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Meet two inspiring women who’ve found success and joy through a balanced blend of raising children, creating art, and generating an income: Isla Corbett and Lisa Fontaine. Trace their paths of finding a winning combination for being both mother and career woman, discover opportunities for buying or selling handmade creations, and try out four mom designed, family-centered, holiday crafts.

Inspiring Mothers: Isla Corbett and Lisa Fontaine

Meet Isla. Isla Corbett is the mother of a three-year-old son AND designer of modern felt accessories. A warm woman with a dashing wit and fabulous Scottish accent, I find I could listen to her humorous stories of learning life’s sage lessons for hours on end. She’s the first woman I’ve ever met who has a degree in 3 dimensional Plastics design, yet also works with ceramics and wood, sews, knits, and creates interior designs with great skill. Color is likely the common thread through Isla’s work, and beauty is the result of all she creates. Isla began creating with her hands by learning to knit at her grandmother’s knee, and continues to find inspiration for her creations through the work of Scottish fiber artists such as those featured through Tait and Style.

Not long ago, Isla used her dining room table as her headquarters for crafting “modern felt accessories” such as purses, hair bobbles, pillows and other items using brightly colored wool felt. Today Isla works from a studio her husband constructed off their garden. Isla started her business venture before becoming a mother, but her work has taken on new structure and meaning under her new guise as both entrepreneur and first time mother.

 “I used to worry about getting things done, but now I just tell myself things will grow as they should…my business…my family…” Isla Corbett

Where to find Isla Corbett:

Isla Corbett items available through Etsy and local stores including: Santa Rosa La Belle Fleur, Cast Away Yarn Shop, and Sprout Children's Clothing.

Meet Lisa. Lisa Fontaine is mother to a four-year-old daughter, blogger, AND creator of homespun accessories, party favors, and other crafts. An entrepreneurial woman with a knack for whimsy and details, Lisa’s work never ceases to inspire and amaze me. (I’m an avid reader of her fantastic blog featuring recipes, craft ideas, and travel recommendations: Picnic.) A degree in marketing and former career as a handbag designer, were a professional follow-up to a childhood growing up with multi-talented, resourceful parents.

“Growing up, my Dad was a semiconductor engineer by day and on the weekends he would spend it making things in his wood shop or under the hood of a vintage car. My Mom was a stay-at-home-mom for the most part but she also worked part-time as a painter and always handmade Christmas gifts, Halloween costumes, birthday presents and party favors. So you can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Where to find Lisa Fontaine:

Lisa Fontaine’s Picnic Crafts available through Etsy (Pearl and Pirate).

Most inspiring to me about both of these women is the way they manage to not only balance working and mothering, but they both seem to enjoy weaving work and children together! Here are a few of their learned insights for achieving this harmony:

Your Child as a Source of Inspiration. Before children, Lisa was a handbag designer, designing hot items like clutches for 20-something-year-old women. Not many ladies in Lisa’s current life are pulling off clutch purses, so she’s found ways to delight her current audience - children. “Now that I have one, I see what a huge source of inspiration they can be.” Lisa puts her creative energies into projects like creating items designed for children’s parties such as handmade invitations, favors and décor.

Creativity Enriches a Child’s Life. Isla also loves to create for her son. She’s declared she has given up on serial decorating (i.e. trying to create a home that looks like the one in magazines) – unfinished baseboards be darned! However, she recently did a makeover of her garage to create a fresh and fun play space for her three-year-old. Using her sewing, painting, and organizing skills as well as her famed love of color, she created a fantastic kid zone in this often underutilized (or over cluttered!) home space. Tour their lovely back garden, and you’ll find much of the same: dedicated play spaces, order, and beauty. Not only does her son benefit from her bursts of creativity, Isla finds giving her son his own creative spaces allows them to simultaneously busy themselves in their own worlds. Isla is free to create while her boy happily plays!  Or follow Lisa's suit and engage your child in actually making your projects with you!

Work as Refreshment for Mothering. Lisa puts it simply when she says, “My first priority is my child but if I don’t indulge in hobbies outside of parenting, I get bored. And if I’m bored, my kid is bored.” Isla seconds the notion. “Moms need time out to make parenting doable. The image of a super mom can be ridiculous. We need to get out so that we can come back to mothering with exuberance. We need to go on vacation every once in a while so we can make “everyday” life fun again.” For Isla, work is her creative “out.” Lisa claims she has a hard time calling something “work” that fulfills her passion and helps her have fun. Both women say work is essential for them to keep up their energy needed for mothering. Isla reiterates that the goal is to keep balancing your needs and roles making a bit of time for a social life, time for your spouse, time as family, down time, and spontaneity.

Choose Appropriate Projects. Isla notes her workspace, routines, the scale of her work and the fibers she uses also add to her personal fulfillment and success. The scale of her work is conducive to mothering as each of her projects can be transferred from her work table to her lap. The small projects are also completed in a relatively short amount of time – allowing for interruptions and breaks. Isla also finds her work gives her a much needed creative and structured outlet, which in turn provides her more stamina for the sometimes chaotic and droll tasks of mothering. In her workspace, Isla says organization and tidiness are important to her process. Neatening her space allows her to clear her head and focus. Her beautiful space allows her to lose herself in the textures of the fine wools she works with and eventually to create her own piece of beauty to add to the world.

You Can Find Work That Fits in Family Life. Isla learned right away that she needed to set aside daily time for her job that she couldn’t plan over. She started her business before she became a mom in August of 2006, but found she needed to take a brief hiatus to adjust to her new life as a mother. She laughingly said “I had these ridiculous ideas that I’d be back to work by Christmas…” Still, she longed for a way to make time and space for creative work, while not giving up her role as mother. She began her work again by maximizing time at her sewing machine on her dining room table when her (then) baby slept, slowly gaining momentum again. Today she works out of the studio her husband built with large glass windows and doors facing the yard. She installed industrial grade carpeting to allow for her son to go between outside play and playing at her feet. Beloved dog Gatsby also loves the easy indoor outdoor policy, and often curls up in a corner of Isla’s office. Isla happily sews her pillows, purses, and hair accessories, while taking breaks to be play with her boy. When Isla needs more time to prepare for a show, her supportive husband takes their son out for a weekend day on the town. Her family has found a rhythm by holding strong to the value that everyone’s needs are important.

Your Work Serves as a Model for Your Child. Lisa’s sums things up perfectly when she says, “I think it’s important for children to see their parents have interests and hobbies and you may even help inspire some of their own. Luckily, it’s easy for me to involve my child in my hobbies since I love to cook and make stuff. What kid doesn’t like to do that?”

Get the Crafting Bug Now with 4 Great Crafts Just in Time for the Holidays!

1. Gift Wrap

2. Thank You Notes

3. Wool Garland

4. Date Nut Bread

Support Local Moms or Become an Out of the Closet Crafter


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