Once a month or so, the Lord Dudley Hotel in Woollahra becomes a meeting place for some of Australia’s most interesting women. Writers, bloggers, art educators, jewellery designers and creative entrepreneurs rub shoulders with filmmakers, photographers, publishers, editors, illustrators, milliners, ceramicists and sculptors – just about every artistically-inclined vocation is represented.
It’s not a coincidence. About a year and a half ago, mother, registered art therapist, and humanitarian angel-of-sorts, Anna Kellerman, had an epiphany. She’d been chatting to a neighbour – an artist – who revealed that since becoming a mother, she had suffered from terrible depression. A few days later, another friend confided a similar story, then another. They were all creative in some way, and feeling isolated since motherhood set in.
When you have a baby, it's all too easy to find your identity consumed by the relentless demands of your pint-sized dictator.
When you have a baby, it's all too easy to find your identity consumed by the relentless demands of your pint-sized dictator. Time seems to cave in on itself; showering might become a luxury; your sense of self a distant memory. Having a supportive social network that celebrates you as an individual first and foremost can be a powerful antidote to that. It was the catalyst that spurred Kellerman to conceive Mama Creatives, a collaborative community providing a supportive, inspirational platform for creative mothers.
“I found six or seven friends who were interested in meeting other creative types and I knew I had to introduce them all and get those mindsets in one room. I’d heard all their stories and I knew it would be amazing,” says Kellerman. “At first, we got together and brought our kids to the park – but it became a play date for the kids and no one had enough time to connect. I decided to make it more structured so we could properly hear each other’s stories and talk about what we did before we had kids. Not to minimise motherhood, but to elevate the creative aspect.
“I was so inspired thinking about it that I went home, wrote a massive manifesto and sent it out to all the mums. I knew I was onto something. The idea was that, like a TED talk, each mum had to present her story and body of work. The focus was on putting each mum in the spotlight, as a way of getting them back in touch with themselves. They were all such remarkable women, but had lost their confidence, their sense of identity and they were flailing.”
What began as a handful of mums in a lounge room about 18 months ago, has since flourished into an inspiring community of over 600 members, who exemplify the notion that motherhood and creativity are not mutually exclusive.
In 2015, Kellerman launched 20 events, consisting of the TED-style talks and more intimate morning tea masterclasses. “After all,” she says, “The more educated you are, the more empowered and confident you are.” And as her community has grown, along with her influence, she has made a point of shining a spotlight on causes that are important to her including Mums for Refugees, People Like Us and Panda, the perinatal anxiety and depression charity.
No matter how hard it is, you have to retain your identity. You don't need to be just one thing; ‘just’ a mum.
This year, Mama Creatives is going online, to open up the community to isolated mums in regional Australia and overseas. An inspiring video series called Creative Mamas We Love is also in the works. It’s no wonder Kellerman is so loved and admired by all who come in contact with her all-embracing generosity of spirit. Everything she does is to inspire and increase courage.
“No matter how hard it is, you have to retain your identity. You don't need to be just one thing; ‘just’ a mum. If you ever forget that, watch a child – they’re always doing more than one thing at a time; they’re so curious and interested in life,” she says. “Having a child has given me a whole other dimension to my creativity in a way that I wouldn't have imagined – because she sees things in a way that’s so interesting. Of course, when you’re a mum, time is always an issue, but you just need to repurpose it. It doesn't have to be a barrier. When you have less time, you become less precious. You can be way more prolific.”