Emily Oaks Critters

Summer is a bit late in starting, but I was able to get my critter cam out last week. (Yeah it’s the same camera for everything else, just different models in front of it during summer).


Here are some favorite snapshots from Emily Oaks Nature Preserve, a minuscule preserve in Skokie that lets me get away when I don’t have time to drive off into the sunset.


I love that the deer are so tame here. They look to see what you’re doing and then just keep on chewing 4 feet away from the path. But if you linger too long they do walk away.


Unfortunately a red dragonfly (possibly a darter) and a brown one with a yellow stripe wouldn’t sit still very long, but the 12-spotted skimmer accommodated me.


Blue Dashers were plentiful.


A Common Whitetail under another Skimmer


Getting frisky.


I don’t know what this butterfly is.



Respect the Geese and they respect you.


Hairstreaks are adorable, and I love its zebra antennae.


I met some fun critters in Lemont at Waterfall Glen as well, but that’s a story for another day.


Custer’s Last Stand take-away: mixed emotions

After all the anticipation and preparation, my feelings about the “success” of Custer’s Last Stand as a vendor are mixed. It was a great challenge for me, and also a fear-buster, but financially it did not live up to its expectations.


Friday night set-up

I quipped a few weeks ago about how reading about manning a booth sounded like going on a date, and in a way I have that jilted feeling right now (as petty as that sounds). I didn’t dazzle enough, didn’t impress enough, didn’t get people to return to buy that piece they wanted to come back for later.

Saturday morning set-up

Saturday was rainy and overcast, dwindling the crowds, though we still had some traffic. Some booths were hopping and others were not.


Our Ivy theme got many compliments.


We had a lot of traffic in the booth with Jason’s paintings sparking numerous conversations (I greatly enjoyed learning about his technique, his life and his inspiration—this man has some great stories to tell), but Saturday was extremely disappointing from a sales perspective.


This beautiful art should sell itself, don’t you think?

Friends stopping by is a wonderful bonus

We packed up our inventory to spend the night at my place after a delicious S-Paragon dinner, hopeful that our prospects would improve.


Sunday night’s Dragon Roll was adorable

The next morning we walked past a few flipped tents and toppled inventory on our way to our booth, because overnight a wind tunnel had wreaked havoc on tents that weren’t properly weighed down. We sped up our gait to see how our booth had fared overnight. Fortunately it had been shielded by a large building and kept intact by its weights, but it was a reality check to what could happen in more severe weather.


Ready for a better day

Sunday morning was very hot (almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and just a few minutes of my bag in the sun softened my encaustic collages so much that I decided to take most of them home. I left a few out in the shady part of the booth. Fortunately the sun passed high enough to give our pieces the proper shade by the time the fair opened, or my metal pieces might have been too hot to try on.


Sun-related jitters

We did have more traffic on Sunday and both of us made a few sales, though barely enough to recover the booth fee. We were hoping for more profit given the number of people that pass through this fair. This is a full-time business for both of us, not just a hobby, and return on investment is critical to making a living as an artist.


Walk on IN!

Exposure-wise, it was a wonderful event and both Jason and I had very positive responses to our art and genuine interest in what we do. It was lovely to have friends stop by, and a definite boost to have total strangers try on and purchase my earrings.


Taking a short break with our Meetup friends

It is all out of one’s hands when the booth is set up and the inventory laid out. All you can do is be there and hope for the best.


We could have had worse weather, we might have had no sales at all, and people could have absolutely blasted our display and our art. Jason, his wife Jennifer and I could have been at each other’s throats after virtually 60 hours together.


Christmas in June didn’t work out, but made for a cheerful tree

Instead, throughout the weekend I forged a lovely friendship with Jason and Jennifer, and we took away a positive overall experience, with hopes that the business cards that wandered off will generate some future sales. From an intangible perspective, I am glad I applied and got in and got to experience the fair as a vendor.


