Interview with Anna Maria Hedman
Updated: Apr 23
Anna Maria Hedman started Mothers in Residence autumn 2020 in connection with approved development funding from the Gothenburg Cultural Administration. Her idea began during maternity leave and with a doctoral student application in 2016 that was declined, but the idea kept developing in step with the exploration of the issue of the double life as an artist and mother.
On maternity leave
Anna Maria Hedman
Your are based in:
Have you lived or studied elsewhere? Oh yes. I moved to London in March 1999, worked, studied and lived gloriously no matter income until 2012 when I moved to Gothenburg. I originally come from northern Sweden, just below the Arctic Circle. Describe your art practice and your family dynamics: I live with my boyfriend and we have a daughter together. He is also self-employed, so we could not (due to financial and structural issues of being self-employed) have an official parental leave (in Sweden men are suggested/expected to take equal parental leave) but he is very free with his time, he booked less customers or booked them together in a cluster for a few longer days so have always made sure we had a lot of family time . I describe myself as a Piece Maker as I find it sounds more fun than calling myself an artist or jeweller or musician or performer.
Partly because I work with so many different materials such as metal, clay, wax, textiles, etc. And I write poetry, lyrics and music that I also perform. Now I am very focused on writing and researching, creating new environments and spaces, restructuring habits and want to impose that view on certain social structures in society and within culture.
Do you have any upcoming events or plans that you can share? I'm in the middle of Mothers in Residence which is my art project. My wish with the project was to create a place for the creator / mother's duality. With the creation of a local residence, in a network where you can work and be in the middle of life as a mother, one can still participate in something founded with room for intellectual stimulation. Right now, MiR is offering an artist in residence for a local artist / craftsman / creator in Gothenburg. The association wants the members to find a place to be able to for example, finish a previously unfinished project or start a new project if you are ready to work with your creative practice again, we have no age limit for the child / children, you do not have to be a new mother (no age limit on the mother either). We want to be able to offer positive support, recognition and funds for a home close to home that can be helpful. And I'm also looking at releasing an EP that I recorded and worked on before the 2014 pregnancy. Tell us a little more about how you developed your technology? I trained and studied silversmithing and jewellery making in London (Sir John Cass Department at Metropolitan University & my master's degree at the Royal College of Art) and I am self-taught on guitar. I usually take time between projects or techniques and switch in between. Learning new techniques is inspiring for me, sometimes I do it to get work again if I feel stuck - try something new. The elementary school teacher tried to get me to hold the pen in a certain way when I was about seven years old but I can not do things as they should be done, never done. It takes too much energy and causes frustration.
I was diagnosed with dyspraxia (which merges with dyslexia) when I started my master. Because I had not done a bachelor's degree I had to do a language course within five weeks where you were trained to write academically, I stumbled into the classroom every day and could not arrive on time . They caught me right away and sent me to an assessment place för screening, i was sure to come out without a diagnoses especially for dyslexia since I always loved to read, but dyslexia can appear in various ways. Dyspraxia affects most things, motor skills and mechanics, language, perception of time. I always thought I was just weird and got so upset when I first got my diagnosis. Characters of dyspraxia seemed to consist of my whole personality but it was good to know that some things do not work for me when it seems easy for others (like fitting times, that something has to be done in a specific way or general structures). Usually I work thematically, so if I make a piece of jewellery, it is inspired by a song or a theme that is found elsewhere in my work. Now I'm obsessed with this project so can not think of much more than that. It was when I did my dissertation at the Royal College of Art which is a very academically demanding university of studying art at a higher degree, a master's degree is the lowest form they study in. But that was when I discovered how much I loved doing research, research and applying thoughts on paper in a structured way. I had such good contact with my supervisor, Martina Margetts. It was honestly the best part of the whole master's degree for me. I did not agree with my head of department's ideas about almost anything, I got the proposal to work with performance naked, to be inspired by Francesca Woodman, which is such a shitty idea if it does not come from oneself! I had never had any intention to work naked at all. I joked with the idea and made one musicvideo wearing a wig with so much powdered features you could hardly see it was face and wearing a body stocking. But I unfortunately experienced that it was a very masculine form of artistic expression that was pushed to: - make it bigger ',' make it faster '.
And I worked with small details, stolen porcelain teeth with gold fillings or shades of expression of experiences through different forms. As a graduation work, I made a film that was projected through a house of copper I carved in wax and shaped by 'electrofroming', (where the metal travels through electricity from point a to b through an acid bath) up to the ceiling with hanging pillows so the viewer had to rest their head against the pillow to hear the sound, and directing their attention upwards, away from the whole chaos of end of show spectacles in the rooms - a slow and time-consuming process that required investment of interest, my H.o.D understood nothing of it or was simply just not interested. We had continued to have a discussion about intellect even after I left RCA via email. I think he was afraid of me, he used to call me Trouble.
