Martha Wills

When Longing In Love

by Martha Merrill Wills on November 9, 2015, 2 comments

Found at

Image found at

How can I be capable of love when the longing from his leaving feels so unbearable?

How can I be sure that what I feel is real when the infinite sadness of the unknown speaks as loudly as my heart’s desire?

We argue. We have trouble understanding each other. When we’re apart it feels as if he’s gone forever. When I don’t hear from him I set off on a journey through my own mind’s insecurities and I know it’s irrational, yet I can’t seem to help myself.

When I see him I feel calm.



But my reaction to parting is more like a child’s who has lost their blanket; I fuss because I can’t see and feel it. I hope it isn’t gone forever.

Loving oneself means holding the reaction, staying calm in the face of longing.

Being whole means feeling ok in the space that separates us from the person we want to be with most. The cruel world pulls away everyone we love. How I hold myself is my only control.

Will we argue more?

No doubt.

Will I make him crazy?

I’m sure.

Will he confront me when I’m flying away on a tear from my fears that are much more loud than I care to admit?

He will.

And I will wrestle my reactions with as much strength as I have.

Because I need to find the love in his leaving, for myself.

So that when he comes back I can feel proud of me.

For being the whole person I know I am, ready to love another because I’ve done the work to love myself.


Integrity in Leadership

by Martha Merrill Wills on October 30, 2015, 2 comments

Over the past few weeks my introspection has been in overdrive. A new schedule, with new people, new personalities and new expectations turned into a whirling dervish of inner analysis. I’ve always been the first to take responsibility for my actions. Mostly because I care more about what I think of myself than I care what others think about me.

This has created a vacuum in my head, because as I traversed said new things I forgot one of the fundamental rules of human nature (people are either leaders or followers), along with one personal truth (I’m sometimes too powerful and polarizing, which means people either love me or don’t understand me at all).

Human characteristics have natural distinctions. Whether a person is a fast runner or not… an easy reader or not… your DNA defined qualities are what make you who you are (experience, too, yes).

But with natural leadership, unlike height or eye color, the actual job of leading is more like a muscle that needs to be stretched and strengthened in order to be able to grow.

As I walked into my mother’s house after a tough, tough day, I shared with her (she who loves me most) what I’d encountered and how I’d handled a situation that turned ugly, and for which I was being held to the fire.

“Remember that people are out for themselves.” She said.

Followed by, “It’s always easier to place blame on those who don’t want change.”

An old friend of mine by the name of Jocko Willink has just come out with the number one selling book on Amazon entitled, “Extreme Ownership.”

In it, Jocko documents the ways that his work as Navy Seal helped him hone his skills and create the strategies used to lead a group of people to success in war and in life.

While the book is en route to my mailbox, I ponder my own experiences in leadership; what has worked and what has not.

We all have yin/yang.

In my case, my passion for things can be and has been seen as a motivator. Sometimes, though, it acts as a shield that puts me in the category of “not so sure about her.”

I both love this and know it has its problems.

My job then, for those who find my approach to be too passionate (too whatever it is they find fault with) is to understand that while those reactions are not mine and can’t be controlled, they do need to be recognized.

Which, I do.

When you are a leader, people look to you to fix the problems for them that they can’t fix on their own. As a leader, your job is to stand by your actions, never apologizing for a job you’ve done to your best ability, rather taking ownership of the hard thing that needed to be done. Taking ownership shows people who you care. Standing up for what you believe takes guts. That in itself can be polarizing, and people can be confused by your attempts.

Luckily for most of us in positions where leadership is necessary (like in your own home with your own kids), our decisions aren’t as extreme as Jocko’s whose job in dealing with the really, really bad guys meant people would (and did) die.

Leading is easy when you have a group of people who want leadership. Those people are willing to follow you the extra mile because they can see that your intentions are good, they feel that you want the best for them and are willing to look past the mistakes of others, and their own, to suit up and try again.

Those are the people who when led create the magic in the bottle. Teams that form for a common cause, become something bigger than any one of the parts.

I’ve been lucky to have been a part of many such teams, and as the leader I recognized that it wasn’t my glory alone.

