We chatted to co-founder of Poppies for Grace, Alana Waterson (above left), about being a mum, her dream party and what inspires her creative process.
How did you start Poppies for Grace?
Sara and I have been friends since high school and we started the business in 2004. I was part way through a screen-printing course and Sara was working in finance. One of my lecturers encouraged me to sell the cards I was producing in her class and Sara made the invoice for the first sale. We didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of this grand adventure.
We’ve both blossomed in our unique areas and have never butted heads as we give liberty to each other so naturally.
How did you come up with the name?
At a dinner party. We were all throwing in our favourite words and a poet friend of ours came up with the winner.
Did you always want to get into the creative industry?
Ha, no – we were 21. We didn’t know what we wanted. I knew I wanted to play, use my hands and find a job that I loved. What would be your dream party?
I’d love to hold a secret party. We’d hide out by a stream and our friends would arrive, the music would kick in and we’d laze the day away. Kids would be flying kites and fishing with sticks, and there’d be food, a pretty picnic set-up and all the colours.
Was creativity encouraged when you were growing up?
Yes! Every day after school my nana would paint with me – we’d make houses from millions of loo rolls and shoeboxes with sticky tape everywhere.
What inspires your work and keeps you motivated?
Our children inspire us with their constant hunger to learn. The world is so brand new to them and it’s filled with fairytale – they’re thrilled every day. It makes me sit up and take notice. What can my eyes see? How do I respond? I believe that we weren’t meant to outgrow play – play continues to form us and teaches us how to be human. When I play at work, that’s when things come together for the brand – plus it’s so much fun. Thankfulness makes lovely things grow in my heart and spill out onto whatever my hands are making.
Can you tell us about your favourite project so far?
At the start of the year, we decorated for Billie Judd’s first birthday. Bec has a beautiful space, so decorating was thrilling – I’m very proud of how it turned out.
How do you balance parenting and being a creative?
Oh my gosh, I have no idea how to do it. I want to show them what following your dreams looks like in a way that nurtures the ones around you. I never want them to feel like their needs come in second place to my work, but I know I let them down. I have to shake off the shame and keep trying new things. I remind myself daily that I’m not perfect, that I fall down at parenting. We all say sorry and we listen to each other. We also have dance parties in the kitchen if it’s been one of those days. What does a typical working day involve for you?
I’m in the studio four days a week, during school hours. A typical day starts with tea and stories from the girls. Today there are five of us here. One of us is answering emails, two are making balloon banners and Sara’s on the phone. Oh, and Eden is here – she’s only three weeks old, but her mumma just had to get out of the house and be with her friends. We all take turns making lunch and we share roles. If there are a crazy amount of orders, we all jump in and help to wrap and pack.
Can you tell us about your workspace and your creative process?
Honestly, it’s messy – not ‘pretty’ mess either. My workspace looks like my bedroom from 1996 (sorry Mum), I’m really bad at putting things away. When I’m designing a new range, a single idea may pop into my head and it may take weeks of work to get it out (and lots of playing with colour). Once I have one idea out it’s easier to build other products around that initial thought. What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given?
To call myself a good mother – a damn good mother. Our inner voice seems so innocent, but when we call ourselves bad names, that just sets a trap for our days. If I start the day defeated, believing I’m hopeless at mothering, I fall more and I have no fun. But if I start the day believing I’m good and that my children are good – we thrive. I desire to be a good mother and to love them wild. I think that is enough. I learn from other mothers around me, I read books on parenting, I self-evaluate, I put myself in time-out every now and then, and I try again.
We also have dance parties in the kitchen if it’s been one of those days.
What do you love about being an artist, and what are some of the challenges?
I love that I get to call it work, as it’s so much fun. Correction: 70 percent of the time it’s fun, 30 percent is slog – the slog sucks. I make a lot of average things, I get grumpy, I want to give up. Then I think: I’m a fraud, I’m not an artist – I’m a hack. Thankfully those feelings pass, and the horrible may be a step towards the lovely. Can you tell us about your goals for the future?
We’d love to open a store. Employ more women. Make a positive difference in the world. Create beautiful things. Help carry burdens. Be a better friend.
Keep a look out for the fun Poppies for Grace giveaway we have coming up soon on child mags blog and check out their Indoor Picnic Party for more tips and party inspiration.
33-year-old Alana Waterson launched Poppies for Grace with Sara Dickins at the age of 21. She lives with her husband, Johnny, her son, Lucas, 5, and daughter, Neve, 3. For handcrafted and imported party goods and styling tips, follow Poppies for Grace on their Instagram and Facebook.