Has your location affected you, your art practise, perspective and network?
Yes, a lot. London was my caretaker and guide into adulthood. I moved there when I was 22 and rarely went back, so all my friends and connections and how I became a grown up happened there. I learned my trade, I performed during certain periods almost every week. It’s possible in London, if you don’t mind drunken brawlers throwing pints at you.
You can get very inspired, wired and exhausted in London because it never stops but it’s a good life, even though it can be hard living without your family nearby.
You can be poor in London and still participate in life and do stuff. FUN STUFF. I feel lucky because in all my making and during my studies and meeting with peers and teachers I was taught to be very humble towards others work. Critical but humble and I try to take that with me wherever I go.
I still find it hard to relate to certain ways of working in Sweden, Gothenburg even though I lived here for 8 years now. I can find that the connected culture life here is more based on who you studied with than what you have created.
What is your story on becoming a mother, and has your approach and methods changed since you became a parent?
I had an identity crises. I wasn’t interested in my creative practise like I always assumed just was an obvious part of ME almost as a whole person.
Instead I went into hardcore research mode. Hardly touched my tools, stopped singing besides lullabies. I worked on my old fears. It interested me as I really tried to hold on to my old ways of working but it just depressed me. Everyone is so individual in their experiences.
My main focus was my daughter and our home (even though we where homeless for 7 months).
Now I spend a lot of time writing. But I do have quite a few practical pieces that I wish to finish. I am in still on the learning curve of taking one thing at a time.
I’ve always been based in my imaginary world, and since I become a mother I got so much more practical and time which I used to spend frivolously like working whenever I felt like it.
Before I was made a mama I used to love to work on stolen time, for example when everybody else went to a party, or just before I went to school or my job or before a meeting, which resulted in me being rather late/or called in sick. That changed after motherhood.
I’ve come to realise that research is healing.
You gather more pieces of information to form a fuller image of the subject you are trying to grasp and to reach a fuller understanding.
In life within relationships where you have invested research and understanding, I find that when the other person act in a specific way that can be annoying for hurtful you judge less and react less out of fear yourself.
Hence the beauty with longterm friendships, or even within relationships you haven’t been able to control on participating with such as your own mother for example.
If you have the means to research her upbringing or background you can easier understand/heal certain issues.
Not saying that anyone should stay in hurtful relationships because of that!
But after I had a baby I saw everyone around me as babies, angry oldies on the bus, people that pretended not to see me when I could have used a hand with the pram to get on the tram etc.. I was hormonel and full of love.. -’oh that one didn’t get enough love when he was a baby!’
I know, judgemental, but I didn’t have the research means for that specific person, just my own experiences and research on infants brains and how affection in infants affects behaviour later in life.
(*Sue Gerhardt 'why love matters how affection shapes a baby's brain’)
How much time a week do you spend on working/thinking/planning?
Now my daughter is five, I got four to five days a week from 9.30-3pm to do that.
I use (unwillingly) waken parts of nighttime too if I haven’t had enough time the day to finish a thought or a certain task.
Are you part of an artist community?
I am working on creating one!
I’ve got my dear friends but it’s hard to draw the line at talking shop when I want to tell them my all my secrets and recent strange dreams and the other way around etc.
Most of us got children, so time on the phone is also equal interruption time.
Could you see yourself as a mentor to another artist /
What would you be good at mentoring?
Not sure to be honest. I do get very invested in people, I can hold them in my frame intensively and at the same time be objective about them. Although I cannot hold my focus on someone else for too long. Might be good for a mentor?
My positive mentoring could be the intense framework, my negative side could be loss of focus and lack of structure.
I haven’t been preparing yet or thought of myself as a mentor hence the wobbly response.
How is your experience with the representation on female artists combining motherhood within the art world/your community.
Since I started with MiR it’s more than I thought. It’s inspiring and beautiful, I love sharing stories, they are always helpful.
That is why we wanted to start with these interviews.
Do you have daily routines or rituals that help you get into work mode?
Oh.. I’m bad with routines. Always have been. I can do them maximin a week.
But I light a candle every morning at the breakfast table to bless a good day for us all. And I like to have a candle lit by my workspace. I’m well into ceremonies.
Sometimes I worry and procrastinate quite a bit before getting into work mode because it is so hard to get out of it afterwards. And then it’s Bang- Family time!
If I’m still in my headspace I get irritable which is ’bad mama vibes’ and so I try to avoid that for all of ours sake. How do you relax and source your power?
I read, write, sing or meditate. I do my tarot cards and reflect, take long showers or a bath and just try to make sure I get alone time. Speak to my friends when I got an issue in my head. I call them my ’norm centre’.
