In an effort to recognize the amazing moms in the Boston community, we are seeking out some of these extraordinary mothers to hear more about their lives and gather their words of wisdom.

IMG_2246Today we are featuring Ariel Shoemaker. Ariel is a mom of two boys, ages 7 and 9, and a little girl who is 18 months. In addition to being a busy mom, she is an extraordinary mosaic artist whose work is featured in Boston-area homes as backsplashes, as well as in restaurants and other establishments — even some international.

Creativity is so important in a child’s life. Let’s find out how Ariel meshes her artistic passion and talent into her day-to-day parenting.

What do you enjoy most about raising kids in the Boston area?

I so enjoy the access to events, organizations, and people who can shed new light on my children’s world. We’ve been blessed with a colorful lot of places in Boston and surrounding areas that my children feel completely excited and curious about visiting. Some of the places include the ed school campus at Harvard (I’m an alum from the class of ’04), the Museum of Science, the MFA, the North End (including the Rose Kennedy Greenway and its various parks and art installations), Boston Improv in Central Square, Chinatown, and the Cyclorama for the many art, design, and theater offerings they provide.

What is the most challenging part of being a mom of three?

Finding the life-work balance AND raising kind and generous kids in a world outside of our little bubble that is ravaged by poverty, war, and suffering. I worry a lot about giving them the tools to cope with challenging situations while intelligently and gently exposing them to the realities of the world near and far.

Tell us about your career — and how you balance being a mom and a creative entrepreneur?

When I began constructing art from tiny pieces of broken glass and “found” objects 14 years ago as a hobby — as a way to divert my attention away from the haunting memories of 9/11 and the seriousness of the world — I never in a million years thought it would become a career. And then friends and family and a small co-op gallery in Cambridge began to notice my work — and after years of marketing my work, developing a “brand,” a “signature style,” making connections, and making work I feel really truly has my heart in it, I can say I have a career as a mosaic artist.

I work nearly full time during the week while my children are in school and daycare. And then there are many nights and weekends that I work to make deadlines, meet with prospective and current clients, and complete administrative tasks. Fortunately, my husband is an incredible dad, and his working hours as an eighth-grade math teacher give him flexibility after school to be with the kids when I need to work. We’ve developed a balanced partnership parenting our kids — and over the years we’ve managed to work out most of the kinks. Having three kids and a career is truly a balancing act. I meditate every day and do yoga often. Both keep me a saner, calmer, and more focused mommy/artist/creative entrepreneur.

How do you foster creativity in your kids? Why is it important?

IMG_2243I love this question because it forces me to examine how deliberate I am about investing the time and care it takes to allow creativity to flourish in children.

In our house, we’ve fostered creativity with tons of access to traditional and untraditional art supplies and applications. I’ve spent countless hours “doing” art projects with the kids, but also watching them create and initiate the creative process on their own. Encouraging independence in the kids has been a huge advantage for them and me, because they feel confident and interested to explore on their own — they know how to ask important questions, engage conversations with their peers and adults, and they are steadfast in their knowledge of how to appropriately set up and clean up activities (which wasn’t always the case).

Outside our house, we go to art museums, performances (especially “alternative” performance like breakdancing battles, improvisational comedy shows, and street performances). I always encourage them to be respectful of the work, but also to engage the artist by asking questions about things like their process, product, or style. This sort of informal inquiry has made my kids comfortable around all kinds of people and environments — and they’re open to learning! This is one of the BEST things we can do for our children, I believe — give them the tools to appropriately and generatively interact with others to make the world a more kind and beautiful place to live.

Where are your favorite creative places and outlets in Boston that you enjoy taking your children?

Breakdancing battles, public street performances (Harvard Square and Faneuil Hall), Haymarket — there’s so much to see there! Boston Improv Theater, art galleries (receptions and shows). I like to expose the kids to diversity in the world — even if what I bring them into isn’t considered mainstream or appropriate for children under the age of 12. My husband and I preview the experience, and we’re often the only people with children in the venue. C’est la vie.

What advice would you give other moms who want to impart a love of creativity, imagination, and art in their children?

Don’t shelter your children. Even if you are not 100% in your comfort zone, don’t let the kids know you worry about it. Either do your research prior, or fake it ’til you make it. Take them places YOU would enjoy or are curious about. Long walks through the city are a classroom in the making. Nature is an open book — learning abounds. The most unsuspecting places bear great meaning for our kids’ minds — and you are the one who can help them access these places and the people they may not otherwise. Get out there and imagine with your kids! Do with them. Make with them. Be silly and strange and remember to laugh and enjoy with them!

Jenny Berk
Jenny is a crass and pushy (read = sweet) native New Yorker who has always had a penchant for New England, after attending Brandeis for 4 years, but especially so after meeting her husband Barry, who also happened to live in Boston. After marrying, and creating 3 awesome daughters - ages, 11, 8 and 6 - she and her husband moved to Needham and love it there! Jenny is a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, Mindful Eating Instructor and Wellness blogger. She loves writing about how Mom's can navigate and prioritize their health and positive body image after having children. When she's not trying to figure out how the heck to parent a tween, She can be found blogging at the Huffington Post, (healthy living section) and on her site Heck yes! - mindfulness, kettlebells, body acceptance, yoga, traveling the word and eating decadent and unctuous (vegetarian) food. No way, man! - arthritis at 40, allergies to anything, animal cruelty, waiting in line.