April 18, 2014

heart to heart: kirsten rickert

Today, Claire speaks Heart to Heart with Australian born Kirsten Rickert - a visual artist & creative director based in New Jersey with her husband and two young daughters. During a spontaneous and unedited chat session, Kirsten opens up about her experience of raising children across the seas from her own family. She speaks passionately about the environment, nurturing creativity in children, and finding the courage to follow your heart.

Kirsten Rickert
mother of 2, visual artist & creative director  |  kirstenrickert.com

- - -
Kirsten:  Hi Claire!

Claire:  Hello! How are you? Thanks for taking some time out to chat with me :)

Kirsten:  My pleasure! Excuse my typos in advance.

Claire:  Haha... ditto! How are you feeling after stepping out of your role at Papier Mache?

It was huge. I feel great to be free, and feel it was the right choice, but it is like breaking up with a really hot guy...when you see him around you think, "was crazy to let that go!"...ha! But you know we make these choices and  you just have to sit with the discomfort and keep listening to the inner voice guiding us on our best possible path.

Ha, I can imagine! What a great analogy. I think sometimes we hang on to things because we feel like we ‘should’... it's really liberating to listen to your inner voice isn't it?  I think as mothers we are always turning down opportunities for one reason or another (family, time etc). And of course, priorities are always being reevaluated, don't you think?

Yes this is very true. Papier Mache is very cool and, it was a privilege to work with the team, and now someone else’s dream will come true to work with them!

Absolutely... doors are always opening and closing....

For me this choice was actually about wanting to put my energy into environmental awareness, and I felt an inner conflict...and so decided to dedicate my creativity as best I can to causes. 

Your passion for the environment  really comes through in your work. I love following you on Instagram and watching you celebrate the natural world and all it's seasons... whether it be making flower crowns in the spring, a giant teepee out of branches in Autumn... magical igloos in winter! Do you think your intense passion for nature stems from your upbringing in Byron Bay (renowned for it's natural beauty)?

Yes, the alternate energy of the far north coast is in my veins. I will always be that little girl with rich red volcanic dirt between my toes. I feel blessed to have been born into the amazing community. I wish there were more places like that in the world. I am always looking for something like it. I spent most of my childhood at Tregeaglewhich is between Alstonville and Lismore, then moved down to Byron as a young adult.

I've read a little about you on your website and you have such an interesting story. Can you tell me about making the move from Australia to the U.S?

Sure, I have been coming and going from America since my 20's, living and working in San Diego, and Alaska, and then I ended up completing my Arts degree at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Cam and I had been dating in Australia and and then I decided to study in NYC. Cam came to visit me while I was studying. Then I went off back to Alaska again, and so Cam came to visit me there too. We fell pregnant with Maya in Sitka, and then went back (home!) to Byron Bay Australia. After  having Maya, Cam wanted to have a 12 month working holiday in NYC, so off we went again...and we never left...another baby later and we have been here 6 years. Sorry long answer.... 

No, that's great - you've had a busy few years! You've got two daughters... how old are they now?  

Maya is 7 and Elle is 5.

Love having girls :) Do you ever feel torn between your two homes or crave that same kind of upbringing for your girls? I see you come home to visit often... Do you still have a lot of family back home?

I try really hard to stay present so I don't get torn...but it is hard. I do miss Australia and the lifestyle, Australia is an amazing place to raise children and yes, I miss my family, and I am sad that they do not have the joy of seeing my children each day and that my children miss out on them. But with saying that, we have wonderful life here and the experience is so different than the subtropics I grew up in, I just love the distinct seasons here. We try and go back to Australia every second year, but goodness it is expensive! We often talk about moving back one day and building a house in the rainforest on my Aunt and Uncle's property near Ballina. I am not sure what the reality of that is, but that is our "if we move back to Australia" dream...so many dreams!

It's important to have dreams :) We holidayed in NYC just over a year ago. We LOVED it! Shame visas are so tricky with the U.S or we might just be there doing a "12 month working holiday" too ;)

Yes we were fortunate with the US visa situation because I am an American citizen...and so Cam was able to get residency and the girls are dual citizens.

Motherhood can be really isolating - even when your family are around. Did you ever get those feelings of isolation raising your girls across the seas from your own family?

