Mother’s Day 2017 is nearly upon us and hot on the heels of our recent posts about the inspiring and talented women and mothers we’re privileged to work with in Africa, we thought we’d shift our attention closer to home for a moment, and meet some inspiring mums right here in the UK.
It seems that wherever you are in the world right now, the very meaning of motherhood is constantly evolving. Here in the UK, becoming a mother no longer means putting careers and creative pursuits on hold if you don’t want to. In fact, with the development of flexible workplaces, agile working policies and paternity rights - and the rise of entrepreneurship as a whole – it has never been a more exciting or fruitful time to be a mother.
Allow us to introduce you to the marvellous Molly Mahon: mother to Lani, Algie and Orlando, wife to Rollo, and designer, creator and supplier of beautiful fabrics and wallpapers for the home.
Molly In Her Studio - Before she lost her hair during chemo for breast cancer last year
Molly’s business was born at her kitchen table where she first used block printing as a creative outlet whilst looking after her three young children, and her company Molly Mahon has recently been listed in the Sunday Telegraphs ‘50 Best British Brands for the Home’. Molly lives in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex and in amongst juggling the three children, two guinea pigs, a busy home and a successful creative business, she also received treatment for breast cancer one year ago. Molly cites this challenging period in her life as a driving force behind her determination to spread the joy of colour and pattern into the lives of her family and throughout others’ homes, explaining that home was always such a happy place to come back to after a round of chemo.
Molly was kind enough to answer some questions about motherhood and creativity this week as part of our #InspiringMums campaign. Here’s what we chatted about…
So let’s start with a tricky question: what have been your biggest challenges being a working mother?
Fitting everything into one day: the laundry, the snack boxes, the emails, the sample cutting, sending out orders, meetings, homework, cooking, just hanging with the children... My days whizz by and it’s exhausting, but it’s also extremely satisfying and exhilarating. Just don’t look under the beds, in the cupboards or in the corners of our rooms - there will be lost toys, cobwebs and life’s detritus, but hey - we can’t all be perfect!
Molly's Colourful Kitchen
How do you juggle childcare with work?
Chaotically! We are currently without childcare, so we have to take a deep breath and do what we can. We are lucky to have very supportive parents who come and help out when we are really stuck, and during the summer holidays we generally have a gang of girls (finishing school, between travels) helping here in the office or at home. I love it when it’s busy and there’s a full table for lunch. It’s lovely for the children too.
I don’t like making definitions between work and home life; for me what I do is all part of a lifestyle, where the two overlap.
Molly's Three Children And Husband Rollo
How do you think motherhood has changed in recent years?
Well I know that amongst my friends it’s completely normal for us mothers to also want to work. I don’t like making definitions between work and home life; for me what I do is all part of a lifestyle, where the two overlap. I am lucky in that being a creative I can take my 'work' home to the kitchen table or my children can be with me at the studio, and I love that. I like my children seeing me at work, it’s important to me that they know what I do, and why. We are very lucky to have an office between our home and the school - all very local. I also work with my husband which again is a fairly modern concept, and means that he is just as involved with the children. The job of mothering our children is now a shared one.
Molly Mahon Block Printed Lampshade And Inspiration Mood Board
Who inspires you?
Emma Bridgwater, she has grown an amazing business with four children and the help of her husband. The Bloomsbury group for their amazing application and use of colour. Sarah Raven who has established a lifestyle business incorporating flowers, gardening, cooking and her beautiful home Perch Hill. Angel, the lady who taught me the art of block printing. Marthe Armitage whose intricate lino carvings taught me to take your time. My mother, Celia Lewis who successfully started to write and illustrate books in her sixties. Loads of my friends who are mothers with businesses. Amanda Cole author of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. She has 9 children and runs a sheep farm with her husband up in the Dales...hello the good life! Super tough, but, from reading her book I loved her attitude.
