Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Creative Home: the Hoilands

Today we will be hearing from artist and writer Ashley Mae Hoiland (Ashmae). I own her picture book The Lost Party (pictured above) and I love it. She is talented, inspiring, and will be sharing with us how she encourages creativity in her home!

Tell us about your family!

I have two kids, Remy (3.5 years) and Thea (1.5 years).  We have lived in Palo Alto for the last four years while my husband is pursuing his PhD in Geology here at Stanford.  Before that, we both attended BYU where I got a BFA in painting and an MFA in creative writing.  We are all pretty easy to please, and mostly love adventures close to home.  Our life right now is so simple, but we love it that way.  I have written and illustrated several children's books and I work mostly from home during naps and bedtimes to keep my work going.  I have art and writing at and I've also started documenting my creative trail at

How have you encouraged creativity in your home?

For me, as a mom, I've learned to play to my strengths and not worry so much about the things I'm not as good at.  One thing I know I'm good at is letting my kids make a mess, and get messy, without me intervening too much.  It's important for me to create a space and feeling in our (tiny) home, that there is room for experimenting, getting a little wild and figuring things out on your own.  I teach a little joy school for my son and his friends, and I think best day was when I took a bunch of cardboard boxes out of the recycling and let them build forts in the backyard.  I helped with my roll of tape when they needed it, but this little group of kids pulled together to figure things out and take ownership of the project.  They colored it, brought toys into the rooms, build pretend fires and stayed in it for hours.  Also, because our house is so small, we don't have very many toys, but the compensation has been that all the kids in the neighborhood know that I don't mind if they take all the cushions off the couch.  It's been amazing to me what they can do with a few giant cushions and an empty couch.  Sometimes the space is an alligator infested river, sometimes they are climbing mountains and sometimes they are just jumping from one couch to the other like crazy people.  I'm certainly not on my creative game everyday, but I've had to learn that more often than not, it's a change of my own attitude rather than me providing awesome projects and activities.

How do you get your kids involved?

One of my favorite seasons with my kids was right after I'd finished my first children's books and I was doing an elementary school classroom tour. Remy loved to help (Thea was still little).  He would be at the front of the class (sometimes in front of very large groups) handing out props, telling kids to sit down and handing out stickers at the end.  It was over a year ago, but he still talks about how he dressed up in his fox costume to do his work with the kids.  More than anything I want my kids to have ownership and recognize that they have the ability to do good for others.  Honestly, it's a daily struggle to keep them involved because more often than not, it's easier to just do things myself, but sometimes I have to consciously slow down and remember that I'm not in a hurry and the time I invest with my kids now is just as valuable as the end goal I'm working towards.

Do you have any creative traditions in your home? If so, what are they? How did they begin, and how do you keep the momentum going?

Our family still feels like such a young family to me, but I am always surprised by how quickly simple consistencies makes them feel special and a part of something.  We do things like go to the live nativity every Christmas, wrap toys for kids in need, homemade marshmallows at Christmas and books and a prayer before bed every night.  I have to remind myself of two things, first, traditions do not have to be elaborate to be meaningful, and secondly, if I want things to happen, I have to make them happen.  My mom was so good at making things happen for us that I just assumed that traditions would simply come to me or somehow would just happen, but it does take a little effort, determination and sometimes a little preparation for things to come together.

What advice would you give to families hoping to live a more creative lifestyle?

Don't compare your creative efforts to a pinterest board, blog or instagram feed.  Your kids are not judging or comparing your efforts to online presences, so you probably shouldn't either.  Be kind to your efforts.  Let your kids make a mess once in a while.  Let yourself make a mess.  Put your phone down and go outside (that is a number one fixer for me).  Put end goals and products on the shelf for a time (especially when kids are involved) and let yourself find joy in exploration and experimenting.

Any final thoughts?

Love yourself!  Love your kids for what they are trying to be!

Thanks so much, Ashley! Read more from Ashley on her blog, and see more of her artwork and purchase books and digital prints at

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