Michigan Studio Visits

On the last Sunday of June Ahavani Mullen and I took a road trip to Michigan to launch our first FUSEDChicago Studio tours. Carol Myers drove us over to Kalamazoo for Cat Crotchett’s studio tour.


Former president and FUSEDChicago founder Shelley Gilchrist met us there and we were awed by the spaciousness of her studio in the historic building.


Cat Crotchett heard about our organization through a screen printing workshop with Jeff Hirst.


Cat studied art history and painting at the University of Illinois and obtained a master of fine arts in painting with a specialization in printmaking from Bowling Green State University.


She is preparing for a solo show— “Surfacing” — from October 15 to November 13 in the Richmond Center for the Visual Arts, Netzorg and Kerr Gallery at Western Michigan University; Kalamazoo, MI
The opening reception is Wednesday, October 9, 5-7:30pm.


As a professor of art at Western Michigan University, Cat has access to a woodworking shop. She designed her substrates in done Illustrator and had them custom laser-cut for her progressive wall installation.


Each substrate has slight modifications to it to represent the appropriation and manipulation of cultural designs over time.


Cat’s works incorporate batik techniques and she has a vast collection of batik tjaps.


Cat traveled to Indonesia to learn batik dying, and hosted an Indonesian batik workshop from which she still has wax.


We discussed the variety of inks used as dispersion pigments.


Cat dyes her paper and then works with encaustic, but it is also possible to experiment with pigments in medium, which creates more of a wash.


Inks mentioned throughout our trip include Kama Pigments, Pro Chemical & Dye, and Createx Pure Pigment.


Examining the tools was such fun.


So many colors!


Both Cat and Carol also work with Pan Pastels to add dimension to their art work.


Cat emphasized the importance of functional storage and found an industrial shelving company in Grand Rapids that allowed her to design her space.


Her studio building has a First Friday art hop at which the public can peruse the art spaces.


We could have stayed longer but there was another space to explore, so on to Carol Myers’ art cottage we drove.


Carol Myers remodeled her Watervliet-based studio cottage in 2012 and started living there full time in 2013. Originally from Baltimore, she worked as a registered nurse in Indianapolis and lived there for 37 years.


She eventually earned a BFA in printmaking. After suffering a loss, having the studio saved her.


Encausticamp became a breakthrough in realizing that every person has a story of pain and healing. “You can be cured and not healed, and you can be healed and not cured,” Carol said.


Considering herself a mixed media artist, Carol works with fiber, charcoal, paint, encaustic, collage materials and a host of other mediums that intrigue her.


Her collection of tools and gadgets and mementos reflect a variety of interests and influences.


She layers her charcoal drawings under encaustic monotypes for a lovely effect.


It was fun to see the contrast of her go-to colors vs. Cat’s arrangement.


Carol’s work is featured as best in show in the Summer issue of Still Point Arts Quarterly.


We were in awe of her hot-box setup.


Sometimes she draws directly onto her encaustic monotypes, which requires appropriate hand gear to avoid burns. She uses a stabilo all-surface pencil to draw in the hot wax.


Carol’s vision is to host art work shops in her cottage, with the option of an overnight stay.


There is a labyrinth on the grounds, and a water feature to relax by.


I wished I had brought my pajamas!

Admiring Tools

We left inspired by all the lovely tools, techniques and creativity exhibited in these studios. I’m eager to clean up mine and start experimenting!


FUSEDChicago’s next studio tour will be in the Fall.


A body positivity photo shoot

It seems that body advocacy has become more prevalent over the past few years, or maybe I just follow like-minded people who agree that photoshopped imagery in magazines is an impossible standard to uphold. But instead of sharing and liking these links on social media, I was called to do something more substantial about it in June.


Inspired by this blog post about normal-size women posing as Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models, Malik of Hip Circle Studio posted the following invitation:


Within the week, she had scheduled a formal event invite that called us to wear our favorite bathing suit and show up at the beach.


I tried on a few the night before and realized that it had been a while that I’d been bathing suit shopping. Comfortable me gravitated toward the tankinis, but I decided to do the scary thing and put on the two-piece that fit. At the beach, I saw photographer Kerry Ben-Joseph checking the light.


