When Virginia Venn walks into a room, something beautiful happens. There's a lightness to her energy, and a wisdom in her eyes that makes you want to find out more about this etherial beauty...
Her story certainly doesn’t disappoint. As she says, “I woke up one morning feeling like something had shifted… With 3 kids under 5, no family of my own, living in Sydney and totally reliant upon my (then) husband for everything, I found myself thinking ‘What the hell has happened here?'”. Virginia said that she had bought into the white picket fence dream that so many of us are conditioned into believing is the path to follow, but it wasn’t making her happy. So she took the only option she knew – to turn her life around.
Fast forward to a spiritual journey of meditating, surfing, journaling, studying yoga, sketching and photography, and Virginia started to find her joy. As part of this experience, Virginia began photographing her children’s artwork, which had been stored away in boxes for years (a significant 1200 pieces in all). She later came to realise that this process itself had helped to turn her own negative experiences into something that had meaning and healing. The idea of transforming something created by her children into a single beautiful memoir for her home felt like the ideal way to help diffuse the frightening and unknown future that lay ahead – and hence, her fourth ‘child’ and brilliant business concept, Little Hangs was born.
We spoke to Virginia about her story, LiTTLE HANGS and the bright future ahead.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family...
Born and raised in WA, I grew up with the great good fortune of a family that embraced the artistic and nurtured the creative. We lived in a coastal suburb in Perth surrounded by a seemingly endless coastline and wide open spaces, in a family where making things with your hands was a regular family activity. My Dad was an engineer by trade, and furniture maker/ silversmith on weekends, my Mum a teacher, with an eye for floristry and macramé.
I’ve always been a free spirit and adventurer, and after my university backpacking stint in Europe, I settled in Sydney’s east. Two decades later, I live in Rose Bay with my three beautiful kids (Jake, 14, Jesse 12 and Lili, 9) and I’m the owner and creator of Little Hangs, an artwork service that transforms your children’s artwork into beautiful, bespoke pieces for your walls. Morning ocean swims and yoga keep me sane and my kids keep me busy, grounded, inspired and entertained.
Can you share with us what happened when you turned 40?
As cliche as it sounds, I woke up one morning feeling like something had shifted. I’ve read a lot about people “waking up” at some stage in their lives or experiencing a paradigm shift of some sort, and for me, this couldn’t have been more true. With 3 kids under 5, no family of my own living in Sydney and totally reliant upon my (then husband) for everything, I found myself thinking “what the hell has happened here?” and “what has my life become?”. I’d bought into the “white picket fence” dream either through cultural conditioning or having parents in traditional roles – finish school, go to university, year off backpacking, get a job, get married, settle down, have kids, buy a house, live happily ever after – whatever the case, something happened and I began seeing things differently.
What about the ‘white picket fence’ dream wasn’t working for you? Do you think we’re lulled into a false sense of this being true happiness?
The real game changer for me was when my kids came along. They say it takes a village to raise a child and my biggest challenge was the absence of my own family around me. Motherhood can be isolating at any rate, but when you combine that with an absence of help and support from those closest to you… it’s tough. At times, I felt like I was raising my kids as a single parent, living someone else’s life with a partner who didn’t really understand me. Like most of us growing up, I read Cinderella and other “happily ever after” fairy tales, but that’s not how life always turns out. People change, and when you have kids, your priorities change.
I was starting to realise that happiness and success in life are actually about living genuinely and being authentic to who you are. For me, that meant making changes, kicking old habits and some much-needed self-reflection on what was important to me spiritually.
Mothers face such enormous pressure from every angle - whether it’s to stay at home or to further their careers - it seems like we can’t win. What was your experience of this?
For all of us, the motherhood journey starts with a sprint and that sprint becomes a marathon, at sprinting pace. Being a mum, we experience so much more love and joy than ever we dreamed possible, yet there is also the anguish, loss, fear, guilt and resentment as we adjust to a new way of life. Your body is different, your insides have been moved around physically, emotionally and spiritually, and there is no hiding away to recover from that. And then there’s the childhood conditioning…
I was raised in a household with traditional gender roles as parents. Dad went out to work and mum stayed home to look after my sister and I. She worked part-time teaching jobs to pay for the family extras, so it was only natural for me to want to be that mum too – school pick-ups, reading group helper, kitchen class volunteer, parent helper on excursions and part-time worker. I happily gave up my six-figure corporate salary in my 20s to get married and start a family. That was what I thought I needed to do because my mum had done the same for my sister and I.
Meanwhile, the husband pursued his dream career and I found myself with 3 kids under 5, having to pretty much function as a single parent a lot of the time.
