Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.


This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.


I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.


Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.


On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.


On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.


I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).


I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.


For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.


The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).


The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.


I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.


I played a lot of solitaire.


I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.


Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.


I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.


It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.


Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?

Assemblage at The Collage cafe

I joined the Grown*UP Girls Club this year at The Collage Cafe and I am loving it. While I have my own studio where I can create, there is something about gathering around women, being in a different space, and having someone else prescribe a project that soothes the soul and takes me out of my head.

This month we did assemblage art. We started with a small chunky canvas to embellish with anything we wished.

The Collage Cafe owner Lindy Stockton has gathered numerous objects over the years, from buttons, ribbons, vintage clothespins, paper scraps, game pieces, puzzles to metal objects like washers and rivets, chunky safety pins, keys and a plethora of other things.

Clearly making a mess is part of the inspirational process. I found a lovely pencil that had to be mine, and gathered a variety of other embellishments that spoke to me.

I put a layer of acrylic paint on mine for starters.

Then I added scraps of decorative paper from a scrapbook paper stack.

With glue guns and drills and super-powerful glue we had a blast making our pieces.

Waiting for paint and glue to dry was the hardest part, but gave an opportunity to walk around and see what everyone else was working on.

It is such fun to see what people pick and how they use it in the end.

I snapped this picture as inspiration, and saw the piece being used by someone else.

I am really happy with how mine turned out, especially since I had no vision at all in the beginning.

Sometimes not knowing what could or should be is very freeing, and leads to results you don’t expect.

Playing with dimension is such fun.

The front addresses the writer in me.

The back clearly needed to sparkle.

You can catch a glimpse of the other pieces here.

Go check out this lovely play space and get your inner creatrix going!

Book Organizing

Last week a winter storm kept me house bound, and it gave me the opportunity to re-organize my bookshelves.

The winterscape was lovely for a bit, until white-out conditions made my windows hard to see through.

So I started pulling out the books that graced my shelves, to give them a thorough dusting and get them realigned. My collection includes books about nature, a lot of historical and map-making books, biographies of strong women, art books, books for the spirit, including goddess and bellydance books. I also have books about language and writing, along with my own words in print.

With various reference books being used often, and others shipped to me, things get crowded and mis-aligned over time.

So I systematically cleared each shelf, dusted off the books, and considered which ones to give away.

While I love my silent companions, sometimes it is time to let go of the books that no longer get used.

My childhood authors still have a hold on me, and I do re-read their lovely tales on occasion. I have a shelf-full of cookbooks I hardly use, but gave them another year to gather dust. There is also a shelf of vintage books I cannot bring myself to tear up yet.

The bottom shelves hold binders with paperwork that I needed to sort through. The binders had not been updated since 2014.

So a shredding session ensued the next day as I reorganized papers and let go of what could be thrown out.

I have about 3 bags to donate to the library, but also still need to give these two bookshelves a whirl, which is a task for another week.

Space clearing feels good, and lifts up the energy of the home.

The snow is now melting, and chirping birds indicate Spring might return.

How do you re-align your home and your belongings?

Reconnecting with the Sewing Machine

During my corporate life, I took a pencil skirt class at Vogue Fabric and of course gathered materials to build on that, except that my inherited sewing machine thwarted me and I gave up.  Eventually I got a brand-new machine, but I only used it for small projects and never went back to my UFOs, especially since my size changed over time and the pattern might not apply anymore.

Enter Evanston Stitchworks, a lovely store along Evanston’s Main-Dempster Mile offering sewing and knitting classes for teens and adults, along with all the supplies for those projects. This “Stitch Lounge and Studio” has been in business for a few years, but moved to the Sherman Street location last year.

Owner Amalia curates beautiful high-quality and fabrics, findings, yarns and patterns. I love the vibe of the shop and the beautiful array of fabrics. Her store reminds me of the doll-shop my mom made for me as a child.

Intrigued by Amalia’s workshops since the beginning, my schedule finally worked out to where I could take the Willow Tank Top Dress class she hosted in February.

For three Wednesday evenings, four of us gathered at Evanston Stitchworks to learn to make this lovely pattern by Grainline Studio. It was hard to decide on a fabric, but with Amalia’s guidance I settled on a lovely Birch Floral Periwinkle print by Rifle Paper Company.

On the first evening, we traced our pattern onto an interfacing fabric, and spent the remaining time cutting out our pieces. Tracing our pattern keeps the original pattern paper intact, allowing for size changes, which I love.

The next week, we started sewing half of the pattern together.

One selling point of this pattern is that I learned to make darts, which are a useful skill for my anatomy.

