Progress is measured in small doses

Last week I hunkered down and got my 2013 bookkeeping in order. Taxes have a way of doing that, don’t they?

I had finally gotten around to purchasing accordion envelopes to get my receipts situated, and that system works like a charm. 2013 was easy to sort out through its compartments and then put in chronological order without sifting through a pile. 2014 will be much easier to reference in retrospect as well.


The number of receipts has increased dramatically since 2012, which is why I suddenly needed the accordion file. It is interesting how receipts become a marker of how the business has grown and evolved, even if monetarily it all seems so miniscule.

Looking back through my financial reports on Etsy, Square and Paypal was also enlightening. We need to step back sometimes and look at the larger time frame rather than focusing on the month-to-month or week-by-week. A lot of things weren’t in place in Q2 2013 that have now become routine in the business.


My acceptance rate to shows was high, as was productivity. All good things to realize.

It also felt good to put on my bookkeeper hat and think about streamlining some of these tracking mechanisms so next year’s tax preparation is easier. Selling goods is far different from operating a service-oriented business, so the learning curve cannot be denied.


All in all, I am grateful we have to file taxes so you can get a bit of numerical perspective that I would otherwise have pushed until summer.

As a reward, I perused Ayla’s Originals’ annual bead show on Sunday and got some inspirational strands of loveliness that will soon be incorporated into collars, bracelets, earrings and pendants.


Collaging Dragonflies

“Dragonfly is the power of light.
The dragonfly inhabits two realms:
air and water 
the influence of both these elements will
be felt by Dragonfly people.”

~ Lin’s Domain

This is the last week of the Encaustic Nature in Art exhibit. My Damselfly-Dragonfly Diptych will be up until April 1 and then the gorgeous exhibit is taken down to never be seen in that lovely company again.


I started capturing Dragonflies in 2008, when one settled on a journal while I was on a birthday trip. Since then, they’ve posed for me sporadically on summer trips, garden walks, and in parks near Lake Michigan.


I didn’t know how hard they were to capture on camera until later. I’ve been lucky that some were willing to pose for me for minutes on end, like this one in Bluhm Park.


Dragonflies are a totem for transformation as well as light and color. Unlike my favored Butterfly, Dragonflies are both water and air beings.


Dragonfly eggs are laid in the water, which hatch into naiads. They feed on mosquito larvae, and at times tadpoles and fish, and remain in this stage for 2 months to three years, some even up to five years.


It then climbs up a reed above water, where it begins breathing and emerges from its split skin into an adult dragonfly, to live for up to six months in this stage.


The musculature of Dragonflies is quite fascinating, which I learned at Backyard Monsters.


A fabulous explanation of the mechanism is below:

I snapped the 12-spotted skimmer at Emily Oaks Nature Center ‎where I often go to observe dragonflies. They feed on mosquitoes so creating a dragonfly habitat in your garden might be beneficial in summer.


The damselfly, a bluet, settled in my path at the Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens. Damselflies have the same life cycle , except that their wings are parallel to the body when at rest. They also have separated eyes.


The colors of these inspired me to make a diptych after reading Hilda Simon’s painstakingly researched and illustrated Dragonflies book that I recommend to anyone interested in these creatures.


I lifted some quotes from her book and also looked up other dragonfly symbolism.  Then I pasted the base paper–with varying terms for Odonata–onto the wooden substrate.


I layered on encaustic medium and made sure no bubbles formed. Then I added layers of blue encaustic paint, alternating with the translucent medium, and scraping here and there.


I added more layers of paper and checked the position of the photographs.


After another round of encaustic medium, it was time to add the photographs, also coated in encaustic medium for durability.



Voila, the diptych is complete, along with another companion piece, the Ruby Meadowhawk.


Visit the Art Center of Highland Park at 1957 Sheridan Road in Highland Park this week-end to get a final glimpse at Encaustic Nature in Art and Primal Awareness.


“When the dragonfly shows up in your life,
it may remind you to bring a bit
more lightness and joy into your life.”

~ Elena Harris, Editor


 You can find desktop minis of the 12-spotted Skimmer in my Etsy store.

Charmed by books

Last week we celebrated Women’s History Month at the quaint Town House Books in St. Charles.


It was a sunny day and we enjoyed a healthy lunch at the Town House Books Cafe, which was merged (from Al’s Cafe and Creamery) and attached to the building in 1996.