Soon my friends from Bellydance and Moxie Boxing classes appeared. A few new-to-me ladies also  came to the shoot. We were asked to line up and strike poses.

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The power pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The jumping pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

The chatting pose:

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

We were also asked to pose individually. Initially I wasn’t going to, but then it seemed everyone was game, so I played along. The hardest part was not contracting my belly the whole time. I feel like I could have posed better, but the photo is posted on Malik’s insightful recap blog post so you can see it there.

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

I didn’t see ‘models’ like me in the media growing up, so if this shoot is enabling one teenage girl to accept herself as she is, rather than looking at air-brushed and ‘skinnified’ images of women she will never look like, then the mission of this shoot is accomplished.


Malik hopes to make this at least an annual event, and I am all for it. We need more initiatives like this to showcase that everyone is beautiful just as nature created you. It was fun in spite of the initial awkwardness!

Kerramel Studios

photo by Kerramel Studios

Pop-up Fun at Geneva’s Swedish Days

Summer is in full swing and life has been picking up with outdoor activities for leisure and for selling. My last Saturday in June was spent in Geneva for a Swedish Days pop-up.


It was the first nice day after almost a week of Thunderstorms, so foot traffic was heavy even as I started setting up at 9 am. Peaceful Parlour generously hosted a sidewalk spot for me, and I got to test out my new jewelry bag for the first time.


Third street was blocked so games could be played and bands could be viewed. Wafts of various food booths gave the day the obligatory outdoor fair scent. One vendor brought by popcorn and a lovely helper made an ice cream run for me.


I was neighbor to Totes with a Twist, the creators of purses, bags and carrying cases made from recycled sails, which caught many a fair-goers’ attention.


Angel card reader Betsy had a captive audience, including a white butterfly fluttering around most of the day.


Business was brisk in Peaceful Parlour itself, and a few of the statues walked away while I was there.


It was fun watching the toys move around as various children stopped to play.


Shari did a spirit card reading during the afternoon.

Shari Reading

I sold a few pendants (one of which I never photographed, whoops) and my birthstone bangle might garner some custom orders over time.


Geneva knows how to throw a party. I passed a carnival on my way to Peaceful Parlour, and when I took a peek on the way back to my car it was in full swing.


Since I had to be in Michigan the next day, I opted out of lingering for a ride and fair food, but I think I’ll make Swedish Days a weekend outing next year. I am intrigued by the Viking Ship and the Swedish Vaest.


My planned July and August pop-ups ran into a hiccup, so browse Etsy until my next in-person event.


Practitioners’ Perspectives on Wellness and Self-care

“We strive to give people permission to treat themselves,
women in particular.”

~ Margaret Olson

There’s a lovely healing place in Evanston that offers a variety of relaxation and meditation options. Continuing the spirit of self-care, the Network of Entrepreneurial Women was given a lovely overview of the Heartwood Center in mid-June.


We gathered in one of the large meeting rooms to get to know nine of the health practitioners in the space, and I am eager to book a ‘spa day’ at the Heartwood as a summer break. The major theme of the discussion that taking time for healing and therapy is not a luxury, but a necessity. Everyone should take time for massage, acupuncture, life coaching and other wellness needs in order to be more balanced and healthy in life.


The Heartwood Center, located on 1818 Dempster Street in Evanston, is a holistic wellness community currently counting 40 practitioners in its circle. The center rents out treatment rooms for Acupuncture, Chiropracty, Hypnotherapy, Life & Health Coaching, Massage Therapy, Naturopathy, Personal Training, Physical Therapy, Psychotherapy, and Spiritual Direction. Practitioners can sublet rooms, offering a fabulous start-up opportunity for those seeking to expand their practice without having to provide in-home services.

“I wish that everyone knew that they deserve wellness therapy.”
~ Rebecca Sturgeon

Oncology massage therapist Rebecca Sturgeon provided a Manual Lymphatic Drainage demonstration by which each of us can clear our seasonal allergies simply by gently massaging the skin around our neck. This gentle technique also offers assistance with migraines, fatigue and a general sense of heaviness. Rebecca incorporates this healing method into her massage practice. While her focus is on clients going through or recovering from cancer, she also tends to reach a clientele of “Stressed out women over 40.”