We learned machine threading, bobbin winding, and how to adjust needle and stitch settings during this session.

Lots of pinning was involved.

My classmates did just the top, so my dress portion took a bit of adjusting by Amalia. We decided I would come in for an extra session the next day to get me caught up with the rest of class.

I sewed the fold, fixed a wrongly attached collar, and received confidence boosters on my sewing capabilities.

Sewing class also involves tutorials on pressing seams.

Then decided to go home to figure out my own machine for the other half of the dress.

A few days later, I sat down with my manual to check out the difference between the Stitchworks machine and my own machine settings. Photo references helped me make sure I was doing the right thing with the arm holes.

Getting the attachment removed for the arm holes took some googling, but I got it figured out and was on my way.

Then I befriended the seam ripper some more due to a sewing snafu. I bet no one else has accidentally folded fabric into the seam mid-way through a garment. 😉

Seam rippers are lovely tools.

With all side seams connected and the hems all pressed, I was all caught up.

The final class was spent sewing the collar, arm holes and hem up to complete the dress. A side exercise was avoiding pinpricks during this round-about fabric feed.

I got some ironing tips for the darts, photos of our end result were taken, and we all went home happy with our creations.

I cannot wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear this fun dress out!

Overall, it took about 9 hours to put it together. Having Amalia supervise every move was affirming and confidence building. Knowing that my home machine is compatible also helps support future projects.

Now I need to incorporate the sample fat quarter fabrics I picked up on Small Business Saturday into my wax and wire creations.

I already gave an old pendant a makeover with a dress remnant.

My next quest is deciding on the next fabric to make the dress again.

Evanston Stitchworks is located at 906 Sherman Avenue in Evanston, Illinois and hosts monthly drop-in events that are posted on FacebookCheck out upcoming classes and online shopping opportunities here. You can also cheer up your Instagram feed by following Evanston Stitchworks.

Valentine’s Week

Last week’s excuse to celebrate love was fun.

I made some loving food in heart-shaped muffin forms.

My Valentine came from Stumble & Relish, along with a delicious bath bomb.

A friend and I strolled along Dempster where I picked up new treasures from Crowded Closet and Secret Treasures. The top will serve well for neckshots.

 

We also stopped by Hewn and Chocolatier Piron for Valentine goodies.

I swung by Michaels to pick up new storage and was hit with Easter right away.

St. Patrick’s day is nigh as well, which will make me upload Shamrock Angel soon.

I had an eye on these scrapbook boxes but needed to explore other ways to transport my swarm and angels and frosties, so I browsed online for solutions until checking these boxes out in the store.

They happened to be on sale, hooray! It’s a great change from the non-weather proof shipping boxes I had recycled before.

I am using foam craft sheets as inserts, which will help keep my creations stable as I sift through layers to get customers the color and style they want when I haven’t hung all my pieces at a fair.

My old boxes wouldn’t close over the dragonfly squiggles, so this closed lid pleases me a lot.

I am excited to use these at the 2 upcoming shows, the Spring Craft Fair in Crystal Lake and Affair of the Arts in Spring Grove.

It’s been beautiful spring weather, and though I was felled with a bug over the weekend I enjoyed the sunshine in my windows and birds chirping.

Now plants are peeking through in February, which is strange.

The rays make for fun window shoots.

I’m uploading pendants, bangles, angels, earrings and other pieces as fast as I can.

Learning Jigoshop has been interesting, and changing the theme fixed a huge sidebar problem that didn’t seem to be solvable for a few weeks.

I am also applying to future shows, and crossing fingers for this one.

One Art Show Application site had me frustrated with rejection, but then this year I decided to try a new show, and I actually got a lovely green check mark! The BLING show will be in November.

Here’s to not giving up and believing in opportunity. Stay confident that you are in exactly the right place at the right time, and do what you can, with what you have, where you are. It might get you featured in a magazine!

Bead Counting

Last week I shopped for some birthstones at Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop and at Ayla’s Originals. Ayla’s had a wonderful vintage bead sale and I couldn’t resist picking up a  sparkly iridescent strand.

Then I made a pact with myself to inventory what I have at home. I always gravitate toward the same colors, so I had to ensure that what I have is sufficient rather than giving in to temptation.

I also need to update my spreadsheets with what is still on hand after a few years, so much counting ensued.

When I went to the Bead & Button Show I had a list of colors and types of beads I could buy. I also had a current photo of my bead rack in the camera for reference. Over two days I made my way through my stash and identified beads that I had not yet learned names of in 2011.

Clearly I have plenty in my stash to keep me busy, but it is still wonderful to peruse bead stores, fondle the strands, and learn more about unique gemstones and bead artisans.