A good leader is a facilitator who doesn’t mind when shots are fired shot in their direction, because it’s the nature of the job.

But the best leaders will take the shots for the people they promised to help no matter the personal outcome.

Integrity at the helm.



Friends in Fashion

by Martha Merrill Wills on September 30, 2015, no comments

When your work involves the buying of organic and (preferably) sustainable clothing for a yoga studio, having a friend in fashion who shares the love for particularly special and difficult parts of garment design is a gift!

Sent to me by my favorite, sustainable and organic-loving-clothing-buying friend and former co-worker with whom bonding happened on the fashion front, our secret Pinterest page (the non-private Pinterest here) is how we now communicate our passion for the subject.

Post inner squealing, I figured I’d send her (and you) my initial, worded response ….

“My GOD it’s the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen!”


“Can we talk about that boning and where it falls on the under bust?”

I’ll head back over to Foat  in a minute, because I’m loving their work, too (Click here to see their story and yoga line), but for now I’m reminded of the many things that bring people together, whatever and wherever they may be.

Friends, love, and fashion is the equation for some.

Always, always the equation for me.



Hochzeiten – Brautwäsche

How to Play the Tinder Game Without Going Insane

by Martha Merrill Wills on August 19, 2015, no comments

Say what you will about Tinder, but there’s a reason a lot of us are still using the dating app, and why new people are trying it everyday. For me, two years into my Tindering tryst, I’ve had my own highs and lows, love affairs and breakups with the addictive swiping game. It’s been deleted and restarted at least three times. Like a lover itself, sometimes you want to spoon the thing. Sometimes you want it to crawl away, never to show its tindering face again.

Back on the app after a few months away I realized some of the mistakes I’d made when playing it before. Had hindsight not been available, it would have been so easy to jump back into the typical bad habits of Tinder dating aka the cycle of instant relationships.

Tinder is the breeding ground for instant relationships.

We’ve gotten so wrapped up in the game of swiping (swipe right if you like, and left if you pass) and the instant thrill that a match and subsequent texts with a stranger bring. We type, type, type for three days straight sure that this perfect person is the one! We imagine all the ways our happiness could be compounded exponentially. We think about this person’s life and romanticize how they might look waking up on a lazy Sunday morning.

Sometimes we meet these people and we find that there’s no chemistry right off. Sometime we learn that maybe they aren’t ready for any kind of relationship, but would rather be dating all of Raleigh because they’ve been married for the last twenty years. Sometimes we find out that they don’t really like kids or that they’re still married or that they work so much that between your schedules you’d never see each other. Sometimes we find out that they work weekends, so just scratch lazy, Sunday morning canoodling.

Just like that the instant relationship is over and we’re left irritated by the letdown, and peeved by the wasted time.

Social media dating, and Tinder in particular, has made it a lot easier to meet people. But between the speed, the swiping ease, the numbers of matches and the instant relationships… your mind can get taken for a ride.

Please note… I’m writing from my perspective as a woman dating men. I do think all of this applies to both genders.

1. Do NOT ‘project!’

The dating definition of projecting is when your imagination gets ahead of reality and you begin to daydream your plans, your life, dare I say “your future” with Mr. Wonderful. It’s the number one killer to all new relationships and the reason for all of those web seminars and entrepreneurial business ventures set up to help us “catch” a mate. Fairytale thinking at its finest (thanks again, Disney).


The truth is that projecting happens because we’re yearning for someone to love. And that’s a wonderful thing. But you don’t really know this person you’re messaging, and if we asked the Universe for her opinion… actually… just give her a minute and she’ll tell you herself.

We don’t have control of anything but our own choices.

Stop the projecting and getting busy with your own life helps, which is what we all should be doing anyway.

2. My purpose on this planet is not to find a man.

It’s just not. My purpose is to be the best mom I can be. My purpose is to find joy in the things that make me happy, so that when life throws its bag of rotten eggs at me (or the Universe giggles), I can be balanced, handling what comes with some sort of strength and grace.