What was the impetus for you to make a change?
My 20-year marriage started to fall apart, followed by my oldest and dearest friend losing her three children and father in the Malaysian Airlines plane crash over the Ukraine. Devastatingly unimaginable. Grief is so powerful that as her close friend, it was enough to send me into a downward spiral of my own grief, despair and utter loneliness. There were many moments I felt like I was in a deep, dark, solitary black hole with no way out, often sobbing uncontrollably in private and in public and feeling hideously guilty for failing at not being able to hold a marriage together. I fell apart. I felt broken, lost, frantic, overwhelmed, terrified and a mere shell of myself at 49kg. Around the same time, I was being told I had to get a job to help the family and that I needed to see a “professional” because I was apparently depressed, too thin and in need of “happy pills”. And all the while trying desperately to keep my shit together, so I could still be present to care for my three little people who were also experiencing their own individual trauma and grief.
Can you share details of your spiritual journey and where this led you?
Seeking any opportunity to steer away from all the ugliness, I sought to rediscover beauty and started to explore my creative, spiritual side. I had practised yoga for 15 years and was always interested in exploring alternative, holistic therapies, so I poured energy into all of the body, mind and spiritual offerings available. I began making choices that aligned with my core values, focussed my time doing things that made me feel good and sought relationships that would inspire me to grow. I learned how to meditate, and surf, started journaling, studied yoga and became a certified Yoga teacher, adopted a plant-based Vegan diet, read more, sketched and started taking more road trips. I’d always loved photography so I bought myself a new camera, kept taking photos and managed to build a client base to enable me to shoot professionally – all the things that nourished my body and soul and brought me joy. I started photographing my kids’ artwork which had been stored away in boxes for years. 1200 pieces in all. I later came to realise that the process itself in some way helped turn my own experience of grief and fear into something that suddenly had meaning and healing. The idea of bringing something created by my kids and transforming it into a single beautiful memoir for my home, felt like the ideal way to help diffuse the frightening and unknown future that lay ahead.
Now, it seems is a good time to talk about LiTTLE HANGS! Tell us about its inception...
Trauma triggered something inside me, a path that helped me understand the power of being honest and feeling completely vulnerable. For me, that meant pouring my energy into something that felt real to me. When I lost my corporate contract 15 months ago, it seemed very much like I’d been presented with an opportunity. I’d always wanted to do something with my growing piles of kids artwork but never knew exactly what that was. 10 years + 3 kids worth of artworks under beds, in storage boxes, folders, on fridges, I gathered it all up and began getting it all ready to photograph it. It was here that I found myself feeling energised, peaceful, happy and loving every minute. I started arranging the digitised images, colour blocking certain pieces or combining 10-20 of them together to form montages. In other pieces that were less visually appealing and often not my favourites, I would find tiny sections of texture or colour then reimagine that into a larger single abstract piece. In the process, I discovered I was creating beautiful pieces of art for my own walls, all created by my own kids! Each time I looked at them I realised I was creating a road map of my kids’ pasts, a reminder of their development and the things that have impressed upon them. And in a world of increasing dependency on screens and technology and the ease with which we can disconnect from others, these pieces became our family anchor points for reconnection. I came to realise, that if others share these challenges of limited time, resources and growing piles of kids artwork, maybe they too could benefit from a service like this. And so LiTTLE HANGS was born.
LiTTLE HANGS today is such a brilliant concept. Can you tell us how it works?
Thank you! So often I heard friends complaining about all the artwork that comes home from school and never knowing what to do with it, except collect it over the years. Too precious to throw away (or feeling guilty for throwing it away) and too time poor to do anything with it.
Little Hangs offers the perfect creative and stylish solution, an artwork service that transforms your children’s artwork into beautiful, bespoke pieces for your walls. It offers parents, grandparents, carers and extended families the chance to convert years of collected pieces of artwork into pieces of art that will be cherished forever.
How it works:
- LiTTLE HANGS collects all of your original artworks
- Each piece is photographed using professional photographers to produce high-quality images
- The artwork is then cropped, cleaned, colour graded, resized and curated into a printed, framed piece of art which is offered in a range of sizes and framing options
- The final piece of art is delivered within 2-3 weeks, transforming your memories into a beautifully bespoke piece of art.
- 100% Australian made and shipped worldwide.
LiTTLE WORLDS, by LiTTLE HANGS, is our newest baby. A boutique collection of 28 curated artworks, created by kids and reimagined by LiTTLE HANGS. Perfect for residential, commercial and all types of interior spaces, particularly the ones that need a little more love and colour.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in setting up your own business?
