Today I am interviewing the talented, prolific, and beautiful mother/blogger/author Jean Van’t Hul. Her blog The Artful Parent is one of my go-to blogs for art, creativity, parenting and just…reading! I love everything she writes about. The childhood wonder and connections that she creates for her girls and then shares with us is really quite magical. This week she released her second book called The Artful Year. I was lucky enough to snag a copy and today I am here to say that the book is as lovely and filled with joy as I thought it would be. It is a treasure.
The book celebrates the four seasons with art, crafts and cooking. There are so many wonderful and simple projects to do with your kids. I wish I wish I had this book when mine were little! But even now, I made her chicken soup recipe on the day I received the book, and this weekend we are going to make some coffee filter snowflakes (coolest tutorial in the book). So it’s not that it’s just for little kids…it’s more that now that mine are older, they are never home!
I love this quote from another blogger about the book:
“This book is like having your best friend show you all of the best crafts that *actually* worked with her kids, and then telling you how to make it work in your family” — Alissa, Creative with Kids
Ok, so let’s get to the interview and learn a little bit more about Jean and her daily life. I’ll also be showing you some of my favorite pages in her book, along with photos from her blog.
BAR: Jean, I have admired you from afar for quite some time. I have your first book, The Artful Parent, which I literally read from cover to cover. And now there is a second book. Wow! Could you please tell me about a day-in-the-life of Jean Van’t Hul? What does your schedule look like? How do you find time to write a book amongst the busyness of blogging and mothering?
JEAN – I’m the kind of person who feels claustrophobic in a schedule and much prefer to do things on a whim, but for all that, I have structured my days so that I work when I’m at my best.
I’m a morning person times ten. I’ll get up to write and think in the peace and quiet before everyone else is up. And I like to write longhand—it helps me to think and write better—which means that I essentially write everything down twice. First when I write it out in my notebook and later when I type it up on my computer. I do this with blog posts, newsletters, articles, and I did it with my books.
As for how I find time to write a book, the answer is not easily! Writing a book is such a big undertaking! It’s hard for me to let go of the urgent daily responsibilities (of blogging, housekeeping, etc) for the longer term goal of writing a book.
I wrote much of my first book sitting in my car in various parking lots with Daphne (who was an infant at the time) asleep in the backseat. And I also write and think surprisingly well in noisy coffee shops.
BAR: You have so many delicious and healthy recipes in this book! Do you cook dinner every night? Getting a meal prepped and on the table is definitely my biggest challenge.
JEAN: Ha! Well the short answer is I don’t. I am definitely dinner challenged. And, if you look closer, you’ll notice that many of the recipes in The Artful Year are actually (insert embarrassed cough here) baked goods and snacks. I’d rather bake (and eat) cherry pie than dinner any day of the week.
BAR: There is so much creativity going on at home with your girls. Did you do art with your mom growing up? What are your best memories of childhood?
JEAN: My mom let us be kids which I appreciate so much now.
Our childhood was very unstructured—lots of time for free play, kid-led creative activities, making things, etc. We lived in the country when I was little and in a small western town when a bit older and in both places we had the freedom to roam.
I think that’s what I remember most fondly from childhood. When we were little we’d explore the woods around us as a pack (my brother, sister, and I as well as sometimes visiting friends) and when I was in Jr. High and High School, I’d bike 5 miles out of town to a local reservoir and read surrounded by the quiet busyness of nature.
As for art, my sister and I were always making things—drawing, painting, crafting, sewing clothes for our dolls and ourselves. My mom had her hands full raising three kids on her own but she gave us the materials, encouragement, and classes to do what we wanted to do.
BAR: I know from my own experience that my kids don’t always want to do art with me. In fact, it’s why I started teaching in my house. Their interests are not the same as mine! Do your girls ever not want to do art? How do you draw them in when (or if) they are not interested? Do you do art every day?
JEAN: Oh sure! There are plenty of times when they would rather play than do art! And (in general) that’s fine with me. I like to see them doing what they enjoy.
Maia, my 9 year old, is into gymnastics, piano, animals, baking, and science experiments.
Daphne, my 5 year old, still says she wants to be an artist when she grows up (something Maia used to say) but I don’t necessarily expect her to hold on to that. She also loves pretend play and all things princesses.
If my daughters ever decide they don’t like art, though, I may need to start teaching kids’ art classes myself!
For now, both like art and creating things in general, but might not be in the mood for it when I am. And that’s okay. We don’t have to create at the same time or do the same thing!
They will usually join me at the table if I set up a project. And if they occasionally don’t, I’ve been known to thoroughly enjoy creating something on my own.
We don’t do art together every day but there is some level of creativity and creating going on in our house every day.
We certainly do do quite a bit of art in our home, between the activities we do together, the child-led art that happens in the studio (or chalkboard, sketchbook, table, fridge…), and my own new daily sketchbook habit.
In addition, there’s creativity in many other forms—all kinds of pretend play and creative construction, cooking, making costumes, making up and playing games, singing, dancing, making cards, decorating packages, etc.
If I want to entice the kids to create art, I might try strewing, playdates (their friends almost always want to create art and my kids want to be doing what their friends are doing), new art materials, new art techniques, and using their interests as starting points.
BAR: As a mom with two daughters (and a son at the end who sometimes acts like a daughter) there is a lot of fighting. Do your girls fight? If yes, what is your top strategy for dealing with sibling rivalry and fighting? If no, lucky you!! Please tell us your secret.
JEAN: Of course! My daughters love each other and have so much fun together but they know how to push each other’s buttons as only siblings do. I can’t help you with strategies though! Sorry. I’ll take any you have to offer! Siblings Without Rivalry is a book on my to-read list and I’m starting this siblings tip jar (as of today!).
BAR: We are in the middle of winter right now in Connecticut (and lots of snow). What is winter like where you live in North Carolina?
JEAN: I know firsthand what winter is like up there! I lived in New England for a several years during and after college. The winters are long!
Winter is still winter here in the mountains of North Carolina but not as harsh or long. I like that we get all four seasons, but they are moderated by our latitude and altitude.
BAR: Your book is about celebrating the seasons as a family through art and creativity and cooking. What is your favorite season and why?
JEAN: Spring! For sure. I love the return of warmth, the longer, lighter days, the rebirth of the world around us. All the new green leaves, the flowers, the birds, everything, makes me high on life.
Plus, I’m an April baby, so it always feels like my season. Oh, and Easter candy is my favorite and I think half my good memories of spring are infused with a pocketful of little chocolate Cadbury eggs. To me, spring is about long walks, oh-so-welcome sunshine, Banana Yoshimoto books, the world in full bloom, and hours spent barefoot in the garden.
Wow! I just learned so much, Jean. I love that you don’t have a strict daily schedule and that you catch free time to write when you can. It’s sort of how I do things, too. Having that early morning time is such a gift. I can’t say I have that myself, but I can see how it would be a lovely way to set the tone for the day. I also love what you wrote about your childhood. Free and unstructured time to play is the way all of our childhoods should be! It makes me rethink our own hectic after-school pace. Thank you for your many doses of wisdom!
And now for the giveaway! Just leave a comment here and your name will be entered to receive one free copy of The Artful Year. Deadline to enter will be Saturday, February 21st at midnight. Participants can be worldwide.
UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to the winner!!