Everyone’s purpose is different. Focusing on it makes for a happier individual more ready to share something big, when and if it comes. Finding your purpose makes you a person who understands their worth. You have so much to give someone who wants to appreciate it. In the meantime, be busy doing what you love so that your worth comes from inside you and not from the guy or girl  you have a date with next Tuesday.

2. Just because we had an awesome night, doesn’t mean I need to go all “How dare he still be on Tinder???!!!!” the next day.

Tinder is fun. Tinder is a game. If you want to play it then accept that it’s not all about you!

If the date is still tindering the morning after a most excellent meet up?

So what.

Maybe he’s talking to three other women that are really interesting, whom he might like to meet. Or maybe he has met them and they are still talking through the app. Maybe he really likes you, but after one date he isn’t projecting, rather living his own life!

This is good!

It’s exciting to meet someone new that we find attractive and want to spend our time with, but go back and look at number 1.

3. Zexy time does not equal a relationship.

There’re all kinds of rules about how we should or should not act when we meet someone new. Depending on who you go to for your dating advice, some think it’s an absolute no-no to get sexual in any way shape or form until some time has passed (three dates? five dates? marriage?).

The general question, then, is how can two people get to know each other if they jump into bed before they’ve given themselves the time? 

The answer is they can’t!

Getting to know someone happens over time.

And sex does not equal a relationship.

What sex is, though, is one of our basic human needs, which shouldn’t be looked upon as a negative if it happens without a big courtship.

Going to bed with a person you just met means nothing more than (if you were lucky) having those needs met.

If you put the cart before the horse you have to understand that the next morning the horse might find himself more concerned with his other needs like getting horse food or going to work or getting to the gym. That has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t mean last night wasn’t great. It doesn’t mean he is making assumptions about the kind of person you are. It doesn’t mean more than you met (or tried to meet) a need together.

Horses need to be friends before they can ride off into the sunset.

Of course, if you feel badly about it or find yourself more emotionally invested when you get naked with a man, stop doing it.

You are responsible for you. This is your journey.

4. Women can be crazy, but men can be stupid (mars, venus, etc., etc.).

At a yoga class I attended a while back my teacher mentioned how she’d gone to a workshop with one of the great female yoga gurus today. She told a story of how her guru was full of light and joy, but at the moment she needed to face a hard situation (aka a room full of people who wouldn’t quiet down), she flared, quickly showing the side to herself that didn’t have time for the nonsense.

“The Goddess of many faces!” was the punchline to the story. And an example of how even the most enlightened have sides that sometimes seem to oppose their usual, overall amazingness.

We’re all human, and capable of anything. I don’t know why married people sign up for dating websites or why others lie about their intentions. As I say to my kids, “It’s our job to use our powers for good over evil.” Making choices that represent our best selves is always the best way to go.

5. Keep perspective.

There are lots of fish in the sea and with an app like Tinder it seems the sea is large. There might be a swiping fishy who’d make a really great addition to your life, but it doesn’t really concern you. You have stop thinking about it and go about your own business.

Some of the bottom feeders aren’t on Tinder for the same reason as those of us who’d one day like to find a partner. And so navigating can seem a little rough at the start.

Some basic rules of thumb are…

a. If they ask for pictures of your body they might be trying to determine if you really are who you seem to be in your pictures. But keep in mind that a lot are looking for the “hook up” that’s become so rampant on Tinder it’s now a standard issue description (and the butt of many jokes) on profiles.

b. If they message you a hundred times a day it might be that they are still in instant relationship mode (it can be fun for a minute, but keep it in perspective).

c. If you don’t feel comfortable about something trust your intuition.

d. If something doesn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. As long as no harm was done, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

e. Karma is a bitch.

A lot of us want something more and that’s why we keep the social media dating doors open. The idea that there’s someone out there who thinks we’re great and makes a nice addition to an already full life is terrific. The point of having a partner is to share and love each other and this life. When there are burdens, having a partner makes them a little easier to handle. But it’s when the joys happen that we find the magic. And in this mad, crazy world we all could use a little magic.



