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The Spitfiremom Society Introduces: Emma Van Leest, Paper Cut Artist

By December 30, 2013

Spitfiremom_Emma Van Leest, Paper Cut Artist When I told Heidi about this next SpitfireMom, I sent her a Google image result as an introduction to this woman’s work. Because even THAT is beautiful.

I was introduced to the hauntingly intricate paper cut art of Emma Van Leest when Loie & my business were both still really young. It was a Netflix kind of night and we selected Between the Folds, a documentary about paper art. The origami portions were certainly lovely but it was an introduction to Emma’s meticulous, magical art that stole my heart. I wound up contacting the Aussie to learn more about her work and in the process of a lovely exchange she shared that she was expecting. When Heidi and I launched this series, I saw a chance to reach back out, hear how motherhood was going, and giddily invite Emma to join The SpitfireMom Society, International Edition.

She exhibits at galleries all over the world, you can see her lovely commercial design work here, and she’s also done jewelry collaborations.

Here’s what Emma had to say about being a SpitfireMom.

How does being a mom influence your work?

Well, I would have to say that I am much more squeezed for time so this ups the stakes if, for example, I get a cold or Koen gets sick, taking me away from my work. This seems to have happened a lot this year with him starting crèche (from Julie: think nursery school but awesomer).

On the other hand, I have found that I have a lot more will to do work as I seem to value it more as something just for me, and there is a lot less procrastinating going on. I was worried that becoming a mother would affect the quality of my work but I don’t think that it has. I am still getting loads of ideas and make plans for new projects. The thing is it there are fewer hours in the day to pull them off.

I started doing work again relatively soon after Koen was born – when he was about 4 months old.  I produced a solo show when he was sleeping and it kept me sane and engaged. And now I can’t imagine what I would have done with my maternity leave if I hadn’t done the show. I’ve never liked daytime TV or housework.

I couldn’t say I’m more compassionate – if anything I’m more financially hard-headed than I used to be and suffer fools less. I also value myself more and am stricter about what I will and won’t do.

Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?

I usually tell them, and if the conversation goes that way, I would definitely show them a picture of the little nugget (which incidentally was his nickname when he was a tiny baby) because he’s probably the most handsome boy ever born. I am pretty upfront because one thing I can no longer afford is a client who dilly-dallys around with responding to emails or providing information. If you’re not sorted out and know what you want, I can’t work with you because I simply can’t drop everything to work around the clock to some crazy deadline. It’s just not going to happen.

We know a SpitfireMom like Emma has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:

Going to sleep school when Koen was 4 months old. We’re all in a good routine and he is now able to settle himself and is a great sleeper which means we all get more time to do what we want and are happier and more rested. (from Julie: what is this magic sleep school!?)

Spitfiremom_pinnable_EmmaVanLeest What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?

Answering emails takes forever now. Getting enough time for myself. Sometimes keeping everything afloat is overwhelming. How to make the art thing pay so that I can continue to justify doing it. That is my major concern now.

And, if you’re a mom artist and entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Emma says:

Two things:

Get as much as you can done now before the third trimester, because your brain may LEAVE THE BUILDING. You may be fine, but from my experience, I lost all will to create in the last trimester and just produced RUBBISH. 

Also be kind to yourself, value your own career, and don’t think that you have to do it all on your own. It really DOES take a village.

Emma, thank you for being our first international SpitfireMom and sharing about crèche and sleep school, and most, your thoughtful approach to your art, work, and motherhood. I love the idea of using motherhood as a way to suffer fools less so as to eliminate dilly dallying…may that be my new year’s resolution (because all resolutions should include the word dilly dally!).


Julie & Heidi

Know a fabulous, creative mompreneur? We want to hear about her (or YOU)!  And, stay tuned for some big, awesome, awesomely big stuff from The SpitfireMom Society in 2014. 


Emma van Leest


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  • Reply Mary December 30, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Your work is amazing! Glad to have you be a part of this spitfire mom society!!

  • Reply Emma van Leest December 30, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the lovely post, Julie! Sleep school is a name we often give to Mother Baby Units in Australia – basically it’s a ward in some hospitals where new mums and bubs can spend time sorting out sleep issues, get into routines, and sort out any issues… at the one I went to, it was a 5 day programme where the nurses did the settling for the first 2 days so you could get rest and just enjoy your baby! Pretty awesome. They also worked out I was anaemic and helped me with breastfeeding. By the end of my stay I was much more relaxed, solely breastfeeding and Koen’s sleep was textbook. It can be a huge help, especially if you’re a bit of an anxious person and/or overwhelmed with the adjustment to being a mum (as I was!).

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