the holiday studio

I’ve been getting my crafty on with the advent of December. It’s been fun to ‘bake’ my UTEE people to embellish holiday cards with.

UTEE figurines for Christmas by Maike's Marvels

You can still order cards by messaging me

The card creating was interrupted by a custom holiday order of a collage I did earlier this month. Even though I used the same materials and concept, I found that each painting had its own idea of how to ‘lay’. Who knew paper had its own personality?

Monarch Butterfly collage by Maike's Marvels

A variation on my Migrating Monarchs Collage

I look forward to lighting the first Advent candle this coming weekend. I’m also thinking about entering Princess Lasertron’s Radvent. How do you celebrate Advent?

The Fine Arts Building

What I love about Chicago is that you can discover new things even a decade after living here. After my WIN-ning morning I decided to view an exhibit I had heard about. I strolled down Michigan Avenue but eventually realized it is a long walk from North to South, so I took the Red Line to the Jackson stop to visit the Fine Arts Building.

Second Floor Gallery at Chicago's Fine Arts Building

What a Gem of history this is. Chicago has so many beautiful historic buildings. Some are in better states of repair than others. I really enjoyed the journey back in time. This Chicago Landmark was designed by Solon S. Beman in 1885 and originally housed Studebaker carriages. It was converted into studios and theaters to become the Fine Arts Building in 1898. The mosaics, marble stairs, ornate sconces, wooden doors and stained glass windows all date from that renovation.

Chicago's Fine Arts Building

The original elevator was a bit scary though, which is why it is handled by a real operator and only one of the four banks is working.

Elevators at Chicago's Fine Arts Building

After I took an accidental tour back down the stairs I located the second floor with the exhibit in question. How beautiful and inspirational are these pieces?

Art by Karen Tichy

 Karen Tichy, Not My Usual Style, mixed media in encaustic medium

paintings by Laura Cerf-Dahl and Deepa Ajmire

Laura Cerf-Dahl, Windows to Infinity  and
Deepa Ajmire, Cherry Blossom and Crab Apple Blossom, each oil on canvas

Art by Michele Thrane and  Alenna Marie Sandy

Michele Thrane, Cool Glyphs and Hot Glyphs, encaustic and ink on paper,
with In Blue by Alenna Marie Sandy’s mixed media collage in the center

Of course I couldn’t resist the book store that offers vintage books for $2 up to some true collectors’ items.

Selected Works bookstore in Chicago

This exhibit runs through December 5. May you find a gem of sorts in your neighborhood this week.

Friday Fun: Supportive Surroundings

“Artists are very dynamic members of society” 
~ Katie Keller, Graceful Works

Last week was a lovely blend of restoration, inspiration, and encouragement.

be brilliant sign on michigan ave

After absorbing edible and visual local artistry in Geneva, Thursday evening was spent discussing the need for Creativity in the Chicago area. I attended the quarterly Create. Innovate. Repeat. Happy Hour sponsored by The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship. This happy hour provides a forum for local creative entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses, ranging from actors to musicians to fine artists.

The brief Q&A sessions turn into brainstorming on how to monetize or expand on business ideas. Between presentations there is the opportunity to mingle and network with everyone in attendance.

I admire the bravery of the presenters. Some had just started out in their businesses and were already up front promoting them. I still need to work up a ‘spiel’ for mine a year into planning my venture! But I do plan on presenting at one of these quarterly events in 2012.

“Creativity can change the world”
~Lisa Canning, founder of The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship 

Friday morning I attended another Women’s Innovation Network Innovation Circle. I reconnected with ladies I met at the last event, and had very encouraging conversations with new supporters. After being discouraged about my networking efforts in recent weeks, being listened to, receiving tips and engaging with energetic and inspirational people boosted my confidence and has me looking forward to future events.

Angel by Chagall on a plate

Marc Chagall‘s Angel served on a platter

“I love being an entrepreneur.
You can be yourself and not be fired”

~Valerie Beck, cofounder of WIN

We discussed five ways to attract customers authentically, including:

  1. Decide who your ideal customers are and tell them
  2. Use Social Media to go where your customers are
  3. Be persistent because fortune is in the followup
  4. Get yourself into the media and then publicize your publicity
  5. Think big and then double it

Hosted by Furla Chicago on Michigan Avenue, we had the opportunity to shop for purses, shoes and jewelry after our brainstorming. The lovely purse I really liked wasn’t in my budget, but it was fun to browse and be in such supportive company. I’m saving up for membership so I can be part of WIN-member perks soon.