Right now my mission is to make a dent in the beads I have and post those creations onto the shop.

I also need to get the birthstone bangle completed that started this inventory session in the first place.

What are your favorite gems?

Brenda Schweder Day

Right after fair season ended, it was time for a fun day. Now That’s A Jig! inventor Brenda Schweder had ordered an Ugly Sweater Angel via Instagram, which was a fun challenge.

I used some of my Belgian felt pieces as embellishments, picked some ‘ugly’ paper, and then ‘uglified’ it more by creating as much glittery pattern as possible on the body and wings.

Then when I told her I was about to ship it, she said she would come pick it up instead, with video equipment in tow. So I had to clean my desk!

Brenda arrived and the lights were set up.

I asked Brenda to bring an extra 1″ square peg for my mini-book projects. With the variety of pegs and extender packs Brenda has available, the NTaJ! possibilities are endless, especially with all the demonstrations she gives to inspire handufacturers.

We had a lovely morning chatting while I demonstrated how to wax a rainbow onto the wire bird Brenda had brought.

FridayMyDay Fieldtrip to Maike Vw's!Rollin'! . . .

Posted by Brenda Meintz Schweder on Friday, December 16, 2016

You can find the tutorial on making the wire part of the bird here:

HolidayBird Ornament Tutorial: Part II (The BirdFrame)Rollin'! . . .

Posted by Brenda Schweder Jewelry on Monday, October 17, 2016

A live watcher won the final piece. I am actually polling what kinds of birds are popular for a murmuration project.

Then my traveling Angel said goodbye to Ugly Sweater Angel.

We went for lunch and then I introduced Brenda to the merchants of the Main-Dempster Mile, which was a blast. I think she might return to Evanston, possibly before going to Rockford. 😉

A few days later Brenda mentioned a Craftsy Tutorial, and I signed up for one of hers too, of course.

I also want to re-read this article and jig that necklace up.

I am certain that 2017 will bring more NtaJ! shenanigans along with more Brenda fun!

Now That’s a Jig! news and product updates are available here, and you can take NTaJ! classes at June’s Bead & Button Show.

Enlightenment

The day before my birthday, a light fixture fell on my head. My mom was coming to town and I was preparing the futon for her to sleep on, when the ceiling fan decided to wobble out of alignment and to the floor, but since I had just pulled the futon out and was looking down, it bounced off my head onto the cushions.

A lightbulb shattered all over the place, and my forehead had an instant bump.

So I told mom to take a cab and swept the shards off myself to lay down for a bit, while googling concussion symptoms. After mom arrived we did cleanup and I had a fun birthday week with her, including a visit to Little Light Bazaar so I could shop for light fixtures.

After mom departed I interviewed electricians, and then researched ceiling fans, concentrating on flush mounts only.

I had a fun visit with Mateen to select the colors of my chandelier. All globes are interchangeable so you can change your mind and do a new color scheme over time.

The electricians arrived and on day one pulled out all the old wiring of my 1925 unit.

Outlets came first.

All the old lights came down.

Then they ran new wiring through all the light switches and light fixtures.

The next day they upgraded my fuses, and I no longer have neighbor envy. Now my studio has the appropriate power supply for all my equipment.

Soon the pretty part came and the new light fixtures were securely and professionally installed. I didn’t ask anyone to swing from chandeliers, but I am assured none of these will crash down on me.

Getting electrical work done is a scary thing, and I held off out of fear of the expense and any scope creep, but this project was completed within 2 days. Some of the vintage fixtures could have been fire hazards. I donated all the old ones to a refurbishing store.

I had fun playing with the dimmer switches and enjoying the light in my studio.

Since my futon cover was littered with mercury glitter, we tossed the thing out and I shopped affordable portables for a new cover. I fell in love with BOHO by SIS covers, which was so new the store had to order a sample. That made me feel quite fashion forward.

I love the bohemian-ness of this design, which obviously fits right in as a work surface!

My favorite room is the bedroom, where we installed the beautiful chandelier.

All globes are hand made with Czech glass and each has its own personality. It completes the decal headboard very nicely.

Now I am enlightened in all my rooms, and happy this home improvement project is completed. My head is also OK. The weekend after the bump I had some bad symptoms where lights were too bright and noises were too loud. Strobe lights at a party were very irritating so I had to move off the dance floor, but otherwise things are back to my normal.

