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Mom Solves

Illustrator Hannah Carpenter on Creativity, Screen-Time and Traveling With Four Kids

Photography Hannah Carpenter
Interview By Alex Watt

Hannah Carpenter is a writer, illustrator, and influencer who lives in Arkansas — where “it's hot, humid and hospitable” — and has a dedicated Instagram following. Her fans delight in her witty captions about family life and images that are inspired by Norman Rockwell. She lives in a picturesque farmhouse, but right now Carpenter is traveling through Italy with her four children and husband, a college professor, who’s guiding a study-abroad trip.

Has becoming a parent influenced your creativity?

Experiencing life through children is special. You get to see the wonder you would otherwise take for granted. Things you get used to in life you get to re-experience for the first time through their eyes. There's something so temporary and precious about childhood. It's so pure. I mean, it's my life right now and has been for the past however many years. You create what you know, I guess.

You created a line of notepads that allow children to doodle clothes on drawings of adorable kids. What inspired you to make them?

My mom was an artist and my brother is an artist, and my mom was always making paper dolls and drawing with us. That's what I know. I’ve always drawn with my kids, and they love the Little Biscuits Dress-Me Notepads. They’re just enough of a little-bitty start … “Here's kind of a body, now create something out of it.” It seems so simplistic, but I've been surprised by how much my kids and their friends enjoy them. We're focusing on trying to be inclusive and create diversity with the product. Recently, we partnered with The Lucky Few to make the Macy Notepad. All proceeds go to Down syndrome charities. I think children are naturally inclusive, but sometimes get affected by the world around them — so it's a way of kind of preserving that spirit they naturally have.

What’s your screen-time philosophy?

When we're home, there's no devices upstairs. I'm not crazy strict about it. I don't want my kids to crave it because they're never using it, but I also don't want them to crave it because they're always using it. My oldest daughter has a phone. I'm sure she'll love me talking about her phone life, but we got really irritated with it about six months after she got it. We took it away and kept it downstairs, where she could use it occasionally to text her friends. We gave it back to her when we went away for our trip so she could take pictures, but it died so we haven't had to worry about it since then. I'm kind of thankful for that. She is a really good kid, but even good kids struggle. It's tough for teens to manage. It's tough for me to manage, too.

Do you have any tips for traveling with children?

I initially thought I wanted to see the big cities and go shopping and eat at the fancy restaurants. I’ve been here and gotten the urban experience, but now we’re staying in this beautiful castle an hour outside of Florence. I think that's the way to travel with kids. We think we need to show them all of the landmarks — and I do think there's something to be said for that — but it's slower-paced in the less touristy areas, and you can see the beauty of the earth. I would rather my kids go in fewer churches and walk away amazed than see all of the churches and be exhausted and over it all.

Your kids always seem like such eager participants in your work, is that always the case?

I try hard not to make it a bad experience by catching real moments and letting them be them. Sometimes the best photo opportunities are moments when you're like, "I'm gonna stop doing what I'm doing and go be with my kids for a while.” You get criticism for putting your kids online, but on this trip I can't tell you how many times I've caught them looking at my Instagram feed and looking at old videos while laughing and smiling or missing home — so there's a lot of benefits to it. They’re like, "This is fun, this is cool, we made this together.”


Follow Hannah or shop her notepads here.