Friday Fun: dried leaves

Happy Fall and happy Friday.

The weather hasn’t been as photogenic as last year, but the leaves are turning and I hope to take a hike in a nearby preserve this weekend. I love the smell of rainsoaked earth and leaves.

I pulled out my leaf collection from years before to play with some layouts.

We’ll see if more happens to this over the weekend,

Have a lovely start to October.

BlogHer Handmade day

“Every single one of us is super-special.
You have to find your talent and share it”
~ Amy Turn-Sharp

There are so many notes from the Creative Connection Event that blogging about it could take a year. It is also easy to get lost in other people’s blogs about it. But the beauty of the online world is that we can revisit these places every once in a while and remember the inspiration, community and positive energy that was generated in St. Paul.

Day 1 of the event was BlogHer Handmade, a one-day conference focused on how to improve our online presence and create a community that will eventually generate an income. The panelists were all very inspirational in their stories, and so human in their response to us newbies. It is easy to get star-struck by artists who have such esteemed careers and thousands of followers.

The ‘celebrity list’ of panelists and keynote speakers included: Megan Jordan, Corrine Leigh, Marie LeBaron, Mena Trott, Amy Turn-Sharp, Nora Abousteit, Becky Higgins, Stacy Julian, Wendy Piersall, Gina Luker, Traci Bautista, Amanda Rettke, Crissy Heron, Becky Jorgensen, Jori des Jardins, Karen Walrond, and Kathy Cano-Murillo.

Panelists: Marie Le Baron, Mena Trott, Corrine Leigh, Megan Jordan; Becky Jorgensen, Amy Turn-Sharp, Crissy Heron; Amanda Rettke, Traci Bautista, Gina Luker, Wendy Piersall

Each of these ladies established her career path in a different way, but the common thread was that they started with passion and developed a voice around their topic/issue/craft. Some women refocused their careers entirely (lawyer to photographer and author, techie to seamstress), others fought for a niche that was newly developing (Burda online), or a blog started for personal reasons generated a much bigger community that evolved into a business model.

from I Am Her

During the keynote luncheon Nora Abousteit, Becky Higgins and Stacy Julian shared their keys to success. Stacy Julian’s top three tips included:

  1. Solve your own problems: Any big problem is a big (business) opportunity
  2. Take care of your vision, don’t compromise it (be true to yourself)
  3. Cultivate relationships with mentors, customers, friends

When crafting an online business, the first step is to ensure you find your voice on your blog. Crissy Heron cautioned us to not wait for our blog to be perfect, but to just start posting. Consistency is key when blogging-pick certain times and days and stick to them. Then you can develop topics and a blog schedule based on your interests or activities, and involve your readers in content development by asking what they are most interested in.

“If it’s not fun, re-evaluate”
~ Stacy Julian

After you have set up your blog, do not try all social media approaches at once. Just looking at the list of tools: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Picasa, Flickr, Pinterest etc. can be overwhelming. The suggestion by the panel on Content & Community Building was to set up accounts with each of them but then select 3 tools to actively use and monitor. Then be selective in where you comment regularly so you do not get too overwhelmed with feedback. Most ladies spent 2 hours a day managing their online presence and then had a cutoff point to not spend all day on the Internet.

We also did some in-person community building that morning with a speed-networking session, which felt as blurry as this picture turned out. Good thing I have business cards to remember the connections by!

As your community grows, monitor and recognize your key commenters and the readers who ‘police’ the site for you. Always always always give credit when inspired by another person’s idea. When receiving negative comments, Mena Trott’s advice was “I just think that they forgot to put a smiley 🙂 at the end of the sentence” and to be kind when responding.

“I do things correctly accidentally a lot”
~ Gina Luker

We also covered three business models to monetize a blog, which include:

  • Selling your own product or service online
  • Advertising and sponsorships
  • Having the blog generate a book deal

The approaches varied as to what the bloggers focused on, so again it is a matter of trying things and learning what works best for you. Another key factor is to ensure that when accepting sponsorships, that the products resonate with you and you and your readers will actually use them. A big theme at the event was that bloggers would not endorse or review products they did not personally have an interest in.

While the nature of these panels didn’t allow for digging deep into the topics covered, I still picked up a lot of new information and am glad I attended these sessions. My next steps will be to implement some of the tips and explore the social media outlets new to me (including BlogHer’s web site). Then I will seek out some advisors to go through my own social media approach and dig deeper into what I personally need to do.

Here’s hoping this blog will become all the better for it. 🙂

“Use your blog as a catalyst to live your best life”
~Holly Becker

Takeaways from the TCCE welcome dinner

“Stay strong, 
stay creative, 
stay connected”
~Cristina Ferrare

I am condensing all my panelist learnings for you, but for now here are some key takeaways from the scrumptuous TCCE welcome dinner.

As the first man to be featured in Where Women Create, Tim Holtz made a guest appearance which drew a cheer from the crowd.

Then Cristina Ferrare impressed us with her life story, and provided these nuggets of wisdom:

  • Confront “What if?” and ask the scary questions
  • Do not be afraid to acknowledge your gift: “find it, recognize it, nurture it, own it.”
  • Do your homework by finding out as much as you can
  • Make a business plan, if you don’t know how ask for help
  • Always be open to new opportunities and recognize when you begin to sabotage yourself
  • Network with other people who share your passions
  • Be aggressive in the pursuit of your dreams

“Be your own best friend. 
You are worth investing time and energy in.
You deserve to make your dream come true
as much as the next person.”

~ Holly Becker

Following Cristina was Holly Becker who shared how her challenges eventually led her to a loving relationship and her decorating career. She emphasized:

  • Regret is worse than fear. Take on your fear so you won’t have regrets
  • A happy ending is possible from any beginning
  • Never give up on your personal truth
  • Obstacles are a way to prove how much you want something
  • Talent, persistence, consistency and passion are important but love is essential
  • Avoid analysis paralysis
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself

 “Be the change you wish to see in the world” 
~Gandhi (per Holly Becker)

I am not regretting submitting the butterflies to Dick Blick. On Thursday my heart skipped with joy when I saw my 12×12 entry hanging among 148 beautiful pieces. The opening was a madhouse of people shopping for discounts during the Dick Blick Madness sale, but most people did glance up at the walls as well.

May your heart skip with joy this week!


The biggest mall I have ever seen

This weekend I attended the second Creative Connection Event in St. Paul. It brought flashbacks of last year and reminded me of all the changes that have occurred since then. From the terrifying roller coaster flight last year to now things have changed so much.

I do feel a lot more serene now. Even if I am not sure how the rest of my life will pan out, I am learning to spend less time worrying about it and instead focusing on enjoying each day.

Ha, I’d love to apply the second definition to myself!

However, I will feel honored at Dick Blick Evanston’s 3rd Annual 12×12 Community Art Show opening reception tomorrow. My piece was accepted and will hang until October 30. 🙂

I have a lot of thoughts to process with 70+ pages of notes to sift through, and am clearing my studio so I can finish the project we started in St. Paul.

For now let’s share the fun stuff. The day I arrived was a lovely transition from a rainy day to sunshine in St. Paul. Here is the Riverfront across from the hotel and the beautiful sky.

This flyer intrigued me but I didn’t have time to explore the distance to that museum.

I did join Twitter after much prompting during the panels. You can follow me @MaikesMarvels.

On Sunday I took the afternoon to explore the Mall of America. I’ve been intrigued by this since reading about it in 1996. It really has rollercoasters inside the mall!

Scrapfest was going on so I was surrounded by more craftiness.

A really cool contest.

Tim Holtz made an appearance here too.

The Lego store had amazing displays.

The kids downstairs almost look like Lego dolls.

HUUGE with so much detail!

And small movie reenactments.

How amazing are these ‘paintings’?

I have to admit that a whole afternoon at the mall (without shopping funds) was a bit much for me, and I was glad to head to the airport.
Here is Susan Branch’s take on The Creative Connection Event (part 1, keep reading her following posts). Stay tuned for my report of the numerous panels.

Mikonos memories

I went through some of my pictures for inspiration this week and picked a few from Greece for a new triptych that is listed on Etsy. Two of these photos are from the very picturesque Mikonos Town, and one is from Santorini.

I touched down first in Athens and spent three days there (of which I will tell sometime in the future). But my arrival in Mikonos made me feel truly welcomed in Greece. I was greeted by a travel representative who ushered me to the taxi and booked me the Delos tour I really wanted to do.  Then the cab driver took me to a lovely hotel in Mikonos Town. It felt more like a bed & breakfast and it was my favorite room of the entire 17-day island hopping trip.

After the culture shock of metropolitan Greece (my first trip where I neither spoke or read the native language) the peace and quiet of Semeli Hotel was a nice respite. I took advantage of an in-room massage to ease the lone traveler tension and was provided a complimentary laptop for my stay. I had a full tub in the bathroom and a quaint balcony at which I sat and read one afternoon. The room felt like home and the staff was very courteous. Breakfast (included) and dinner (extra) were delicious. I highly recommend this place.

While Athens was a typical (and an original) metropole, Mikonos truly caters to the cycladic-minded tourist and plays it up to the hilt. The season was just starting and people were busy white-washing the picturesque churches of Mikonos Town.

My hotel was 10 minutes from the downtown area with a lovely harbor.

I visited the small archeological museum (every Greek island seems to have one), and also perused a lovely folklore museum which felt like going through grandmothers treasures. In both cases it is worthwhile checking the hours at the door rather than what might be posted on the Internet. Flexibility is required. Even the tours to Delos were canceled the day before and after my booked trip (this excursion warrants another post).


Most of my Mikonos time was spent strolling around town and taking in the harbor activity. I have no idea what streets I wandered and actually got lost one time going back up to the hotel, but each corner has lovely flagstones, white-washed homes and a lot of the greek blue we associate these islands with.

