I was lucky enough to call Maryanne my housemate for a time during the aughts. She had the * nice * room, the one with the ensuite, and access to the balcony. It was well-deserved. She was the lady of the house, and ruled with humour, grace and an awe-inspiring collection of vintage clothing. (The second upstairs room was occupied by none other than maker-extraordinaire Gemma Patford).
Maryanne has a luminous and commanding presence. She was a primary school teacher for 10 years. It’s not difficult to imagine her wrangling a classroom of rowdy six-year-olds. I imagine her combination of warmth and power has helped Maryanne forge her path as a weaver, and to navigate some of the more challenging aspects of parenthood. One of her kids was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I asked her what parenting him was like and she said simply: ‘The world needs different thinkers, and that’s what he is. He’s Superman, and sometimes it’s hard to parent Superman.’
We were living together when she met Aaron, now her husband of 10 years. Our neighbour saw them kiss at the front door after their first date. Aaron said goodbye, and our neighbour watched as Maryanne went inside, then danced around the backyard to ‘Modern Love’. (Our neighbour potentially overstepped their bounds, come to think of it, but I’m so glad they did). Incidentally, Modern Love was Maryanne and Aaron’s first dance at their wedding.
Maryanne is a bringer-together, of colour, textures, people and places. She draws in what she sees, mixes it all together and makes it teem with life. The world needs more Maryannes.
How would you describe your kids?
Murray is 7 going on 37. He’s so desperate to be a grownup, with all the accoutrements. He wants the phone, the keys, the house, the car. He’s really driven and strategic, like an investment banker trapped in the body of a child. Rudi is really silly and a bit of a showman. He’s caring and quite in tune with people. He’ll ask the neighbour if their ailing dog is feeling better, which for a four-year-old is pretty unusual. They’re similar in that they’re both very loud, and they look similar. But we put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and two completely different people came out.
In what ways are they like you?
They look like Aaron, so I was tricked into thinking they were more like him than me. But they got a lot of my personality traits, even some that I don’t like so much. It’s hard to parent that more challenging version of yourself. How do I parent my kid out of that? Do I want to? It becomes a process of birthing the mother.
Yes, which is an excruciating birth. Way more painful than birthing children.
And so long. Years! This birth goes on for years. You fight it at the start, because you think you’re just taking this little doll home from the hospital, and it’s so hard getting up through the night and feeding and all the rest. I think all the physical challenges of parenting are like the animalistic side of us. Then as babies grow and start to become their own little people, you start getting into the emotional and psychological challenges, which is another level entirely.
How do you stay sane enough to make it work?
Exercising. Dancing. Talking. Actually talking about what’s going on, whether it’s with my mates or Aaron. Sometimes I share that I’m having a hard time on Instagram. Saying it aloud makes me feel like less of a monster. I get to connect with people who feel just the same as me. Everybody hates it at times! And it’s okay!
How do you and Aaron share the parenting load?
I have the more flexible job, so at the moment I’m the primary carer. We have three long daycare days. I use one of them for errands then I have two full days weaving. Murray is in school now, then goes to after-care a couple of days a week, which he loves. On my solo parenting days, Rudi and I have playdates, go to the museum or to the zoo. I really enjoy them. Plus it’s a Thursday and Friday, right before the weekend, when Aaron is home and everything’s easier with the two of us.
How did weaving become a career?
I was teaching art at a Primary School for 10 years. I loved it for a long time, then I hated it. I was crying all the time, broken down and bringing all my problems home. I was 33 at the time, and figured why don’t I just get married and have a kid? That will take away all my problems!
(Pause for peals of laughter)
I went on maternity leave for a year. Murray was a perfect baby, so I ended up having a lot of time on my hands. Before maternity leave, I helped clean out the art storeroom at my school and one of the things we decided to get rid of was a little loom. I took it home and decided to teach myself how to weave. I had a community of followers already through House of Maryanne, which was my vintage clothing business, and so the leap from vintage clothing to weaving wasn’t so big. A lot of people came along. I think it helped that we’d already established somewhat of a commercial relationship. I was learning and posting as I went, and people were keen to buy even my very early pieces.
Did you sell many in the beginning?
No. Though I probably would have if it wasn’t for Aaron. His advice was not to sell anything until it was the quality you would find in the museum gift shop. He has such good business advice, and because he’s a designer, he wants things to be beautiful all the way around. He could see my career a lot further into the future than I could at the time.
They say parenting takes a village. Tell me about yours. I hear you’re one part of the unofficial coven of Melbourne makers…
It’s me, Kristy from Kuwaii, Imogen Pullar, who’s an architect and Mel from Cecilia Fox. Kristy, Imogen and I met on the dance floor, then we met Mel through her partner who works in the music industry. We all had children around the same time and our businesses grew around the same time, so that really sealed the deal. We have business lunches where we get drunk and make plans. We spent New Year’s together in my backyard. We’re each other’s family friends.
That’s so lucky, but also a payoff for a lot of years of nurturing the relationships, I imagine. Is that right? How does friendship work?
We’re all equipped with each other’s life happenings. People talk about ‘me time’, but it’s just as important to know about how the people you care about define their ‘me time’. We know what’s important to each other and how to provide the necessary support.
Have you needed extra support around your son’s diagnosis? How have you managed on a personal level?
I saw a therapist, who was really helpful. I was so scared that being a parent of a kid with ADHD would become my identity. One of the beautiful things she (the therapist) said was, ‘You are that parent. You’re also a weaver, a wife and a businesswoman. You are a multifaceted person.’ At the time the situation felt all-consuming, but the therapist helped me realise that it was a choice to make it my whole identity. It was better for everyone if I didn’t. I couldn’t climb into the whirlwind with him. I couldn’t help him from in there. I needed to be me to do that.
How has parenthood changed the way you see the world?
I used to think there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. If I did that thing, I’d get that result. But parenting isn’t like that, birth isn’t like that. There’s no such thing as an A+. The kids and Aaron and I try and say, ‘I appreciate you’ as much as we can. We say it to each other all the time. Murray will set the table and say, ‘Nobody said they appreciated me!’ And I’ll say, ‘Hey, nobody said they appreciated me cooking the dinner!’ Then we’ll say it to each other. Having these little moments that make you feel good are important. They help a lot, actually.