Procreate Project online shop launch

The world’s first online shop championing and promoting artists who are mothers

The Procreate Project online shop is launching today 4th of July. The new platform is dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of original artworks, prints and publications made by contemporary artists who are mothers.

If, like artist Marina Abramovic says, ‘children hold the female artists back’, we then want to change the paradigm.

We don’t often talk openly about the hierarchy of values that capitalism fosters. Data suggests that gender imbalances in the arts persist at, and beyond, the mid-career stage. Women keep voicing concerns about attitudes towards female artists, the lack of support for childcare and maternity leave, and the obstacles that confront women, particularly during the mid-career stage. It’s demonstrated that mothers have to face bigger challenges due to lack of infrastructures designed to meet their family needs, in order to nourish and develop their practice.

To further ensure professional development of contemporary artists with caring responsibilities, the Procreate Project online shop will promote and sell original artworks including paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings, illustration and prints. The shop will also include hard-to-find publications related to the themes of motherhood, womanhood and feminism.

The new Procreate Project platform champions a rich mix of exciting emerging artists across disciplines. To name few: American fiber artist Michele Landel, who has produced three new exclusive works, inspired by the #Me Too movement campaign, examining the question “can you separate art from the artist?”; Italian born multidisciplinary Gaia Fugazza, recently selected for the Baltic Triennal, who has produced unique painted silk scarves; Edinburgh based Mella Shaw, who is selling pieces from her large scale installation HARVEST, focused on environmental issues, showcased in 2018 at Saatchi Gallery; London based visual artist and designer Sophia Marinkov Jones, whose strong works deal with birth and mother and child relationship. [please see the full artists list below]

“We aim to be as inclusive as we can, while keeping our curatorial vision strong with unique, playful and thought-provoking works. With our experience and network of buyers and collectors, we aim to raise the organisation’s profile and consequently create real opportunities, visibility and sustainability for the artists involved” (Paola Lucente, Procreate Project Director and Curator)

In a climate where only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women, and as little as 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe, Procreate Project is a pioneering social enterprise dedicated to the development of contemporary artists at this crucial stage of their personal and professional

#MeToo, “_it_s a huge deal”_Michele Landel

Procreate Project is an art organisation working towards equal representation for [self-identifying] women, working in the arts and creative industries. Procreate Project creates the prime conditions for the production of works that would not otherwise be created, by conceiving new models and platforms that facilitate the progression of a solid artistic development and increased visibility.

“Through art we want to challenge and shed light on stereotypes and assumptions for which women cannot pursue their creative goals when raising small children ” (Dyana Gravina, Procreate Project founder and Creative Director)

Featured Artists

Camille Aubry, Jessica Blandford, Odette Farrell, Gaia Fugazza, Jane Glennie, Martina Hynan, Sophia Jones, Wednesday Kim, Helen Knowles, Vaiva Kovieraite-Trumpe, Michele Landel, Kate Lyddon, Rajaa Paixão, Jemimah Patterson, Roberta Pederzoli from Quintessenza, Leyli Salayeva, Saskia Saunders, Mella Shaw, Jessica Timmis, Leticia Valverdes, Dawn Yow

The mothers of the maternal activism in arts and academy: Matilda Leyser

Procreate Project is joining the Women's History month by celebrating women who have dedicated their lives to  help raising the voice and visibility of mothers within the arts and society

For the past 20 years incredible women have worked to facilitate other women/mother’s artistic practises, professional and personal development.

We want to tell the story of pioneers of what is recognised today as maternal feminism movement.

Our fourth interview is with Matilda Leyser, aerialist, writer, associate director with Improbable and founder of Mothers Who Make

How did you start and why?

When I first became a mother I went along to the requisite number of mother and baby groups with my new born boy. I was struck by the fact that the vast majority of the women I met there were on a fixed maternity leave of 6 months to 1 year and were then expecting to go back to a full or part time job. There was a much smaller group of women who had given up work and were in a position where they wanted and could afford to commit to being a full time mother for the foreseeable future. I did not feel I fitted into either group.

