Creative Family Series | Jillian in Italy
The other night at dinner, I made a bold declaration.
“We need to live abroad.”
“Uh, how would we do that?”
“I have no idea. But I read an article that said, people who spend some time living abroad are more creative than those that don’t. Kids, grab a piece of cardboard and some paint.”
“To make an Italy or Bust! sign, of course.”
“But what about school?”
“And the mortgage?”
“And my friends?”
I guess I’ll have to settle for a “vicarious” experience through Jillian in Italy.
I met Jillian a couple months ago through a comment she left on a post. Since I’m wildly curious about you guys (*cough*total stalker*cough*) I hopped on over to her blog to see what she was all about. Thirty seconds in and I had already swooned six times. While I’m a swooner by nature, even I could tell something serious was happening. I was inspired.
Jillian is kind, thoughtful, brave and has a fantastic sense of humor. I’m pretty sure you’ll forget all about me once you meet her. Which is totally okay, because I forget all about me too when I visit her blog. I guess the vicarious thing is working…
How would you define creativity?
For me there is creativity in everything we do. For every decision we make there is some sort of creative thought process that goes into it. Creativity is “doing and making” but also the way we act, speak, and interpret the world around us. For me it’s seeing the world in new ways from a different perspective and not judging the way others see it. It is appreciating not only one’s own creativity (which is quite hard for many creative people to do) but appreciating and acknowledging it in others. Wow, that was a mouthful.
Have you always considered yourself creative?
Absolutely not. I spent periods of my life surrounded by very artistic and creative people and my creativity was never something I even considered. Looking back I was always creating in those moments but I wasn’t valuing what I was doing as creative. I think I’ve been a lot happier since I acknowledged that I am indeed creative. And I’ve come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard I try I will never be able to draw a chair that looks like a chair or a horse that looks like a horse.
How do you nurture you own creativity?
For me one of the most important ways to nurture my creativity is to give myself time to sit down with my thoughts and work through ideas and plans for future projects. A few minutes of quiet can produce hours of creating for me.
Physical activity is also essential for my well-being and creativity. Those endorphins that make you feel so good after a good run or tennis match can give you so much renewed creative energy as well.
And of course I nurture by doing. I can always be found busily working in my little sewing room, my kitchen, my garden or wandering around my lovely surroundings with my camera around my neck (it really helps that I live in such a beautiful country).
Did you grow up in a creative household? If so, what were some of the ways your parents nurtured your creativity and curiosity?
Wow, that’s a question I’ve never actually pondered! At first thought I would have said I didn’t come from a particularly creative household. Both my parents worked full-time so life was pretty busy. But looking back there were definitely things that I now see as creative. My dad built a house at 20 years old. That’s pretty courageous and creative. My mom sewed some of our clothing, organized wonderful birthday parties and read to us as much as she could.
How do you nurture it in your own children?
For me nurturing my children’s creativity is one of the best parts of parenting. I’m lucky that I have a husband who values it as much as I do. We’ve never limited ourselves and what we do because of the age of our kids. People are always amazed when they hear we took our kids to a 3 hour ballet performance at La Scala in Milan when they were all under five. Or that we took our kids to a Robert Mapplethorp exhibit. All these experiences may not be “suitable for children” but they definitely spark some amazing family discussions at times.
We really try to not rush childhood for our kids. We let them play and fantasize as much as possible (I think it helps we don’t have television). We let them make magic potions in the garden with chicken poop and spit if that’s what comes up (like it did for us a few days ago).
We have also dedicated a whole part of our living room as a permanent “creative area” for our children. There’s a big table, shelves full of art supplies and all of their musical instruments. It’s all easily accessible and, most importantly, close to the rest of the family.
How have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions?
Fortunately I had the option to make the decision to dedicate my time to our family. So an actual “job” is something I don’t have. I have however done local volunteer work and been able to organize lots of creative events. It’s fun to see how different my events are compared to the typical local ones. And luckily the people who come usually really appreciate a new take on an event or new activities.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?
We love to spend a day at home in our pyjamas reading, drawing, baking and playing games. We love to go for hikes in the mountains or in the local forests. We love to pop into the city for a good museum exhibit and a meal in Chinatown. And we really love to travel. Over the 10 years of being parents, we have done some extensive traveling around the world with our little ones and every single trip has been amazing. It has broadened our children’s whole outlook on life and their respect for people living differently and thinking differently.
What are you working on now?
I always have a million different projects on the go at any one time. But right now in particular I’ve been doing a lot of sewing with the kids. They absolutely love it. Even my 7 year old son approached me last weekend with a very specific goal of making himself a pencil case for school. He knew exactly the style, size, material and zipper that he wanted to use. And he finished the whole thing from start to finish with so much concentration and joy.
My daughters and I have been busy doing Fast Forwards for their blog. We take hundreds of photos of them painting or drawing or baking then bring it all together in a little video with music and text. It’s such a great project to do with kids.
And for me I’m always thinking of what new project I can start or what new post I can write about. That’s what I love about blogging…it keeps you focused and gives you that extra little push to stop procrastinating and get busy.
From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle that? Do you do anything in particular? Does it cause you any anxiety or do you just let it pass?
Of course I have lots of moments where I feel about as creative as a potato. But I usually just wait it out. I’ve gone through it all so many times that I know it does eventually come back…in one way or another. I find spending time with my kids always gets the creative juices flowing. They always have such a unique take on life and how to spend their time. It’s contagious and inspiring.