Creating Encounters with Language

This week marks the opening of my first 2015 art exhibit. The FUSEDChicago group is represented at ARC Gallery in Chicago through the month of March.


I dropped two pieces off, but since 32 artists are participating, I may only have one on display. So today is about the making of Encounters with Language, which expresses the evolution of my own linguistic learning.

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For this Textual Encounters group exhibition, the artists of FUSEDChicago challenge themselves to create works that are inspired by the written word – poetry, narrative, song, or speech.  Some artists embed words in the surface of their paintings or monoprints, or turn pages of text into art.  For other artists, the verbal – spoken, sung or printed – serves as muse, to which they respond in the conception and creation of their pieces.  In many instances, visual interpretation brings new meaning to their source, the words that evoke the work.  


Textual Encounters is a theme dear to my heart. As a Dutch girl spending teenage years in Germany, I was surrounded by different languages and learned early on to appreciate the beauty of dialects and idioms. I have always incorporated cultural memories and linguistic quirks into my work, from the substrate to the visible and invisible paper and marks embedded in encaustic pigment.


I found old notebooks that tracked my first handwriting in the Dutch language, and then a tutoring notebook from when our family moved to Germany and I needed assistance picking up on grammar and every-day German. Even English language assignments began with commentary on the weather.


Writing and adding to my vocabulary have always been key components in my life, from sending letters to pen-pals around the world to earning a journalism degree and writing for newspapers and other publications to blogging about life. I remembered a graphic with the roots of language and looked it up online. The graphic is pretty complex so I just sketched it on my 12 x 12 encaustic board.


I played with my snippets of text and laid them out.


Then I fused the layers of wax and layers of paper onto the board.


I also added some texture by scraping words into the wax and making them stand out with an oil stick. I liked the result, but it felt a bit flat.


So I played with my wire, and formed the word “language” with 10 feet of steel.


My glasses decided to hide in the process.


It took some maneuvering to get the word to be flat enough to stick to the board.


A second session of bending and flattening was successful.




Next was deciding on the frame depth.


Framing wasn’t foolproof either, but I won.


The participating FUSEDChicago artists in Textual Encounters include: Ahavani Mullen, Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Amy Van Winkle, April Nomellini, Brad Hook, Carol Hamilton, Carol Myers, Cat Crotchett, Catherine Keebler, Cheryl Holz, Dan Addington, Donna Zarbin-Byrne, Elyse Martin, Emily Rutledge, Jennifer Schmidt, Jennifer Terpstra, Jenny Learner, Julia Ris, Karen Tichy, Kari Hall, Kathy Blankley Roman, Katsy Johnson, Laura LaRue, Linda Sorkin Eisenberg, Maike van Wijk, Mary Krebs Smyth, Michele Thrane, Pat Lagger, Rebecca Stahr, Sarah Rehmer, Shelley Gilchrist, VA de Pintor.


The group name is derived from the process of fusing – applying heat to the wax layers so that they adhere – which is a necessary and frequent step in creating an encaustic work. FUSEDChicago was founded in 2009 and currently has forty members.  More information about the artists and the group’s exhibits and activities is available at FUSEDChicago is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation.


ARC Gallery is located at 2156 N Damen Avenue in Chicago. The Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 pm, and Sundays from 12 to 4 pm. Our show opening is Friday March 6 from 6 to 9 pm. I hope to see you there!


The second piece is fun too, I’ll share its process with you soon.

A Falcon’s Visit

The Evanston Public Library is the host to a pair of Peregrine Falcons each year, which means sighting them isn’t a big surprise.


However, having one right outside your window and watching it devour a pigeon is quite the thrilling distraction from other chores.


I had to ship an order so I reluctantly went out to run my errand.


Upon my return, the falcon was still there.


I watched a squirrel get too close and be chased away.


Since 2004, the Library’s third floor window ledge has become a nesting site for falcons. Since 2005 Nona has come to lay her eggs, and as of 2006 she was accompanied by Squawker.  A falcon cam tracks the nest when eggs are laid and hatchlings come out.