In being a freelance performer no one was going to give me any maternity leave except myself. There was also something beyond the economics of it: I was committed to being a full time mother but equally I felt I had the kind of work I could not give up – it was part of who I am.

Gradually my sense of there being experiences and challenges specific to being both a mother and an artist grew. I noticed many parallels between the two roles: both are concerned with creativity and play, both require stamina, patience, sensitivity, both keep me up at night. At the same time I was struck by the strength of the cultural assumption that the two were incompatible and also entirely separate. I noticed that there were two distinct kinds of spaces I now had to navigate: child-centred ones in which the adults needs were marginalised (playgrounds, one o’clock clubs) and adult-centred ones in which the children were absent altogether and generally unwelcome (rehearsal rooms, meetings, offices). I felt that an integrated space was missing, one that was adult-centred but child-friendly, one in which I could be visible and valued in both my roles of artist and mother.

How did you make your voice heard and why people followed you? 
            Mothers Who Make began in London in 2014 at Battersea Arts Centre. I put out an invitation to mother-artists, across art forms, to join a peer support group to which they could also bring their children of any age. I wrote:

 …I am a performer and a writer. When I was pregnant I would tell people my plans for motherhood: “Oh, I’m simply going to pop my baby in a sling and carry on!” My son is now two years old. In some ways I was right: I have carried him in a sling since he was born and I have carried on in that I am still writing, still sometimes performing, still making work. However none of this has been done simply and everything is wholly different to before. In this sense I have carried nothing on. Rather, I have had to set down my life, my sense of who and how I am. Slowly, awkwardly, shakily I pick myself up, day by day. I would not have it any other way but it is a huge challenge.

How to carry our creative selves and our children, our work of mothering and of making, is the focus of this group. If you are a mother and a maker, and if you wonder how to do both these things with fullness, I would love you to come.

And that was enough. Initially I did not do very much – I simply put out that invite and held the group. What was extraordinary was how fast word spread. I never intended to found a national network. MWM is a response to a need. I started a small local group and it grew.

Since its inception it has reached over 3000 people and been implemented nationally in 14 venues, including The Southbank Centre, Bristol Old Vic and Northern Stage. There are currently regular peer-support groups meeting at 6 arts-related venues in different regions, with up to 20 other groups in the process of starting.

The idea and need for this initiative could have come from anyone going through the same experience, why you were the one between hundreds of mothers to take action and initiate a movement? 

There are two different ways of answering this one. The first is to say that I didn’t do it. It was the hundreds of mothers who responded to me that did it. As above, I never intended to found a national network. MWM is a grassroots initiative – that is its strength. I am a mother and I have simply done what mothers do – we make it up as we go along, we often feel out of our depth but we do what you can, we do what the next part of the job seems to require.

The other answer is not the hundreds of mothers but one mother – my mother. When I was 3 years old, my mum did a tour of playgroups in the vicinity. She did not like any of the ones she saw, so she started her own at our house. Twenty years later when the last village shop closed down and the people in our village were going to be forced to rely on supermarkets further afield, my mum started up a new shop. She taught me that if something is missing from the world, you can add it. Sometimes there are mountains that cannot be moved, much to my mother’s indignation and frustration, but many more times than most people would think, change is possible.

What did it take? 

Granny’s tireless support (the pioneering mum mentioned above)

My husband’s support – financial, emotional and professional

Improbable’s support, the company with whom I am an Associate Director

The support of other mothers, but in particular, for at least the first two years, of Caroline Thompson and Finn

Inspiration from Naomi Stadlen who wrote What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing and has been running an amazing support group for mothers in North London called Mothers Talking for the last 25 years

Lucy Pearce’s book The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity In the Midst of Motherhood that helped me realise I was not simply being a bad mother in struggling to get the meals on the table on time

Letting my son watch youtube videos of trucks while I did MWM admin

Many meals of fish fingers, pasta or pizza (as opposed to home-made wholesomeness!)

Laundry, hoovering, tidying – left undone

My husband being social media savvy, unlike me, especially during our crowdfunding campaign

Being awake much too late and much too early, writing.