The menu is in chapter format.

menu copy

Owner David frequented this book store during his teens. Formerly the home of St. Charles’ second mayor, the Greek Revival style building was built in 1853. It became an antique shop and then a beauty shop, whose proprietors gave the upstairs its 70’s era decor.


In 1974 Mary Lou Kelly opened the book store, which became David’s dream. He asked “Mrs. Kelly” if she would consider letting him take over the store if she was ever interested in retiring, and the answer was no.


After some time, however, Mary reconsidered and in 1992 David took on full ownership while Mary planned to stay on for one year. David learned everything about the book business, and over time modernized from the pain-staking paper-based inventory tracking to computerized equipment, while maintaining the traditional book store charm.

 TownHouseBookstore copy

Mary retired in 2013, after having reduced her hours over time. The book store was awarded 1999 “Best of the Best” by the Sunday Post Magazine.


After our delicious lunch Barbara Joan Zeitz presented a fabulous program which warrants another post. Her books are located in the Women’s section at Town House Books.


On Thursday we raise pints to St. Patrick and our latest accomplishments at Shannon’s Irish Pub in Glen Ellyn. Join us from 6 to 8 at 428 N Main St, Glen Ellyn and enjoy some speed networking.


NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup or Facebook.


Buckeye Ladies

So my hopes of raising a second generation of Buckeye caterpillars were dashed when all my butterflies turned out to be ladies.


Nonetheless, the transformation has been fun to observe in this dreary winter.  The caterpillars one by one made their way to a spot in the enclosure and spun their sticky silk,


After 16 days in my home all were fully cocooned.


After 13 days (day 25 in my home), the first started hatching, curiously not the first caterpillar that had pupated but another one.


They all pop out so quickly and quietly that catching them mid-emergence is difficult to do.


The last one, on day 28, gave me its wasp-y look though, and kept dropping to the floor as it tried to unfurl its wings, but its floppy wings took shape after a few minutes nonetheless.


Empty cocoons.


My firstborn had gorgeous eyespots.


The others each had distinct looks.


It takes a couple of days before they are ready to eat, but watching the proboscis is such fun when they do.



My fifth-born turned out to be a rosa.


They love sunlight and eagerly walk ceilings to get to it.


Trying to distinguish sexes became a dirty affair as they defended themselves with extrement (it makes sense that butterflies poop, doesn’t it?).


But all bodies looked the same, so I am pretty sure they all were females in this batch.


How to tell? Male Buckeyes are supposed to be smaller than the females, they should have whiter antennae, their hind wing eye spots are supposed to be smaller, and their rears more ‘square’ than pointy. None of these factors were distinctive on my 6, and they all stuck their rears in the air, which is generally a female butterfly mating call.


Photographing was fun, though not all were willing posers.


Since I wasn’t going to raise new babies, I immortalized a few in the freezer before they became too tattered.


One is still fluttering, but the second one breathed its last on Wednesday (day 58).


It is nice to have such quiet and easy to care for pets.


Note: This breed of Buckeye cannot be released in my home state, which is why I didn’t feel bad about having them in a cold season when they are going to remain in captivity. During the summer I plan on ordering kits that will be released into the neighborhood to hopefully repopulate some of the scarcer butterfly breeds (the Monarch in particular).

Just say sNOw

We’re teased with spring only to be let down again.Within the span of two weeks we get warm weather, big snow melts, only to find our cars covered in snow and ice yet again.


It’s getting a bit old.


For a moment I thought I could put my snow boots away…


But not so fast, because let’s look out the window the next morning!


Layers and layers of snow ‘geology’.


After celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend I got to drive home in this…


I just say NO to the white stuff until late November. How about you?



Encaustic Nature in Art opening recap

Last Friday The Art Center in Highland Park hosted three openings.


There was the flagship opening of Primal Awareness, my personal favorite Encaustic Nature in Art and a student show of Mosaic art work.


The turnout was quite overwhelming. We had one of the first few warmer days (mid-40s) and people took advantage of this to go and peruse art.


I met some of my FUSEDChicago friends and chatted with them before perusing our encaustic show.


Robin Samiljan discussed her technique (below) with Ahavani Mullen.


Jenny Learner curated two lovely viewing areas, the Fireplace Gallery and a hallway leading to the student show, where my Damselfly-Dragonfly diptych resides.


