, encourage -and shed light on the hard work that is being done behind the scenes.
From one artist to another-