Motherhood Made Me a Better Artist

NORTHSHORE-49Life is uncertainty. For me, I’ve always tried to pretend I was a person who knew what I was about. Over the years people have asked me what kind of designer I want to be, what kind of job I ultimately want. I always had a different answer. “I want to do album covers”; “I want to be an Art Director of a Magazine”; “I just want to design.” Creativity has always come easily to me so I never really imagined putting in the work to focus on any one of these ambitions. I kind of went where my career took me, from poster designer to layout editor to quasi-Art Director to Social Media designer to nothing to Freelancer.

It’s the “nothing” period in my career that I think particularly shaped me. That would’ve been the time between when I ended my contract at General Mills and Alexander went to day care. For about 17 months I had no job, no income, and very few opportunities to create.

But it strengthened my creativity more than any other job could’ve. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, but in my case it also made it more skilled. It’s like something clicked in my brain, or maybe my batteries just needed to be recharged. I feel an artistic instinct moreso now than ever before. It’s more focused and the style is refined, but I’m also more disciplined and detail-oriented too. I’m even more principled, by being firm on pricing and passing on jobs that couldn’t pay enough. I’m at a stage now where I don’t have to work for exposure if I don’t want to.


Since coming back from “maternity leave” I’ve had a handful of really cool clients and done some work I would put up there as my best, and one of my goals this year is to blog more about design, so I’ll start by rounding up recent work:WG_covergifWG_inside7

I art directed this big printed winter guide for GoMN. I’d never made a style guide before, or design something of this magnitude totally from scratch, but it was an amazing rediscovery of skills and taught me about who I am and what I want from projects. Full autonomy and a really supportive and willing collaborator (in this case, the editor Reed Fischer).


I was approached by the wonderful jeremy messersmith to design a souvenir poster for a January residency at Icehouse here in Minneapolis. It sort of fulfilled another goal of mine, which was to be sought out because of work I’ve done, not just because I’m a designer. (There’s still one more show if you’re in Minneapolis).


Through a combination of networking and just dumb luck (which is how 90% of design jobs happen) I ended up doing a listicle graphic for the website Stereogum… And then asked if I would do 10 more graphics for year-end content… Which ultimately ended up at 15 pieces. The editors over there were super open and game for whatever. I tried out a few new styles and even snuck some of my own photography in. And, not only was it a really cool opportunity but it came at a time where I was desperate for work (and a paycheck). MOMMUSICVIDS1PROTEST1

And of course I’m still doing my Transmission gig, which I’ve been doing since before I graduated college, since before I met Alan! I’m usually able to stretch on these and figure out new ways of doing things; pick up skills for later on. BOWIE4NYE2



Through the looking glasses

GLASSES-1GLASSES-7I’ve always had this funny thing where I wanted glasses. They always seemed like a cool accessory. Throughout the years as different types of glasses were trendy I was really jealous. I once broached the topic of buying non-prescription frames from Warby Parker with Alan (who wears glasses) and he thought that sounded pret-ty dumb. BUT THEN….. I saw an instagram story from my friend Paul (definitely being an *influencer*) who was trying out some new blue-light filter glasses from a company called EyeBuyDirectSo I checked them out and decided this was as good an opportunity as any to fulfill my lifelong dream of having glasses. The blue-light filtering lenses is actually great for someone like me who stares at screens all day.

They have a ton of different styles, and lo and behold, the style that spoke to me most was the “Caroline“. Fate!

GLASSES-3GLASSES-9When I put them on, I felt more like myself. I just sort of realized that being a designer for me is totally a whole package deal. My workspace has to be a certain way, my look has to be a certain way. It’s kind of an ever-evolving process but little by little I’m figuring this stuff out about myself.