Creating brings feelings of euphoria to me, and I hope my children can feel the same even if it just remains a hobby.
Molly Mahon Block Printed Fabric - Duck Egg Blue on Linen
Who are your favourite mums doing creative things on social media?
- @amlybotanicals - Lisa, who has a beautiful facial spray that she has created from her silver-rich heavy water source on her organic farm.
- @alpacapie - Kathleen, who makes the most beautiful Alpaca sweaters for children.
- @madebynoble - Kate, who has started a new line of yum plant based blends to add to milk or water, packed with essentials.
- @lumitrix - Cara, who set up and runs a photographic print business whilst having a baby and with her partner working out in Africa
- @willowcrossleyflowers - Willow, a prolific florist, book writer and hotel designer.
Molly Working In India
When I step off the plane in Delhi I am a different person: I am an adventurous free creative woman, not a crazed mum up to her neck in laundry and lost socks!
What advice would you give to new mums who also want to continue with their careers and creative ventures?
Do it, but don’t do more than is realistic. I really pushed myself in all angles two years ago, and then found I had breast cancer (I was also aware of being BRCA1 so the illness didn’t necessarily come from being out of control, but I am sure it was a factor). I was super stressed, trying to do way too much, putting massive pressure on myself… and then I got ill. I have had treatment and quite a lot of surgery now, and am crossing fingers that I can put it all behind me. But I do now see that I can only do what I can do - I am definitely not super human. The whole experience has made me more realistic and I no longer sweat the small stuff. However, I also think that this 'dark' period has made me more determined to spread the joy of colour and pattern in our lives as my home was my rock during all my treatment and was always such a happy place to come back to after a round of chemo.
Inside Molly's Eclectic And Colourful Home
How do you make time for yourself in between working and looking after the family? Do you have a special place you go for some 'me' time?
We are growing our collection of hand printed Indian fabrics and items, so I travel out to Jaipur when I can. Although this is work it is a real change of scene for me and I even find the flight a moment of time where I can have some 'me time'. When I step off the plane in Delhi I am a different person: I am an adventurous free creative woman, not a crazed mum up to her neck in laundry and lost socks! It’s just nice to escape once in a while – we’ve got to be ok to admit that. On a more basic level, I love a bath in the evening where I can lie for an hour or so, just reading. That’s my total escapism.
Molly Visiting The Block Printing Workshop In Jaipur
The weavers we work with pass the skill of weaving down the female line. What family tradition or creative skills have you inherited or passed on?
My grandmother was and my mother is an artist, so I have been surrounded by creative things. Mum was always doing something with her hands - marbling, drawing, pottery, sewing - she had a knack of throwing her hand at anything and achieving it too. If it’s raining or if the children are stuck for things to do I always go to our 'creative cupboard' and we get making at the kitchen table. I think we all have creativity within us and often the process is just as enjoyable even if the end result is not such a success. I made some porcelain pots the other day that totally exploded in the kiln. I was disappointed for a short while until I reminded myself what fun I had had in the making of them. I love Peggy Angus's saying 'Art for Life.’ Creating brings feelings of euphoria to me, and I hope my children can feel the same even if it just remains a hobby.
Finally, if you were to be given a Mother's Day gift from The Basket Room, what would you love to receive?
Ooh, tricky! Probably your pink and yellow WARIDI shopper (Rollo - wink wink)!
The Basket Room's WARIDI Shopper
Huge thanks to Molly for sharing her motherly wisdom and creative insights with us. If you would like to learn more about Molly and her incredible work and fill your house with all her beautiful textiles, visit her website here.
Do you know an inspiring mum? Whether she’s juggling work and babies, overcoming barriers or braving a new pathway as a stay-at-home-mum, head over to our Facebook Page and share your #InspiringMums stories, not forgetting to tag her! We’ll be picking a winner on Wednesday 22nd March to receive our Pink Woven Shopper... just in time for Mother’s Day!