Afterwards I strolled Michigan Avenue, where I found various encouraging signs in windows as pictured above.  I attended the Chicago Chocolate Tour’s 6th Anniversary Holiday Party on Tuesday, where I mingled with more kindred spirits. My Thanksgiving plans changed to having dinner with friends in their lovely home instead of holing up with DVDs and pie.

Support is all around you when you know to look for it. Challenge yourself this week to interpret the signs around you as a booster to your life.

“Somebody out there needs you.
The day they find you is their lucky day.”
~Valerie Beck, cofounder of WIN 

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.

Days of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year it has really snuck up on me. It feels surreal that everyone will be gathered around Turkey and trimmings tomorrow. After the Halloween push it seems the stores are skipping straight ahead to Christmas. One distressed little girl asked her mom if they were skipping Thanksgiving this year: “Why does the [Joann’s] store not have Thanksgiving? It only has Christmas.” Her mom assured her Thanksgiving was still going to be celebrated.

Turkey display at the Field Museum

Turkey display at The Field Museum’s Nature Walk, installed in 1910

Having been on holiday all year has made me less eager to count down to each celebration. It does not really mark time off for me this year, nor will I be traveling. In spite of my intentions to write some Thanksgiving cards that has not happened either. In that regard I will be skipping to Christmas myself!

Turkey display at the Field Museum

Turkey display at The Field Museum’s Nature Walk, installed in 1910

Top ten things I am grateful for this year:

  1. Having the guts to claim this fabulous year of reflection, journeying and exploration for myself
  2. The ever-present support of family and a core group of very important friends
  3. Being offered opportunities and encouragement ‘out of the blue’ that affirm my decisions and keep me motivated
  4. Learning from some challenges that have helped me establish a more authentic self
  5. Taking a fantastic trip to Greece that inspired, educated and invigorated me
  6. Slowly building more community in person, which is stepping out of my introverted comfort zone
  7. Discovering more educational, inspirational and beautiful gems my home town has to offer
  8. The (sometimes overwhelming) abundance of resources available to help me establish my own authentic business
  9. Becoming more flexible and optimistic in my approach to life (= less of a worrying control-freak)
  10. The faith that I am where I need to be and that I will have the means to keep on moving toward success

Turkey cookie from the All Chocolate Kitchen

Chocolate Turkeys from Chef Brody’s All Chocolate Kitchen

I look forward to picking up or baking a pie, selecting a DVD marathon, and reading and reflecting in my cozy home.

May you be surrounded by love, joy, warmth and the aromas of good eating on your Thanksgiving day.

Daytrip to Geneva

“There are four basic food groups: 
Milk chocolate
Dark chocolate
White chocolate
& Chocolate truffles”
~ seen at the All Chocolate Kitchen

On Wednesday I visited Geneva, IL for the Geneva Chocolate Tour. I’ve know founder Valerie Beck since my first Chocolate and Champagne Tour in 2010. I took my mom on the French Market Chocolate Tour in July 2010.

Chocolate and Champagne Tourguides at Chicago Chocolate Tours

My first Chocolate tour

Having a Groupon to spend I opted for a day trip this time. I wish I had done so sooner!

Geneva is a lovely town with numerous boutiques, antique shops and eateries in a lovely downtown area. Many shops are housed in converted mansions. I walked the Third Street area for a bit and had lunch at a nice diner.

Geneva Illinois collage by Maike's Marvels

Then I discovered chocolate raspberry tea at The Berry House’s Coffee Drop Shop. YUM! (For my Dutch friends, there wasn’t any licorice in the store).

Coffee Drop Shop Geneva IL

After a bit more boutique browsing it was time to gather for the tour, which started at Graham’s Chocolates. Founded 24 years ago, Graham’s likes to demonstrate chocolatey freshness with an open kitchen, so we watched as cookies were being dipped in dark chocolate to become a groom’s tuxedos.

A family-business, the founder’s daughter served us chocolate with seasalt caramels and a lovely nutty praline.

Graham's chocolate samples

On our way to the next stop we learned that brownies were invented for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 by Bertha Palmer, who wanted to serve something to visitors at Palmer House. 27 million people were given a brownie at that time. We sampled A Moveable Feast’s deeply fudgey brownies, one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Favorite Things”. The store had other chocolate goodies too.

a moveable feast Geneva IL

After another history lesson we entered the All Chocolate Kitchen, Geneva’s newest chocolate addition. Chef Roby has been on the Food Network Challenge and after designing kitchens for the Hyatt Hotels he decided to build one for himself. In addition to the fascinating chocolate and sugar-blown sculptures, the store offers truffles, gelato and beverages. I couldn’t resist the truffles here.