Each year the hatchlings receive names voted on by the community, and after their banding ceremony by wildlife preservation experts they are free to roam Evanston and beyond.


While I was distracted that day, I am heeding this totem animal’s call to focus and strategize.


“When they show themselves to us, we are being called to focus on our desires and our goals, and do what is necessary to bring our desires into our reality.”

Artists Challenge

Last month a Facebook Artists’ Challenge made its rounds and it was an interesting way to narrow down my art into categories. I posted hearts on day one since Valentine’s Day was nigh. For that day I nominated Lisa Wilson of Being Breath, an artist and life-balancer I met during Shawna Moore’s encaustic workshop.

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With the challenge you had to post three pieces of art each day for 5 days, and nominate a new artist with each of those posts. Rory Coyne and Lauren Levato Coyne were hosting a gathering at their new Sidetracked Studio so I linked back to their pages the next day. Since Lauren and I met through butterfly obsession, posting encaustic collages of my favorite creatures made sense. Their next show “What did she say?” opens on March 7.


Day three was dedicated to Crystal Neubauer, who introduced me to wax and wire. She operates Healing House Artists Studio where I look forward to taking art workshops this summer. Since her color palette is in earth tones, I posted my musical pieces that day.


As the newly elected co-President of FUSEDChicago I had to give a shout-out to our midwest encaustic artists group, which I did on Day 4 with my jewelry for mothers, including custom birthstone pendants and bangles and newborn customized pendants.


The last day was dedicated to Brenda Schweder, who helped me wrangle bangles before regular wire-working was even on my radar. I am looking forward to using her Now That’s A Jig for more pieces.


I’m working on some branding exercises to narrow down my style and how to describe it. This challenge was a good exercise to pick out my favorites jewelry pieces.


It’s Valentine’s Day week. Hearts are everywhere, roses abound, chocolate is allowed, and romantic getaways are promoted. Love is grand for those who have found it, and I enjoy observing the couples who are truly meant for each other.


Yet many of us don’t get to plan a night out for two. We’re busy living lives on our own, surrounded by friends, enjoying the freedom of a solitary life.


“Be the person you want to be with” is a popular mantra these days, yet around these kinds of holidays, being a couple seems to be more important than working on being one’s own best friend.


As a single gal, it is hard to balance the holiday promotions while not perpetuating the “if you’re single something’s wrong with you” implication of this holiday.


I am perfectly uniquely me, and I am happily living my life the best way I can on my own until Mr. Wonderful finally stops to ask for directions to my vicinity. (He’s clearly gotten lost without wanting to admit it!)


Over the past 6 months, self-love has become a big word for several people in my community, and that is something I can get behind.


Who says we need our partner to draw us a bath, take us on a romantic night out, buy us flowers or chocolate? I can do all of those things on my own, any day of the year, if I choose to do so.


So, my message is to not bum yourself out on this particular day. We can and should appreciate ourselves every day of the year, and we don’t need someone else to do that for us. (Though their validation is always graciously accepted.)


Love yourself for who you are, and tell your bestie what you appreciate about them. Give love to the non-romantic companions in your life who always lend an ear and never turn down the opportunity for a hug.


There is plenty of love to go around without that special man or woman in your life. Your sparkle is noted by many and just because you don’t get a flower or candy delivery at your door on February 14 doesn’t mean your radiance hasn’t made a difference in someone else’s life.


Set a date with YOU. Indulge in something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t committed to yet. Post a query on social media to see if others want to tag along. Write yourself a gift certificate to do something for yourself and calendar it into a date when you think you can swing it.


You are NEVER alone, and you are ALWAYS surrounded by love. Be happy with who you are right now, this minute, and revel in your unique awesomeness.


Meanwhile, there’s always eye candy!


