My first trunk show—and overcoming objections

I made my very first card sale Saturday! It was only one, but one is where it starts. After years of being told that I should sell my creations, a complete stranger affirmed that notion and put her money up to prove it!

It has been a rollercoaster week for me. One evening I had dinner with a friend and a newly-made friend during which we admired each other’s progress and work in the arts and crafts world. Two days later I went for a business consultation that was discouraging and felt condescending to me. It brought back all the doubts about “logic” and “practicality” I have been battling since the seed of a crafting business started germinating in my brain.

Then severe thunderstorms after a heat index of 100 degrees had me worried about the trunk show I was preparing for, and given the recent “advice” I wondered if I should even bother. So my determination and stubbornness took over and pushed me to prepare my cards in spite of the weather forecast, and commit to pricing them (although I will need to tweak that a bit more).

Saturday morning I ventured out during a dry spell with a churning stomach to truly open up shop for the first time.

This trunk show was the swan song for Simply Chicago Art, a gallery I just discovered but which is closing its doors after 2 years. The owner did promise to keep in touch with the artist community, so hopefully the trunk show concept will live on in other venues.

With the show not being in a main thoroughfare, and given the weather, this felt like a safe location to get my feet wet. The foot traffic was extremely light (and a significant number of trunk artists didn’t show up either). However, the browsers who did stop by were very supportive of my art, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much complete strangers liked my work. One group of women apologized for messing up my display, but I was so happy to see them reach out and touch each of my creations. Although they weren’t ready to buy right away, I enjoyed that my cards generated that connection.

Even though I only sold one card, being on the other side of an art fair after years of being a customer was a great learning experience. The entry fee was recouped in the intangible reward of support, encouragement, affirmation, and hope.

Things I learned during this debut:

  • Sometimes the simplest cards are most admired. People reached more for the cards I thought of as ‘easy’ than the ones I spent more time on.
  • My pendants have a future too. The very first UTEE project I made and wore was admired by many.
  • Prepare for all kinds of weather. Like a hike, one should bring sunscreen, umbrella for rain and shine, and anything else to prepare for heat, cold, sun, wind, rain etc.
  • Don’t give up. My first sale came at the very end of the show, when I had contemplated closing the trunk a few times.
  • Be engaged, positive and believe in yourself. If you don’t value your work, no one else will, and that energy carries through body language as well.

The tug-of-war between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking will always continue, but I am determined to float on the encouragement of others rather than let the few skeptics stop me.

My remaining inventory will be featured on Etsy soon!


Rediscovering linocutting

Ever since investigating my stamps’ copyrights, I’ve wanted to get back into linocutting (in 7th grade I made a playing card for art class). Enter the discovery of a local print shop. I asked Evanston Print & Paper Shop if they had linocut classes, and lo and behold, I was able to register for one 2 weeks later.

On Saturday Sarah Vogel of Slow Industries introduced six of us to the art of 2-block printing. First you pick out a line art image. Then you determine which colors you want to use. We chose blue and red with burgundy as a blended color.

Based on those colors, you color in your image. Then you trace your image to the wood block, tracing the parts of the one color on one block, and the parts of the other color (including blended overlaps) on the second block.

Then comes the hard part, thinking in negative. You want to carve out the things you DON’T want to print, and leave the image you want to print. Carving 2 5×7 blocks was hard on our hands and wrists. Fortunately Sarah saved me by cutting out some negative space on my block. This is something to be done cautiously as the linoleum can come off the wood. I was instructed to carve out to the edges on that block, instead of carving toward the image, in order to ensure the linoleum stayed on the block.

After 2-3 laborious hours, we were ready for the next step, printing.

Letterpress printing is quite the buzzword in stationary circles, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Surrounded by antique printing presses and steel type blocks, the print shop is teeming with nostalgia.

We were instructed to start with the dark color first (red in our case) and learned to place the block on the press, to ink it, and then push buttons and roll levers to print the first part of our image.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised by how their carvings turned out, and the character each image had based on the ‘trace’ markings.

We then moved on to the blue press. Mine required a bit of adjusting to ensure the image lined up with the red part.

At the end, we all admired each other’s work, and got to take a souvenir sheet from each person.

My dragonfly.

While my hand does need a bit of a break, I do plan on making some smaller scale stamps of my own in the future for home-based printing. Taking a full-fledged letterpress class may be starting an addiction I don’t quite need yet, but I am glad to know that I have a letterpress print shop in my neighborhood.

