Name: Merrilee Liddiard
Location: South Pasadena, CA
Website: Mer Mag
Kids: Little A, 5 yrs and Little O, 2.5 yrs
The incredibly talented Merrilee of Mer Mag has been inspiring us for a while now with her clever and artful projects for kids, her whimsically styled (but never too precious) parties and of course her lovely illustration work. We are thrilled to get to know her better in this new issue of Big Blog Family. Here she shares her experiences with finding the balance of family and work life and how she engages two little boys in creative play.
How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
Wow, I haven't thought about how long it's been since I began blogging in a while so it was fun to take a moment to tally it up. It's been 5 years. Wow. I began the blog as a journal of things I was doing and what I liked. I liked the idea of having a place that kept all my inspiration in one place. Since then, it has really evolved. As the littles grow I've changed my focus to be more on our family's hands-on creative journey through life.
We are admirers of your gorgeous illustrations and artwork. Your portfolio is full of amazing projects and products! How did you get your start? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I decided from a very young age that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up and I never steered away from that resolve. It was just something I knew I had to do. (I was also born into a very artistic, crafty and creative and musical family so I'm sure that definitely had something to do with it). I studied art in school (and when I say school I mean all of school, as I was obsessed with art from elementary on through college) and when I discovered the world of illustration, I knew I was home. I interned with an illustration agency, Shannon Associates, right after college where I later worked as an agent after moving to New York City. I then began to delve into illustration work of my own and have been happy ever after ever since.
Your ideas you come up with for parties are absolutely inspired! How do these ideas come to fruition (do you keep a notebook for ideas? etc) and how long does it generally take you to plan one? Can you impart any advice to parents wanting to plan their child's party - anything you've learned from experience?
Parties. One of life's great pleasantries, right? I became enamored with party planning when I discovered that it could really encompass all aspects of creative expression: decor, design, art, food, fashion, etc. Within all of that, however, I like to keep things simple (a too matchy-matchy party can be just as overdone as a matchy-matchy room). When planning a party I definitely write down as many ideas I have as possible, at least 3 weeks or more beforehand. From there I weed and refine until I have the bare minimum for a great party (I always pick what is the least amount of work, keeping only one or two semi-complicated "wow" elements that I just can't live without). From there I just do what I can until the date of the party and try to always remember what it's all about: celebrating an individual and/or spending elevated time with friends and loved ones. This is really the heart of a great party.
We adore the unique art and craft projects you come up with for your boys. Are your boys easy to engage in artful activities? Do they resist sometimes and if so, how do you continue to encourage them? As a mother to two boys, I'm curious!
Great question Danielle. Like me, my boys were born into a family with a very strong artistic slant to it, so they have no choice but to be exposed to arts and crafts on a constant basis. For the most part they love to do projects with me as it means one-on-one time with mom. However, there are definitely projects that hold their attention better than others. There have been several ideas that I've had to ditch along the way due to disinterest. But I think these are just as important as the successful ones as they help me know what i could do different or what my children, at this particular stage of development, really take to. I think it's important to not force your kids into a craft (which I'll admit I've been guilty of) but I do think that you shouldn't give up there. Just call it a day and try again another time with something more suited to them (while challenging them bit by bit to go outside of their comfort zone). No matter what their disposition, I think all children benefit from creative expression, on a fairly continual basis.
What are your favorite projects that you've featured on your blog?
Probably the travel desk and the geometric tiles. I think it's because I'm just so happy they exist now, due to how much they have enhanced our little creative lives. Oh and I have a soft spot for the boys' little knight costumes as they are sort of a girlhood dream come to fruition.
Your husband is quite creative as well. Do you hope that with two creative parents, your boys will be creative as well? Have you seen evidence of innate creativity in both?
I think that with so much creative exposure they can't help but have an appreciation for the arts, and that is as much as we really aspire to with them. How far they take it from there is up to them. My oldest is definitely interested but it's hard to tell if it's just because he gets my undivided attention or if he has a natural inkling for it. My youngest has loved markers and doodling since he first picked up a pen, so we'll see where that goes. I think I side with my teacher in art school who would humorously say, "If you have it in you to do anything else but art, do it! If you can't, then your stuck with us and you better just plow forward because it's an uphill adventure". Regardless of what they do later in life, I feel that creativity will only enhance their lives for the better.
How do you find balance with your work, home, family and blogging - anything you've found tried and true with finding that balance?
Like all moms, finding balance can at times be a constant juggling act. I do know I do better when I don't try to do it all. I do a lot of my illustration work while they are sleeping at night and then try to do more crafty stuff, that they can take part in, during the day. I try to keep perspective and like all my creative projects, I try to put the most important things first and then just do whatever else I can from there, letting go of as many little things I can along the way. Simplify. It's sometime's easier said than done to do this, but it really feels good to purge your schedule of all non essentials. And sometimes the most essential thing to do at that moment is to lie under a tree with you littles and count the clouds in the sky.
Thank you Merrilee!