Where We Create - Meet Mary Jo of Still

Mary Jo Hoffman - Still Blog

Usually I introduce the subject of this series with a few pithy comments describing who they are but today, as you will see, the images that she creates speak for themselves. Her name is Mary Jo Hoffman and her blog is called the Still blog. I encourage you, no I pretty much demand that after you read about her here, zoom over to her blog. No text, just images. Powerful, beautiful, fabulous images. On her blog that is. Here, my friends, you get to learn all about where she creates. Sit back and get ready to be inspired.

My desk is in my living room. Smack in the middle of the house, really. It is large watermelon Strut from Blue Dot, and it is fabulous. I love being in the middle of the house, so I can simmer dinner, let the dog in and out, and see the kids coming down the driveway, but there is one hitch: it very quickly becomes homework and project central for the kids. I sort of love it, and I sort of hate it. But mostly I love it.

PS You can see one of my lattes right there on the desk. I must have shot this photo around 3 o’clock.

office/studio space - Mary Jo Hoffman, Still Blog

Here is a top-down view so you can get a sense of what I mean when I say my desk is in the middle of the house.  In the winter months, I often have a fire going, and that desk becomes my happy place.

I keep all my art supplies in two very large lucite trays that usually sit beside my desk.  But they are easy to carry around and often migrate to the kitchen table or the screen porch as shown below.

What time of day do you do your work and why?

My ideal daily creative schedule would have me getting up at 8 AM, talking a five mile walk from 8:30-9:30, and in my studio at 10 AM for 4-6 hours. I see that as a real possibility within the next few years.

Meanwhile, due to the peculiarities of my husbands seasonal tax work, and the kids school calendars, I feel like I have three different creative schedules: tax season, summer vacation, and fall-back-to-school. Tax season, January to May, is the only time of the year that I currently get real ME time. During tax season, when the kids are in school, I can count on about 2-4 hours a day for creative play. It also helps that until April, the weather in Minnesota is conducive to staying inside, with a cup of tea, streaming TED talks, and doing some deep play. I love this time of the year.

The rest of the year I have chosen to fit my creative time in around the margins of the family schedule - 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there. I have become an expert on using 20 minute increments to do creative work. My friends joke that I should start a blog about all the techniques I have mastered. The STILL blog project format is a perfect fit for anyone with these kind of time constraints. It takes me about 20 minutes to find and photograph my daily subject, and this has to be done during the day when I have natural light to work with. Then another 20 minutes, later in the evening, to select and edit the final image.  

As the kids get older I am finding that my 20 minute increments are often stretching out, sometimes into unexpected whole hours. Just yesterday my 8-year old went golfing with his grandpa, and I had 3 hours to myself in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Woohoo. So I think you will be seeing more of me in the online creative community in the years to come.

What's your go-to snack when you are feeling peckish?

Depends on the time of the month, right? Eep. I hope it is all women who read this blog.  Actually, I am not much of a snacker. But I am huge tea and latte grabber.  I try to limit it to one coffee or tea in the morning and another in the afternoon right around 3 PM. But it is often more than that. Push come to shove I could do without all of them except Mommy’s little helper at 3 PM. That one is a necessity. If I still need a little something-something after all that milk in my tea and coffee, my current love is dark chocolate covered almonds from my co-op.

When you are procrastinating, what do you do?

Ha. I have never stopped to think about that until you asked. But I can see now that I always do the same thing…laundry. When my concentration falters, I walk away from my desk and I go fold laundry. And I wander back to my desk when I can focus again. Ugh, how boring is that? Can I change my answer to sex? My husband home offices, so I go down to his office and seduce him. You can decide which one is true. Perhaps they both are.

And that, my friends, is Mary Jo. I am very happy that we will be seeing more of her work as her time opens up. Amazing what you can do in 20 minute increments - isn't that the life of a creative mom? How wise to match the creative output with the amount of time available. I am guilty as charged of taking on too much and then feeling at worst defeated or at best frustrated.

Want to find out more about Mary Jo? She was featured last month on Design Sponge here

So what do you think - is laundry the distraction or sex? And what could you do if you were realistic about the time that you have to create?