'Invisible Labour' embroidery. 

'Invisible Labour' embroidery. 


Firstly, tell us about yourself! Where do you live, what sort of artwork do you create and how many children do you have?  

I have 2 kiddos, an 8 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. We live in a community of Boston, Massachusetts but I am originally from the midwest. I am a somewhat interdisciplinary artist, my background and training is in photography, I am most known for my large scale hand embroideries based on my photographic images and in recent years drawing has become an important aspect of how and what I make. My work has always been rooted in the autobiographical but with the idea that if I am specific about my experience I can connect to you, the viewer, through your own.  Themes that have been of great importance to me are intimacy, identity, the female experience, the domestic space, and motherhood.

How do you continue to engage with your art practice alongside raising children? Do you have a dedicated studio space and routine, or do you work from home in between other things?

I do have a dedicated studio and for most of my time as a mother have. I currently do not have a routine, my daughter is quite young and I am the primary caregiver. So I attempt to get to my studio at least one day a week for a few hours without her. But I have at least 2 or 3 projects that I can work on at home during nap times and in the evening. I intentionally plan my projects so that some of them can easily be picked up and put down so I can take advantage of the moments I have between mothering. I think this is actually why I started to embroider, I knew I wanted children…. but I also knew I wanted to keep making my work.  Before my 2nd child was born I worked with a much stricter schedule with having specific times and days in my week specific to my studio. When my son was born I was in my studio full-time and he came to the studio with me everyday. It depends so much on the child--- that would never work with my daughter. So essentially there is never enough time.


What does a typical day look like for you and how much time do you manage to carve out for your own work?

Wake up, take big kid to school or go to yoga, feed baby and self.  Amuse baby. Hopefully she is ready for a nap and she takes one. I rush to my computer to get caught up on emails, applications, website updating, promotion, attempting to organize my brain….. When I am lucky this does not take more than a half hour- 45 minutes. I then work until my daughter wakes up. This could be on photo editing or stitching on a drawing that I have already laid out and is just in need of the labor.  Babe wakes up. Feed, change, amuse, maybe take on a walk or go to one of the many commitments I have, feed self, attempt to clean the chaos of my house, talk to baby, put her down for another nap. Immediately run back to whatever project I am working on and get as much done as I can, baby wakes, change, feed, get big kid, do homework with big kid, make dinner with baby under my feet or on my back in a carrier, eat as a family, hang with kids and partner, argue with big kid about taking a shower, tuck everyone in. Crash on couch and remember I have a husband, read or watch tv...sometimes I pick up a piece to stitch on. I am still nursing my daughter -so throw in that 5-8 times a day, I teach college level courses 1 or 2 days a week so sometimes my precious baby naptime is spent grading and lesson planning. And of course if the light is just right I set up my camera a take a shot. That’s crazy--- I have never written all that down before. Women are amazing. All in all on a good day 2-4 hours.

Have you come up against specific challenges as an artist and mother? What were they and how have you navigated these challenges?

Lack of affordable childcare- I have arranged baby sitting trades and co-op babysitting with mixed results. With my son this worked amazing. It has been more difficult with my daughter in finding a good fit. I also take my children everywhere - my job, my studio, my studio visits, my meetings- they just come as I cannot arrange to pay someone.

Time- there is never enough of it- I have not figured this out.

Mental space- it is taken up by so many mundane things. I really try to go to my studio alone for at least a few hours a week to get that space.

Discrimination- if your a mother you cannot be serious about your career bullshit.  I advocate for mothers, I proudly share that I am a mother, I look for role models to follow, and I defend mothers. Hoping that someday this will change.


What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Your art will always be there for you, but your children grow up so fast. This was given to me on 2 separate occasions by older mother artists- reminding me to not be so hard on myself and enjoy my children while they are small.

Who are your role models? Who or what inspires and encourages you?

I love seeing mother’s kick ass. As a photographer I am inspired by Elinor Carucci and Sally Mann as they celebrated their children as muse and made/make amazing work as a result. Patti Smith has lived an amazing badass life and was essentially a single mother for much of it. Really any mother that is making her career work. It’s hard.  I research and read about mothers working as artists and writers all the time - seeing their work and hearing their voices gives me hope, encouragement and reminds me I am not alone.


How has the experience of motherhood impacted your practice on an emotional/intellectual level? Has it made you view yourself/your work differently? Are there things that influence your work now that you didn't think about pre-kids?

I do not have the luxury of large blocks of time, this affects what I actually do &  the mediums I work with. I was already making work about the everyday experience and the domestic space before I had children but of course having children lends itself to those themes. Recently I have really started to think about how what I do matters to the world and what I leave behind. I think having children makes you less narcissistic and is very humbling so this affects everything you do and everything you think about.

If your child(ren) were asked “Tell me about your mother” what do you hope they would say? Are there particular things you are trying to show/teach them as an artist, a mother, a woman?

I hope they say I am loving and supportive above all else. But I hope to show them, especially my daughter, that you can follow your passion and dreams and be a strong person about that. It is ok sometimes to be a little selfish and do what you need to do for yourself.

'Mother and child' (detail of work in progress.)

'Mother and child' (detail of work in progress.)


What drives you to continue to create work?

If I don’t I am a sad, depressed and angry person. It is not a choice it is a requirement for who I am. I believe art matters and I believe I have something to share. This belief keeps me going.

Anything else you would like to add?

Women, mothers, mama’s and caregivers rock and are too invisible in our world. I hope we can work to make the invisible labor of all of them visible.



You can see more of Joetta's work on her website and follow on insta @joettamaue