Lovely friends

It was the perfect venue to try an outdoor show, not being out hotel and travel fees on top of the entry fee since the location was practically in my ‘front yard’.  The Custer Fair staff and volunteers have run this show for 42 years, and their efforts during preparation, setup, tear-down and in-between were professional, well-coordinated, helpful and always cheerful.


General Custer should be proud of his fair

Outdoor shows are very much a lifestyle, and I know I am not ready for the gypsy life on a summer fair circuit. For now, I will focus on indoor shows for the safety of my wax, with the exception of Ravenswood where I will be in the big tent shared with other vendors. Jason will be there too, with his tent all to himself. A “What If” has been eliminated from my list, and from a startup perspective, I am moving upwards.


No complaints about our booth location

The key is to plan for organic growth, rather than anticipate exponential growth from fairs like these. Most “overnight” successes are years in the making, and so it will be with Maike’s Marvels. My business will grow one creation at a time, one exhibit at a time, and one sale at a time. Added together, it will make for a wonderful journey.

Steady growth is better than no growth

I look forward to next year’s Custer’s Last Stand, which I will enjoy as a spectator and neighbor, and I will save up some funds to help other vendors live their dream.


The virtually un-used change in my money belt, Square was used more often

Chevy Cruise Night in Lemont

Last week I timed my inventory drop off at Aurora Rose Boutique to coincide with Chevy Cruise Night.


I’m partial to Chevrolet, since an early car of mine was a Cavalier.


The cars line up from 6 pm to 9 pm along Main and Canal Streets.



I’d only caught a glimpse of downtown Lemont earlier this year, and was not prepared for the number of cars that participated.


Hosted by the Lemont Chamber of Commerce, the 14th Annual Lemont Legends Cruise Nights is recognized as one of the largest and best car shows in the area.




Each night has a theme where the featured cars can win prizes, but other brands are still welcome to join the fun.




I was advised to try some Kettle Corn, which is indeed delicious.


Then I perused the blasts from the past. If these cars could talk.




I know nothing about vintage cars so I will just leave you with the images, but lots of them had personality for sure.





The Dukes of Hazzard did make it to the Dutch TV channels and the General Lee even sounded right.


I am partial to the Thunderbird, of course.


Cruise night is held every Wednesday night in Downtown Lemont from June 5th through August 28th in 2013, so come on down and check it out.


Be sure to stop by Aurora Rose on Stephen street for a spell.


They will be open til 9 pm on Cruise Nights and have lots of gift wares to peruse.







The comings and goings of Maraviglia

I’m in the process of loading new pieces onto Etsy, a sampling of which is provided here:


New in my Etsy store, with more to come!

There are more to be loaded, and of course a lot more to be made! Etsy lovers who have favorited some pieces might notice a few mark-downs as well. I went through it pretty quickly so I can’t tell you the ones I changed, but you might want to poke around the store and check out the summer sale of $5 to $10 permanent discounts.


Aurora Rose Boutique showcases my pieces so well

Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont, IL, the wonderful store with numerous handcrafted gift items at affordable prices  also has new pieces on hand.


New inventory at Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont, IL.

Meanwhile, several Maraviglia have found a good home. Bling-a-Ring is now proudly owned by my friend and original encaustics instructress Cindy.


Bling-a-Ring has a new owner

Funky Dance Moves will enjoy the beauty of Jason McPhillips’ paintings and his lovely wife, Jennifer Jarland, since it went to live with them.


Our Custer Booth photo courtesy www.NetworkHoncho.com

My friend and health care consultant Karen will don new earrings, while strangers took home a ‘Hershey’s Kiss’, and a variety of earrings (including a pair I had just made for my dress and not yet photographed).


Custer Fair sales to strangers

Helix and Esther Receives Favor were snapped up on Etsy earlier this summer, and I love being added to treasuries and “favorited”.

Etsy sold

Some Etsy love, always appreciated

I also enjoy making custom pieces with meaningful quotes, special shapes and favorite colors for those who are interested. Shop Etsy now or message me to order your favorite piece. Additional discounts get snuck into my monthly newsletter that you can sign up for via this link.