Are you planning on any workshops in the near future?

Botanical Garden Art Fair

Before the Black Cloud Gallery, I perused the lovely Botanical Garden Art Fair. This fair just returned after a 10-year hiatus, and it is a lovely one. Since it is held in the Chicago Botanical Garden, the theme is directed toward art work related to this habitat.

Painters such as Gerardo Valerio Trigueros exhibited their canvases filled with colorful flowers and plants and animals.

There were Fairies and other Garden Creatures

Some tried to peruse the fair themselves!

They would have come across these critters:

Frolicked among Girly Steel.

And lingered near these floral sculptures

Photographers such as Howard Tatar

and Igor Menaker displayed their beautiful work.

I also spotted adorable Copper Turtles.

I hope this show comes back next year.


Encaustic Inspirations

So as part of my new ‘job,’ I need to network at local art events. It recently dawned on me that going to exhibits and art fairs are me mingling in my new industry. How cool is that?

Last Friday I visited the Black Cloud Gallery, which is hosting art work by FUSEDChicago for the month of July.

Art work by VA. de Pintor, Karl Guziec, Margo Huebner, Mary Krebs-Smyth, Shelley Gilchrist

What is encaustic? I didn’t know either until about a year ago. Suze Weinberg introduced Beeswax to us fans a few years ago (she also likes using Clairvoyant Encaustics, and I started dabbling in that for a bit, and over time learned that beeswax with pigment is called encaustic. There is a whole art form surrounding encaustic painting, which dates back to Egypt in 100-300 AD. Nowadays , the setup is on hot plates on which the wax melts in tins. Once the wax is liquid, you can apply it to a variety of surfaces and paint with it. It can be manipulated with a heat gun or torch on the surface, and one can create patterns and marks while the wax is still hot.

In January 2010 I took a class with Cindy of Perfical Sense Studio where we played with some encaustic techniques.

At the Black Cloud Gallery Jenny Learner demonstrated various encaustic techniques and allowed attendees to play with the medium. She mentioned that beeswax is the most archival paint, and that it is pure beeswax without additives except the pigment.

The exhibit itself was quite inspiring with the variety of techniques used and how artists put their own idetity on the same medium. The majority of the art is paintings:

Art work by Kathleen Waterloo, Elyse Martin, Denise Funfsinn and Sarah E. Rehmer

Art work by Jane Michalski, Nikkole Hus and Julia Ris

But one can also use it on interesting shapes beyond the canvas.

Create a beautiful mobile and sculptural art:

Or make vases with encaustic and cheesecloth!

I am playing with beeswax on greeting cards, but still have a ways to go to refine it. It is a fun organic process, and to me less threatening than painting with watercolors, acrylics or oils.

I look forward to returning to Black Cloud Gallery for their next exhibit, and encourage you to explore the various galleries in your area. You never know what interesting exhibits might inspire you.


Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July!

This has always been a profound weekend for me where I declared ‘independence’ in some way shape or form. From too much loyalty to a job to bad food habits to waiting for someone to travel with to go places. Red White and Blue are my fatherland colors too so I enjoy all the patriotism on display.

Here’s how the Botanical Garden Railroad celebrates:

A decorated Independence Hall:

The parades:

The fireworks above the Statue of Liberty:

And these awesome colored onions ‘exploding’ above the White House replica:

What are you declaring independence from this Holiday?


There’s a lot going on in my brain but not much to share yet. My big task is coming up with my USP-the unique selling proposition of my business. While I know I am unique and I will have something to sell (hopefully locally by the end of July—there’s a trunk show coming up that could be my ‘feet-wetting exercise’), I’m not sure how to ‘proposition’ anything yet. 😉

I’m working through this video series, reading the Six-Week Startup (without counting the weeks) and the most intimidating one, Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. There are also E-Myth Revisited exercises to re-visit.

Meanwhile, my neighborhood is popping with color.

How nice would it be to sit here for a spell?

And the Starlight concerts have kicked off.

JT & The Clouds with help from Po’ Girl were a lovely family friendly show.

Check your local community/municipal web page. Even after a decade of living here, I am still discovering loads of fun free summer events like outdoor concerts, dance sessions and movies in the park (and I am so thrilled to have the time and energy to go to them this year!). Summer fun isn’t exclusive to kids, ya know?