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Mothers, children bond through collaborative art-making


CHARLEMONT, Mass. (AP) — From making a house into a home to raising children, motherhood is an art form. Local mothers Missy Ashton, Mia Radysh and Eveline MacDougall go one step further by making art with their children.

Before she became a mother, Ashton, who lives in Charlemont, worked as a professional multimedia artist. She worked in photography, crafted unique rope bowls, created colorful abstract paintings, and molded ceramic sculptures, among many other art pieces. But out of all the projects she has made over her 10-year career, Ashton says getting creative alongside her two children, Paige and Travis, is by far the most fulfilling.

“Their minds aren’t like ours,” Ashton said. “They think of things that aren’t even on the same plane. They have such different ideas.”

While working on her own projects, Ashton says making art can feel like work. In contrast, her children think of original ideas organically and explore facets of color and shape that she wouldn’t have explored on her own, she says.

“If I’m working, they’ll create something on top of it or sometimes, I’ll let them lead the way,” Ashton said, noting that Paige, in particular, has a sense of freedom with her work.

“She has no boundaries, just emotion,” she said.

Besides taking inspiration from her children and creating precious family keepsakes, Ashton says her children take something away from making art, too. Over the years, their collaborative projects have become more and more complex. At first, Ashton says they started with simple drawings and paintings, then began making three-dimensional art from cardboard boxes. These days, Travis enjoys making treasure maps and Paige likes to make watercolor pictures.

“Toddlers really like pirates. Travis bases the maps off of the treasures they find in the garden where they play sometimes. They find old marbles, cars, things like that,” she said.

In this, Ashton says making art with her children has brought them together in a fun way, and the results are “a treasure to me more than my own work.”

Like Ashton, artist Mia Radysh of Shelburne Falls says she often collaborates with her 4-year-old daughter, Lela Radysh Robinson. Radysh, who draws, paints, and works in printmaking, began making art with Lela starting when she was 2. Typically, they take turns making lines — sometimes, Lela starts a drawing and Radysh finishes it; other times, Lela fills in a drawing that her mother started.

“It’s easier to start with something and have someone to work with you along the way. “It also lets me express more, too,” Radysh said. “It’s so important to have fun with your children, and the kids change your perspective.”

These days, in addition to the pictures she makes with her mother, and the dolls she makes with her grandmother, Elisabeth Radysh. Lela often draws on her own. The most interesting part of watching her daughter make art is observing the ways it changes over the years, Radysh says.

“She draws different things over time. You can see the progress of her work. We’re never going to stop doing this. She also takes her own initiative to make art for her own pleasure,” Radysh said.

Some of the images resemble concrete objects such as Rapunzel’s castle or Lela’s hand print. Others are more abstract. One of Lela’s favorite pieces is an abstract drawing she said looks like a night’s sky.

“It just turned out like that,” said Lela. “We weren’t trying to make it like that, but she (Radysh) colored on it and that’s what came out.”

It’s not just the parents who get something out of the collaborative projects. Gillis MacDougall of Northfield began making art from a young age with his mother, Eveline MacDougall. Now 15 years old, Gillis MacDougall says he has fond memories of making cards and envelopes together.

“Growing up, as long as I (can) remember, my mom was doing projects. As I got older, I’d work with her and do things to help her with her projects,” he said.

Gillis said he still enjoys making art such as painting, graphic design and making logos. At least in part, he attributes this to his mother’s efforts. MacDougall said she intentionally tried to expose Gillis to art from a young age.

“I always made art materials available to him,” MacDougall said. “We would make our own play dough, we did a lot of visual art.”

Using found items, the two would make and re-purpose calendars. She added that she would make programs for different musical performances she may have been involved in and he would help her.

“We would spread them all over the floor and splatter watercolor paints on them,” said MacDougall. “We would throw around painting for a purpose.”

She said one of the things she has observed over the years is that exposing Gillis to different types of art, including music, has helped him develop.

“It might be mother’s intuition, but I think it helped him develop his brain — he’s very creative,” MacDougall said.

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Information from: The (Greenfield, Mass.) Recorder, http://www.recorder.com

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