All Chocolate Kitchen, Geneva IL

We then marched on to Preservation Bread and Wine (I like those food groups too!) where we sampled a delicious chocolate espresso tart.

Preservation Bread and Wine

Our last stop was Graham’s 318, the coffee shop founded by the chocolatier we visited at the beginning of our tour. Here we had a lovely hot cocoa made from dark chocolate shavings with a marshmallow garnish. This heat helped me stay warm during the freight train windiness as I waited for my ride home.

Graham's 318 coffeehouse

I plan to revisit Geneva for some holiday shopping. Now that I remember how restorative it is to get away from the daily task list I’ll take a day trip once a month going forward, if not an overnight trip. There are so many lovely towns and parks to visit within a two-hour radius of Chicago.

What is your favorite getaway from your daily grind?

 “Anything is good if it is made of chocolate”
~ seen at the All Chocolate Kitchen

 Praline pincushion at Designers Desk Geneva

Chocolate praline pincushion at Designers Desk

Friday Fun: by the fast lane

It seems at times life moves too fast for my blog to keep up. This week I took the Metra for a daytrip. As I waited for the return trip this freight train passed by. It gave me true perspective on the saying “hit by a freight train.” To me, just standing in its wake was enough.

freight train photograph by Maike's Marvels

The pictures turned out pretty good though, if I say so myself.

freight train photograph by Maike's Marvels

freight train photograph by Maike's Marvels

freight train photograph by Maike's Marvels

I wish you a restful weekend as we prepare for the whooshing by of the holiday season.

old goals

You are not here merely to make a living.
You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply,
with greater vision,
with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.
You are here to enrich the world, and
you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

Woodrow Wilson

I found an old goal list while shuffling some paper piles today. (I try to truly organize my files but some papers just don’t want to be sorted at times…)

old goal list

My 2007 goals were (in preparation for buying a home):

  1. Increase my monthly savings amount
  2. Pay off student loans
  3. House-hunt
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Either write a story or go on a writer’s retreat

If journaling and letter-writing counts as writing stories I achieved all my goals in 2007.

Decide what you want,
decide what you are willing to exchange for it.
Establish your priorities and go to work.

~H. L. Hunt

That same year, I set 3-year goals:

  1. Pay off additional debt to become debt free except mortgage
  2. Invest in retirement fund
  3. Find a husband to have children with
  4. Be recognized in my line of work
  5. Travel

2010 was the year I had enough savings (through some windfalls) to take a sabbatical. I was recognized in my line of work from 2008-2010 and I traveled to Europe in 2009 and 2010. Didn’t find the husband, but I spent time trying.

Before you begin a thing, remind yourself
that difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead.
If you could see them clearly, naturally you could
do a great deal to get rid of them but you can’t.
You can only see one thing clearly and that is your goal.
Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin.
~Kathleen Norris 

My 10-year goals for 2017 were:

  1. Work from home
  2. Own a dream cottage
  3. Write a book/be artistic
  4. Learn spanish
  5. Add music to my life (playing and singing)

It is nice to see that although I missed goal 3 by 2010, I have already achieved goal 1 of the 10-year plan and it involves being artistic (#3). The book is still simmering, I know I’ll write one someday and that inspiration for it is gathering in my brain now.

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except
by those who dared believe
that something inside them
was superior to circumstances.

~Bruce Barton

Currently my goal-setting is based around the business. With all the marketing tools out there it is hard to figure out the best plan, and it is easy to develop inertia and stall on the Business Plan. But this 2007 list is helping me reframe what it is I truly want to achieve outside of all the steps workshops and webinars instruct us to follow. Those action steps are necessary to move things along, but simply acting on instinct can generate momentum too.

 We find no real satisfaction or happiness in life
without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve.
Maxwell Maltz,
Communication Bulletin for Managers & Supervisors, June 2004 

The list also shows me that my priorities change over time. I was investigating lyric writing at the time. Now my focus has shifted to art-making, and I’ll leave the singing to my musician friends. It is fun to use these old notes as guide posts of where one has been.

Did you think you would be where you are now five years ago? Take a moment to reflect how far you’ve come since then, in personal growth, in your career, with family and relationships. Remember that every day adds to your lifelong journey, and what we encounter today could be a significant source of inspiration later on.

How am I going to live today
in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?
~Anthony Robbins

Even if you haven’t achieved everything you set out for, remember that your wishes are valid, and don’t lose heart in your efforts to achieve them.