Etsy Refresh

Valentine’s Day is coming up so it is time to review my jewelry inventory. With 238 pieces of jewelry in stock that is more time consuming than anticipated.


I’m pleased to see that only one pendant has gone missing after packing and repacking items for multiple locations at least 10 times this past year.


Deleting listings that have sold at fairs was satisfying.


Now I am busy refreshing Etsy and photographing new wire-wrapped pieces that aren’t online yet. It feels like I have loaded some pendants before, but the listings tracker tells me otherwise.


So I get to roll my eyes at the camera as I do my neck shots. Cropping is a wonderful thing!


One of my favorite beaded wire-wrapped sets is uploaded now, and I am curious to see where it will travel.


As I played with my wrap dress I found a new year-round use for scarf pendants: a belt-embellishment.


Etsy has an #EtsyMatch campaign that I am trying out on Social Media.


It got their attention on Instagram already.


I still have a ways to go with photographing, editing and listing, but take a peek at my shop and see what you might like to get your Valentine.


Here’s a sampling of the newbies on Etsy. I’ll post how they look in real life soon. Gotta get back into selfie-snapping.


I’m contemplating a collar give-away for the ones I haven’t uploaded yet. What do you think?



The last week of January has arrived with a spike in energy. Mercury just went into retrograde, and it has me rearranging and prioritizing things on the home, business and financial front.

Teamwork seems to be the theme of the past few weeks. Spreading out responsibilities and engaging experts to assist me has been a revelation. My worst case scenarios are mere figments of my imagination. There are always options, everything is negotiable, and generally people want to please and be helpful.


It is quite a lesson after being stoically self-sufficient for several years. Asking for assistance doesn’t mean losing one’s independence, it merely taps into the strengths of others and allows them to shine on your behalf.

As I interact with these helpers, I am also reminded of my past accomplishments, which took so much time and effort to achieve but that I now take for granted. I checked it off and moved on, setting the bar higher for myself.


Then there are the un-checked items — particularly on the home improvement front — that I intend to revisit and at the very least get estimates for. Having contractors around the building this past summer alerted me to all the ‘someday improvements’ that have lingered for years.

We have a tendency to ‘put up’ with things when we don’t think we have the funds or the time to deal with it. For years I put up with a bathroom door that banged into my toilet and required squeezing past the door. It only took a day to have it flipped, and didn’t break the bank, but I held off on doing it for years.


The sense of spaciousness made me giddy with joy, and it became a revelation of how we overcomplicate things in our heads when we don’t have the expertise to do it ourselves. The unknown can create so much inertia.

I’m looking forward to pushing through the scary variables and let others help me improve my home and my life. The only way to honor life is to live it fully, and to fix what is worn out or not functioning. I’m excited about the coming months and what the year has to offer.


Fighting the ‘Why’

“You are here
so God can experience the world through your eyes.
See what you see, feel what you feel.
Everyday he can’t wait to see what you’ll do.
He can’t wait!
Every day he falls in love with the world all over again.
Elizabeth, you are his muse.”

~ Jeff Daniels as Arlen Faber in The Answer Man

I’m an introspective being, and sometimes overly so. In spite of a very active schedule and lots of wonderful people in my life, there are times where that one rejection, or a snarky comment by one person can send me into tailspin of existentialism. I question how that event reflects on me and my need for growth, when I feel like I am working so hard to make progress already.


With my Polyanna outlook, I have a hard time with the low feelings. I am not as willing to admit to the ‘depths of despair’ as Anne of Green Gables is. But in my effort to move past the hurt, the anger, the frustration, the sadness, I might be fighting my own natural emotions.

We have to cycle through all feelings, and I have to accept that highs are followed by lows in order for us to fully appreciate and live life. While I fully subscribe to the power of positive thinking and strive to see the good in every day, ignoring that bad things happen and that those events come with a slew of emotions isn’t healthy either. Thankfully, other people have written on the same topic, such as Megan Hunt’s poignant post.