Sometimes I take screenshot pictures of the Tinder profiles I come across. I don’t think this guy was looking for the love of his life, which is fine. Tacky maybe, but at least he’s honest.

Awesome Graphic Tees for Men

by Martha Merrill Wills on June 29, 2015, no comments

premier kiss

Premier Baiser (kiss) by Ami.

I woke up this morning motivated to write a post about men’s graphic tees after a male friend insisted that his favorites were found at Good Will!

Since I’d recently stumbled upon some really great men’s graphic tees online, I decided that I needed a post to prove that a lot of today’s offerings are better than the old and tattered tees found on the second-hand-store shelves. Though many of those have been worn and loved, they’ve often been loved by too many (and for too long) to be right for public wearing.

A few of these I might even go for the ladies… sizing down and wearing tucked into paper bag skirts and sandals. Cute!

Take a chance boys.

Your girls will thank you for making the effort, but buy your shirts big enough that they stay in your closet and don’t disappear into hers!


Primal Scream Therapy

Primal Scream Therapy by The Fourness.

Aviator Nation Gamer Tee.

Aviator Nation Gamer Tee.

Sunset Wave tee by Aviator Nation.

Sunset Wave tee by Aviator Nation.

Dibasic Turn Down for What.

DiLascia Turn Down for What Tee.

Julien David X Quicksilver at Farfetch.

Julien David X Quicksilver at Farfetch.

astronaut cat tee Design by Humans

Design by Humans Astronaut Cat.

Dsquared2 All seeing Eye tee at Farfetch.

Dsquared2 All seeing Eye tee at Farfetch.

Florence and the Machine

Florence and the Machine at Urban Outfitters.

Stamina Phys. Ed

Stamina Phys. Ed by Hugo Guiness for J. Crew.

Lurker tee by Mollusk at Steven Alan.

Lurker tee by Mollusk at Steven Alan.

Love Wins by FamousDC

Love Wins by FamousDC

Rag & Bone Sale

by Martha Merrill Wills on June 14, 2015, no comments

My buying philosophy has always been to dollar cost average. Quality over quantity makes sense, and isn’t just an excuse for expensive tastes.

Click here to go to the Rag & Bone website where they’re having a season-ending sale with some great boots (a few good bags and a bunch of awesome boyfriend jeans, too) all marked down.

I lived in and loved my Rag & Bone Newbury boots this past winter. And expect to wear them for the next few, too.

Add the code Hurrah25 for an extra 25% and it’s like Christmas in June.


Tan Newbury

Tan Newbury. Size up. The site says they are $365, but they’re actually marked at $265… add the 25% off and they’re under $200. Totally insane for Rag & Bone.

COS Dresses as Year Round Wardrobe Basics

by Martha Merrill Wills on May 28, 2015, no comments

COS Bow Dress. Super cute later with a jacket and tights.

COS Bow Dress. Super cute now or later with a jacket and tights.

Known for their really simple but interesting shapes that border the avant garde, COS (sister to H&M) is a good place to shop for those of us wanting something more than your basic, loose tank dress. Having bought from them in the past I can attest to the quality (better than H&M) and functionality.

The cotton is crisp, and the design is on point.

With comfort and ease as necessities, and my newfound appreciation for less is more, adding a dress or two from the COS SS15 collection makes sense. It’s tough to want to get dressed (or shop) when the weather heats up. Buying easy pieces that cross seasons is a plus, and keeps me on target when it comes to conscientious wardrobe building.

Layer later. Throw a turtleneck and tights (or denim) underneath when it’s cool. But for now get a good haircut, try an easy, thoughtfully designed dress (and sandals that suit) and smile.

It’s finally summer!

And aren’t we glad!

cos printed tunic

COS Printed Tunic. Any print with black as a base is pretty easy to keep in the wardrobe all year round.

COS cocoon dress. So easy, and easily dressed up at cooler times of the year.

COS cocoon dress. So easy, and easily dressed up at cooler times of the year.

Cos Transluscent Tunic. Great with a white tank dress for summer, but equally cool looking in winter with all black underneath.

COS Translucent Tunic. Great with a white tank dress for summer, but equally cool looking in winter with all black underneath.