Custer Fair Magic

I’m still getting my bearings from the Custer’s Last Stand whirlwind. It is still my very favorite Evanston Summer Fair, and here’s why:


Stilt-walkers greet you and are great at providing directions.

Clowns provide a chuckle when the rainclouds threaten.


photo courtesy Jennifer Jarland

Plate spinners juggle fire.


Musicians abound,


providing a variety of ethnic immersions,



that inspire people to dance with abandon.


My brother is honored.


History is re-enacted.



Piccolo’s Medicine Show offers comedy and laughter


from which various characters emerge.


Renaissance people wander around.


contrasting with modern amenities.


Marionettes interact with children and adults.


The Raven juggles fire while balancing on a ball,


then rolls by


and is aflutter at our booth.


How can one not be impressed?


If you missed the fair, Piccolo Theatre provides humor and costumed characters year-round with its stage productions that are worth seeing.

Wax and Wire: the beginning

This should be a ‘making of’ post but preparing for the fair has consumed me too much to get into that.

So I refer you to an oldie but goodie blog post that shows how I got started with Wax and Wire Jewelry.

This link holds the story of my first Wax and Wire workshop.

Crystal Neubauer also provided the letter trays on which my pendants preened themselves this weekend. Cindy of PerficalSense provided a few booth essentials and lots of moral support.

I’ll eventually have a post on how the wire-only pendants and collars came about.

Have a fantastic week!

Main Street Attractions at the Custer Fair

We’re setting up our booth tonight! I’m giddy with excitement and also a little trepidation, but regardless of weather, turnout, and any other scary scenarios, I know Custer’s Last Stand will be a great experience.


I’ve already told you about Custer Street Fair Entertainment, but let me introduce you to my favorite Main Street businesses. If the day becomes too hot or you just want a little shade, these are fabulous places to cool off and browse around.


We’re just a mile from Chicago!


From the CTA Purple Line stop you’ll see See Jane Sparkle, a lovely jewelry boutique and Campagnola, a delicious restaurant, albeit not in my regular budget. If you’re looking for a more elegant dining experience rather than Fair Food, Campagnola is certainly a great option.


To the left (north) upon exiting the station you’ll find Chicago Main Newsstand, where I get my quarterly Where Women Create fix and inspiration from their large craft magazine section. You can find a variety of foreign and specialty publications here.

Walking West from the newsstand onto Main Street, you’ll see Lupita’s at the corner, which has a “Like Water For Chocolate” Menu twice a year. Next to it is the fabulous Wine Goddess, where you should be able to sample some wines, beers and other goodies this weekend. Take some home too! On Saturday, Dave’s Down To Earth Rock Shop will delight kids of all ages with their prehistoric life museum and numerous gems. Don’t miss this time warp!


Vogue Fabrics further down the street is the fabric-lover’s dream. I love going in to get inspired by the bolts, and rifle through their button bins and check out the latest cord selections.


Across from Vogue you’ll find Ten Thousand Villages, which has a special sale this weekend just for Custer attendees. The handcrafted gifts in this store will make your conscience and your wallet feel good.


Virag Jewelers holds some lovely vintage items.


Crossing Chicago Avenue back over you’ll pass a Subway, and Cross-Rhodes, a Greek restaurant is within your sight to the north. Starbucks aromas will waft your way as you wander east on Main Street. Then you’ll hit my favorite ‘restaurant row’, with Kuni’s, Oceanique and S-Paragon.


Of course my annual Valentine, Chocolatier Piron, is not to be missed for your Saturday treat (closed Sundays). Oceanique has a special Father’s Day Menu Friday and Saturday. It is definitely a celebratory place (I tend to dine on gift cards there), but so worth the luxurious experience.


S-Paragon and Kuni’s are more artist budget-friendly. I tend to visit S-Paragon on a regular basis for its ambiance, friendly staff, and delicious food options of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine.