I freeze in winter, but in summer and autumn I use nature to source power; swimming in lakes and almost get lost in the forrest.
I play in my mind. I talk to myself a lot.
Where is your studio, where do you have private space to reflect and develop and execute ideas?
At the moment no, I work from home, my studio has no heating so been frozen since December I am on my way to move out from there. I had plans to turn it into a galleri space but other things appeared. I just invested a lot in new machines and tools so this new turn of events was unforeseen and frustrating but I'm sure something new will turn up.
What excites you most about your future?
Having another baby.
Working this project (MiR) through and hoping for a good continuation and possible collaborations.
What advice would you give to emerging artists entering motherhood?
Just do it. Find people you feel inspired by and comfortable with no matter location and keep in contact, even if it’s once a year.
Get lost in yourself and find yourself anew.
Sometimes having someone to write a letter to or a quick text message to share a thought with is what brings you back to your centre if you feel to up in your own head.
Nightly thoughts that can be constructive even if they are disruptive.
If I haven’t had my family sleeping next to me and having to get up early, I would have gone up to do work. So I actually send myself text messages in the night.
I guess my advice is to journal.. in any way possible.
And as a parent I’d advise anyone to be present in oneself and to look at the beliefs one hold as what a good parent is, as it’s possible to change those expectations.
My personal parental format is that I chose to have a child, my child deserves the best of childhood that my partner and I can provide.
I don’t believe in perfection, like to never lose your temper or whatever. I think it’s good to be a human whilst being a (sometimes excellent, sometimes not so excellent) mother/father/caregiver.
Being a parental guide that can say sorry and explain why mama shouted at that sour old man who criticised her pocket parking..
But a loving secure relationship, good food, hugs and quality time together is what I strive to give as a mama.
It’s easy to get heavy on the self critique.
Are you missing any discussions out there?
I wish to bring up the discussion, especially within the higher studies of art, that no one ever talk about how becoming a mother can change your condition as an artist.
I mean you all got the same student loan debts. If you studied to a masters degree, especially abroad, you got loan for about 600 000sek.
But being away from your practise from pregnancy, maternity leave (we got over a years paid maternity leave in Sweden which is great, it should be two years I think, in regards to the children’s brain maturity and for attachment purposes to their parents) will affect your comeback so to speak.
You can’t network the same way, your energy levels will be different, your hours will be shorter. And you need to work out whether you wanna leave your babes for a month or so to go to a residence?
You can’t sit up all night to write an application because you got to sleep..someone will wake up, there are nightmares, or just an itchy night or fever or someone might wake up at the time that you used to come home from a party, pre-family life.
Women need more sleep than men, our brains are wired differently.
Our brains also goes through a second ’puberty’ when we are pregnant. Loss of focus, fatigue etc the brain rearrangement are there still after two years research has shown.
I understand biological genus talk isn’t so interested when we are in a culture of sort of ’denying’ differences in the genders in reaching for more equality. (I am talking about sharing the parental leave equally, which was earlier given equality points by the Swedish government).
What if my baby and I wanna do the breast-feed longer than that?
What if my partner can’t take parental leave because (s)he’s got a business to run that will go under if they don’t work for six months, or if (s)he’s a farmer etc? Or if you’re two creatives having a family together, or if you’re on minimun maternity leave. I was, so we couldn’t afford my boyfriend to take parental leave. And I had no guaranteed money coming in after my maternity leave was over. Every family should be able to do what is best for them.
Equality shouldn’t be on the expense of women, again. Equality should come with highlighting the differences. Individually too.
And I think that is why this project is important. To make a practical effort.
There are statistics done of creatives income, and who’s been away most from their practise and the reasons (health, parental leave), who makes more money, both between what creative field and between genders.. It’s from 2008 I think but it’s still interesting if you’re into statistics.
In addition, I think it is interesting that as an artist you are mostly highly educated but have among the lowest incomes. According to the Artists' Board in Sweden (from 2019), an artist earned an average of SEK 130,000 SEK / year, but the corona grants would be calculated from those who earned from SEK 200,000 SEK/ year, which is insane, those who earned less receive no compensation ..
I think there is such a difficulty for none creatives to imagine how to earn so little, our system in Sweden is bizarre when it comes to counting artists / musicians as entrepreneurs and businesses.
In the UK you can be self-employed, it's so easy to do it, you send an invoice and you tax 25% up to a certain level.
And France also has another system for creators and small business owners, but they are not expected to be replaced by their government either.
Which we do not get either, it turns out, the ones who didn't earn enough on our artistic practises, for example in this pandemic crisis.
Astronaut / 'Baby bubble' pendant
18 carat yellow gold
Silver hinged fresh water pearl with 'warchild' pendant on chain.
Comment on children affected by war.
Shallow water music video made and sung by A.M.Hedman
Muse: Tove Nilsson