I’m featuring another artist mom this month: the lovely Agnes Blum. Agnes is a mixed-media and textile artist in Austin, Texas; a wife to Justin; and a mama to four-year-old Abby-Sue and one-year-old Robert. She runs the arts and crafts blog knock-knocking, where she features her work and writes about loving life in Austin.
Zoe Saint-Paul: You’re a textile artist. What made you choose textiles as your medium, and what in particular do you love to create?
Agnes Blum: I’ve been an active artist since I was very young and have both learned and taught my love of art for years. I’ve explored different mediums and challenged myself with various techniques, but I found my niche working with fabrics and paints. Although I’m not limited to creating them, yarn wreaths inspired by the colors and shapes found in nature are my passion. It’s been exiting and rewarding for me to see how well my little idea has taken off since that first day so long ago when I decided to create the first one.
A peek at your etsy shop, your blog, or even inside your home shows how much you love color. What colors inspire you, and what do you think they bring to your work or home space?
The colors I love change all the time. Different ones inspire me depending on my mood — and my moods are, in turn, changed by color; I’m in a constant flux. Right now I’m in love with pairing up Southwestern-inspired tones: burnt sienna, rich oranges, pops of red and turquoise.
You’re an artist, entrepreneur, and mom. How do you find time for it all?
It’s certainly been a challenge, but I think the saying holds true that if you really love something, you find time for it. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. Since creating art is a wonderful, relaxing experience for me, it has been easier to have it in my day because it builds me up. I’ve had to work with the schedule of my family, but some of my best moments are the ones after the children are in bed and it’s just me, my color wheel, and a glass of tea in my little studio.
Take us on a brief tour of your typical day.
It’s hitting the floor at seven, sharing a few moments with my husband before work, and then feeding the children. My oldest daughter goes to preschool so I send her off with a kiss; and then my little buddy Robert and I mail boxes, organize supplies, or hunt for vintage pieces to feature in my wreaths. After he goes down for his nap or is working with his physical therapist, I typically answer emails and phone calls, do any photography work that needs to be shot with the mid-day sunlight, and work with the shop owners or galleries who carry my art. I often sketch and brainstorm new work during this time as well. After lunch, errands, and cleaning the house, I usually have a quiet time for the children which allows me to wrap the bulk of my wreath forms. I don’t get a chance to work again until after the children are in bed, and that is typically when I do my felt sculpting, cake toppers, and custom work.
How do you stay organized?
It’s a work in progress. I try to streamline or organize one new thing a day to make sure that my system is as quick and efficient as possible. My studio is in a spacious walk-in closet that I have carefully organized by color and with the work flow of each piece in mind. I added a little wooden baby gate across the doorway so that the children can play and interact with me but aren’t into every little button, bead, or tube of paint. It has worked out well.
What did motherhood bring to your life, and how did it change you?
I think the largest change in my life with becoming a mother was understanding how important a mission it is to share beauty with your children. You only have so much time with them before they’re grown, and I think it’s essential to make sure every day is filled with beautiful, simple moments.
Slow living is about things like simplicity, beauty, staying connected, and not rushing through life all the time. How do you incorporate these ideals into your life?
For us, it’s all about living simply in the day-to-day activities in our home. I make sure my house is organized and clutter-free, and I’m always sharing donations with our local vintage or thrift shop — or looking for home goods there myself. It’s an important part of recycling and living as green a life as possible. I use wood, tin, or cotton whenever I can exchange them for plastic, and I try to keep in mind Mother Teresa’s quote: “Live simply so others may simply live.”
What is your best tip for living well?
Don’t bring something into your home you don’t absolutely love. Don’t settle for whatever you can find off the shelf without putting a little effort into researching what it is that you really enjoy. I guarantee that you will love looking at a special piece of art that you researched and carefully selected over whatever was available at the local box store.
What drives you, and what relaxes you?
I am driven by a love of color and the desire to share that passion with others. Everyone deserves to have something beautiful and special in their homes. Sometimes I have a color combination so stuck in my head that no other shade will do, and I can’t rest until I’ve moved the idea out of my mind and onto canvas, or yarn, or whatever the medium might be. I relax by studying a new technique, painting, or decorating my home.
What is your greatest challenge?
Certainly it would be balancing being a mother, wife, and business owner. There is only so much Agnes to go around, so I have to remind myself that, although anyone can work a business, only I can mother my children.
If nothing were an obstacle, where would you live, what would you be doing, and who would you be with?
I would certainly be living right here in Austin, Texas — maybe a little closer to the lake, and I would have more wood in my home. But I’m very blessed and happy right where I am, surrounded by amazing artists and friends in this city and enjoying all of its artistic sides, from music to visual arts.
Your guilty pleasure is…
Hot yoga and Essie fingernail polish.
Another aspect of slow living is an appreciation for craftmanship. What handmade item of yours do you most treasure?
This is a tough one. It’s a three-way tie between the oak crib that Justin’s grandfather created, my little vintage-style banjo, and the spectacular wooden animal chair that my dear friend Caroline and her team crafted for me at Paloma’s Nest.
You have a free Sunday afternoon — how do you spend it?
With my family, downtown. Walking by the lake, enjoying ice cream on South Congress, and listening to a live band on the corner.
What do you love best about your life right now?
I love everything about my life right now. The friends and family I have and the amazing opportunity I have to be an artist in such a beautiful city. It’s all good.
Thank you, Agnes, for giving us a window into your colorful, artistic life! Just looking at your wreaths make me feel a little more exuberant.
Folks, be sure to check out more of Agnes’s life and work at knock-knocking!
Note: This is the third installment in my series called “Living Slower With…” where I ask interesting women how they live well in a fast-paced world and how they juggle their many priorities.