Radisson RED City Guide

RADISSONRADISSONI’m excited to share some photos from a job I did back in the spring, while I was in the midst of a full time job, planning a major international trip, and dealing with pregnancy fatigue/general unpleasantness. What fine days were those that I had so much on my plate. Anyway, my coworker at the time Amanda had a friend looking for a photographer to shoot the Minneapolis City Guide for Radisson RED, a new chain making its stateside debut (the first one opened up in Belgium not too long ago). It was a pretty cool job in that I actually got to see a lot of parts of the city I wasn’t really familiar with before, and discovered some new shops and restaurants I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of.

You know how you will do a job, and then forget about it for a while, and think “boy I really sucked at that job.” It’s always nice to look back and think “holy shit I might have actually done well at this.” That’s my entire portfolio basically….RADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONRADISSONradisson-191radisson-192RADISSON

Here it is in action.


Mom Enough?


Long before I was pregnant, or even had a regular job, I still knew that when I had kids, I would be a working mom. I am a feminist, and while I know that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to work when you have kids, it’s been a motivation for me to be my own person; I don’t want to be solely defined by being a mother. I want to show my kids that there is value in working, and that both mom and dad have an equal role in providing for the household. Plus studies show that mothers who work are generally happier, as they have social interactions outside the home, and aren’t totally bogged down by the stress of raising children full time.

The decks are stacked against women no matter what. Mothers who work, on average, make less than women without children. And we already know women make less than men.  Truly a damned-if-you-do scenario.

This past winter, I had what felt like a pretty solid job, with a solid income, and it lined up perfectly with our plan to start our family. I was 4 months pregnant when they told me at work that the company was putting full time contract workers on a “6 month hiatus” which seemed like fancy speak for “you won’t have a job anymore.” My last day was the day before we left for New Zealand, and since we returned, I’ve had an odd summer of being unemployed but not quite on the job hunt, but in the back of my mind I thought that I would somehow find a job soon and I’d need to negotiate some sort of maternity leave and we’d need to find daycare ASAP.

Daycare, it turns out, is really expensive, and for a good one, the wait list is long. One we were really impressed with had a waiting list for infants up to 12 months out. How do you even plan for that, realistically? Even if we did find care available around February or March of next year, when my “maternity leave” would be over, I don’t even have a job to go back to, and the prospect of job hunting is already stressful enough without a tiny baby in tow. If we got into a daycare and I didn’t have a job, would we just lose our spot for good?


On the way home from the daycare center that had the organic meals and cloth diapers and Spanish immersion and 12 month waitlist, I came to a difficult conclusion and said to Alan “What if I just stayed at home with the baby for the first year?” And just like that, I’d become a Stay-At-Home-Mom.

I’m not of the mind that one way is better than the other. Whatever is best for the mom and the dad and the baby is what’s best for them. I always thought that working would be the best for us. After all, it meant better vacations! Cool designer clothes and toys for baby! Regular massage appointments for myself! But now, the choice has been taken away from me, and I’m coming to terms with not being a Working Mom.

And why does it bother me so much? I like working, and doing design, and being creative, but I also enjoy waking up and not showering; just getting on with my day. I like spending time in my home office. I like doing errands, and cleaning the house, and cooking dinner. I’m so excited about getting to spend the precious first year with my baby so closely. So why does it feel like such a defeat?

I feel like the problem is America itself. There is a toxic work culture here. 40, 50, 60 hour work weeks, deadlines, overtime, no family leave, poor health care… It seems like our worth in this country is determined by how we make money. And I’ve fallen into that trap time and time again. It seems like so many kickass women are doing the career and kid thing and being totally awesome and empowered by it. The flip side to that is that doing anything less feels to me that I’m just not measuring up to the modern women in this country if I’m not trying to “have it all.”

Then, I look at the Nordic countries, and I’m filled with envy and longing, because they put the family first. In the Nordic countries, it’s a virtue to have kids and take care of them, and it’s also a virtue to work, but it’s not an obsession. Take a look at the list of the best countries for mothers. Joanna Goddard’s series on motherhood around the world has great insight from women in some of these countries as well: Norway, Sweden, Iceland.

