Motherhood Residency

January 9, 2013

By Koseli. Image by Lenka Clayton.

As both a personal and political statement, Lenka Clayton, a conceptual artist and full-time mother,  has created a motherhood residency funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation.

For the 227 days of the residency the fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time and countless distractions of parenthood as well as the absurd poetry of time spent with a young child will become the artist’s working materials and situation, rather than obstacles to be escaped from.

Her website documents her experience of being a full-time mother and creating art in her attic during her one year old son’s naps. Lenka’s studio diary (I love Things Found in Babies Mouths and What do we do all day?) and catalog of artwork are a fascinating peek into the harmony and strain of parenting and profession.

What do you think of a motherhood residency?

P.S. — It looks like Lenka will be doing a double residency as of May 20!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisette Wolter-McKinley January 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

What a very clever way to document everyday living.


2 Marielle January 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

Fascinating. Brilliant. I delight in anyone who can elevate the everyday to art. Shared with my 30-something daughter and daughter-in-law. 3 little ones each. Growing too, too quickly.


3 Sarah van Loon January 9, 2013 at 11:34 am

That is so, so cool. I love that she receives funding for this, too. Way to go, mama!


4 {plum} January 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

amazing! Thank you so much, Koseli, for sharing this life documentary. What a brilliant idea, I can not wait to follow her journey.

to all you brilliant moms our there, my hats off to you.
~ d.


5 Christa the BabbyMama January 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I love the idea, but whenever I see ‘full-time mother’ used like this I get sad and think “Great, yet another person who sees me as a *part-time mother* because I have to work to support my family’ simple lifestyle.” Last I checked, supporting my family, financially or otherwise, is a part of mothering.


6 Design Mom January 9, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I think that’s such a good point, Christa. I get so frustrated when I see labels about motherhood and parenthood thrown on everything, because they’re polarizing and generally unhelpful.

Tell me, am I a full-time mother because I’m home all day? Or am I a part-time mother because my 5 oldest kids are in school, and little June has a babysitter twice a week? Or am I hardly a mother at all because I have a full-time workload?

Asked cheekily: Exactly how many hours do we need to spend with our kids in a day to be considered a full-time mother?


7 Design Mom January 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I feel like I should add: I know what is meant by “full-time mother”, and I’ve spent many years as a “full-time mother”. The term is meant to describe a woman who has decided not seek employment, especially employment outside the home, while she’s rearing her children.

But in my experience, it doesn’t really work like that. The artist in question is both working and parenting. The full-time mothers I know are running the PTA, training for marathons, volunteering at church, developing skills (like photography, and blogging!), and doing all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily parenting. They’re just not getting paid for it, or getting paid less than a true wage. It’s hard to imagine a woman who has no interests or activities outside of parenting her children.


8 Sarah January 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I think any mom who is actively engaged in their child’s life is a full time mom! Most of us aren’t so lucky to call motherhood our only job, not to say it’s an easy one! As a mom who spends nap-time blogging in my basement, I can totally relate and think this project is wonderful! I especially love the “THE DISTANCE I CAN BE FROM MY SON.”


9 Sara January 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Sarah, I know you didn’t mean anything bad by it, but I wouldn’t consider myself lucky if I didn’t have a job outside the home. I love what I do and I consider myself lucky that I get to do it and that I have wonderful care for my children when I am at work.
Yet I wouldn’t say everyone should work, I think the lucky ones are the ones who get to make a choice and so what they want, not be forced by money or society or whatever.


10 Maria Baker January 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I think this project is very clever. As an artist, I only wish I’d thought of it first. Though as I think about it, I have thought of it, many times, without properly fleshing it out. Good for her. I also appreciate the argument against putting labels onto mothers, such as full time, part time, etc. Can’t we just be Moms? Why are we so incredibly hard on and judgmental of each other?


11 Sarah Heat January 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I love this!


12 M.Frances January 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Awesome link! I am going to be a stickler, though, and say…please edit the posted link, as Pittsburgh ends with an ‘h’. When it’s left off, it makes me twitch!


13 Design Mom January 10, 2013 at 5:03 am

Oops! Just edited. Thanks for the catch, M.


14 Heidi January 10, 2013 at 12:11 am

This truly inspired me, and I really needed it in the dead of winter! Her open studio video of her baby crying and hitting her with objects while she is creating is honestly why I swore off all creativity after I had two children due to the frustration I felt when I was interrupted while creating and now that I have three I am a lot more flexible and have realized that in order to thrive I need to create and so I am slowly returning to the world of seeing life through the bubble wrap lens of creativity. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.


15 klao January 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

awesome idea! love it! :)


16 Ann January 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

This is very creative and it made me laugh when I read the blackboard. My first son never hit me but he did hit other children his age for a very brief period when he was a toddler. I felt so bad when he did this! Mortified really, especially when one of the objects was a wooden block. OUCH!


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