Yes, and no...I always pictured that I would have my Grandmother near by, whom I am very close to, and my Aunt who was at the girl's births, when I raised my children...so that has been hard at times. We skype every week, which is not the same as the girls having sleep overs with their Great Aunt, but I am grateful they have a strong bond despite the distance. I don't know that I felt isolated though because I can easily talk to Grandma for an hour on skype and it fills my heart with love. 

It's such a different world we live in today - how fortunate are we that (with the help of modern technology) we can go off and pursue dreams, have adventures and yet still maintain such strong bonds with family and friends in far flung places. It's pretty wonderful.

Yes... talking on social media with my old friends might not be quite the same fun as going out dancing with them 20 years ago was, but now we get the pleasure of nostalgia and the pleasure of sharing our journey of motherhood together. We have moved a lot over the past 6 years. Manhattan to Park Slope Brooklyn, then Ditmas park Brooklyn, then Monclair NJ - all all of which are within 45 mins of each other, but all totally different worlds. Through all of that I really had to find happiness with my own company and the company of the girls and not looking or needing a lot of friends. I have always made friends, but each time we moved, well, you know how it is! The moment I let go of that external need of friends it brought a lot of peace. It is not to say I don't need friends, but I don’t expect them or take it as a given. Good friends are precious, and they can be like hidden jewels when you move a lot. The girls are my best friends. I rarely without them and if I am without them, I miss them! 

I am definitely one for quality over quantity when it coms to friends. You say your girls are your best friends - is this something you imagined would be the case before you became a Mum? What did you imagine motherhood would "look like"? How is the reality different?

Hmmm...I am definitely living my dream (well one version of it, or perhaps, my other dreams will be next chapters?). Today the girls were walking hand in hand down the path from the library with their little coats and neat long braids down their backs and I was struck with how blessed I am to have these sweet daughters (my husband is ok too -  ha!).  I have had to be brave with some of the things I have dreamt of, like homebirthing and homeschooling. I have had to work to make the dream come true, and at some points I did not believe I could, but you have to just keep that spark alive in you, and hope that the universe and those you are close to, support your dreams without you having to force it.   

From chatting to you today and hearing fragments of your story, I'd say you were a really courageous mother! It takes guts to make those big decisions and follow through. And to get that satisfaction that you have just described when you see your hard work paying off right before your eyes... that feeling must make it all so worth it. Would you say you were courageous? 

Yes I am pretty courageous...I am a bit wild too (although I would say that is within in a conservative family).

Wild is good! I think all mothers are a little wild on some primitive level. I'm probably a bit more of a closed book than you, sometimes finding it a challenge to expose that side of myself - but there''s no denying it's there... childbirth definitely brings it out in you!

I have always had the guise of an artist, and I have loved this because it has mean't that I feel like I am "allowed" to think creatively - even in my role as a mother.

I love the idea of "creative" mothering...

Yes, creativity is so very important, I actually think that nurturing my children's creativity and imagination is one of my most important roles. Creative people are problems solvers and in this day and age, our children, the next generation are going to have some serious global problems to solve.

I love your forward thinking. Do you think it’s easy for mothers of small children to get caught up in the day-to-day, not focusing enough energy on the long-term? Educating our kids about these global issues is so important... I'm inspired to start taking more initiative!

Oh yes, I am going crazy over world events. Today I friend of mine who lives in China was wondering if her daughter was going to be able to go outside because it was getting dangerously close to being a "red flag" day - which means air pollution is so bad that children must be kept indoors. This is real, this is happening, today, now.

Gosh, scary! I worry about putting insect repellent on my child... and your friend has to worry about her child even leaving the house! Craziness!

It is very sad, all children deserve to feel earth is a safe place. We are all responsible for the damage, but especially women. Every single person on earth was born from  woman, and as a mother I feel so connected to the damage being done.

Yes, as mothers, we do share the weight of these huge responsibilities... of nurturing our little people, the next generation.... and speaking of little people, my littlest has just woken up so I’m afraid we’ll have to sign off for now as I am hopeless at one-handed typing!

Oh you sweet mama. Ok, we shall sign off! I look forward to Wholehearted Journal growing! So exciting, it is a beautiful thing. Thank you for chatting - we should talk more. I think we are doing the same things, just in a different way. Mothers are amazing and through them we can heal, or better still stay healthy. Love being a mum! Thanks Claire xo

Thanks so much, Kirsten...I’ve loved getting to know you more. How wonderful to have you here at Wholehearted Journal. We will most definitely stay in touch! Speak soon gorgeous mama xo

all images provided by:  kirsten rickert