COS Draped Dress. White is totally ok after labor day. And I love a good drape!

COS Draped Dress. White is totally ok after labor day. And I love a good drape!


A Mindful Closet

by Martha Merrill Wills on May 20, 2015, one comment

A couple of months ago I realized the error of my shopping ways.

In my “fashion is art” loving heart, I’d created a wardrobe of things that weren’t ever worn, hanging reminders of things I loved, some still bearing tags from years ago. Over-abundance had created chaos in dressing, serving as proof that more isn’t necessarily more.

Around the same time, I started gaining interest in eco-clothing. It was slow going, as the eco-clothing industry itself had been (hemp equated to frump for a long, long time). The recent John Oliver program about the fashion industry’s terrible record when it comes to mass production was the straw that broke the camel’s back, propelling my decision to share my eco-friendly evolution.

As the process of creating a more mindful closet began I was amazed by the things I’ “had to have” lined up next to the things that I hadn’t thought twice about. All together a sad mess of a wardrobe, never mind that in all of those clothes I never had anything to wear.

Unlike the many times before I’d embarked on a closet clean-out, this time I was much more careful about what I did with the old, and thoughtful about the new pieces if need to find to  buy and wear and the future.

And so it began.

The Madewell popover reminiscent of 1983 Esprit? Put away for my girls.

The outrageously expensive, but gorgeously embroidered calypso tunics that made me look like a balloon? Given to a smaller chested friend who wears them as they were meant to be worn.

All of the cheap t-shirts that lined my drawers, but had shrunk or fit weird? Sent off to good will, some cut and used by my kids as blankets for Barbie’s bed.

Needing some things for a three-week trip this summer, I searched high and low finding some great designers working in sustainability and vintage materials.

One company that I fell in love with was Gaia Conceptions. Based in North Carolina they work with sustainable fibers, dye their fabrics with natural plant dyes, and hand make each piece to order. Because of this, the cost for a piece is a bit higher (they’re sale page is good to check once a week), but the benefit of creating a garment specifically for you is that you know it will fit (and isn’t that more than worth it?). There are a zillion styles and variations of fabrics (hemp vs. organic stretch vs. N.C cottons, etc.). Their Love Me 2 Times line is ingenious and a best seller with its tube like tops attaching to various bottoms, which work as great layering pieces.

gaia flip

Gaia Conception Flip Wrap Dress. I have this dress in green, but chose the below the knee-length as it’s more flattering for me. Keep in mind, my measurements put me in XL, but I found that the fabrics stretch and give, so I’ve bought L and am contemplating M for their double V dress.

Hammer Time Blockprint Pants. Gaia Conceptions works with the Rao family in India. Textiles are printed one at a time on wood blocks.

Hammer Time Blockprint Pants. Gaia Conceptions works with the Rao family in India. Textiles are printed one at a time on wood blocks.

Knowing what shapes work best on me, and in my effort to look less like a balloon on a string, wrap-dresses that flatter and tees with elbow length sleeves and deep cowl necklines ensure that I feel good in what I wear and how these things were made. Never again will I own a thousand tee-shirts that fit me weird after being washed, or dresses that would be perfect if only the sleeve had been longer. Being able to choose your design has its benefits.

Etsy has become a place that has helped me streamline my wardrobe, keeping it simple, but also letting me support small-business and remain creative in dressing. A wonderful designer named kari at Clementiny Clothing uses vintage fabrics for her made to order pieces. She’s super easy to work with, and I’m thrilled with what she’s made for me (a three-quarter-sleeve length tunic with neck tie in a cream vintage fabric and the most adorable flowered off-the-shoulder frock to be worn over a bathing suit or with jeans). Her jumpsuit is next on my list. I’m hoping to talk to her soon about starting on it.

My latest obsession. I've been wanting a jumpsuit but everyone I've tried leaves something to be desired. With Kari using my measurements I think this will be perfect.

My latest obsession from Clementiny Clothing. I’ve been wanting a jumpsuit but each I’ve tried leaves something to be desired. With Kari using my measurements I think this will be perfect.