I was thoroughly inspired and also happy to see some of the latest creations by my peers.



Ahavani Mullen took home the first prize for her gorgeous piece (the green square).


Bridgette Guerzon Mills received second place.


Julia Ris placed third with Dutch land.


Then I browsed Primal Awareness, and was happy to peruse Matt Runfola’s i-Series in person since I’d seen photographs a few times.


We had a lovely conversation as last week also marked a milestone for his new book.


The mosaics show had a dragonfly and a butterfly in it, making my heart happy.

Lissa Watters Dragonfly tray


The shows are up through April 1, so go take a look and be inspired by the colorful, vibrant, human and nature inspired art works.



Last month I had an inspiring online marketing consultation with that is energizing me to get my rear in gear.


So I’ve been sifting through my Etsy listings to see what is at Stella and Aurora Rose Boutiques and what can be re-listed, needs uploading, or might be donated to a good cause.


My tracker sheet is a bit overwhelming now that I have so much more inventory compared to last year (from inventory number 55 to 317!), so I am also trying to figure out a better way to code where my pieces are. Colors don’t work when your toner runs out and everything is in shades of pink instead.


Paperwork is slowly progressing as I consolidate the sales from last year among the various venues…


Meanwhile I also splurged on a springy shower curtain since my old one was tattered after 6 years of good use.


I’m excited about getting my online presence more optimized and look forward to all the opportunities this year holds.


Nothing but optimism ahead!


Women’s History celebration with NEW

It is Women’s History Month and I am super excited to discuss women’s achievements with a historian on Wednesday. This year’s theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment.

Barbara Joan Zeitz has been researching women’s history since 2007, and has been writing about her findings on CountHerHistory for a decade.


In 2012 she compiled her columns into a book, A Thesaurus of Women: From Cherry Blossoms to Cell Phones, which I purchased right away. It is full of interesting discoveries and inventions we recognize but didn’t know originated with a pioneer woman. Her chapters make for great evening reading and inspire me daily.


In 2007, Barbara produced a booklet to celebrate the first annual Jane Addams Day in Illinois. It honors Addams, the women of Hull House and their social reforms of the Industrial era, which govern still today.

Barbara will inform the Network of Entrepreneurial Women of ladies we can emulate, which I am sure will spark a fantastic discussion of inspiration, celebration, and gratitude.


We will meet on Wednesday, March 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Town House Books on 105 North 2nd Avenue in St. Charles. Town House Books is an independent bookstore for all ages located in historic Century Corners in downtown St. Charles, Illinois. The store opened its doors in 1974 and also houses the Town House Café, featuring a menu of fresh-from-scratch soups and creative sandwiches.


Learn more about inspiring women, network with fellow trailblazers and browse the store for inspiration and celebration. RSVP on Meetup or on Facebook. Can’t make the afternoon event? Maybe we’ll see you at Shannon’s Irish Pub on March 27 instead.


All photos courtesy

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.


“The tide goes out
So it can come back another time.”
Jewel – What You Are

I have to admit, this Polar Vortex has thrown me for a loop. It’s been really hard to motivate myself when I hear snowblowers and snow shovels going at 7 am in March, there is yet another flurry blowing around the window, and the temperatures are prohibitive from going out.

Last year felt much more active at this time, and I feel guilty for not selling, for not producing, for giving into this sluggishness that a bear would call hibernation.

At the same time, the gathering of my receipts from last year indicates how much learning there was, how my artistic focus shifted, how many things I reacted to that I didn’t even see coming in January 2013.

So in a way I am also recovering from a lot of energetic momentum that had me pushing out of my comfort zone into places I thought I would never go. I wasn’t going to do outdoor shows and I did. I didn’t imagine that introverted me would be a co-founder and co-organizer of a women’s networking group that grew to 150 members within one year. I certainly didn’t see myself as a jewelry designer a year ago.

While in its own vacuum each of my accomplishments last year is something to be proud of, none of them pay the bills. So there is this dichotomy of needing an influx of funds as validation, while also wanting to invest what I saved up for many years to see if I can make this a full-time viable gig.

Startups take time to develop, and a lot of financial and personal investment to keep going, as well as a wide range of trade-offs. Not seeing a payoff in this world that glorifies ‘overnight success’ and billionaire payouts while pretending those people didn’t slave away 5 to 7 years before making it big creates much internal conflict.

