Brilliant Blooms

I’ve returned from my cabin getaway and will tell you more about that soon.


Right now, I am basking in the springy sunshine too much to sit and write.

I love this part of the season where petals unfurl in their brightest finery.

Pink is trending.

So pretty.

My favorite scent is everywhere.

I think it is a kind of jasmine, I keep forgetting the name of these blossoms.

The lake sparkles with all the sunshine cast upon it.

Tulips make my Dutch heart proud.

Narcissi have an array of petals.

Purple petals radiate.

I hum Alice in Wonderland’s flower song in the streets.

My favorite flower has returned.

Trees are coming out of hibernation.

Cultivate’s current exhibit has stunning photos of ferns unfurling.

OK-gotta go out and sniff again!

Shop Local Fair on Saturday

The Spring Weather has inspired me to create some new blooms and repurpose some oldies as well.  Some of them have gone to consignments, but I will bringing the inventory I have on hand to the Shop Local Fair on Saturday.

Perfectly timed for Mother’s Day gift shopping and a jump-start for dads and grads, the event will be held April 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sauganash Elementary School. The school is located at 6040 N Kilpatrick in Chicago. The event will help raise money for the neighborhood’s public school.

The mission of Sauganash School is to provide a high quality educational program that meets the academic needs of students through an integrated curriculum, differentiated instruction, and the use of technology.  Sauganash School is committed to meeting the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of its students. 

I hope to see you there!

Beginnings of Spring

The weather is still in flux, but we’ve had a few spring-like days that allowed me to enjoy the sunshine.

It is fun to watch flowers pop up and see how quickly they respond to the sunshine and warmth.

I always forget what this blossomy tree is called, but love its gradation of budding blooms.

I love the scent of hyacinth.

Soon many will be emitting their fragrance in my neighbrohood.

The Narcissi survived a cold patch during which some were already coming out.

These clusters are fairly close to each other.

This sea of blue makes me happy.

Pink blossoms popped out overnight.

I also spotted an admiral pair dancing in the air, but they flew too fast to be captured on camera.

Cultivate is celebrating spring with an exhibit that documents the unfurling of ferns.

I wish you a happy Passover week and/or Easter weekend!


 

LEGOs at the MSI

Last week I finally got to see the fabulous Brick by Brick LEGO exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.

This exhibit showcases landmark buildings while also teaching about structural engineering and other scientific feats pertaining to construction and architecture. We even get an inside view of the Giza Pyramids.

Adam Reed Tucker is the architect behind all these amazing structures. Who knew one could turn LEGO-building into an artistic career?

The Golden Gate Bridge had to be completed onsite and is 60 feet long.

Each display has facts about the real building as well as the number of bricks and hours it took to construct the replicas. Who wants to go to Rome’s Colosseum now?

Children of all all ages can build their own LEGO structures, and interact with a few other exhibits.

The buildings range from historic to modern around the world, and even a structure in outer space that is actually built like LEGO components.

Adam Reed Tucker took the solar panel bricks from Harry Potter sets. He also designs the architecture kits you can buy in stores.

Of course the MSI had to be replicated.

So much detail in each structure!

Visitors are encouraged to use the force.

There is a wall where all types of LEGO bricks used for each display are highlighted.

Disney’s Cinderella Castle is so lovely.

Engineering, calculations, patience and lots of imagination!

I love all the land-and waterscapes as well.

It makes me want to visit the real-life structures too, though I may not want to ride the American Eagle Rollercoaster.

Smaller structures are highlighted throughout as well, though I am not sure who created those.

After all that, we wanted the Great Train Story to be all LEGOs too, but that would be too much to ask.

Prompted by Cinderella’s LEGO digs, I told my friend about Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and was thrilled to introduce her to it for the first time.

The Castle sparkles after its recent renovation.

There is so much to see, and each time I marvel at Colleen Moore’s dedication to this project, and her desire to help children with this ambitious hobby.

I reread the book about this project, and love how all the artisans and celebrities involved were captivated by the project as well.

We clowned around in what I call the Circus Wing.

I learned more about some of my favorite elements.

My visit is not complete without chuckling at Jollyball, my favorite pinball machine in the whole wide world (as far as I know thus far).

The museum is such a great blend of playful learning along with instruction about history, the environment, inventions, nature, scientific phenomena, and life.

Brick By Brick remains at the Chicago Museum through September 4.