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start,
anyone can start from now
and make a brand new ending. 
~Author Unknown

Leafy “Impressionism”

A few leaves have left their impressions in concrete around town.

photograph of leaf imprint on concrete by Maike's Marvels


photograph of leaf imprint on concrete by Maike's Marvels

It may be a result of a path that previously looked like this:

photograph of an autumn path by Maike's Marvels

photograph of leaf imprints on concrete by Maike's Marvels

photograph of leaf imprint on concrete by Maike's Marvels

Nature’s art is so fascinating.

photograph of fall trees by Maike's Marvels

Some trees look very fiery these days.

fall colors photograph by Maike's Marvels

And others are bare already.

bare trees and lamp post photograph by Maike's Marvels

Wishing you inspiration and joy along your path today.

PS: Impressionism is properly defined here. I suppose imPRINT is a better term, but I was impressed too. 🙂

Friday Fun: Woman Made Gallery

Last Friday* I visited Woman Made Gallery  for another FUSEDChicago member exhibit. The exhibit is called Bare Essentials: Minimalism in the 21st Century.

Woman Made gallery Chicago entrance

Per their web site “Woman Made Gallery is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization. Its vision is to ensure the equal placement of women’s art in the world. More than 6500 women have exhibited their art at WMG since 1992.” It offers Calls for Art which I will investigate further for myself.

The space was filled with modern artworks by women, along with a solo section by Ulli Rooney. Here is a peek at what 21st Century Minimalism looks like:

Steel Wool Garment by Patricia Schnall Gutierrez

Steel Wool Garment by Patricia Schnall Gutierrez

I didn’t know one could crochet fiberglass:

Blue poles … 2133475 from pi by Yvette Kaiser Smith, crocheted fiberglass, polyester resin

Blue poles … 2133475 from pi by Yvette Kaiser Smith, crocheted fiberglass, polyester resin

Repetition has a soothing effect.

Terraneous by Phuong Pham mulberry paper, soy wax, perforation

Terraneous by Phuong Pham mulberry paper, soy wax, perforation

Terraneous by Phuong Pham mulberry paper, soy wax, perforation

The acrylic textures of Jan Blythe’s Whites Group were also very cool.

detail of Jan Blythe’s Whites Group, Acrylic

Of course I was mostly drawn to the encaustic techniques. Kathleen Waterloo had a solo exhibit in an area downstairs.

Kathleen Waterloo Solo Exhibit at Women Made Gallery

 A new take on ring around the collar:

The Story of O detail by Kathleen Waterloo

The Story of O detail by Kathleen Waterloo

Neon lights on encaustic:

Mapquest 4, encaustic neon on panel by Kathleen Waterloo

Mapquest 4, encaustic neon on panel by Kathleen Waterloo

Mapquest 4, encaustic neon on panel by Kathleen Waterloo

Colors of another piece:

MCA detail, encaustic on Panel by Kathleen Waterloo

MCA detail, encaustic on panel by Kathleen Waterloo

I flunked my intent to network at the reception (more on that some other time), but absorbing the art was a good experience.

I wish you an inspirational weekend.

*PS: it seems to take me a week to post my Friday jaunts, doesn’t it? Better late than never I suppose… 🙂

midweek bliss

It’s been a fun and full week already. I visited the Chocolate Exhibit at the Field Museum and learned a lot more about Chocolate’s history. The Mayans used huge vessels to drink their bitter frothy cocoa from, ranging from 8 to 10 inches tall with a 6 to 8 inch diameter. And here I thought American mugs were getting larger! Photography wasn’t allowed inside but there were some fun props by the exit, and witty items in the museum shop. I treated myself to a frothy sweet cocoa for lunch.

chocolate exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum

Afterwards I visited the Hall of Plants, which used to take up the whole Eastern side of the second floor, but it has now made way for other exhibits. I took a tour this time, and learned about the origins of these beautiful plant models that were handcrafted in the 1920s. The Field has an amazing amount of research and history that takes a lot of time to process. Their Nature Walk is impressive too. I can’t wait to learn more about their butterfly collection, which has an online home.

plant models at Chicago's Field Museum

Yesterday was an overcast rainy day and the wind created some beautiful leaf collages. The colors definitely brightened my day.

maple leaf collages blown by the wind

My brain hasn’t been this full in a long time, and I haven’t even written about last Friday’s gallery visit yet! It’s wonderful to be in the midst of all this momentum though. May your mid-week be pleasant and filled with small joys and new discoveries.