Magdalena Franco, Unleash Creative

Magdalena Franco, Unleash Creative

Magdalena Franco is one strong creative force who has cut, glued, painted, stapled, bedazzled, constructed, collaged and stitched everyone’s crafty dreams into reality. Magdalena chats to us about pre-empting her children’s behaviour, being okay with not conforming to the ‘typical mother’ stereotype and the pressures she feels as a parent.

When I had Jaxon, I went through this terribly conflicted period in my life. I felt like I needed to change the way I looked and acted to better resemble a ‘typical mother’. I was 25 and the only one of my friends who’d had a child, so I felt a little out of place. My vision of who I should be as a new mother included wearing floral dresses, keeping an immaculate house and making sure my son had all the fancy play and development things he needed.

It took me a long time to realise that I didn’t have to change who I was just because I’d become a mum.

These days, I’m pretty far removed from a ‘typical’ mum. Something I’ve learnt along the way, which is also an important message I’m teaching my kids, is to always be yourself and don’t ever feel like you have to conform or be someone you’re not comfortable with being.

A normal day before kids involved having a leisurely breakfast with a hot cup of coffee. Then I’d have a shower, do my makeup, get dressed and head off to work listening to music, sometimes singing along, in my car. After work, I’d head home to cook dinner or head out to meet a friend. I might have gone to the cinemas, a concert or a stand-up comedy show. Those days seem like a long lost dream now.

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Being a mum is way harder than I’d ever imagined.

When my husband and I decided to try for a baby, we thought we’d have a little, adorable, happy, sleepy bundle. It was not like that at all. Yes, our first born was sweet and happy, but he resisted sleep at every opportunity. It was very difficult. Now, almost 10 years later, it’s even more difficult to navigate all the emotions and misunderstandings.

We recently received a diagnosis for him that includes ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning). Nothing can really prepare you for coping with a child who constantly needs extra explaining, frequent reminding and plenty of patience. It’s been a really long struggle and now that we have a diagnosis, we can get him (and us) the right support.

I thought being a mum was going to be all about ice cream sundae dates, hanging out, joking around, family trips and the like.

But, with our son’s additional needs and anxiety, it makes simple things like going out to the movies, or a busy crowded area like a market, a real battle for him – and us.

Parenting our daughter, Blyss, has been much easier. She’s a happy-go-lucky kid and not much unsettles her.

What surprised me the most about becoming a mum is just how much I can achieve in a day and night!

I’m a mum, a small business owner, the house cleaner, cook and a wife (plus all the other roles that we mothers take on). Most days, I suck at doing all of those things at the same time. But, when I go away on work trips, it makes me realise just how much multitasking I physically and mentally do and how much I can actually achieve. It always makes me giggle when childless friends say they’re “so busy”. You don’t know busy until you become a working parent.

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What helps me parent well is taking time to reflect on situations, arguments or conversations I’ve had with my kids.

Sometimes it’s really tough to juggle running a business from home, being a great parent and making sure all of their needs are met with the utmost tact and care. I’ve recently started thinking about how I can be two steps ahead and pre-empt situational outcomes, to ensure I’m prepared to tackle things with a rational head.

When work deadlines are looming and the kids are acting up, I know that they’re just screaming out for my attention. So, I close the laptop screen, ignore the piles of work and take them out to the park. It clears my head, allows me to spend quality time with them and wears them out! When we return to the house, the kids are happy, tired and in need of some quiet time, which means I get uninterrupted work time. I also think that taking time out to just do something for yourself is a really important tool to staying happy and sane.

As mothers, we often put our needs to the end of the line and more often than not, we forget to look after ourselves when we’re so busy looking after everyone else.

A few months ago, I decided I was going to take forced time out once a fortnight to get my nails done. It allows me to do something for myself and also ensures I have great nails for all the hand-in-shot tutorials I photograph for Unleash Creative.

I work on my small creative business, Unleash Creative, when I can. Jaxon’s in school and Blyss attends daycare two days a week, so those two days are my ‘work like a crazy person’ days. They’re the days I schedule phone, Skype and in-person meetings. They’re my two solid days of uninterrupted work. Any other time I can steal is a bonus. But, that bonus is usually at the cost of me working late at night or while Blyss is content sitting watching a movie so I can attend to any urgent matters.

I wanted to work on something that I was passionate about. Something that made my heart and soul sing.

While I was on maternity leave two years ago, I realised I hadn’t really been enjoying my job as a market analyst. I started thinking about the types of new roles I would like to apply for and I knew that I wanted a more creative role. When I looked around at what jobs were on offer, I realised I was going to find it really difficult to find a job that had flexibility and didn’t require full-time hours.

My husband and I spoke at great length about all of my options. He wasn’t keen on my rushing off to work and was quite happy for me to stay at home to focus on looking after Blyss. But, I knew that I wanted to have a side project. Something that would combine my two passions, craft and events. I came up with the idea of creating a travelling craft event of sorts. Hosting multiple craft workshops over the course of a day, focussing on a kind of craft sampler for those in need of inspiration, the craft-curious, or for people who just wanted to hang out and make cute stuff with like-minded people.

