Holley Maher on Art and Kid’s Summer Craft Activities
Holley Maher may not have a family of her own just yet, but this artist often plays the role of nanny. She talks about artwork, creativity, and summer activities for kids in our latest interview. Check it out!
Tell us more about yourself, your site, and your family.
Well, I’m a singer/songwriter, first and foremost, but with an absurd collection of hobbies and secondary loves. I’m also a freelance graphic designer, amateur photographer, visual artist, children’s book author and illustrator, craft enthusiast, newly-converted health nut, and sometimes-nanny. And I have a collection of houseplants that I’m currently trying very hard not to kill.
My site has worn a number of hats over the years. I started blogging during my freshman year at college, for no real reason, as I recall it. My very first post said, “This is the love child of boredom and nothing to do on a Friday night.” It started out with pretty pointless updates about my everyday life (since the only people really reading were my parents), and then slowly evolved into updates about my music, “Clever Ideas” about crafts and DIY projects, then graphic design tips as I started my design internship, posts about nannying when I began looking after two curly-headed twins my Senior year… I’ll blog about anything that captures my interest.
I don’t have a family of my own yet (I just borrow other people’s children from time to time). My extended family are all over the country, but most of them can be found near in the beach in New Jersey, where I grew up. I now live in East Nashville with my houseplants and my wonderful boyfriend.
Your site displays a lot of beautiful artwork that you’ve created. Where do you get the inspiration for most of your artwork?
I’m inspired a lot by other people’s artwork. I know that’s sort of taboo to say, but there’s a difference between plagiarism and inspiration. Seeing what other people have created inspires me to create, too.
You’ve recently added a post about your sketchbook. When did you start sketching and how did you learn to draw?
I’ve been sketching and drawing for most of my life. It was always something that just “clicked” for me. I remember my grandpa leaning over an Elmo coloring book (I must have been 3 or 4) and showing me how to outline Elmo with the crayon before coloring the rest of him in, to help me stay inside the lines. So, maybe I need to credit grandpa for that. But a lot of my extended family are artists and musicians, and I was always encouraged to explore that part of myself. I must have stacks and stacks of sketchbooks and scrapbooks starting in middle school right up until last month.
Do you have any advice for moms who have children that are aspiring to be artists?
Absolutely! Just do it. There’s no one holding you back from being creative but yourself. Moms, if you feel like you’re too afraid to put yourself out there because of all the people on the blogosphere who are so crazy talented, take a tip from your toddlers. They don’t care what it looks like, or if it’s “good,” or if their stick person looks better than their friend’s stick person. They’re creating because it feels good to create, because it’s essential to create, and because they were made for it! And so were you. When you feel joy from doing something, that’s your inner self trying to tell you, “Hey, stupid! Let’s do this, ok? We like this!” So, go do it. That’s all.
What artsy activities do you recommend moms do with their children?
I nanny for three girls, all five years old, and they are all hugely creative and love to make things–anything at all!
The curly twins love nature and really enjoy “baking” things in the sandbox. They also love animals and bugs. When they were 3 or 4, we did a quick craft to help illustrate the concept of caterpillars turning into butterflies. We folded a piece of construction paper in half lengthwise (like a hotdog), then cut a curvy-ended “C” out of it, sort of like a sausage, leaving the fold intact. With the paper folded, we drew a caterpillar on the outside, then opened it up and drew butterfly wings on the opposite side. So, they had this little caterpillar that they could open up and turn into a butterfly. They really enjoyed explaining how the whole phenomenon worked to anyone who would listen.
The other little girl I nanny is more of an indoor cat and loves all things creative — drawing, sculpting things out of homemade clay, baking, dancing — we even write songs together! One of her favorite things to do is to staple sheets of paper together to make a blank book. Then she gives me a title, which I write down for her, and she dictates the story to me, page by page. When I’m done, she draws pictures for each of the pages and we’re left with another book to add to her ever-growing stack of self-published works. They don’t always make sense, but they’re always adorable.
As an artist, what fun crafts ideas do you think kids would like to make in the summer?
The twins, admittedly, are probably better horticulturalists that I am. They have a wonderful little picking garden in their backyard that they tend to faithfully. I, on the other hand, prefer succulents, which are much more resistant to my repeated unintentional attempts at plant-slaughter.
I got them a little terrarium kit so that they could tend to a succulent of their own. They’re very simple to build with your kids, though, and it’s a fun way to bring nature indoors — especially on the unbearably hot summer days that we get down here in Nashville. You can start off with any old glass container. I picked up a bunch from Goodwill. Even a Ball jar will do for smaller plants. Put a handful of small stones in the bottom to assist with drainage (cacti don’t like to live in swamps), and follow that with activated carbon (got mine at a local pet supply store), then soil (I used succulent and palm soil from the garden center). Then, just pick your plant, dig a hole, and introduce the little guy to his new home! A few tips I learned the hard way: Don’t over-water, as some soils may have fruit-fly-like larvae in them which results in a terrible insect issue. Only water once a week, or be sure to get sterile soil. Also, don’t pick a plant that’s too prickly. There are certain spiny cacti that don’t hurt at all, but others will cause a serious cry-fest. There are also loads of succulents with no prickly things at all. I suggest aloe vera. It’s beautiful, easy to care for, and your kids can break off the tip and use the healing gel for minor burns or bug bites!
Mommies can even harvest the inner part of the stalks and use the gel in fruit/veggie smoothies to take advantage of its health benefits (it’s great for digestion, strengthening the immune system, and even reducing pain and inflammation).
When you find the time, what are your top 5 favorite activities in the summer?
I’ve really gotten into yoga this summer. I’ve recently took a little bit of a personal oath to pay more attention to my wellness and fitness, so waking up with yoga is an awesome way to start the day. I also have a weighted hula hoop that I love to take outside when it’s sunny. I get a great workout and a suntan simultaneously! My elderly next door neighbor thinks I’m out of my mind.
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