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A childhood so free

To a mere passer-by, a tree may be a thing that is there but not noticed. Kristie Rowe is a wry observer and she has a natural inclination to take pause. She peers in and closely inspects the intricacy- the glimmer of a cobweb in the sunlight, the veins intersecting upon a leaf- these ever-changing and enchanting subtleties form a series of artworks in her mind.

One of Kristie’s biggest strengths is her curiosity and attention to detail. The changing of the seasons, the sky and the plant life in her surrounds capture her imagination and that of her young children. Art is not an optional component of Kristie Rowe’s living and breathing existence of this earth. Creativity runs through her family, through her home and moves with her as she travels. Alongside her husband Paul and daughters, Melody, four and a half, and Ginger, two, the world is rich with natural beauty.

Natural resources befall us all, but unlike many of us, this young family use them and make something of them, giving them a new presence and purpose in the form of art.

Kristie Rowe is an artist and has forever been artistically minded. She reaches out to capture the feeling and the colour. Her creations have movement and her art space does, too. Kristie's two young daughters potter and play alongside her in the back studio. There is great freedom to play here. It is not lost of Kristie that play is intrinsically linked to her creativity.

“Often it is a result of playing, just enjoying the painting and trying to find something new, something surprising or captivating,” Kristie said. 

Playing is a natural part of this family household. It is not nomadic play, necessarily. Kristie has ideas and sets her children off with an idea to create. She watches on, seeing how they learn more each day.

“I set up ‘creative tasks’ I guess but not to purposely teach them something, more to create a structure so they can focus on something and feel the satisfaction of achieving a result. It’s rewarding for me to see them excited about what they have created and they are always more satisfied and as a result, are calmer and more connected for the rest of the day.”

Prior to having children, Kristie strove for that satisfaction of result. The trajectory of her artistic career has been winding as she explores different mediums. The one constant is her drive to complete the vision. She is not one to dip her toe in, but dives in without fear, giving it her all; wide strokes and deep breathes as she goes.

For a decade Kristie and her mother have been the founders and creators of successful bespoke fashion label called House of Snowball and for a time Kristie taught at Whitehouse Institute of Design, leaving a lasting impression on her students.

A past student remembers: “Kristie opened my eyes to experimentation with different mediums to express myself and create "my artwork." This always stuck with me, and went beyond merely learning how to drawing a picture. She taught me how to truly explore all avenues of creative expression - be it through art or design – and that in the end…  exploration, experimentation and problem solving is the root of creativity.” 

Many years have passed since Kristie taught that student but her passion to share and explore different notions of art prevails. Her own creativity is still blooming and her garden continues to grow. 

“I don’t think you can ever run out of creativity, I think you can only grow creativity. The more you layer it the more possibilities arise. And everyone has a unique experience in the world and will interpret an idea or a concept in a different way than the next person, that’s what makes it so exciting.”

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As a mother, Kristie had to transition and rethink the way she works. Her usual routine was often abandoned as her two young children became the focus. 

“Motherhood was a shock to my creative spirit at first, as previously I was used to creating whenever I liked. It can be very frustrating when your mind has idea after idea but you are not able to physically see your ideas through because your responsibilities of being a mother. When Melody was born I found that photography and Instagram were a way for me to be creative. A quick solution to express myself or a sort of visual diary keeping where I could hold on to the image of a beautiful weathered wall or a flower or a quirky concept that came to me while navigating sleepless nights and keeping up routines.”

Kristie clung to that connection with the outside world beyond her home. When her girls were babies designing and sewing became quite frustrating as it needed to be done in short bursts as interruptions were inevitable. So she sought out another avenue: painting.

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“I fantasised about painting with big bold splashes of colour, I could almost see the paint it in my mind for quite some time. One day when Ginger was about 4 months old I decided to start a daily challenge for myself #stilllifewithtoddlerseries. I decided to see what I could create in the time that Ginger was napping and that Melody (who was 2 3/4 years old at the time) would concentrate and create too. The first day I set up a task for both of us, a still life of flowers. I barely got 10 minutes but it felt great and Melody seemed really satisfied too. After a few weeks Melody was focusing for about 40 minutes and I found I had more energy to create after they went to bed too.”

The car port was converted into a studio. It tumbles into the garden and lead to more creative play.

“As Ginger grew we could set up a play area for her and she also enjoyed painting with me in the baby carrier. I fell in love with painting again and began to realise how much my creative spirit had grown since becoming a mother, experiencing renewed sensations of the world through my children’s eyes.”

“I learnt that caring for children forces you to have down time amongst nature, something which I used to ignore in the midst of creative deadlines in the past. Sometimes leading me on a destructive path to burn out or creative block. You have to plan things with young children so it means you are more productive and selective with your time when you have it. Watching the speed at which children grow and develop is a constant reminder to appreciate every moment of this incredible life and really pushes me to seize the day.” 

Motherhood has allowed Kristie to reposition herself and value time. Time to dress up and play games. Time to make a mess. Time to play. Time to be together.

“Children love one on one time and being a part of what their adults do and my girls are very much like that.”

“Giving yourself time to creatively doodle, definitely leads to bigger artworks and clever creative thinking. Being creative with the girls reminds me to look at things with a different perspective and prompts more innovative ideas.”

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Strands of creativity are left to be picked up by one another, it seems. Remnants of creativity are generationally passed on. Kristie’s mother is a fashion designer and has a great eye for colour and composition. Like her daughter, she has a knack for creating with her hands.

“She grew up helping her dressmaker/ designer Mother, Norma Snowball. Mum and I talk in a design and sewing language and we make a lot of things together. We have been running a bespoke couture fashion label, House of Snowball for around 10 years.”

“My Dad is a creative problem solver and very good with his hands, he began as a farmer so we have always had a farm and connection to the cycles of nature. Dad is an innovator in many areas, he has exported all over the world and continues to develop ground breaking methods to grow and sustainability maintain unique products. My three sisters are all creative, all of us studying some area of art and design.”

The enjoyment in creating runs through the family and Melody and Ginger thoroughly enjoy their time playing with different art forms. Bit by bit, they absorb the loose strands.

“I think educating them about culture and history is important in helping them to find their own place in the world. Artists are individuals who often have to think outside the square, they often need to be brave and true to themselves and use expressive methods not just to tell a story but often how they feel about something too. I think it’s comforting to find out about others experiences in life to help you on your own journey.” 

Each day Kristie and her kids do at least one painting, craft activity or experiment. Often several.

“I love that they are uninhibited to try and create a realistic representation of what they see or experience. When painting or drawing they put the essentials in to tell the story but in any which way they like which makes it much more captivating and gives you an insight into the way they see the world.,” Kristie observes.

Kristie remarks how lucky she is that her daughters love painting and making things as it allows her to indulge in what she loves to do. The thing is, they too are the lucky ones to enjoy a childhood so colourful, imaginative and free.

All of these creative strands fall and something new begins as Melody and Ginger create beside their mother. From here, stories form.

“Leaving a trace of our existence behind for future generations to ponder over.”

Article by Sinead Halliday

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