Melissa Sanchez is a dance therapist offering individual and group classes. Her emerging specialty is addiction treatment as well as working with the formerly incarcerated. An active proponent of mental health services, Melissa’s dance therapy assists those with codependence, trauma or PTSD to express themselves through creative movement. Her sessions can look like dance parties, or be more introspective meditative movements. In the near future Melissa hopes to offer a self-care for healers workshop, focusing on those whose profession involves assisting others.


Kathy Kessenich views herself as a facilitator of creating an awareness of what is going on in the body. “Many people feel uncomfortable in their own skin” she said, and her massage practice strives to reduce blood pressure, increase endorphins, relax muscles and increase the blood flow.  Her focus is on Swedish massage that provides relaxation and stress relief, but she also practices deep tissue massage for chronic muscular issues. She also works as a wellness facilitator, assisting clients in in making simple changes in health choices and product uses.

“It is not a luxury to have a massage,
it is actually taking care of yourself.”
~ Kathy Kessenich

Ixchel Mulberger is a licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist certified in oriental medicine. She spent a decade learning and perfecting her skills until she felt comfortable making a shift to establishing her own practice last year. Her acupuncture focuses on pain management, but she also seeks to educate clients about preventive care so they come to her before chronic problems arise.

“A lot of what we do sounds airy-fairy,
but it is something that is meaningful and deep and helpful.”
~ Ixchel Mulberger

Margaret Olson practices Manual Lymphatic Drainage and offers abdominal work in her massage therapy sessions (with permission). She is trained in oriental medicine and combines her work with muscles and joints with energetic meridians. She works with athletes, clients recovering from surgery and those with autoimmune diseases. Since joining the Heartwood Center, Margaret has expanded her own practice of mindfulness, which she blogged about in a 2-part series.


Marsha Smith is a psychotherapist who started with the Heartwood Center 8 years ago when it was located in downtown Evanston. She seeks to help people trying to become unblocked and trying to find their own sense of direction. Her focus is on helping adults of all ages with a variety of issues, and also ensure they stay healthy when dealing with life changing health issues.


Marsha said that one man who came to her felt queasy thinking about getting therapy, but later stated that he discovered “learning to be able to take his own side of things” through the sessions. Marsha partnered with Margaret on witing about integrating mindfulness and massage, and she seeks to partner with the other therapists at the Heartwood to create a holistic plan for her clients.

“People want to be understood and develop their natural abilities
to work through problems and find solutions.”
~ Marsha Smith

Yvonne Mitchell incorporates a modular approach to offer spiritual and life coaching. Through vision boarding, hypnotherapy, personality assessments and passion testing, she helps clients develop their passion in life whether mid-career or through retirement. She also helps people who are terminally ill to develop a joy strategy and develop completion activities to work around the pain and also engage in activities they deferred. Her practice comes from the loss of her husband and her own grief process and the activities she completed with him.

“I am grateful to be in this community
of practitioners and quality providers

and look forward to accessing these services for myself.”
~ Marsha Smith

We sipped on delicious tea and coffee sponsored by Alphay and sampled My Health Beet’s delicious chocolate truffles.


The Heartwood also offers event space, including the lovely Skylight room fit for banquets and dancing, as well as a conference room in which we met where one could host speakers, panel discussions, or other events. Upstairs there is a lovely classroom associated with the Tsogyaling Meditation Center, that also hosts wellness classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi. Gong Therapy is also offered.


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.

People photos courtesy NetworkHoncho.com


Summer Daze

I have a few blog posts in my head, but sitting down to write them is a challenge these days. I am drawn outside on the warmer days and thrilled to spot the butterflies fluttering about.


I’ve explored a variety of events and enjoyed taking in all the inspiration and creativity. Business projects keep me engaged and occupied, making days fly by.


Nutrition is top of mind as I explore more vitamin-rich meals.


Summer novels keep my brain from churning too much in the evenings.


I love how warmer weather draws out color and scent and music.


I don’t know how June flew by so quickly, but I am grateful for all the activity, the comradery, and the challenges June brought with it.


It is good to be alive and well and see the magic of fireflies.


Sunshine and warmth call for little pleasures.


Monarchs are threatened, but I see them fluttering about, which gives me hope.


I wish you the most fabulous of summers, filled with much joy and contentment. Happy Independence Day!