From the Art Part of Mary Chernoff’s Heart—to Yours

A Vancouver designer and mother's new book offers everyday creative inspiration

Mary Chernoff (second from left) with family at the launch of Inspire (photo: Roger Luo Creative)

Modern parents live busy lives. With so many work, family and personal obligations, it can sometimes seem like there’s little time for anything beyond your daily routine—let alone leisure activities like getting creative around the house. But what if there was a way to ignite a creative spark without disrupting your routine? What if being artistic became a part of that routine?

In her new book, Inspire, Vancouver-based artist and interior designer Mary Chernoff explains how busy moms (and dads) can recognize creative opportunities in their surroundings. Imagine sitting on the couch on a lazy day and having a long chat with your best friend about everything under the sun. Inspire captures that experience—in chapters on everything from cooking and entertaining to crafting with kids.

At Canadian Family, we’re always looking for ways that parents can discover and explore your creative sides, so we asked Mary about her work, her book, and how it can help you understand what she calls “the art part of your heart.”

How has motherhood impacted your creativity?

Motherhood expanded my world exponentially in terms of depth of emotion and the desire to show and share love. How has it inspired me to become more creative? It propelled me to be more resourceful (with what I had on hand) and also to prioritize by really focusing on what was most important to me, as you can’t do it all!

Does your son William share your artistic side?

No, he’s more of an engineer/scientist-type guy. But he’s also a jazz musician—so he is creative musically.

What about your parents? In the chapter “Celebration,” you mention your mother…

It’s funny, other than the story told in the book about the course my mom developed, I can’t draw on any specifics. My parents led simple lives and my upbringing was very spare and spartan. I saw the richness of art, style and creativity in my friends’ homes and with their families, but not so much in mine.

My mother was a worker bee. She did model wonderful homemaking skills: She baked, did home canning and sewed. She was very busy with a large family and I think it was more that she let me be, so my creativity could blossom on its own. I don’t remember being inspired creatively by her, but she was very warm and loving and never criticized anything I did.

mary chernoff inspire book cover

Why is it important to you to emphasize creativity and the arts in your own home?

It is such a lovely, personal way to express yourself and to play. Art is soul-soothing, and creative pursuits are satisfying and nurturing. In my family’s early days it was about sharing the wonder of creating art together and having all kinds of fun activities. In the book, I write about colouring the bathwater, letting Will experiment with my chalk pastels, and drawing his body full-size on paper, on the floor). More recently, it has enhanced our celebrations, made our home an inspiring place to live. It’s given us lots of opportunities for collaboration, whether that’s by hosting a dinner party (we are now cooking together), putting on a musical night, or tending to the garden.

You also design spaces for patient-care facilities. How did you manage your career, motherhood, and being an author and blogger?

Well, the time was right. A book was always on my bucket list. But it took me getting to the phase where my son was more independent, for me to have the time to devote to the book. (Also my consulting business had decades to mature and become self-supporting). Even still, there were chunks of time, up to six months at a time, over the last four years, where work was extra-busy and there was no time for the book. Finally, though, I had to put a push on it and get it done. I really believe you make time for the things that are most important to you, and you have to let go of the rest (my house is not tidy!).

If there’s one thing you want readers to take away from your book, what would it be?

That you can find or create beauty every day, and celebrate the artfulness of it: a delicious meal, a growing garden, a soft fabric on a pillow, a framed piece of your child’s artwork… And you can experience the heart and soul of that, beyond the pretty surface.

The book is a cornucopia of ideas, examples, and encouraging ways to discover and flex your creative muscles. I’ve tried to describe simple ways of doing things and then added encouragement to customize and add your personal spin—to make it your own.

Learn more about Mary and her book, Inspire, on her blog,

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