Millions of emails

30 blogs (to date)

Big boxes of second hand toys

Huge sheets of paper rolled out on the floor and many crayons

A producer that was willing to help me write a funding application when I had no funding – Thank you Liat Rosenthal.

Many hours of breastfeeding (whilst also leading groups, doing phonecalls, writing)

A transportable potty

Working on beds, kitchen tables, sofas, in playgrounds, woods, fields

My children – being patient, impatient, being themselves

How did you make it work around your family life? 

Making it work, making any work, around family life is kind of the point of the whole initiative, so I made it work by doing it. I am still figuring out what this means and it changes all the time – because the children change and so do I. At its heart Mothers Who Make is an ongoing piece of artistic research investigating the following question: mother and artist, both are creative practices – how can the two inform each other and how can this exchange in turn be fed into and inform the wider artistic and cultural landscape? i.e. instead of mothers dropping out, how can we pick up what they know/ learn? In other words I have been trying to reverse the conventional question – not how do I squash my family life into my work, but rather how do I allow my family to inform my work and how I go about it?

What does it mean for you to facilitate other Women’s art?  

That’s an interesting question because whilst it is a huge privilege and a wonderful thing to facilitate other women’s art I realise it is not my aim – it is not what drives me. I am interested, ultimately, in the process not the product. I am interested in the how, not the what. How, I and other women, do what we do. One of my heroes is an amazing writer and artist called Lynda Barry. I am going to quote from her, because she puts it better than I can. At the start of her book Syllabus. Notes from an Accidental Professor she writes this about her work:

            I wasn’t quite 20 years old when I started my first notebook. I had no idea that nearly 40 years later, I would….still be using it as the most reliable route to the thing I’ve come to call my work….a place to practice a physical activity – in this case writing and drawing by hand – with a certain state of mind. This practice can result in what I’ve come to consider a wonderful side effect: a visual or written image we can call ‘a work of art,’ although a work of art is not what I’m after when I’m practicing this activity. What am I after? I’m after what Marilyn Frasca called “being present and seeing what’s there.”

This is also what I am after in every MWM group that I facilitate – simply to be present and see what’s there. I’m delighted to say works of art do seem to come from it.

What are the challenges and joys? 

My children are my challenges and joys – over and over again.

What are your plans for the future?

In 2017 MWM secured Arts Council England funding and ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to do three things:

Firstly, to support the growth of our regional peer-support hubs – as mentioned above, there are currently 6 and in the future we are hoping there will be over 30. We aim to create hubs all over the UK – accessible to any creative mother who wants support and connection.

Secondly during the course of the coming year, we will at long last be able to build our own website. There is already a thriving community on Facebook but we want to create an online home for MWM that will connect all the regional hubs, be a resource for mothers/ makers of every ilk and also a platform for sharing work and inspiration.

Lastly the funding is enabling us to do something we have never done before- commission new work. 7 artists have received micro-commissions to explore their experiences of holding the dual roles of mother and artist. Their work is intended to act as a resource and participative invitation to others. The work will be shared on the MWM website and presented with an end of project sharing at The National Theatre. I very much hope this is not a one-off but only the start of a MWM’s commissions.

Ultimately I want Mothers who Make to become a vibrant, self-sustaining, empowering national network, both online and in person. It should be a resource for mothers at any stage in their mothering and in their careers. If you want to join us please email me at

The mothers of the maternal activism in arts and academy: Amy Dignam

Procreate Project is joining the Women's History month by celebrating women who have dedicated their lives to  help raising the voice and visibility of mothers within the arts and society

For the past 20 years incredible women have worked to facilitate other women/mother’s artistic practises, professional and personal development.

We want to tell the story of pioneers of what is recognised today as maternal feminism movement.

Our third interview is with Amy Dignam, artist and founder of Desperate ArtWives 

How did you start and why?

It was the beginning of 2011. I was looking around the net trying to find some sort of artist opportunity. By then I had two small children and by the next month I ‘d be pregnant again with my third. I felt so lonely within the art environment. All call outs seemed to be directed at artists that weren’t me. They were artists who didn’t have kids, they had a studio, they had money but most of all they had time. I had none of these, apart from kids. I had plenty of those, but I also had dedication and passion.