At the corner you can pop in for a manicure, pedicure, facial or massage at Agora Spa, where my blistery fingers get their pampering and my muscles get loosened on a monthly basis.


Across from Agora you’ll find my favorite cafe, Brothers K, where I indulge in a mocha, hot cocoa, tea or a smoothie depending on mood and weather. The croissants and pastries go fast in the morning, but hearty quiches and wraps are served in the afternoon.


For more hearty fare, the Lucky Platter is a fabulous place where I brunch often. I have not had anything I didn’t like on their menu. The Alcove next to it is new, and I’m eager to try their paninis sometime soon. Open til 11, the Alcove is a great option after the evening concerts at Custer.


Of course the lake is closeby as well. Just keep wandering East for 5 blocks and you’ll find some respite from the crowds.


This is where I stalk some of my butterfly and dragonfly models.


I hope you enjoy your day in the neighborhood as much as I love being here. See you tomorrow or Sunday at Custer’s Last Stand. Booth #48 is where the Maraviglia will eagerly await their new owners.


The Custer Fair is Saturday and Sunday

The hammer is down and I’ve made all the wire pieces I can make for Custer’s Last Stand. Here’s a sneak peek at the pieces that will be present on Saturday and Sunday.


My friend and tent lender Jason McPhillips is bringing his paintings, including cowboys and Indians, like General Custer and Crazy Horse.

Paintings by JasonMcPhillips

The fair began in 1972 on historic Custer Avenue named after General George Armstrong Custer in gratitude for his service to the Union during the Civil War. Eiden Park will have a Civil War re-enactment with canons and soldiers.

Civil war cannon Custer Fair

You’ll see General Custer and his entourage march through the fair at various times.


The 42nd annual Custer Street fair will be held on June 15th and 16th from 10 am till 9 pm around Custer Avenue, between Washington and Main Street and spilling out to Chicago Avenue in Evanston.


Come see us at Booth #48, on Custer Avenue just past Lupita’s on Main Street. We’ll be near the Show Arena.


The Chicago Painters and Artists’ Meetup will gather at 11 am on Sunday to peruse the festivities as a group. 250 Artists and craftspeople from across the nation come together to exhibit and sell paintings, ceramics, pottery, photographs, jewelry, graphic arts, wearable art, country and home craft, antiques and collectables. They are joined by 150 local businesses and commercial exhibitors who put on an old fashioned Sidewalk Sale. More than 30 food vendors offer a full international menu.

food at Custer Fair

Live Music will be playing throughout the day. Down the street from our booth, at Custer and Washington street, the Arena Stage will feature:

  • 11a Native American Dance Troupe
  • 12:30p  Piccolo Commedia Troupe
  • 1:30p Evanston School of Rock (15th) / Jutta & the Hi Dukes (16th)
  • 3p Ajoite Drummers
  • 4:30p Kraig Kenning
  • 5:45p Hip Circle
  • 6:30p Pyro & Penumbra Fire Spinning

Custer Fair music and dancing

The Festival Stage at Main St. & Chicago Ave. Showcases the following talent, with some seating so you can eat snacks while you watch rather than just inhaling their aromas from the food booths along Chicago.
Saturday June 15

  • 10a Evanston School of Rock
  • 11:30p Kent McDaniel band
  • 1:30p Hurricane Saxophone Quartet
  • 3:30p Highland Park Pops Big Band
  • 5:30p Country Doctors
  • 7p South Blvd Band

Sunday June 16

  • 11:30a Mark Cleveland Band
  • 1:30p John Temmerman Quartet
  • 3:30p Paul Maslin Group
  • 5:30p Chris Greene Quartet
  • 7p TCO featuring Rich Maisel & Terre Cohen

In Eiden Park the kids have a great time enjoying the kid centered exhibits, with free balloon sculptures, hula hooping, bubble blowing, fairy wing booths, water-guns and many games and toys to peruse. I personally hope the Raven stops by again this year.