Jet Lagging

After 2 whirlwind months, coming home instantly messed with my immune system.

ordfra

Between my relatives’ cats, dogs and horses, I had regularly taken Benadryl, but it didn’t keep the sniffles and sneezes away.

fraord

Add to that the airplane air and I was felled the weekend I came home to dreary skies.

ordflags

I reintegrated with a hearty breakfast at the Lucky Platter, right at their opening time.

luckyplatterbenedict

Then I got my go-to “Nature’s Flu Shot” ingredients and juiced and rested the bulk of the weekend.

flushotstuff

I did the laundry right away, but still need to put away the suitcase and organize my clothes. Instead I colored a bit until my brain could process life again.

coloring

My toilet was runny too so I had to look up how to fix it and then replace a toilet flapper.

newflapper

Since I had to go out to Home Depot, I also swung by Michaels.

michaelshopping

I put my art fair displays away that I had just dumped after RAW and Girls Nite Out.

studiomess

How cute is this (on sale) rainbow drawer set that allows me to color-code my scraps instead of digging through a shoebox?

rainbowscraps

The cleanup had me revisiting old project ideas and I tossed out old sheets for which I now have better paper.

outwithold

Dave’s Rock Shop has an assortment of triangle beads I want to fiddle with.

davestrianglebeads

I also did a visual inventory of my ornaments and made a stash of Christmas papers.

octangels

My sister got me some goodies to incorporate into my holiday ornaments.

holidayfeltfromluxemburg

I picked up skull napkins in Germany.

halloweenpendants

Now I am making some additions to the Halloween Collection.

makingnewbies

Then it’s incorporating beads I picked up at Perlenspiel to my angel ideas.

perlenspielbeads

I shopped that store in Wiesbaden when I was a teen, and was thrilled to have my aunt take me back there on my visit.

perlenspielwiesbaden

Contact me if you want a trick or treat pendant—my online shop will lag a bit since the rainy weather doesn’t lend itself to photoshoots.

skullstreat

Discovering River Trail Nature Center

On Saturday I discovered the River Trail Nature Center. I needed a nature getaway between errands in various burbs, and this was a mid-way point. It was love at first sight.

GreenTrees

Upon entering the parking lot, you can see various large cages.

RiverTrailNatureCtr

After I parked and went up close, these turned out to have various animals for up-close observation.

Barred Owl

Great Horned Owl

Coyote

Coyote

redtailedhawk

Red-tailed Hawk which was napping earlier

BaldEagle

Bald Eagle

SwansonHawk

Swanson Hawk which decided to sunbathe

Their wing spans are amazing!

wingspan

There is a nature center explaining the history of this area, and lovely illustrations along the trail to visualize the glacial melt-down.

glaciers

Chipmunks were everywhere.

chipmunk

Mosquitoes liked my ears a lot, but that didn’t keep me from walking the two looped trails which are easy for young and old to navigate.

Trails

There are lots of benches to rest on along the way of the .5 mile loops.

benchesgalore

The bridle path can lead all the way up to Wisconsin, or down to Oak Park.

bridlepath

The Green Bay Trail leads to Allison Woods.

clearlymakred

That park entrance has a shelter for picnicking and a grassy area for games.

AllisonWoods

The education center has a nature discovery area, where kids can climb in an eagle nest, crawl in a fox den, create their own puppet shows, and more.

playgroundloggs

Turtle lovers can have their fill observing these quirky creatures.

Turtles

I met a Fox Squirrel which had been rescued as a baby.

FoxSquirrel2

It is curious about people but suffered brain damage so wouldn’t survive in the wild.

FoxSquirrel1

When I returned it was taking a nap.

sleepingFoxSquirrel

Two Black Rat Snakes were hugging.

huggingratsnakes

I couldn’t get enough of the scales of this reptile (didn’t note the breed).

skaleysnake

Trail maps and interpretive publications are available at the front desk, and naturalists will answer questions.

vignettes

A Tree Guide helps with identifying trees.

treeguide

The River Trail Nature Center is at 3120 Milwaukee Avenue in Northbrook, IL 60062.

StuffedFowl

A butterfly garden has labeled plants to see what you might want to plant at home.

butterflygarden

I spotted a Tiger Swallowtail.

Swallowtail

There was also a mourning cloak in the woods but it was camera shy.

mushroomart

Dragonflies didn’t like to be photographed much either, but I prevailed.

dragonfly

Behind the nature center is a lovely line-up of Adirondack chairs.

adirondack cheirs

I meant to journal but just stared out into space and listened to the sounds around me.

staringintospace

Hours from March to October are 9 am to 5 pm, closed Fridays for the building, and 8 am to 5 pm all week for the grounds.

Beehives

In November through February the building is open 9 am to 4 pm, closed Fridays, and the grounds are open from 8 am to 4 pm all week.

LovelyBones

The park is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day. I’m already plotting my return to this place.