The barrage of social media messages doesn’t help. I take in everyone’s priorities as a to-do I have to add to my list. So if one friend posts their latest studio shot of a work-in-progress, another mentions laundry day and a third invites me to a gallery opening, I feel I have to do all three of those things in addition to my never-diminishing to-do list that very day. What kind of a sloth am I to not wake up eager to seize the day and make the most out of each moment, especially with the luxury of having all of this time to myself without kids or a partner or a pet begging for my attention?

“I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing.”
~ OneRepublic – Counting Stars

I do live a charmed life. I am fortunate to have resources to pursue this dream. There is this possibility of taking my business beyond last year and moving forward. There is the fall-back of temping or freelancing if I need to. I have an abundance of opportunity and alternatives. All require focus and hustling and determination. All take energy. Each is a decision.

The key is to not compare. To not take my Facebook or Pinterest feed as peer pressure. To evaluate my options based on my needs, my abilities and my energy level regardless of what others might think they would do if they were in my shoes. They are not me, and I am not them.

I would do things differently if my situation were different. As I grow older the what ifs do grow louder. But what might have happened isn’t what is happening. So I have to take today as it comes. My body tells me what it needs. My soul informs the path I take. My brain gives me the realism to pursue the most appropriate course of action. My heart fluctuates between anxiety over the unknown and exhilaration over the vision that could be reality if I keep going.

The truth is that life isn’t easy. No matter what choice we make, we will doubt, we will toil, we will ponder the alternatives, and we will wish for smoother sailing. The key is to honor the choices we make and to fully stand behind them. There is no one to blame, and there is nothing to lose. It is all part of the experience that forms our character and brings us into the person we are meant to be.

I am meant to be me in my sluggish moments as well as in my sparks of brilliance. They don’t cancel each other out. In fact, the valleys make us more appreciative of the peaks. Every day counts, even the non-productive ones.

“The only way you can know
Is give it all you have.”
~ OneRepublic – I Lived

Encaustic Nature in Art opens Friday

Short months always have events sneak up on me. This Friday, the Art Center of Highland Park is hosting two exhibit openings, and I am thrilled to be in one of them. The free and public opening reception is on Friday, March 7th from 6:30-9 pm with drinks and other refreshments.


FUSEDChicago Member Jenny Learner juried Encaustic Nature in Art, work inspired by the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This exhibit, which features my Dragonfly-Damselfly diptych, is hosted in the cozy-sounding Fireplace Gallery.

TAC postcard front

Participating artists include Dorothy Borders, Maja C. Bosen, Elisa R. Boughner, Maureen Burke, Desiree DeMars, Mark Fisher, Cynthia J. Lee, Laura Lein-Svencner, Valerie McCune, Bridget Guerzon Mills, Ahavani Mullen, Marian Ostrowski, Julia Ris, Kathy Blankley Roman, Karen Ross, Robin Samiljan, Donna Sands, Mary Krebs Smyth, Rebecca Stahr, Maike van Wijk (that would be me!), and Linda Wein.


Primal Awareness, an exhibit connecting the viewer to a new level of consciousness will also open that evening featuring the works of Piotr Antonow, Tiffany Moeller, Matthew Runfola, and Cheryl Steiger. An enticing mix of paintings and sculpture, this exhibit juxtaposes animal life with that of humans. Through this the artists allows us to identify how animal life contrasts sharply with the eventual evolution to our own self involvement and ultimately to man’s self-absorption in today’s society.


Join us at 1957 Sheridan Road in Highland Park, Illinois 60035.


The Art Center – Highland Park is a community-based organization whose goal is to ensure access to the arts for all ages and cultural interests. A not-for-profit visual arts organization, The Art Center (TAC) provides an arts education to Highland Park and surrounding areas as a thriving Arts Education and Exhibition Center, as well as a hub for culture and community.


Founded in 1960, The Art Center offers annually over 500 classes in: Photography, Oil and Acrylic Painting, Watercolor,  Pastel, Mixed Media, Life Drawing, Encaustics, Ceramics, Jewelry Making, Metalsmithing, Digital arts, Fiber Arts, Mosaics and Assemblage.
TAC also offers monthly exhibits in three galleries, bringing the vitality of regional and national art to more than 26 surrounding communities. Each summer TAC hosts the Highland Park Festival of Fine Craft in June, as well as an annual Recycled Art Sale.