“I’ve found it to be good for me to
give up the impulse to over-analyze or
an obsession to understand.
To say “Okay, this is how I am and these are my limitations,”
rather than let the (completely human) urge to fix myself
drive me deeper into the pit of self-doubt and worry.”
~ Megan Hunt

I am also learning that I have a lot of conditioning in my life based on other people’s opinions and perceptions and reinforcements of those assumptions. It is easy to revert back to that thinking and lower one’s expectations. It is tough to not “Upper Limit” oneself as Gay Hendricks writes. Learning to trust life and focusing on the good and the hopeful without always assuming the worst takes much practice and a great deal of positive reinforcement.


Asking why all this happens can send me into whether I ‘caused’ this even when I know that it will take perspective and time before I will fully understand the cosmic message. Resting in the unknowing is difficult. Patience and Faith and Trust are tough traits to achieve.

“When we’re doing what it is we’re meant to do,
when we allow our creative spirit a bit of freedom
to roam the mysteries of the “unknown”,
the universe opens up to us.
We don’t worry over the details.
Things seem to serendipitously fall into place.
We are in the moment. And our creative spirit soars.

Once we rest with the knowledge that we don’t have to know,
then we begin to understand that all we have to do is our best,
and the rest isn’t ours to determine.

The answers lie in the simplicity of having faith in the journey.”
~ Kelly Rae Roberts in Taking Flight

I know we have to savor every day we have, and most of the time I do. Trying to predict or control our lives is futile, but we create mechanisms for that anyway. Sometimes it is difficult to resist closing oneself off to avoid heartache and insincerity.


Still, I know that ultimately our hearts have to remain open in order to let laughter and joy saturate the world and let love unfold as it will. Life isn’t always easy, but I am very grateful to be living this one.

“Love is
that which transforms the small drop of the soul
into the ocean of all-consciousness.”

~ Wes Milliman

The Ice Queen visits

My energy is coming back and some good things have been kicked off, but I still need to ease into a normal routine.


The Ice Queen paid a visit this weekend and left some lovely art behind.


There is much beauty in this wintry scenery, though staying out very long is not an option.


I’m reminded of Alicia Forestall-Boehm’s waxed cubes with these ‘drippy’ scultures.


Makes me want to slather encaustic medium onto something.


White beaches abound.


Here’s to finding beauty in everything,


being inspired,


and celebrating health!


Pause and reset

It’s been slow-going for me since the holidays.

It feels counter-intuitive to lay/laze in bed when the media are blasting New Years’ Resolutions, everyone is sharing their organizing and goal-setting intentions, and you’re supposed to be off to a fresh start.


The thing is I don’t feel fresh yet. My immune system has gone into hibernating mode.

Having your windows frosted over by below-zero weather doesn’t help motivate, even if the sun is shining brightly.


So I am giving myself a few more days to fully recuperate.

I can start my official new year next week.


In 2014 I carefully mapped out my year on a calendar in early January and a lot of things transpired that I didn’t anticipate and couldn’t foresee.


My new exercise program started in May of last year, and I am just going to keep up with it. I won’t pressure myself with weight or measurement numbers as long as I feel toned.


The home does need some organizing, but the clutter isn’t going to disappear, so I can tackle that next week.

My aim is to be open this year. To not try to control outcomes as much, and to embrace opportunities in spite of the fears and naysayers in my head.


Part of that includes not putting so much pressure on myself. The year-end review shows that I was extremely productive, and a few more days of ‘laziness’ can only help energize me for the momentum that is to come.


This is a time to pause and re-set. The hurrying and scurrying will start up soon enough.



The ritual of a solo Christmas.           RitualBegins

Unpacking the mementos from years past.

fireplace dressing


Neighborhood stroll.




Making spirits bright.


Mysterious gifts from Santa.


Enjoying the view.


Determining the sequence of things.


Enjoying my creations that chose to remain with me this year.


Wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas Holiday
and a great start to the new year!


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