None of this is to say that I’m completely finished with larger brands and pieces that fit into my life. There is a place for those companies, though I wish they were more conscientious about their best practices. In my effort to be more mindful I will try to stay within the borders I’ve created for myself (mostly black, blue, gray, denim all day, with a vintage pattern on occasion). And for my kids, sticking to companies like Hanna Anderson that use 100% organic fabrics and European certification standards which are much more strict than we have in the states. They have a recycling programs for customer’s older styles, too.

Hanna Anderson Organic Pajamas. really the best pajamas made.

Hanna Anderson Organic Pajamas are really the best pajamas made.

Will my kids still wear leggings from Target and bathing suits from Boden? Will I still buy flannels from Madewell and jeans from Hudson?

Yes. I’m sure we will (BTW Madewell, a division of J. Crew has a denim recycling program which is a good start for such a large company).

By finding balance and being mindful about what I buy I’m hoping that it will not only make it easier for me to get dressed in the morning, but also give me the peace of mind that my choices are made with my very best intentions.

It might be a tiny, little effort. But, it’s time to get the party started.


p.s. If you haven’t seen the John Oliver show on mass-produced clothing, I highly recommend it as I do with every program he airs (the antibiotics, and the “It sucks to be a working mom in America” episodes….) wow.


Pretty Rash Guards for the Skin Smart

by Martha Merrill Wills on May 18, 2015, no comments

Lime Ricki. 47.50 looks a lot like a Tory Burch that is 5x as much.

Lime Ricki. $47.50 looks a lot like a Tory Burch that is 5x as much.

Eight years ago as the calendar inched closer to summer I was recovering from melanoma that had developed while I was pregnant. From November until June as the scars began to heal I shopped for beach cover, but was left uninspired by the choices that were offered.

With my babies in tow I headed to Maine for a month by the sea, but sadly spent more time looking out of windows at beach visitors jealous that their ignorance was also their bliss.

Over time my eagerness to get out and play was met with the reality that appropriate beach coverage was neither fashionable nor practical. The little time I allowed myself outside was spent wearing uncomfortably tight rash guards made for teenage surfers, gigantic hats, and pareos to my feet.

Mummy was mummified.

Mara Hoffman. $185.00

Mara Hoffman. $185.00

Thankfully this has changed, though many women still don’t know the dangers that await them when the weather and the season grows warm. Out of the many spots that were biopsied, the biggest area of melanoma tumors was my back (many pre-cancerous tumors were found elsewhere, but caught early enough we were able to extract before they grew). 

The sun is not a friend to our largest organ, and it doesn’t matter if you were born light-skinned or dark. Even in small doses (some would argue the sun is the best way to get your Vitamin D) many dermatologists fear the damage outweighs the benefits (take a D capsule a day and move on).

But with over 74,000 new cases of melanoma expected for the year 2015 (and let’s not forget the other skin cancers that though not as quick to kill are still incredibly painful to treat… See this shocking selfie), rashguards are as imperative as hat-wearing, reapplying your sunscreen and avoiding the sun at the peak hours of the day.

Nanette Lepore Maharaja Long Sleeve. $92.00

Nanette Lepore Maharaja Long Sleeve. $92.00

Companies like Roxy and Billabong have been doing rash guards for years, but the sizing is “Juniors” and a tough fit for adult women.

J. Crew has been ahead of the game (also Athleta and Land’s End), and Cynthia Rowley might be one of the first womenswear designers to have created really cute surf suits.

But now, many more traditional womenswear designers (i.e Tory BurchNanette Lepore, and Trina Turk) have jumped into the swimwear game giving grown-up ladies a lot more options.

Commando Buddah. $120.00

Commando Buddha. $120.00

Safely Field Trip Scuba Vest.  $152.00 I find Seafolly runs a little small so consider before buying.

Seafolly Field Trip Scuba Vest. $152.00 Debated putting this one up since its sleeves are so short. Still it’s a pretty cover for a bikini.