Everything is AWESOME at the Museum of Science and Industry, and all the other museums Chicagoland cultivates.

What’s your favorite exhibit?

Investing in a photoshoot

Recently Annette Kerstin Patko posted another great headshot on Instagram, and it incentivized me to set up an appointment with her. Six years into this solopreneurship venture, it was time to invest in a professional headshot.

The headshot originally featured on my web site was taken before I made my jewelry, and during an impromptu workshop break.

Then I used a cropped and photoshopped post-haircut selfie for a while (shocking, I know) for the various ads and small features I appeared in.

So after my latest coloring adventure at ChromaK8, I set up an appointment with Bordeaux Studio.

Annette instructed me to bring solid color tops, and she picked out the ones that worked out best on camera and with the purple streaks.

Then makeup artist Amy Banas set to work making my face camera ready.

I hardly ever wear makeup, but I know that for the camera lights, evening out skin tone and making the eyes and lips pop is crucial, so this was a fun investment.

Soon I was ready for the test shots, where lighting and shadows were tested to both touch up my makeup some more and to ensure the camera settings were right.

I paired each top with different pendants, and had fun with the various poses Annette instructed me to do to feature the jewelry. Annette did some really cool artsy shots that I am excited to see.

To me, the a professional photoshoot is an investment to make my business more visible, and be ready for any calls about magazine an blog interviews that might come my way (since the Evanston Woman feature caught me off guard).

It also helps me to realize that I can and should be seen. I pretend that people like my jewelry and focus on that during the art fairs, but ultimately buyers also want to connect with the maker, which means that I as a person need to be visible.

Annette has done a beautiful photo series about Evanston Women, Women of Substance, that was on display last year.

She often documents city-wide events like the Evanston bi-annual wine walk and holiday lighting ceremonies. She also works on weddings and special events, so check out her page and see what you need!

I had a blast and look forward to seeing the final results and figuring out what to use my new photos for!

Selfies may be trendy and fun, but for business, a professional picture is best!

Black History Education at the Cultural Center

Last week I commuted downtown and decided to stroll over to the Chicago Cultural Center.

First, Angel and I passed the Monument with Standing Beast by Jean Dubuffet.

I walked in on a prototype of the story chair from the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, which apparently doubles as a table and turns into a throne as stories are told.

Then I decided to start my exhibit exploration upstairs, where Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College are on display.

This exhibition features all 32 doors painted by Eugene Eda for the stairwells of the original, now demolished Malcolm X College. Painted in 1971 they are considered a landmark of the Black Arts movement in Chicago.

The doors are thematically distinguished in 4 categories, based on their original stairwell locations.

  • A: Egyptian Hieroglyphs
  • B: West African and Sankofa
  • C: Black Aesthetics, Black Family
  • D: Black Power and Survival

Eugene Eda started with ancient Egypt as the foundation of his works, and then narrates the history of African culture and heritage with the other door themes. I was fascinated by all the symbolism represented in stairwell B, and want to learn more about Adinkra symbols used in West African culture.

Fortitude, unity and community are themes for stairwell C, showing scenes representing the various areas of study at Malcolm X College (currently arts, general studies, science and applied science), along with depictions of family. In Stairwell D, according to Michelle R. Perkins, the doors are to remind those passing through to “rise above anything that imprisons the body and the mind.”

Part of the interior design of the walls in this room had the inscription “lūx et vēritās”, meaning light and truth, which was very appropriate for this particular exhibit. As a European, I have a cursory acquaintance with American History, and even my world history education was quite Euro-centric, so learning more about Black History, African(-American) culture, Indigenous culture and what is essentially ‘non-white world history’ requires awareness and alertness.

I am grateful there is much activism to have these stories told and celebrated. Attending art talks and exhibits about marginalization is uncomfortable, but makes me a better human being who can hopefully respond better to the impact oppression has had on any group than be clouded by my own perceptions.

The next exhibit was 50×50 Invitational / The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities, with artists from various Chicago Wards represented to make statements on the current state of the world, ranging from a postcard exhibit in which people wrote an artist about their wishes to statements about the current political climate.

Then I wandered on to The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, where Eugene Eda was mentioned again. The history of this particular wall spoke of the difference in opinion even among a group that society at large tends to homogenize, and was educational in so many ways.

The activism on making voices heard about cultures and groups that have been oppressed, suppressed and ignored is important, and while it takes effort to gain understanding, it is vital to deal with the discomfort of historic inaccuracy and work to rectify it.

