The Mother Hustle Interview: Bonbi Forest

This week our guest Mother Hustler is Lee Foster-Wilson, owner of Bonbi Forest and Mother of two living in Cornwall. I've been a fan of Bonbi Forest's beautiful products for ages, the illustrations are so whimsical and delicate and the pins are all so cute, I have my eye on the 'mama bear' one! Lee designs and screen prints from her home in Cornwall and has a book coming out in September! I have loved seeing an insight into her design process and general idyllic Cornish life on Instagram, so it's great to have her on the blog to find out more about how she juggles such a successful creative business with two little ones..

Tell us a bit about who you are, where you are and what your family looks at the moment.

I am Lee Foster-Wilson and I am an artist, Illustrator and maker living in a very rural spot on the Roseland, not far from a little village called Veryan. I am married to my love, Mark, who I met in my late teens at Truro College! He is also self employed as a freelance web designer and we have two children, Ruby who is four and a half and Ellis who was two at the beginning of August...

Tell us all about your business/ side hustles/ work life and where we can find you on the interweb?

My business is called Bonbi Forest which I started 12 years ago after finishing my degree. I worked part time in a call centre alongside setting it up before being pushed into taking the leap into full self employment after a family crisis forced a move back to Cornwall from Brighton in 2006. It has taken many guises over the years, I started out printing t-shirts and making limited edition merch for bands, then I sold the work of other independent artists in the Bonbi Forest Indie Emporium. These days I make jewellery, pin badges, art prints, cards and hand printed scarves alongside illustration work. I also have my first book out in September, Creative Marker Art and Beyond, which is all about looking for inspiration and drawing with marker pens! Lots of this stuff can be seen on my website and I am also on Instagram as @bonbiforest

How do you find the Juggle with work/ family/ life / childcare etc?

Since the birth of my daughter in 2013 I have essentially worked part time hours. I am very lucky in that my husband and I split the working week down the middle so that we each look after the children for half of the day and work the other half. Lunchtimes are like a relay hand over! Ruby has been at nursery for 2 and a half days a week which means we can both make the most of Ellis' nap on those days, but there is nowhere local enough to send him for the next year as the local school's nursery only take children from three (unfortunately the setting for two year olds was closed down due to lack of children, a rural peril!) I don't know what I would do if Mark had to go out to work full time and I am really grateful that we are able to make it work like this.

Part time can be a struggle though when times are busy, we have a work deadline or there are midweek nursery activities like PTA meetings and sports days etc, but that's what the evenings are for, after the kiddos are tucked up in bed, right?! Mark will also get up very early a few times a week to work before they wake up...I should probably do this too but I really, really like my sleep!

What would your ideal balance be, and are you close to achieving it? If not what needs to change?

I think I have a pretty good balance at the moment. I like that I get to spend half the day working on my third baby (my art and business) and the rest of the day I can set that aside (mostly!) and spend some quality time with my little ones. I try to do stuff like the post office run with them or when I'm picking Ruby up from nursery so I don't spend 15 minutes of my precious work time driving to the shop and back. It's a good excuse to get out of the house and we can usually tie it in with a trip to the beach or the park too. It's a fine balance but it seems to be working for now. Ruby starts school in September and I just know that this daily time with her is going to get even more precious, I feel really lucky that I don't have to work full time or even any full days.

Why did you decide to work for yourself?

It was always on the cards really. Both of my parents have been self employed and run their own businesses for most of their lives so for me it just seemed that was what you do...I studied Fine Art Painting so it was always going to be about how to make and sell my own art in a useful way and since I left art school I never really thought about doing anything else!

Would you say you have been more productive since having children, or less?

Definitely more productive! It makes me feel a bit ill when I think about all of the time I wasted pre children...there's nothing like condensed work hours to focus the thoughts! I find that I just have to be super organised and write down what I plan to achieve in a week at the end of the week before and plan each days work the day before I have to do it.

The Time Is Now print

What is your favourite thing about being a mother?

There's so much to love about being a mother! I love watching them grow and develop, the things they say and the chats we have and those that they have together, especially now that Ellis can have a proper conversation. One of my favourite things to do is lie in bed listening in on their wake up chats via the monitor before they start calling to me, so adorable! They also make you slow down...We go to the beach all year round, more in winter than summer in fact which I would never have done without them. There's the simple things too, we sat and watched a snail climb a wall yesterday, their delight was infectious!

8.And your least favourite?

Over tiredness!! Oh my goodness, occasionally the house gets very loud at bedtime with either howls or second wind squeals and usually on those days I just want to howl myself!! I also hate it when either of them hurts themselves or is poorly and the idea that anyone else is ever going to be mean to them (which will happen at some point because that's life isn't it?) pains me beyond belief. I just don't know what I worried about before they came along!

What do you love about where you live and what does your ideal weekend look like?

The four of us have just moved in with my parents to save money while we await planning permission to build our own house which is a very exciting time indeed... If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be living back here again I would have run screaming for the hills but I feel totally different about it now and eternally grateful that they can have us!

We were in the local village before, and now we live in the middle of the countryside. I love living on the Roseland, we are super close to some beautiful beaches which satisfies my wave watching and beach combing desires and I really like that the children will have the same kind of outdoors childhood that I was lucky enough to have. 

Mark and I have a no work at the weekends policy so we get to have family time as a four... going swimming, for a beach explore or a play in the garden etc. It all feels so precious as I am well aware that before I know it the children will have stuff they want to do with friends and clubs that they want to go to so for now we make the most of being able to spend that time together. We do however make sure we get some time to ourselves every other weekend or so...Mark likes to cycle and I love to ride horses. I rode a lot and competed at dressage pre children so it's good to check in and make sure I can still do it occasionally...My mum has a horse I can have a play on when she's not busy training or competing so I go to her yard, saddle up and get some exercise and 'me' time for an hour!

And finally do you have any tips for working from home with toddlers?

I can only work when they are being entertained elsewhere! It's impossible otherwise. Before Ellis came along Ruby went to pre school for a couple of mornings a week and those few hours were like hours of power work-wise! I would advise that you plan what you need to do in that time the night before so you can use every minute productively. 

My two are starting to get better at playing together which does help if I have the odd little work job to do and of course they can always be kept quiet for 10 minutes with some CBeebies when my work has run over or I have an urgent email to write. They are really good and aware that mummy and daddy's desks are out of bounds and that when we are at them they are not to disturb us without permission. I think it's important to have that kind of ground rule in place when working from home with children. It sounds strict but they are very cute and rather distracting, and if I'm not careful before I know it I am being sucked into a dance competition or building a Duplo tower when I should be trying to make some money!!

Thank You Lee x