Desperate Artwives Take Over 2017

One afternoon walking down the South Bank I seemed to have suddenly unlocked something important and I thought that surely there must have been many women like me out there, women artists who were also mothers who needed that support, encouragement, conversation and exchange. I needed to find out but how?

Only a few months before I had lost my mother to cancer and after a long period of pain and grieving I felt lost. But suddenly the idea of developing this project gave me a sense of purpose and hope. I feel that I owe everything to my mother because her teachings, her words and her love were all finally taking shape. She taught me to have the strength and determination I needed to follow my beliefs, set up the group, and make it all happen. All of a sudden I wasn’t afraid to try and for the first time ever I completely trusted myself and just followed my instincts. That is how the Desperate Artwives Project came about initially.

How did you make your voice heard and why did people followed you?

Soon afterwards I set up a Facebook and Twitter account calling out to and trying to connect with, all women-mother-artists. I’d share my thoughts and sentiments becoming steadily more aware of my new status of mother and artist. Social media really helped me reached out to people. It became my amp through which my voice was broadcast to the world of mothers. As soon as my first tweet went out it became crystal clear to me, how much women needed this connection, this (virtual) space to share.

Feedback began to flow in and it was overwhelming. Emails came from women all over the globe sharing their stories of loneliness and isolation. The emails revealed women mother artist’s current making and living circumstances. They were often working at the kitchen table, in between toddler’s naps and the school run. They were frequently working in a way that included their surrounding domestic environment, making their personal everyday lived experience public. I began an online gallery by adding their names, general information and a few examples of their work. This gallery originally held over 100 artists coming from all over the world and from many different backgrounds. The collection kept on growing and at that point all I wanted was to physically get all the work together and curate a show where mother artists were at the centre of it and where they could be made visible.

The idea and need for this initiative could have came from anyone going through the same experience, why were you the one, out of hundreds of mothers, to take action and initiate a movement?

Now I can see that I have always had it within myself to be a pathfinder and an enabler. It had never been obvious to me before but now I know that’s just part of who I am. It feels like a vocation. I dedicate myself in creating opportunities for women, facilitating relationships, supporting and encouraging conversations and making things happen. Of course, mother artist collectives have happened before – I am thinking of the ‘Mother Art’ group in California which started addressing the issues of artists as mothers transferring the values of home into the public space way before I was even born , that was 1973! But back when I started in 2011 I didn’t really know – I did find out soon afterwards that great organizations such as the Museum of Motherhood in the States and Enemies of Good Art in the UK were already up and running.

I believe Desperate Artwives was back then one of the first mother artists project in the UK that launched an online gallery and started campaigning for women artists who are also mothers. Our first exhibition in 2012 took place at the Vibe Gallery in Bermonsdey London and included 21 mother artists. Since then we have had 6 exhibitions, 2 gallery takeovers, 1 public Takeover and launched a campaign (United Despite the Distance) to support the invisible and repetitive work that mothers carry out daily.   We have also provided various other opportunities including, the launch of the very first Mother Artists online Auction, and the development of workshops entirely dedicated to mothers who are artists.

Desperate Artwives exhibition - Crypt Gallery 2012

What did it take?

It has taken many sleepless nights and erratically run days. It has taken an understanding and encouraging family and good, reassuring friends who always have my back. It has taken people that believe in what I do, people who trust me and see my vision. Desperate Artwives couldn’t exist without all these people and because of this I like to refer to the project as a ‘collective’ because it’s very important to me to get people involved. I like to give the option to women to jump on and off the project and assist, take, guide, interact with whatever they feel is relevant allowing them to use the platform that I have so conscientiously put together. It has taken generous people who have offered support to the Desperate Artwives, be it an exhibition space, a piece of writing, physical help or just moral support. I think it’s important to mention them; Nadia Spita from Art Café London, Barbican Arts Group Trust, Eti Wade, Adriana Cerne at Leyden Gallery, Susan Merrick, Ema Mano Epps at Platform 1 gallery and most recently Katy Howe who has officially joined the project in September 2017. All the amazing supporters – Procreate Project, the Women’s Art Library, FiLiA, M/other Voices, Leyden Gallery, Platform 1 Gallery, Museum of Motherhood, the Guerilla Girls themselves and of course all the artists who through the years, have trusted me with their work and supported all my initiatives! Whatever it is that I do wouldn’t have had life without all this incredible backbone I consistently worked on for the past 7 years.