At the Main Street Metra Station, smack in the middle of the fair, Piccolo Theatre presents the Marvelous Medicine Show extravaganza. Fifty variety performers perform throughout the fair amazing their audiences with juggling, magic, comedy, music, aerial acts and stage shows in Piccolo Theatre.


Admission to Custer Fair is free (with a suggested donation of $1), so save the dates and get ready for a rompin’, stompin’, shoppin’ good time! Click for an interactive map.


The Fair is accessible via the CTA Purple Line, Main Street Station, which gets you right into the Festival Stage action.


On the West side, those disembarking from Metra’s Union Pacific North (UP-N) line (Chicago to Kenosha) at the Evanston Main Street stop will land right into the Custer Avenue Arts & Crafts section (yep, that’s Maike’s Marvels and Studio McPhillips!).


Note that Chicago Avenue will be closed as of Kedzie Street with Traffic detours. You can find Street Parking on Judson and Hinman Avenues (East of Chicago Ave). Meters are free on Sundays. Garage locations are here.

Production Jitters

In my usual Type A manner, I set some production quotas that were hard to meet. A few times I got quite overwhelmed with not doing enough on many fronts to get ready for the fair.


I berate myself for not getting up early enough, for not working long enough hours, for not getting enough accomplished (especially after perusing social media and seeing how hard everyone else seems to be working). I’m shoulding all over myself.


In theory, it looks great to block of 3 days of uninterrupted studio time so you can make 30 pendants in a week. But in practice, it’s impossible. I had to make an emergency run to Vogue Fabrics for thimbles because my fingers were blistering from sanding down and bending wire. My arms were sore after two days, and no matter how hard I pushed to get back into the studio on day 3, I just couldn’t bring my body to get there.


Not only is creating physically exhausting, but it is mentally depleting as well. I am learning that it is better to give myself a one-day break between studio sessions to rest my muscles and also give my brain a breather so it can spark new ideas.


Not that those days turn into days off. The 10-15 pendants created need to be photographed, inventoried and priced. There are blog posts to be written, and social media promotions to be blasted. People inquire about specific pendants, and some might get sold before the fair (yippie!).


Meanwhile, I’m expanding from a single-tray pop up into a six-foot table, which requires booth setup logistics and coordination with my booth mate (who is providing the 10×10 foot tent). There is packaging to be considered also, along with how far I take the DIY concept.


While the decorative part is fun, I’ve had to weed out ideas due to budget constraints, accessibility, and production reality. On all fronts I have more ideas and suggestions than I can implement by June 15.


Preparing for a big booth art fair is overwhelming and exhausting. I got scared out of doing outdoor fairs a few years ago when I read about liabilities associated with it, and shortly thereafter saw booth inventories crash due to high winds at a local art fair, at which a display nearly hit me. I wasn’t going to be that artists who injured an unsuspecting bystander.


On the flip side of the fear of disaster is the fear of success. What if I haven’t made enough and sell out too soon? What if the encaustic ‘test pieces’ melt? How does one calculate the sales/inventory ratio of 70,000 people entering a fair when the previous pop-up crowd has numbered 40 at its largest?


There are days in which I get stuck in inertia, not knowing where to start, so I hold off on getting up just so I don’t have to face the to-do list. It’s easier to self-sabotage sometimes, you know?

However, I’ve found some great inspiration in those morning snoozes as well. I ‘dreamt up’ a collar-earring-bracelet set as I was thinking of who might come to the fair and look at my wares.


I don’t have typical days. Some days I get up at 8 a.m. and will plan and run errands and administrate and blog until 11 p.m. On other days I don’t really start ‘working’ ’til noon, after a leisurely breakfast and poking around Facebook and finally getting out of my jammies. Then there is a burst of activity from noon til 6 p.m.—wrangling wire, coming up with ideas, researching more fairs and submitting to deadlines, after which I crash and veg in front of Netflix for a while. Sometimes the intensity of the work makes up for the quantity of hours worked.