I wandered through a corridor that landed me in the ramp, where Passage by SO-IL from New York City, U.S., featuring photography by Iwan Baan from Amsterdam, The Netherlands is an ongoing exhibit.

From that window I also got a good view of the Piranesi Circus (Atelier Bow-Wow in Tokyo, Japan) in the Atrium, which intrigued me on all levels of the cultural center. Both these architectural masterpieces were part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, a global exhibition of contemporary architecture, showcasing the visionary ideas of 100 architects and designers from 30 countries.

It is certainly a playground for the imagination.

Of course the internal architecture of the Cultural Center is a feast for the eyes as well.

With its original intent as Chicago’s first central public library in 1879, the building was designed to impress with rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics.

This building is home of the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome.

Healy & Millet designed the other glass dome.

The workmanship is mesmerizing. You can learn more about the Chicago Cultural Center exhibits on this link.

I also came upon lovely quilts like this one by Laverne Brackens.

These quilts are held in library collections and loaned out for display after their cleaning before being placed in their conservatorship’s collections again.

With so much history and creativity to ponder, I left the Cultural Center to make my way home.

Chicago is such a diverse and vibrant city, and I strive to be more alert to the expression of voices that may not reflect my experience or point of view, but require me to get through some cognitive dissonance to grow as a human being and be a more compassionate citizen of the world.

Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.


This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.


I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.


Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.


On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.


On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.


I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).


I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.


For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.


The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).


The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.


I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.


I played a lot of solitaire.


I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.


Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.


I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.


It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.


Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?

Assemblage at The Collage cafe

I joined the Grown*UP Girls Club this year at The Collage Cafe and I am loving it. While I have my own studio where I can create, there is something about gathering around women, being in a different space, and having someone else prescribe a project that soothes the soul and takes me out of my head.

This month we did assemblage art. We started with a small chunky canvas to embellish with anything we wished.

The Collage Cafe owner Lindy Stockton has gathered numerous objects over the years, from buttons, ribbons, vintage clothespins, paper scraps, game pieces, puzzles to metal objects like washers and rivets, chunky safety pins, keys and a plethora of other things.

Clearly making a mess is part of the inspirational process. I found a lovely pencil that had to be mine, and gathered a variety of other embellishments that spoke to me.

I put a layer of acrylic paint on mine for starters.

Then I added scraps of decorative paper from a scrapbook paper stack.

With glue guns and drills and super-powerful glue we had a blast making our pieces.

Waiting for paint and glue to dry was the hardest part, but gave an opportunity to walk around and see what everyone else was working on.

It is such fun to see what people pick and how they use it in the end.

I snapped this picture as inspiration, and saw the piece being used by someone else.

I am really happy with how mine turned out, especially since I had no vision at all in the beginning.

Sometimes not knowing what could or should be is very freeing, and leads to results you don’t expect.

Playing with dimension is such fun.

The front addresses the writer in me.

The back clearly needed to sparkle.

You can catch a glimpse of the other pieces here.

Go check out this lovely play space and get your inner creatrix going!

Book Organizing

Last week a winter storm kept me house bound, and it gave me the opportunity to re-organize my bookshelves.

The winterscape was lovely for a bit, until white-out conditions made my windows hard to see through.

So I started pulling out the books that graced my shelves, to give them a thorough dusting and get them realigned. My collection includes books about nature, a lot of historical and map-making books, biographies of strong women, art books, books for the spirit, including goddess and bellydance books. I also have books about language and writing, along with my own words in print.

With various reference books being used often, and others shipped to me, things get crowded and mis-aligned over time.

So I systematically cleared each shelf, dusted off the books, and considered which ones to give away.

While I love my silent companions, sometimes it is time to let go of the books that no longer get used.

My childhood authors still have a hold on me, and I do re-read their lovely tales on occasion. I have a shelf-full of cookbooks I hardly use, but gave them another year to gather dust. There is also a shelf of vintage books I cannot bring myself to tear up yet.

The bottom shelves hold binders with paperwork that I needed to sort through. The binders had not been updated since 2014.

So a shredding session ensued the next day as I reorganized papers and let go of what could be thrown out.

I have about 3 bags to donate to the library, but also still need to give these two bookshelves a whirl, which is a task for another week.

Space clearing feels good, and lifts up the energy of the home.

The snow is now melting, and chirping birds indicate Spring might return.

How do you re-align your home and your belongings?