Friday Fun: Getting Unstuck

“You are a shining star to somebody right now”
~ Sarah Saka, sales associate, House of Sole

Last Friday I attended the monthly Women’s Innovation Network monthly Innovation Circle. I had attended a few Spa & Cupcakes afternoon sessions before, and found them to be welcoming—and sweet—events. While Spa & Cupcakes focuses on networking and some mini-pampering, the morning session offers a gathering in which to discuss business and life-related topics.

WIN’s mission is “to foster massive business growth for women entrepreneurs through innovation, inclusion, and inspiration” (and imagination). I have known co-founder Valerie Beck for a few years through her Chicago Chocolate Tours, and am grateful to be invited to these events by her. True to its mission and like The Creative Connection Event, this group fosters an environment of caring, sharing and support rather than the “what’s in it for my business?” attitude found at some networking events. This month’s topic was “how to get unstuck”.

Valerie’s top six unstickers include:

  1. Mix it up: do something different from the task at hand, or sleep on it.
  2. Ask: What would I do if I were not stuck?
  3. If you had $5 million that needed to be given away, what/whom would you give it to? This helps prioritize your values.
  4. Can you get help? (Learn to delegate)
  5. Can you enjoy the journey at every stage? (Could I learn something from this?)
  6. Can you have an attitude of gratitude?

“Don’t react, respond”
~WIN attendee

We discussed letting go of fears (both fear of failure and fear of success can get you stuck) by having a faith-based attitude and generating a list of worst-case PLUS best-case scenarios. One lady places her fears into Stephen King audiobooks so her business can thrive on positive emotions.

“Trust and fear cannot exist simultaneously.
You either have trust or you have fear.
Trust replaces fear.”

~ Ellen Peterson, Choosing Joy, Creating Abundance

Of course a key element is to ‘drown out’ the naysayers by surrounding yourself with positive peers and mentors such as the WIN environment provides.

The event was hosted at the House of Sole, which is a lovely store south of the loop filled with unique shoes, handbags, clothing, hats and jewelry. The store purposely focuses on unique independent artists, primarily from the Chicago area.

Owner Tiffany Bullock began House of Sole in Washington DC prior to setting up shop in Chicago in 2007. Her business teacher taught her not to leave the world with any regrets. She had the idea of her own business in 2003, and after determining whether she had a retailer’s personality through a job at Nordstrom she left a corporate position and launched her own business in 2006.

Her mission? “We want to join you on your fashion journey,” she said “to make you a better you.”

She did just that with helping me select a pair of tights from her lovely table. We picked out this pair over a more conservative style because: “You have some quirky in you.” 🙂

Valerie closed the event with the following poem:

You never know when someone
might catch a dream from you.
Or something you say may open up the windows
of a mind that seeks light;
the way you live may not matter at all,
but you never know, it might.

 And just in case it could be
that another’s life, through you,
might possibly change for the better
with a better and brighter view,
it seems it might be worth a try
at pointing the way to the right;
Of course, it may not matter at all,
but then again, it might.

Tell your shining stars today how they have influenced you, so the spark may continue to ignite other people’s dreams.

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

All Hallow’s Eve

Happy Halloween!

My neighborhood has been getting spooky, creepy and harvesty over the past few weeks. I don’t have a yard to decorate but always delight in seeing the lengths others go through for this holiday.

Step up on these ratty stairs:

Are you interested in trick or treating here?

Looks like a ‘warm’ welcome here…

Arachnophobes need not stop by.

Or you might end up like this:

You never know when you might bump into an old soul.

I dare you to cross this front yard!

This real cemetery is located in Rhodes Town, on Rhodes (Greece).

Or you can hitch a ride from this guy.

Some friendly ghosts will light your way.

My ‘creepy movie night’ will consist of the Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton.

I don’t subscribe to the scary or occult aspects of the holiday, but like to ponder the communal and harvest aspects of Samhain.

As much as I like to dress up, The last Halloween party I went to was more than a decade ago, and my last dress-up as a flapper has been a few years as well. Trick or treaters don’t come by this corner. 🙁

I hope you enjoy this time of celebrating the bountiful harvest and preparation for gatherings around the hearth.


A butterfly scientist and mesmerizing Monarchs

“Just living is not enough, said the butterfly. 
One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” 
~Hans Christian Andersen 

By now you know I am fascinated by butterflies. Their magical lifecycle and the transformation they symbolize have mesmerized people for ages. I can’t help but hold my breath when one flutters by me, even though I read somewhere they don’t hear.