In spite of the productivity crunch, creating is still bliss. The other day my glamorous life involved black fingertips, scratches on my arms, close calls of bruised fingernails due to underestimating the hammer-finger ratio, and black dust on my clothes from sanding, yet I was loving every minute of it. If 3 years ago someone had told me that I’d be doing rigorous physical and dirty work without pay I would’ve laughed. I would have said that I’d rather sit at a laptop and write…


And I do occasionally wonder if it isn’t more ‘sensible’ to get a ‘real’ job so I can make ends meet rather than deplete my savings without a guarantee of making it back. But I also feel that this is the year to give it a shot. I’d regret not being in the Custer Fair more than backing out now without knowing how I might do.


The blessing over the past two years is that no one has ever been negative about my art. I may have been rejected from shows because of a bad fit or a lack of space, but no one has ever told me (to my face at least) that my art sucks. The pendants have generated a far more positive response than I could have imagined, and this year people are really putting their money where their mouth is on a regular (as in monthly) basis.


Productivity isn’t always a tangible number of how many pieces were churned out in how many hours. Sitting around daydreaming is a form of work also, inspiring creativity, sparking ideas, and allowing for processing time so the solopreneur has enough energy to get the work done.


So, while I am giddy with excitement about being at Custer’s Last Stand, working toward it comes with all kinds of internal debates. It’s not always easy, and it takes loads of self-discipline, as well as re-prioritizing. We’ll see if the work pays off this coming weekend…

My Fair Dress

On Thursday I went to Glen Ellyn for the NEW Wine Women and Wellness happy hour at the Swap Shop Resale Boutique. I set out to find a light and whimsical summer dress, and found just what I needed at a fabulous price.

Swap Shop Glen Ellyn

I noticed the “Love from Amsterdam” rack, but honed in on the rack that had my size first. There I was actually redirected to the Amsterdam rack, which holds clothes brought in by a flight attendant. Incidentally a KLM flight took off from O’Hare as I was stuck in traffic on my way to Glen Ellyn, so the universe had already sent me a sign!

Amsterdam sign

The dress I pulled was immediately affirmed by my NEW connections as “that is you”.

Dress review with NEW - photo by www.NetworkHoncho.com

We admired the whimsy of it.

finding the dress with NEW - photo by www.Massupdater.com

I pulled another contender because trying on clothes is fun and (in theory) doesn’t cost anything.

Trying on dresses with NEW - photo by www.NetworkHoncho.com

My first pick fit like a glove.

A dress for the Custer Fair - photo by www.Massupdater.com

And made me twirl.

Twirling in my new dress - photo by www.Massupdater.com

Twirling in my new dress - photo by www.Massupdater.com

The applique is so adorable.

Dress detail

I did try the second one on but it didn’t have the same feel. However, at the price of $35, a second dress would not have broken the bank.

Happy wallet - photo by www.NetworkHoncho.com

That afternoon a special envelope had arrived. I had looked for Money Aprons on Etsy and then found a tutorial by someone who created her own. Not being a good seamstress myself, I recruited my friend, who asked me what pockets I wanted, and then created a beautiful piece.

Fitting my new apron - photo by www.NetworkHoncho.com

The polka dots make me so happy, and the compartments are just right. That Jones New York dress is from Crowded Closet in Evanston, BTW.

 Money Apron by my BFF

It’s fun to practice wearing it and work the zippers. Zipper pulls might be another Maraviglia collection in the future…


While the outfit is ready, I still have some production work to do to get to the fair. It’s fun to work on becoming a personality while building one’s brand.

Custer Street Fair preparation

Custer’s Last Stand is from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  June 15th and 16th in Evanston, Illinois, between Sherman and Chicago Avenues and by Main Street.

Photo series provided by www.NetworkHoncho.com and www.MassUpdater.com.

Erica DaShan on a road trip

Thank you Erica and DaShan for documenting my happiness!