We all love our kids and think they are a masterpiece. Meet the mother and artist who is helping parents literally turn their kids into just that.
Just like a caterpillar curling into a cocoon and emerging as a beautiful butterfly, so can parenthood be. The miracle of making and baking a little life and then having it emerge from the womb cocoon can transform your life so radically that you literally take wings and fly.
And so it is was with the talented and artistic Morningside mum and former primary school teacher Colleen Jaftha, who, after becoming a mum three years ago to Sonny, discovered a niche in the art market and is now so in demand for her work she is creating up to 20 individual works a week for delighted parents wanting to capture their children in more than just a photograph.
Colleen combines her two great loves, children and art, and creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind, whimsical artworks featuring embossing, French lace, watercolors, printing and, more importantly, the angelic faces of your children. It’s like the street artists who sketch your children, but on speed!
I met the colourful Colleen by chance at a wedding before Christmas. She caught my eye in her Camilla caftan and we chatted about our kids and careers, and I discovered how this former primary school teacher turned a love of portraiture into a full time career after not wanting to return to work post-parenthood. During maternity leave, with a reflux baby who only slept for 15 minutes at a time, Colleen found an outlet through carving.
“It was therapy for me,” she says. “You don’t have to think, a bit like ironing. It’s methodical and soothing.
“I don’t know how safe it was, with a lack of sleep, so tired, and with a tool in your hand,” she laughs. “But I couldn’t do the large art works I used to do once Sonny came along. I didn’t have the hours in between watching Frozen for the mess and size my previous art style created.”
So Colleen experimented with print making and embossing and realised she could do them at home around Sonny. But it was after the 37-year-old’s husband Royce, an engineer, became redundant that things kicked up a gear.
“Him being at home with Sonny allowed me to get more volume out,” she reflects. “It was also a matter of money. This year the success has really taken off, simply because my husband Royce is having a year off!”
She stresses, however, that she isn’t an overnight success. “I have been working on this for years on the side. I’ve tried different strategies to make a career of it and I realised there is a massive market for affordable handmade art. There are a lot of prints, and then the high-end stuff, but there is a real gap in the market for middle range original art. My philosophy is affordability for everyone.””
From around $100 to $500 per artwork, cheaper than most family photography sessions, I suggest that the success of her art is not only because of price, but because it appeals to parents’ egos when it comes to their children. She agrees it is a new and rapidly growing market.
“People are spending more money and time on their kids decorating their rooms,” she says. “It’s pretty special to have a piece of art featuring your child. Like photography, it captures a time that remains forever. My work is emotive, parents are so emotional when they see my work, and that’s how I want them to feel. I’m not purposefully making it sellable, but I think because I am an early childhood teacher and I love children so much, that connects and comes out in my work.”
With orders now flowing in from home and around the world — including China, New York, Singapore and Paris — for her romantic, whimsical and emotive images of little girls adorned in flowers and little boys wearing warrior headdresses, I ask her what her goal is now that her hobby has become her career.
“I just love it and I can’t stop,” she gushes. “Even when I wasn’t making money from it, I had to do it every day. Like people go for a walk or cook, it’s my relaxation, and I just hope people love it, connect, and tell friends and family. I just want to do what I love and make people happy at the same time.”
To see more of Colleen’s work, visit onesonnyday.com.au.