Feeling joy after incredible loss can be a weird thing to navigate. I think often when something so big happens in your life you get stuck in the circle and emotions of that story, so evolving to a place where your tragedy story no longer identifies you and allowing space for the light to filter in is really what has allowed me to step into my bigger power. I would never have ventured out on my own had it not been for the lessons learned in my losses. There is always the fear and self-doubt. You question yourself constantly and the list of mental challenges is endless. Leaving the safety net of a regular paying job as a single Mum is another big one, coupled with the ongoing physical exhaustion of the day-to-day that goes with 3 busy kids.
LiTTLE HANGS is just 8 months in the making (from concept to execution) and I do find it difficult to switch off. Having to take in a so much new information, learning on the fly and wearing so many hats can at times become so overwhelming you lose count of your to-do lists. But would I do it all again? Absolutely!
What about the greatest highlights?
LiTTLEHANGS was 10 years in the making and not only helped me to find meaning in the loss in my life but has also been the biggest source of healing. In hindsight, it became the vessel for me to help reconnect with my past and in some way align with a hope and promise for the future. The trauma helped me unlock my creative spirit and energy and brought me to the happiest place I’ve ever been, allowing me the space to pour all my love, passions and skills into one project. Not only that, I get to meet incredible mums with incredible kids, each with their own amazing little stories. The best part, seeing the little faces when they witness their artworks framed and hung in their home for the whole family to admire and enjoy! And the post-school run morning swims at Bondi are definitely an added bonus working from home!
Tell us about some of the pieces you’ve captured...
There are so many! To me, my children’s artworks are more than just scribbles, pencil marks or splodges on paper. I see the effort, the pride and the energy that goes into them, because each piece is really a story, the story of its maker. When and how did they learn to paint? To draw? How did they feel when they were making it and what were they trying to communicate? When I started photographing their artworks, little did I know there were over 1200 pieces, from as early as when the kids were 2 years old (my eldest is now 14) painting nude in the backyard or on butcher paper on the kitchen table. It soon became clear that each piece was a little story, as precious as the little person who had created it. One, in particular, stands out, a painting by my middle son, Jesse, when he was about 6 years old, right after our house was broken into. The painting is called “robber” – a stick figure of a man with a black balaclava on his head, mean little eyes and big hands. We never saw the people responsible, but the trauma of coming home seeing your house turned upside down, kids money boxes cut open with knives left on loungeroom chairs then police coming for fingerprints, was enough to trigger some sort of trauma in Jesse’s little body. Through the painting, I imagine he was able to express himself and in some way try to process what had happened.
What does your life/do your days look like today?
I work better with routine and schedules, so I try to design my days around that, although every day with 3 growing kids (who love their sport) is different. Besides the consistent mum duties (breakfasts, school lunches, drop-offs, taxi service, repeat), most weekdays begin at 5.15am, delivering boys to the train station in the dark, then back home again on repeat for #3. I make time in between each school run for my own yoga practice or morning meditation. By 8.30am I’m ready to either a) collapse b) get swept out to sea or c) hit the beach for a run and swim before heading home to start “proper” work for the day. If there’s time, I’ll head to my local café for a strong coffee and hope to hell the cleaning fairy has paid me a surprise visit before I get home. Afternoon pick-ups, dinner together around the table a priority, collapse into bed around 10.30pm with a good book if my eyes will last. On the days the kids are with their Dad, I’ll head to the yoga studio or Bondi Icebergs for some laps and a sauna. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for and despite the ridiculously crazy busy life I lead, I’m in the happiest space I’ve ever been. And I’m even starting to embrace the 5am wake ups!
What’s next for yourself and LiTTLE HANGS?
It’s taken me 45 years to get to where I am now and I’m loving it. I’m already at my personal next. It’s not always easy, but surrounding yourself with people who love and support you unconditionally, eating clean, daily exercise and taking time out for me is what keeps me going.
Excited to announce LiTTLE WORLDS, a boutique collection of 28 curated artworks, created by kids and reimagined by Little Hangs.
The range spans ink drawings, abstract paintings and illustrations alongside reimagined tryptics with watercolours on rice paper.
Featuring works by local Sydney little artists, the framed pieces are affordably priced, making this an attractive, entry-level to hang art on your walls. It also offers commercial properties, stylists and designers the opportunity to transform their spaces with bespoke artworks. And the most amazing feature about this collection is that every single piece was created by kids aged between 2-12 and re-imagined by LiTTLE HANGS!
I’d like to see LiTTLE WORLDS pieces on the walls of children’s medical waiting rooms, dentists or psychologists, places that can sometimes be scary for little people.
There’s just never enough hours in the day to get it all done!