Motherhood is not pink. Motherhood is all the colours. Motherhood is shit brown. Motherhood is the soil from the earth. Motherhood is neither clean or refined. Motherhood is all the colours. Motherhood is not pink. Motherhood is not always joyous. Motherhood is salt. Motherhood is sugar. Motherhood is vinegar. Motherhood is diving into red. Motherhood is a place that is misunderstood and complicated. Motherhood is not something that is easy to describe. Motherhood is this for me and that for you. Motherhood is about work. Motherhood is about connections. Motherhood is about loneliness and isolation and togetherness. Motherhood is about creativity and art making. Motherhood is boring. Motherhood is a trap, a prison, a fortress. Motherhood is not always about sisterhood. Motherhood is not always friendly. Mother. What is motherhood. Why is there a hood next to a mother. Why is motherhood a covering, a shroud. Come under the hood with me Mother. Come under the cherry blossom tree. Reclaim the flowers and the petals. Scatter them amid your body and rejoice in our hood or mother. Let the blossom be at our breasts. Let our wombs share what is in our hearts. I love you mum.

M(other) Stories: Cherry, 29th April 2015, Helen Sargeant

Before I became a mother I made work about the female body, including paintings depicting imagined pregnancies and birth. I gave birth to my first son in London. Despite the overwhelming love and affection that I felt towards my baby, I struggled with the transition to motherhood. My new identity, the loneliness and weight of responsibility of mothering led to a sustained period of exhaustion and post natal depression. The city was loud and bewildering, my baby small, mothering suffocating. I struggled to concentrate and work out how to combine an arts practice with mothering.

I became pregnant again seven years later with my second son. Throughout this period I made drawings related to my experiences of pregnancy. At the end of this nine month duration they were shown in an exhibition; M(other) 2009 at The University of Salford.

The birth of my second son was the catalyst to a new way of working and making. I was determined to find a way of combining creative practice with my caring work. I focused on making the personal public, I documented as much as I could using a camera, how I dressed my son, pushed the pram, breast fed him. I wrote texts about my birthing experiences, about the emotional landscape of mothering. I researched other artists working with the maternal subject, and uncovered a caring community of equally determined, creative practitioners. I became interested in challenging idealised representations of the good mother by honestly portraying my own experiences. As well as words, pencils, paint, camera and paper, mothering became the media by which I was to continue to make.

More recently, my work has focussed upon visually exploring feelings of “mother shame” and anxiety, the ethics of making art about the maternal and collaborating with my sons.

In 2016 I took part in an international arts residency to Tampere, Finland with my youngest son, supported by the We Are Resident project and funded by The Arts Council. In the summer of 2017, my 8 year old son Naoise and I will be participating in a self- funded residency Play Away at the Mothership in Dorset.

more about Helen…

Between 2012 and 2014 I founded MeWe together with Mo Brown, an arts collective focussed on supporting and exploring the maternal and creativity. We met on a monthly basis in each others homes and shared our practice and experiences of mothering with each other. The home meetings enabled us to meet regularly and look after our children, many of whom were babies or of pre-school age at the same time.

In 2013, I initiated a project called The Egg The Womb The Head and the Moon, an on-line interdisciplinary collaborative arts project about the maternal, with the aim of making visible the work of those exploring ideas about motherhood and building a professional network to support and sustain creative practice. The Egg The Womb The Head and the Moon was shown and presented at the AHRC Motherhood in Post-1968 Womens Writing: Cross Cultural and Interdisciplinary Dialogues conference at the University of London’s Senate House in 2013 and at the David Wright Gallery ,Arts Mill, Hebden Bridge in May 2014.

In 2015 my work was selected for Project Afterbirth, an international arts exhibition about the representation of pregnancy, birth and new parenthood at The White Moose gallery in Barnstable.

Between January 2015- January 2016, I wrote M(other) Stories, a year long, on-line journal of a mother/artist, which was presented at the Motherhood and Creative Practices conference, The London South Bank University in June 2015.

In May 2016, I was invited to show my work in Artist As Mother As Artist, curated by Sam Rose and Tracey Kershaw and funded by The Arts Council, at the Lace Market Gallery, Nottingham. This project also included delivering a series of participatory arts workshops Dust to Bread and contributing to a panel at a one day symposium about arts practice and mothering.