By September of 2013, Unleash Creative was born. I set out to build the site, create imagery, set up events, and reach out to other creatives who I wanted to work with. It was a lot of work in those early stages, especially creating content and imagery when I hadn’t held any events yet. But, it all came together and I’m so proud of all the events we’ve run since the first one back in March last year.

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Unleash Creative has grown into so much more than just workshops and events.

I’ve realised there is a sizeable community of creatives in all sorts of different industries who are craving inspiration, motivation, knowledge, a kind push in the right direction, ideas, connection and a sense of belonging.

Our community now spreads all over the globe, meaning there are many people who can’t attend our events. I’ve really started working on a strategy to ensure we keep connected with those people via creative spotlights that includes highlighting the work of creative people, businesses and products, setting creative challenges that people can do at home and developing useful content for the site. It adds a whole other element to the existing things I’m working on, but it’s such an important area for me to focus on for the future growth of the business.

I have such a passion for creativity and I want people to know just how good for the soul it is to do something creative everyday.

Creativity is a natural mood enhancer. It allows your brain to process information in different ways and gives you an opportunity to express how you’re feeling. I want to spread all of the positive things about being creative all over the world.

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As a kid, I would always be making stuff. I think what draws me to craft the most is the ability to turn a humble piece of paper into a masterpiece. Be it a three dimensional project, an origami bow, a pop up card, a sign, an embellished concertina folder or whatever, it’s the endless possibilities that a single piece of paper, felt or fabric holds. I always know that if I’m angry, sad or stressed, then crafting gets me out of my funk. It’s my go to mood lifter.

No two Unleash Creative workshops or events of ours are ever the same. It’s actually something that I take great pride in delivering: ever-changing creative events that introduce our community to a variety of talented creatives and a range of skills. I’m constantly on the lookout for potential creative mentors who we can collaborate with. Most of them have never taught workshops before, so I work closely with them to manage their expectations, craft supply requirements and general expectations. The outcome is always magical. Because they’re all just people like you and me (but with extraordinary creative powers), they deliver their workshops in a really friendly and comfortable manner. They basically allow us a peek into their creative processes.

The key to all of our events and workshops is collaboration, creativity and inspiration.

Everything from the speech bubble ‘hello’ name badges, the varying decorations, our ‘wow’ morning teas created by the cleverest sweet makers, the craft supplies, gift bags and the little touches are all thought through to ensure that the overall experience for each attendee over delivers on their expectations. Once one event is over and we’re packing down, I’m already thinking about how we can improve the next event. It’s all about bigger, better, more creative.

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I’m a natural giver and helper. I like being able to solve a problem for someone, or help them out of a situation.

What drives me with Unleash Creative is knowing there are people out there who are gaining something from being part of our community. It could be the online or real life connections they make, the motivation to try something new or just the simple task of taking time out to come to one of our full day events and getting to craft all day without having to share their supplies and time with their kids. And not having to clean up when they’re done. My heart fills at the end of each one of those events, when people are coming up to me and saying, “Thank you, I so needed this”. People sometimes leave comments on my Instagram posts, telling me that whenever my photos pop up in their feed it always puts a smile on their face or inspires them. Those are the things which drive me to keep going.

The kids usually get involved with whatever I’m working on.

Jaxon will give me creative advice such as, “I think you’ve done such an awesome job on [insert whatever project I’m working on]” or, “Maybe you should think about getting rid of X, because it doesn’t look good with that colour next to it.” And Blyss, well, she’s like most three year olds…she wants to make one of everything, too. I really appreciate that they’re interested in what I’m working on, but sometimes when deadlines are looming, having to stop to set up a craft area of their own can be challenging – especially when they’re only interested in that task for five minutes.

If I were to give advice to other mums trying to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers?

I’d say don’t forget to enjoy the process of just being creative. We all get stuck in this spin of deadlines, feeding the kids, cleaning our houses and making appointments, that we sometimes forget to make time to just do the little things we enjoy. Just making something for the enjoyment factor, the endorphins and for self-fulfilment is so important to our mental health.

What does it mean to you to be an Australian creative, who is also a mother?

Wow, I’ve never really thought about those two things in context to each other. I think that without one there wouldn’t be as much of the other. If I hadn’t had kids, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take my creative pursuits further, as I would’ve been working full-time and wouldn’t have been in a position to give up my job to start a business. As a mother, I often have had to find creative ways to keep the kids entertained. So, I think those two things really complement each other. The kids have taught me to think creatively in different ways and I know that my creativity has also rubbed off on them.

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Magdalena Franco lives in Queensland with her husband, Mikee, and son, Jaxon, 9, and daughter, Blyss, 3. She’s the founder and head honcho behind Unleash Creative. You can find out more about her creative workshops via her website and keep up to date with Unleash Creative events via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Interview by Jenna Templeton / Images by Magdalena Franco + Peppermint Photography