I’d love to hear from mothers who put their career aside for an indefinite amount of time to raise babies. Was it difficult, or the easiest decision ever? Did you go back into the workforce or call it quits for good?

Rock the Garden 2016

ROCKTHEGARDEN-12I was feeling ever so confident on Saturday morning that shooting Rock the Garden this year would be easy breezy. After all, I’d survived the two-day, multi-stage juggernaut Eaux Claires festival last July there was no way a simple one day two-stage event would overwhelm me. But I was wrong, and suffered as a result of my own hubris. It was hot out. And the sun was the worst part. 5 minutes in the sun wearing a double-DSLR harness was like being suffocated. If it were just me, I probably would’ve just dealt with it, but shooting a festival in 90+ degree heat for 7+ hours while pregnant was plain recklessness. Several times Alan (sweet Alan, who was my water gofer and who I sternly advised to not drink too much beer during the afternoon while I was extra vulnerable) said I could call it, that my health was more important than this job. It’s true. I was shooting a slideshow that would pay very little. Not worth hardly doing anything. And my deadline was early the next morning. After shooting from 2-9pm, I’d have to go through 3 memory cards worth of photos, select the best ones, edit them, and then pick the best of those and upload them into a slideshow. Overall, my whole day was about 12 hours of work.

Oy. Never again.

But, I love shooting concerts. It’s extra fun when the band or frontman or whomever moves around and looks interesting and does cool shit. You just have to be there and be fast. That’s a satisfying challenge. ROCKTHEGARDEN-16ROCKTHEGARDEN-19ROCKTHEGARDEN-5A good frontman will always make any photo job more fun. ROCKTHEGARDEN-21ROCKTHEGARDEN-31ROCKTHEGARDEN-33ROCKTHEGARDEN-23Sometimes you get a tall stage.ROCKTHEGARDEN-36This was a first also, I split editing between color and black & white. I’ll sometimes get too married to one preset, so this time I got married to two presets. Maybe one day I’ll talk about my editing process. ROCKTHEGARDEN-37ROCKTHEGARDEN-38ROCKTHEGARDEN-54ROCKTHEGARDEN-55I would’ve taken more crowd shots, but it was honestly difficult not to just take pictures of white boys, so I mostly abstained. ROCKTHEGARDEN-66ROCKTHEGARDEN-68ROCKTHEGARDEN-73ROCKTHEGARDEN-78ROCKTHEGARDEN-77I bought another 70D last week; just figured it was a good investment to make. I was able to use my trusty Sigma lens and my new-ish Canon 24-70 lens. I had used it a few other times up until now, but you can’t really appreciate the quality of first-party gear until you’re under pressure. The fast Canon lenses have extremely good auto-focus and rapid shutter. I ended up using my new rig more than my old one. Now I just need the 70-200 and I’ll be unstoppable.ROCKTHEGARDEN-95ROCKTHEGARDEN-96ROCKTHEGARDEN-88ROCKTHEGARDEN-91I understand that sometimes blogs need to send someone in to take some pictures to accompany a review. And I understand that sometimes all that person has is an iPhone. But I had to tell this girl not to dance in the pit, and put her hand up in the air, like she just didn’t care. Her hand was getting in my shot. She looked at me like it was a huge imposition. Argh, casuals!ROCKTHEGARDEN-106ROCKTHEGARDEN-107ROCKTHEGARDEN-113ROCKTHEGARDEN-114ROCKTHEGARDEN-115ROCKTHEGARDEN-112ROCKTHEGARDEN-117ROCKTHEGARDEN-118ROCKTHEGARDEN-119ROCKTHEGARDEN-129You can’t imagine how relieved I was when it was all over. I didn’t faint. I didn’t go home before the job was done. I didn’t even super mind staying up another few hours to edit. Editing is 70% of the final product, and luckily I love doing it.

Knowing me, I will volunteer again next year to shoot, hopefully when it’s back at its smaller venue, and I don’t have a bun in the oven. Phew.

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