How Does She Do It?… with Heather Jessup and Claire Battershill

Once a month we interview moms in our “How Does She Do It?” feature. If you are interested in participating please reach out on Facebook or Instagram.

L: Claire Battershill R: Heather Jessup

We are very excited to introduce you to Heather Jessup and Claire Battershill. Heather lives in Vancouver and Claire lives in Toronto.

Are you Urban or Suburban Mama’s, where do you live?

Claire lives in Toronto and Heather lives in Vancouver. We both have lived in small towns and on small islands at various points in our lives, but right now instead of getting around by forest path and beach trail we take our strollers on subways and sky trains.

Tell us about your children?

Between us we have three kids. Claire has a two-and-three-quarters year old and an eight month old. Heather has a nineteen month old. They are hilarious, particular, musical, chattering, book-loving kid’s and — especially because of traveling across Canada together for our Make Believe project — they’re quite sweet friends.

Tell us about your typical weekday?

Over the past three years (basically the whole of our kids’ lives so far) we have coordinated and curated an elaborate archive and art project that has traveled to four cities across Canada and involved over 100 amazing collaborators. At the start of this project, when we submitted our New Chapter Canada Council Grant, Claire’s oldest son was 3 months old, and Claire’s second child and Heather’s first child didn’t yet exist. Because of the project our days look quite variable depending on what’s happening with our work and our children. Our main consistency is our kids’ nap schedules; otherwise our days are a mishmash of making adult art and kid art and teaching and dreaming and running around at the park!

Do you have help?

We have families and partners who rock babies and do dishes so that we can play pretend. We also have each other and an amazing project coordinator for Make Believe, Jillian Povarchook, who works as a curatorial associate at the Museum of Vancouver. Jillian also has a little one under the age of three. Nearly all of our meetings or Facetime calls for the project have involved breastfeeding infants, bouncing babies to sleep, offering cut-up pieces of oranges for snack, and taking breaks for coloring and play kitchen time. Working together with our babies crawling, walking, and playing around us has been an incredibly supportive and generative experience. Making art and being a mom is tough. What we’ve found, though, is that it is WAY better with friends and with our children’s’ involvement. Our kids have helped us make this project more friendly for small hands, more welcoming for families of all kinds, and made us more aware of the creativity children inspire. On our acknowledgements for the exhibit, we thank Finn, Francis, Serge, and Rosie for their help as our Junior Research Assistants. Looking back, we couldn’t have done this without them.

Who cooks dinner?

Hopefully one day soon, our kids! (We’re working on it!)

How often do you buy something just for you?

If this involves the category of stationery, stickers, coloured pens, post-it notes, and books, probably once a month?

Do you exercise regularly and if so, what and how do you fit it in?

When we’re in the same city, our never-miss gym class is the BOSU class with Trevor at the downtown Vancouver Robert Lee YMCA. Balance, cardio, strength, stretching, and most importantly: bouncing! It’s impossible to leave this class in a bad mood, and we both did this class while pregnant with all three of our kiddos (with modifications and chats with our health-care providers first, of course!). Claire and both of her kids have also really enjoyed any kind of exercise where babies are welcome – in Vancouver her favourite was stroller fitness at Roundhouse Community Centre. Heather mostly incorporated exercise into nap time, taking Francis for stroller walks along the seawall.

What clothing lines do you like to buy for your children?

We love passing clothing along from family to family. We’ve even had clothes that have gone from Claire’s oldest, to Heather’s kiddo, back to Claire’s youngest, and then off to other friends’ new babies (We did this with our maternity clothes too!). This is good for the environment, good for the budget, and a good way to make sure all those cute clothes they grow out of so fast get worn! We also both love Marks and Spencer’s children’s clothing. It’s made from ethically sourced cotton, is designed so kids can grow with their clothes (through clever snaps, buttons, and rolled cuffs) and the clothes last a long time.

We’re totally obsessed with…

An Artist Residency in Motherhood, which is a project started by artist and mother Lenka Clayton. It’s a self-directed, open-source artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers: “You don’t have to apply. It doesn’t cost anything, it’s fully customisable, and you can be in residence for as long as you choose. You don’t even have to travel, the residency takes place entirely inside your own home and everyday life. An Artist Residency in Motherhood is the reframing of parenthood as a valuable site for creative practice, rather than an obstruction to be overcome.”

Three things in our purses right now are…

  1. Double-sided tape for mounting exhibition signage
  2. A Power Drill
  3. Thank You cards

Our favourite drugstore buy is…

Bubbles and sidewalk chalk. When we’re traveling in different cities for the exhibition and our families and kids are traveling too, drugstores are often handy places for easy, simple, inexpensive, afternoon fun-supplies.

Our guilty pleasure is…

Not feeling guilty. Both of us are writers and academics, and it’s really easy in these fields to get into a habit of feeling badly for not working seriously and constantly, which first of all is not possible, and second of all ruins all the fun of making art and writing stories. Our motto for working on this project together has been just that: have fun. Our kids have been artists and collaborators with us, we’ve written stories with teenagers, composed songs with up-and-coming songwriters, gotten our fingers inky with passionate letterpress printers, and been amazed by 3-D printing wizards across the country. This project has been a lot of hard work and a tremendous learning experience. It’s also been a LOT of fun.


Thank you to Heather and Claire for letting us know “How Does She Do It.”


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