With the newer high-waisted bikini bottoms, cropped rash guards allow fashion-forwardness to remain. New swimwear companies have popped up, and older swimwear businesses have found new popularity by adding fresh ideas to the market (two of my favorite are Basta Surf and Seafolly) pushing swimwear and rash guards into more creative and playful territories. Price points are all over the place, but there is finally something for everyone.

Tory Burch Persica Rash Guard. $250.00

Tory Burch Persica Rash Guard. $250.00

Next Solid Maibu ZIp One pIece. $88.00 Read great things about this one... also comes in long sleeve.

Next Solid Malibu ZIp One pIece. $88.00 Read great things about this one… also comes in long sleeve.

Covered, safe and finally looking good? Yes, thank you!

Ignorant, stuck inside or unable to play in the sun? Never, ever again.


p.s. While rash guards have grown in popularity, swim leggings still have a long way to go. Onezie (a great company that makes yoga pants) and Lululemon (active gear) have some options that are heading on vacation with me this year. Report to follow. X

Youth Art Month – Exposure to Art and Art Education for Kids

by Martha Merrill Wills on April 17, 2015, no comments

What feels like a lifetime ago at a point in my evolution where I was a little bit lost, I wandered upon a fine arts course at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, entitled, “Figure Drawing.”

I, having never drawn a figure in my life other than your basic stickies, found myself in a room full of artists attempting to sketch the form of a naked man perched upon a block stand.

The experience solidified in me what I hadn’t yet grasped; that art (artists and artistry) in all forms was my passion. And while I never could quite get my drawings to look balanced (or at all like a naked man on a stand), I was so moved by the experience that I signed up for a full semester of art classes, resulting in a Fine Arts degree in 1996.

As a kid, I was the kind of child who wasn’t really very good at any one thing. I struggled in school to maintain a C average, and often found myself wondering what I could ever do in my life that would allow me to be successful. In retrospect, it was the arts that sustained me when I sometimes felt I wasn’t good enough. Or smart enough. And my experience at Art School taught me a great deal more about myself, which helped me form who I am today.

When I was recently contacted by the auction house and website and asked to write about kids and art for Youth Art Month, it was something I believe strongly enough to happily pencil into my schedule. is an advocate for all forms of artwork whether it be children’s paintings or classic fine art.

It was as a mother, writer, art lover, and believer in the arts that I accepted the offer.

Exposure to art begins at a very early age, and many people know that such exposure helps to develop the right side of the brain. We’ve all heard of child therapists using art to help children express themselves when they often don’t have the cognitive word skills to do so. Kids, especially, haven’t yet developed the internal self-filter that judges their work. It’s pure, in this sense. And wonderful.

But there are other reasons that exposure to art at an early age can benefit our kids, and I believe are just as important for their future development.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Allows for Critical Thinking
Last night my daughters walked into my room as I was watching the Salma Hayek film, Frida. While not a movie made for children, knowing the importance of Frida Khalo to the art world (and to me, personally), I let them hover as the story unfolded.

Questions began to be asked.

“Why did she cut her hair off and paint herself in men’s clothes?”
“How come her eyebrows look like that?
“Why are they tearing down that man’s art work?”

The discussion of who Frida was as a person and how her art reflected her life became an outlet for my daughter’s critical thinking.

“She was sad, and in frustration or anger she chopped off her own hair. Her painting represented how she was feeling. I’m not sure why she wore men’s clothes, but maybe it was because she felt like it represented her mood? Maybe she thought it made her look stronger than she really felt?”

“Frida is almost as famous for her eyebrows as she is for her art. It’s not often that we see a woman with eyebrows that touch in the middle, is it? What do you think of that? Isn’t it cool that she was different, and that she was also so talented!”

“The work they’re tearing down is that of another artist named Diego. The people he was painting the mural for didn’t like it, so they destroyed it. Wouldn’t you be mad? Do you blame him for yelling out in anger?”

The discussion around the film and the art made them think and ask relevant questions. My opinion matters, but so does theirs. A discussion about personal expression, the appearance of someone who looked different, and the rights of expression versus payment for a job were not on my agenda as lessons for the day. The best lessons usually are not.

