Dani and Frankie are the duo behind After Hours Collective, a supportive community of creative women based in Ipswich. Here they explain how, as parents of young children, it’s important not to lose your creative identity
If you had to describe your lives so far, what would you say?
Frankie: I now live with my fiancé and two kids and I feel really content with my life after lots of ups and downs in my past. Life is busy and chaotic, but I’m terrible at relaxing so it sort of works!
Dani: I spent most of my twenties in a bit of a state of flux, never really knowing my place in the world. However, since meeting my husband, settling back into Suffolk life, and having our son I feel very blessed and at peace. I recently qualified as a teacher and am loving teaching Art & Design (alongside Frankie!) at Suffolk New College.
How did you meet?
We met each other at our Hypnobirthing group in 2019.
When did you first have the idea for After Hours Collective and what’s the thinking behind it?
After the boys were born, while discussing our shared artistic interests we became frustrated at the lack of local creative activities or networks for women like us. Women who don’t want to lose their own identity as a mum. We felt there was a gap in the market for us to run daytime baby-friendly creative workshops and monthly social meetups while we were both on maternity leave. Although there are a lot of ‘mum and baby’ groups, we wanted to promote the importance of nurturing our own personal identities, not just as mums but as empowered creative women. The name After Hours Collective came to us quickly. It’s reminiscent of that after school club vibe or the anti-social hours women put into their work once the kids are in bed. It was important that this became a supportive and nurturing group of women, bound together by common creative interests – hence a collective.
How was everything looking for you both at the start of the pandemic?
Frankie: The start of the pandemic was tough because I was on maternity leave, juggling the isolation that came from that and home-schooling my daughter who was five at the time.
Dani: I found it really tough too. Being a new mum, whether you like to admit it or not, you need support and I struggled with the lack of physical social contact. However, between nap times and feeding I focussed on creating a new piece of artwork every day – which was great for both my creative practice and mental health.
How have you both adapted?
In our personal lives we have both got better at multitasking, creating visual schedules, and allocating time for personal reflection. The pandemic totally threw our plans for After Hours Collective. Our first workshop was due to take place the week of lockdown! We were gutted, but quickly adapted by focusing on creating a solid online community and sharing/promoting the work of talented women.
Have the meetups been a challenge, during the pandemic?
Once the restrictions started to lift, we began holding small sessions in outdoor spaces so we could meet up with some of the amazing local creative women we had connected with online.
Has it surprised you just how many creative women are out there (who also happen to be juggling motherhood at the same time)?
Not really. Women are incredible, resilient and as mums you quickly get used to multitasking! It has been amazing to discover how many creative women there are locally though! So many talented artists, makers, and small business owners in Suffolk – if we hadn’t started AHC we may not have crossed paths with them. For that we are truly grateful and look forward to nurturing those new connections and helping grow Suffolk’s creative identity.
Any interesting collaborations to date?
We recently collaborated with Tandem Collective, (@tandemcollectiveuk) where we both designed some mindful colouring sheets and creative prompts to support their Plots & Pastimes listen along. We’ve also just completed a window display takeover for a local independent gift shop (@shoploveone). Along with our own illustrated prints, it features the work of three other super talented AHC members. Check out our grid to see some images – it’s beautiful, floral and full of summer vibes!
How can people get involved?
The best thing to do is follow us on Instagram, where we share details of all our events. Or come along to one of our meetups and say hi in person, we love meeting new faces!
Any future plans you can share?
We are hoping to make our social meetups a regular monthly occurrence. We will be selling our wares as a collective at a Christmas fair and further down the line it would be amazing to host our own exhibitions or art fairs too!