Plate from ”Erucarum Ortus”  by Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717) 

At Schiphol last year I came across a wonderful book. The airport has a library that features books by Dutch writers in foreign languages. This one was “Die Blumenkönigin: Ein Maria Sibylla Merian-Roman” or “Maria Sibylla, een ongebruikelijke passie.” I read it in German even though I generally prefer the original language.  Inez van Dullemen’s account of the life of Maria Sibylla Merian is very fascinating. She was a pioneer in recording and studying the life cycle of butterflies, and devoted her life to nature research.

books about butterflies, Die Blumekoenigin, The Monarch Butterfly, Butterflies

“Before Darwin, before Humboldt, before Audubon, Maria Sibylla Merian sailed from Europe to the New World on a voyage of scientific discovery. An artists turned naturalist, Merian studied insects for most of her life. … Over the course of two years, she stalked the sweltering rainforests of Surinam, flipping over leaves and peering down the throats of flowers, looking for the caterpillars that were her passion.”
~ Kim Todd, Chrysalis 

This example of a self-made woman in the 17th century certainly puts my life in perspective. I am keen to peruse her original book if I can track it down.

Engraving of a Anna Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) portrait by her son-in-law Georg Gsell (from Chrysalis)

Engraving of a Anna Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) portrait by her son-in-law Georg Gsell (from Chrysalis)

After the butterfly sightings at the Botanical Garden I sifted through my photographs from there and earlier shots at Millennium Park. There the Monarchs would come out around 3 pm in September and were always lovely to behold.

Monarch butterflies at Millennium Park

Monarch butterfly at Chicago Botanical Garden by Maike's Marvels

Monarch butterfly at Millennium Park by Maike's Marvels

I have various project ideas for these images, but for now I have posted the following projects on Etsy:

Migrating Monarch butterflies by Maike's Marvels, encaustic on canvas

Migrating Monarchs

This 8×10 inch canvas is based on photos from the botanical garden. I pulled a wikipedia description of the monarch and layered it into encaustic along with some hand-stamped butterfly papers. Then I duplicated the two images in various sizes after hand-cutting the individual butterflies.

Migrating Monarchs by Maike's Marvels collage

I felt a bigger piece was in order and this 12×12 inch board evolved from Millennium park sightings.

Migrant Danaus by Maike's Marvels encaustic on flat panel

Migrant Danaus after a wonderful book

The background includes a map of the western hemisphere (along which Monarchs migrate), various butterfly stamps and my photos.

Migrant Danaus by Maike's Marvels photographs in encaustic collage

Someday I’ll visit the mass hibernation site of Butterfly Park. Have you seen any Monarchs in your neighborhood?

“Happiness is as a butterfly which,
when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, 

but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” 
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Come into my studio…

… and have a peek (sans spiders and flies).

“If you can identify the conditions that allow art to flourish,
you can work toward creating
equivalent conditions in your own world.”

~Ted Orland, Exhibition 36

Now that my supplies are (temporarily) organized, let me give you a studio tour.

home-based craft studio

The table-as clear as it gets:

craft table view

My encaustic setup:

encaustic heating plate

A dresser (from Overstock a few years ago) holding paints, leaves, rarely used embossing and mosaic tools, blank cards, wool and shipping materials (it has more clutter on top now, too…):

Custom cabinets:

The studio cabinets were custom made two years ago. My first true craft investment was the sewing table which would roll around my living room. Jo Packham’s books Organizing your Craft Space and Where Women Create had me dreaming of the perfect studio space.

“You don’t need an elaborate studio;
you don’t need incredible equipment,
and you don’t have to wait for that moment
where everything seems perfect,
because it will never be perfect.
You just have to jump in and make do.

You just jump in and make it, and if you work at those ideas,
no matter what materials, and what equipment you have,
you can make incredible things that people will love.”
~Roberta Williamson, Making a Living in Crafts

My first set of stackable-foldout shelves when I moved in 2007.

After the move I designated a studio that occasionally doubles as a guest room. By June 2009 I had upgraded to a shelf-in-a-box from Lowe’s:

After a lot of research (and not finding those awesome antique architect’s drawers featured in magazines) I assigned my annual bonus to a studio budget. My design:

The shop’s rendering:

The project included radiator covers for my home, too, and the company I used shall not be named because both timing and dimensions were ‘misunderstood’. In spite of the frustration, the end result is nice and functional.


Installation day:

Custom-ordering furniture has a bit of a grown-up feel to it. Picking out the hardware (an Anthropologie splurge) was fun.

“Surrounding yourself with beautiful objects and
appreciating the beauty around you makes life richer.”
~ Sandra Magsamen, Cash for your Crafts

Tips for custom furniture orders:

  • Measure multiple times: even though I measured twice and the salesperson measured thrice, the end product still needed to be adjusted
  • Make sure design changes don’t change the scale: My shelves were made taller than my original design, which ended up making the drawers slightly taller too
  • Work directly with a carpenter if possible: because a sales rep took my order the carpenter was not aware of the use of my shelving unit, and he made some drawer adjustments based on his perception (that the drawers were ‘unusable’ with my narrow specifications).
  • Account for all electrical outlets and your baseboards: I had a custom-cut hole for an electrical outlet.
  • Count on everything taking longer: my 6-week project took 9 weeks.

I hope you enjoyed seeing where I work. Where do you create? Feel free to link to your studio spaces in the comments below.

Friday Fun: Rainbows and Monarchs

The other day I want to see the fall colors of the Botanical Garden and was surprised with a lovely rainbow.

The pot of gold might be buried somewhere in the pond, but it was too chilly to check.

Although I went for the leaves, a lot of flowers were still in bloom. This Autumn Crocus has very soft petals.

Numerous Monarchs were fluttering about in the sunshine.

The trees had lovely shades too.

Have a sunny weekend.

Watching Leaves Turn collage

My biggest art work today is up on Etsy this week. It has been an interesting exploration to scale up from greeting cards to a canvas of 18×18. The 12×12 for Blick’s was my first larger scale piece.

encaustic collage-Watching Leaves Turn, wall decor by Maike's Marvels

I wanted to incorporate my leaf collection into beeswax. First I did a practice run with smaller canvases (also on Etsy).

encaustic collage, wall decor by Maike's Marvels

Then I laid out my maple leaves on the big canvas.

Maple Leaf Layout for encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels

Deciding on a background color took a few days until the golds of the trees inspired me. This is Yellow Ochre blended with Crimson acrylic paint (Reeves).

acrylic paint on canvas by Maike's Marvels

I also wanted to incorporate words and looked up the definition of autumn, along with some lovely quotes about the season. The bottom left is my own.

handwritten poems on acrylic paint by Maike's Marvels

The newsprint became nicely transparent when waxed.

newsprint in beeswax by Maike's Marvels, encaustic collage, wall decor

With the new background and the organic element of beeswax my layout adjusted quite a bit.

Watching Leaves Turn: maple leaf encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels, wall decor

Then the leaves received their waxing.

Watching Leaves Turn: maple leaf encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels

I added poems on strips of paper and voila!

encaustic collage-Watching Leaves Turn, wall decor by Maike's Marvels

What is your favorite Fall project?


Inventorying some more

“The value in keeping anything is
in keeping it current and instantly accessible. … Refresh often.”
~ Don Aslett, Weekend Makeover

Upon my return from The Creative Connection I was inspired to organize my studio right away. I failed to do that last year and my Ruth Rae felt album project is still in a box ‘to be completed’.

It’s a messy process to get organized.

The table was cleared for my homework (though I ended up doing that on the floor) and my new goodies were inventoried right away. As I entered my new Mermaid Dowry items and looked for last year’s entries I found out that I never completed my beads drawer. I had counted all my buttons (746 of them) in one half of the drawer, but found few entries for bead-related materials in my spreadsheet.

Of course I dropped a box as I pulled everything out, sigh.

Could have been a bigger box, though…


It was kind of zen to count up all these teeny items.

“If someone asks me what makes me happiest,
it is never anything I can quantify
like a house or a possession or something I can touch.
It is the spirit of the human being,
which can fill me with more joy than anything in the world.” 

~ Goldie Hawn, A Lotus Grows in the Mud

126 spreadsheet lines later I can account for 10,100 beads!  They’re all in this drawer.

Counting paper was less fun because I didn’t record prices for the packs as early as 7 years ago. Guesstimating thousands of sheets can be tedious.

This pad is even older.

Here ironing the tissue paper was a soothing activity.

“If a thing or activity does not create passion or excitement
or they have waned, then it is time to dejunk.”

~Don Aslett, Weekend Makeover

My ribbons account for more than 9,000 inches and the embellishments drawer now contains 8,000+ pieces for those keeping track of the inventorying venture. Since July I’ve been good about entering new craft supplies as soon as I receive/acquire them. It is much easier to do this with a receipt in hand than weeks or months later.

Right now I am using a regular spreadsheet for documentation (Numbers in iWork-not as good as Excel), but over time I want to try out MYOB Account Edge  or Bento which were recommended by fellow crafters on the Where Women Create Facebook Forum.

Do you inventory at all?

“All of the work we do has a place in this world.
Our challenge is to sift through the opportunities and find our niche.”
~ Judy Wise in Taking Flight


Friday Fun-gold, green and red

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
~Elizabeth Lawrence 

The leaves are beginning to drop in bunches and the colorings are gorgeous.

We’ve lucked out with some Indian Summer weather too and cloudless skies.

I snapped some pictures at my local nature preserve.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
~Albert Camus 


Glorious are the woods in their latest gold and crimson,
Yet our full-leaved willows are in their freshest green.
Such a kindly autumn, so mercifully dealing
With the growths of summer, I never yet have seen.
~William Cullen Bryant, Third of November

How are you celebrating Fall?

Quotes from wikiquote 

My favorite local theater

On Saturday I saw Piccolo Theatre’s Comedy of Errors.

I’ve seen plays by this ensemble since Lust, Lies and Marriage in early 2008 and always enjoy their comedy, especially with the previews the ensemble blogs about.

My favorite play might be Six Dead Queens and an Inflatable Henry, and my favorite adaptation was the psychedelic 70s setting of Twelfth Night. Their annual gala nights are a blast as well.

I wish I had discovered this theater sooner. It is located inside the local train station and I passed its ‘now playing’ signs for a few years before purchasing a ticket. Who knew such talent and fun was lurking right in my neighborhood?

Incidentally I attended a Cultural Connections luncheon last Tuesday where founder John Szostek gave us a little background on the history of the theater. As Director of the Custer Street Fair  he was approached 15 years ago by the Union-Pacific Line to house my favorite fair’s offices in the train station. The station was covered in graffiti and there had been a fire in the interior. The lovely paved path between the station and the CTA tracks had been a no-man’s land between the city and the railroad.

“I thought it would be a shame not to restore this building while I have custody of it,” Mr. Szostek said, and he began investigating a restoration project. With a water color rendering he approached the Illinois Department of Transportation, where his proposal was well-received, and then the work of applying for various grants began.

After waiting a long time two grants were funded and Metra became the project manager for the 5-year preservation project. Every design change had to be signed off by numerous government entities, but eventually the building was completed. Meanwhile Piccolo Theatre was founded and performed two seasons in other venues. Now in its 11th season, Piccolo has more patrons than it can seat, and the company is reviewing expansion options.

The cafe in the building (open to Metra riders) was recently renamed Piccolatte Cafe

Little did I know that Mr. Szostek is not just an avid supporter of Commedia dell’Arte but he also is a vibrant part of the Chicago-Main Street merchant district of Evanston. He has been in the Evanston area for 30 years and an advocate of supporting both business and arts in this neighborhood. It is always easy to project that developing business is easier ‘elsewhere’ for other people, so it is wonderful to discover a culture of support that I can take advantage of right here.

I can’t wait for Piccolo’s “Space Wars” production which is coming up next!

TCCE Handmade Market

“You are in the right place at the right time.”
~ Jo Packham 

During breaks from the panel discussions and workshops we were treated to a handmade market in the hotel. I was excited to see Princess Lasertron’s wares in real life after loving all her gorgeous pictures of bouquets, pins and dresses. Her associates were lovely young ladies who have bright futures ahead of them.

I met Celina Mancurti at the keynote dinner and admired her handiwork the next day. Beautiful table runners fit for a dinner party.

My encaustic radar honed in on Stephanie Rubiano’s art. She just started with encaustics four months ago and is creating beautiful waxed collages.

“There is room for all of us. No matter what you are creating,
if you bring a unique voice to it then there is room”
~ Kelly Rae Roberts (VIP Breakfast)

I picked up some goodies from Mermaid’s Dowry.

Curly Girl always inspires.

“You don’t have to start a business to be a working artist.
I happen to really like business.”
~Leigh Standley (VIP Breakfast) 

The booths were just as beautiful as the photos in Stampington’s magazines, where most of these artists are featured.

The food was presented beautifully each day as well.

I love that The Creative Connection Event is such a wonderful blend of inspiration, crafting time and business discussion. I didn’t take advantage (read: chickened out) of the Etsy roundtables or the pitch slams, but I know numerous business opportunities were generated by those for others braver than me. I enjoyed reconnecting with last year’s attendees and making new friends.

“Every time you are inspired,
you reinvent yourself”

~Susan Branch (VIP Breakfast) 

At the VIP breakfast Kelly Rae Roberts felt that our gathering was ‘sacred’ and I agree that magic happened during this weekend. We all need to find our community to refuel our imagination and dedication to our craft and life.

“There really is beauty in difference. 
The difference in you is your superpower”
~Karen Walrond (VIP Breakfast) 

I am thankful that this energy continues in cyberspace through e-mail, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

How do you cultivate your creative community?