2. Creates an Understanding of Self

While young children who create art are innocently expressing themselves, for older children the exposure to all kinds of art helps them build opinions of self that couldn’t be formulated otherwise.

Take for example my experience as a child of a mother who valued the arts herself. As a kid I was fortunate to be taken to museums. Wandering through I would pick out pieces that I liked. And we’d talk about why or why not I felt the way I did. These experiences helped formulate my own ideas of what I found beautiful, and not. My mother was a fan of fashion, and so my days of being able to see fashion as an art became one of the reasons that my love for such design exists and has grown with me.

Being exposed to creative thinkers at the Elementary schools I attended helped me to recognize artistic endeavors in other areas not always valued as “art.”

It was in school that I began to recognize that teaching I was an art form in itself. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Clark, who had an energetic and loving way to pass information to her students became the very person I conjured when I grew up and became a teacher with a classroom of my own.

It was exposure to the arts that allowed me to formulate ideas of myself, though I didn’t recognize this at the time. I wanted to teach in a way that inspired. My passion for being passionate about all the things I do was born thanks to the adults around me who let me see the parts of themselves that I had in me, too. As an adult it is my hope to expand on this philosophy making it clear to my own kids that what they feel about a piece of work or a person’s talent says a lot about who they are, and what makes them great.

3. Knowing Your Medium Teaches A Lot About You

A part of the exploration of the artistic self is the discovery of mediums.

In art school I learned quickly that chalk and pencil were not my favorite, but a flat paint called gouache, and paint pens with different tips were wonderful (you never know until you try). Pattern making and draping on fashion figures were fun and exciting, but sewing required more skill than was inherent to me (despite many hours at the machines). As kids are exposed to different mediums they build skills, sometimes with success, other times failing miserably. Both are important parts in the discovery of art, self, and knowledge.

4. Builds an Appreciation for Embracing What’s Different

Let’s face it. In today’s world there’s not a lot of appreciation for what’s different. It’s getting better with the movement toward body positivity and the embrace of individual freedoms, but for a long time (especially when I was growing up in the 80’s; the age of Super Models and over-abundance equating to value) being different wasn’t seen as a plus.

Today, when my kids are bombarded with images in the media they are able to point out the differences and see what makes those differences so special or unique.

Banksy is a good example of an artist who creates his work for the people, with the funds from the sale not going to him directly. This is a very different way for an artist to express himself, and his belief that art is for the people. Of course there are people who don’t agree with that statement (or his talent). And that’s okay, too.

5. Builds an Understanding of History as It Pertains to Today

A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was one of the first places I discovered that art is as old as the ages. Head right, into the museum catacombs where the mummies now lie, and chipped bowls and partitions of etched stone are the living reminders of a world that no longer exists.

Did I, and do I love ancient Egyptian art? Not so much. But my appreciation of the history expanded my appreciation of all art.

In college, when I’d finished my figure drawing class and moved onto other courses such as the Fashion History, and even Perspective Drawing where lines on buildings were examined, I learned the foundation for modern day fashions, and sky scraper building. Why weren’t ankles shown pre-Victorian era? How come buildings in the sixties looked so different from those built before? Knowing our art history gives us a better understanding of why things are the way they are today.

5. Opens Eyes to Beauty, Talent, Pain, and Life

Not everything in life is always as we want it to be. Sometimes the things we see make us feel emotions that we aren’t comfortable with, but that teach us lessons we wouldn’t learn otherwise. By allowing children to form opinions about the art that they see, create, like and dislike, we are teaching them about life in itself.

Back to Frida.

As my kids watched the film, which fades between images of her work juxtaposed against the experiences in her life, they could see that the reason for the troubling painting of a bleeding Frida on the bed correlated to a visit to the hospital. Her self-portraits often painted with flowers atop her head were examples of how she presented herself, and what she found beautiful.

The discussions can go on and on when we begin to speak about such things. And for all children, exposing them to the art all around gives them a basis for which they can begin to see the beauty, talent, sometimes sadness and pain that happens in every human life.

Visit’s Fine Arts page for ongoing auctions, and participate in the discussion by sharing what you find!

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: