Gabrielle is a professional artist and business owner. She moved to Costa Mesa in 2008 after she met her husband Mike. They have a 7-year-old son named William. In addition to being a commissioned artist and full-time mom, Gabrielle found time to open Heartfelt Play Studio where she offers Playshops, a customizable experiential event for children and adults.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in the San Fernando Valley, but I moved to Lake Hughes when I was 7, which is a small town of about 500 people located in the mountains north of LA. I consider that town to be where I’m from because most of my childhood memories are from when I lived there, memories like having to milk the family cow twice a day. It was also the time when I had a horse. Riding for hours after school was the single biggest joy of my childhood.
What are your favorite things to do with your son?
My favorite thing to do with William is to have conversations with him. We talk about all sorts of stuff; things we see on the way to school, how he thinks things work, whatever is interesting to him at the moment. Hearing his perspective is fascinating, and often super funny.
Fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday, so right now William and I are discussing what he wants to be for Halloween and how we are going to decorate our house. I just got a commission to fabricate a giant spider for a client’s roof, so now we are debating whether we “need” one as well. Yes, Gabrielle, we think you need one too!
What’s your favorite restaurant in town for a family date? A night out with friends?
Our favorite restaurant is Amorelia Mexican Cafe on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. It’s both noisy enough and casual enough to bring kids comfortably, yet nice enough to feel like we actually went to an “adult” restaurant for dinner.
As far as a night out with friends….a night out is usually an impromptu dinner at either our home or a friend’s house. I don’t really “go out” with my friends….which is fine since what I love most is lounging and talking in a comfortable place where I can hear and enjoy the conversation. That happens best at home.
What is your favorite kid-friendly recipe?
At the moment it’s Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. I enjoy cooking and baking on occasion, but I don’t do either on a daily basis. For lunch I make homemade “Lunchables” where I get cheddar cheese and thickly sliced ham from the deli, cut both at the same time so the pieces are exactly the same shape, and send it with crackers in his lunchbox.
What is your local go-to store for children’s clothes? Furniture? Yourself?
For William it’s Target and Newport Kids Consignment. Also, Gap Kids when they have an online sale. As for furniture, I love well made, functional pieces that will withstand the wear and tear that is our life. So, for big pieces, I love Restoration Hardware. For accessories and smaller pieces, I love Crate and Barrel, Urbanism on 17th street, TJ Maxx, and Craigslist. If I’m shopping for myself, my go-to place is definitely TJ Maxx. My work wardrobe consists of t-shirts and jeans, and I wear the same thing most weekends. Having said that, when I have a bit of free time, like when I’m on vacation, I love to shop at small boutiques. The clothes I find then remind me of where I’ve been.
What are your favorite events in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach?
The OC Fair! Having participated in 4-H as a child, I love the fair. I love the craft and livestock barns, the dust and smell of deep-fried everything. It’s so fun.
What has been the most difficult age with your children to date? What helped you overcome the challenges at that time?
William never seemed to have a difficult age per se, but there have definitely been times, like when he treated another child poorly, or has otherwise been insensitive, that I have to take a deep breath so I don’t freak out. The second and third deep breaths usually give me enough time to think of a constructive way to deal with the situation. When no amount of deep breathing works, I ask for help from a few women whose perspective and experience I trust and admire.
How do you relax and unwind?
Aah…relaxing. I actually have two types of “relaxing”; active and passive. Active relaxing is spending hours cleaning out and reorganizing the garden shed while listening to Garth Brooks or Brené Brown through my earbuds. Passive relaxing is combing through the internet for information on some topic: right now I’m interested in designing and fabricating custom enclosures for my five lizards; 3 leopard geckos and 2 baby bearded dragons.
I want to teach my son that love and kindness are more important than money, life isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always interesting, and no matter how much you think you know about someone or something, there is always more to learn.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms? What was the best advice your mom gave you?
Have as many one-on-one, non-judgmental conversations with your children as possible. Really listen and engage with them. I’m constantly amazed and delighted by what William is thinking about and how he processes stuff.
I can’t remember my mom ever giving me advice. I learned a lot by her example however. Most importantly, that she loved us fiercely, that stifled passion is destructive, and conversely, following one’s true course is essential, even if the immediate cost seems high.
What do you most value in your friends?
Kindness, empathy and consideration of others.
How do you balance your career & motherhood?
I was a full time professional painter for almost 20 years by the time I moved to the OC, got married and had our son. I always assumed I would continue my career even with all the new joy and demands in my life.
Having said that, balancing my work life and my home life is not always easy: I’ve had to get really creative with my time management, sometimes bringing William to the studio (the last time I projected a huge map of the United States on the wall so he could trace and color in all the states.) I also sometimes bring unfinished artwork home so I can paint in the wee hours before anyone else gets up.
But I love what I do for a living, as much as I love being a mom and a wife, and I strongly believe in showing our son that for me, being a parent is only one part of who I am. Cultivating my creativity and passion is also incredibly important, and that the constant balancing act is what makes my life so wonderfully full.
There are a few important things I had to give up when I got married and had a child, namely lots of time for myself, stuff staying where I put it and in the same condition as when I last used it, and sleep on demand. I willingly make those sacrifices. But my career includes a part of me I’m not willing to give up and what’s more, I don’t think it would be good for my son to see me give up such a vital part of myself for him.
How did Heartfelt Play Studio come about?
I’ve painted murals for most of my adult life. I worked on-site almost exclusively and so traveled quite a bit. As much as I loved painting murals, after William was born, the traveling took me away from my family for too many hours in a day. Fortunately, around the time I was coming to that realization, I met an interior designer who wanted to develop a line of artwork to sell in her showrooms. That new venture, combined with the elaborate signage and party props I was already creating in my garage, allowed me to lease a large space. Then, just over a year ago the space adjacent to my studio became available, so I leased that one as well and launched Heartfelt Play Studio. This is where we offer our Playshops.
Thank you Gabrielle!
Find out more about Gabrielle and her artwork at www.gabriellecarey.com.
Heartfelt Play Studio