How did you make it work around your family life?

People always seem shocked when I tell them what I have done (and still do) whilst running a family of 5. Of course it is always a challenge to make things work around family life and the most common word that comes out when talking about this topic is ‘balance’. It is very common to think that ‘balancing’ career and motherhood is the key but this is not entirely true, for me anyway. Possibly ‘multitasking’ is more the word that suits me but the truth is, I just do it! I get on with it and do it. I often write ‘call outs’ or develop ideas whilst cooking dinner for example. I have been taken apart and put back together several times during these past 10 years of mothering. I have had periods of utter chaos where I have completely crumbled and stayed that way for a significant amount of time but now, now I have learned to work in ‘mama time’ and the people I work for and with are all aware of this and most of them also work within the same time zone! I feel very strongly about introducing this to the rest of the world, perhaps if that happened, we could break the assumption that being a mother often still means being economically dependent on men. Desperate Artwives does just that. It arranges professional art opportunities “in mama time” giving mother artists the space and time to exist and validating their work in doing so.

Working at a project whilst mothering fits perfectly.  It is also a great source of inspiration and motivation, my children are frequently included in my work, they are very often present during the setting up of an exhibition, and images of the artist’s work are always available around the house for them to look at. My kids learn from my practice and I learn from their realities and dreams. Our lives are in tune and being an artist and a feminist is certainly influencing their lives’ strategies and their interpretation and experience of life.

Bala Live - Desperate Artwives Leyden Gallery 2017

What does it mean for you to facilitate other Women’s art?

The idea of facilitating other women’s art work has become absolutely everything for me. I love and admire every single artist that has worked with me. I am so enthusiastic about showing their work just as if it was my own. Some of the artists have become friends and I’m always interested in what they have to say and want to hear their voice. I feel I deeply understand their work, their ideas and I entirely acknowledge their position in life.

However, it is not just about making mother artists visible but it s also about challenging society to come out and understand and value our role as Mothers and Artists. I find it very discouraging when I read about how it seems we as women have to pick a side, and decide whether to be mothers or artists. This is something that is never leveled at male artists. It is a suggestion that is insulting and uninformed altogether on so many levels.

So from offering a platform to mother artists the mission has now got bigger and bolder through the years. – ‘We are not trying to do both’ we ARE doing both because we ARE both, we are multidimensional human beings and mothering happens to be a part of our lives along with being artists and many other things!

A revolution is necessary sometimes to create a fundamental change in the world. Revolutions have occurred throughout human history and have resulted in big changes. Projects like the Desperate Artwives Public Takeovers organized together with Artist Susan Merrick or the ‘United despite the distance’ campaign (2017) focused on aiming to create a global visual narrative in which people can begin to understand the enormity of the issue.

What are your plans for the future?

It does seem that women artists who are also mothers are slowly becoming more visible, it’s a very slow-moving process and so much work still needs to be done, but more organizations are forming that are offering support to this group of artists. Like women’s issues in general, they are becoming more prevalent in society as a whole with far more discussions being had. This is a big step in the right direction.

However, it is hard work to keep the project going. There are very long hours to contend with and the lack of funding is especially difficult and frustrating. What keeps me going is my determination to empower and support women and this is exactly what I am planning for the future – more and continuous opportunities for mother artists and for women in general.

My ultimate plan is, and always has been, to try and find a home for the Desperate Artwives project. A gallery space where we can live permanently, a space where we could begin to balance out the gender inequality of the art world… watch this space, the future is definitely female!

Desperate Artwives Exhibition - Lower Marsh 2016