Of course the famed windmills are a favorite photo-op. I also made a feline friend there.

Mikonos Town is a touristy place and makes a lot of its living from the cruise ships passing through, so I found the shopping and food to be pricey compared to the other islands I visited (especially converting Dollars to Euros!). There is great support of artistry there though and I wish I had had a blowout budget to support their wonderful work.

It is a prime destination for shutterbugs looking to take postcard-worthy photos, with a Petros the Pelican sighting a nice bonus (there are actually three of them I am told). I’ll share more of my Greek adventures over time, but feel free to contact me if you are contemplating a trip there.

first art submission

My local Dick Blick’s has a Call for Art to which I have submitted a piece. I’ve never answered a call for artists so I am curious how this will go. Better tried and experienced than untried and regretted…

I was inspired by a shadow box at the nature museum and picked out various photos from my visits to play with.

As I explore encaustic as a medium on a larger scale than postcards, I am learning that the layering process is slightly different too. These rubber stamps disappeared in the fusing process.

Then I fused on the butterflies. One wouldn’t lay flat so it is slightly lifting its wings off the canvas.

It isn’t quite what my inspiration looked like, but a good starting point to keep exploring from. I’ll keep you posted on whether it will be part of Blick’s wall art or not.

Meanwhile, here is a ‘spin-off’ piece that came to me as I arranged the photos-now on Etsy.


lesson of the week

“Once you realize that life can change in an instant, you can relax into a steady state of joyful expectation.”
~Kathy Freston

The past week has been spent administrating rather than creating. Tomorrow I will be back in the studio with more canvases, because the Dragonfly sold! Yippie.

I have opened a business account and sent off for sales tax registration, and am investigating “doing business as” vs. LLC filings and such fun. It feels good to be more official in my business capacity, especially with affirmations along the way. The banker was very admiring of my decision to be an entrepreneur, I received some confidence-building phone calls, and making a sale puts money in my pocket for doing what I love.

Each time I define my business on a form it affirms this artistic direction of my life, which in turn helps me think of myself as an artist/creator more.

Being an artist means believing you are an artist; making a living as an artist requires many of the skills and professional attitudes shared by successful self-employed persons engaged in other occupations.”
~ Caroll Michels in How to Survive and Prosper as and Artist

Next week I am off to a conference that promises to be inspirational. I look forward to seeing and hearing Curly Girl, Kelly Rae Roberts, and Princess Lasertron as well as reconnecting with friends I made last year, and hopefully making new ones.

Even though my business planning is taking longer than expected (I was envisioning being “more established” before TCC), each little step counts and generates a forward-momentum.

Speaking of momentum, I’ve been working on an exercise routine. Not having a daily 20-minute walk to and from the train for 9 months is beginning to show, so I pre-viewed some videos on Netflix and picked my favorite, which is supposed to show “results” in 4 weeks. My muscles are feeling it sooner! 🙂 I also picked up jump-roping since it is inexpensive, has a low learning curve and just 10 minutes can make a difference.

As with all things in life, prioritizing and consistency are key. I am learning to allow myself those 45-50 minutes for my health without feeling like it is stealing time from something ‘more productive’.

With The Creative Connection Event as a marker, I am learning the following:

  • Don’t push yourself too hard if you are not in a place where you wish to be, or if something is taking longer than expected.
  • Don’t let ‘what’s not done’ stand in the way of enjoying the current moment, and learn to let the future—both short-term and long-term—unfold as it will.
  • Life has some interesting turns in store for us, and it is more important to live each day with appreciation than to focus on that ever-present checklist.

 “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted, counts.”
~Albert Einstein as quoted in Wishing Well

Butterfly visit

If you’ve perused my creations and seen my photographs you know I have an affinity for butterflies. During my Custer Street Fair visit I was given a free pass to the Nature Museum for helping out with a survey. Coming up on its expiration day, I finally made the short trip on Monday.

I love the child-friendly visual lab with a variety of critters such as the walking stick, Ferocious Water Bug (the male carries eggs on his back) and Chinese Praying Mantis.

The center also showcases its heritage of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.

But the bulk of my time was spent looking at the butterflies, such as numerous longwings.

Isn’t it amazing how fast this Mormon flutters its wings?

From nature museum Aug’11

The Cairns Birdwing is even faster, and I could barely capture it in flight.  ’At rest’ they were lovely models.

Morphos and Rice Paper butterflies fascinate me too.

My favorite book on butterflies is The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity which some of my butterfly-keeping friends also use as a reference. I also enjoyed this fictional journey: An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly.

This bench would make a good reading nook.

Although I read they cannot hear, I still hold my breath when I see a butterfly close by. There is something magical about their lifecycle, beauty and variety. Someday I hope to have a butterfly garden. For now, I enjoy viewing these lovely creatures in local gardens, parks and the public sanctuaries created for them.

Remember that delicate creatures such as butterflies have great strength, and so do you. May you have a week filled with sweet nectar, gentle momentum and bright sunny spots.