Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is nigh (May 11 in the U.S., Netherlands and Germany) and I am taking custom orders.

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I’ve had a few requests for birthstone jewelry, and now is the time to message me if this is something you would like to honor your mother with. Based on your family members’ birth dates I will select semiprecious stones associated with their birth month and incorporate them into a bangle or a pendant.

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I’ve also created custom wax and wire pendants with family member names, the meaning of a child’s name, favorite quotes while incorporating a favorite color or shape. Ready-made hearts are here.

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My Etsy shop is stocked with pendants, collars, bangles and earrings ready to adorn the nurturer in your life, such as this Maternal Hug.

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You can honor her for her noble and nourishing work.

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Set her heart aflutter with a butterfly creation.

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Or tell her she is the number one matriarch who has your heart under lock and key with these one-of-a-kind creations.

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The abstract-minded might like these familial-looking pendants.

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If you’re a Chicago-area in-person shopper, check out my inventory at Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont, which has a plethora of other fabulous gift items that will warm a mother’s heart.

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Gift wrap included upon request.

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Memory Makers

I’ve always been a girly girl and enjoyed playing with dolls. I could lose myself for hours making up stories and adventures for them. One year my mom made me a ‘fabric shop’ out of a cutlery drawer insert.

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When we were clearing out storage items it was recovered, and she shipped it to me.

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The ribbon cards that used to fill the paper cubbies were reduced to just 2, but everything else was still part of the kit.

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The matchbox drawers hold buttons.

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The contents were in dire need of a bath after 22 years.

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Going through everything was a trip down memory lane.

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Each piece of fabric came from an adult, child’s or doll-size version of a garment hand-sewn by mom once upon a time. Some of my dolls and I had matching jumpers.

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While I have taken a sewing class and do own a sewing machine the little store didn’t predispose me to dressmaking.

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Though I remember making a tiny doll sweater for a Barbie with my babysitter, knitting and crocheting has only happened sporadically in my life.

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Still, the scope of imagination this store held could fill a storybook. I set the shop up on my fireplace mantle for some further reminiscing.

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There is even a fabric swatch of the jumper I wore in this picture.

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Childhood nostalgia is fun.

Fixation

My newlywed friends Lauren and Rory Coyne are in the Fixation exhibit at Zhou B Art Center’s second floor this month. It was a thrill to attend the opening last Friday and see their latest work.

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Per Sergio Gomez: “Fixation is an exhibition and a publication of art and poetry focused on the physical/psychological preoccupation or obsession over an object or subject. The exhibition explores the subject of fixation as a continuous and elusive preoccupation of our human experience through written and visual art.”

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“The curators invited 24 artists and 17 poets to create works based on their understanding and perception of the theme of fixation. The result is a group exhibition including painting, drawing, photography and poetry. Each work brings light to the artist’s own preoccupations unearthed by his/her personal fixations.”

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I had seen Rory’s work in progress over the past few visits, and the resulting #wifelife is stunning.

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Lauren scaled up significantly since Wunderkammer and her Heirloom mesmerized me.

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We didn’t have much time to chat so I didn’t get their story of how their art relates to Fixation, but I didn’t feel the need to examine motives so much, though I have my theories based on the details in each art work.

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I do have a few fixations of my own of course, and was a bit relieved to see none of them represented in the show. On the other hand, it would be interesting to ponder how I might express my fixation in an encaustic collage.

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My favorite piece was Jaime Valero’s Water, Light and Movement #5 . It is an oil painting on board, but I had to look closely to believe that because it felt so photographic.

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I know nothing about painting techniques so I merely reacted to the imagery, which is ambiguous due to the woman’s expression. So I cannot state why exactly I was so mesmerized, but I definitely couldn’t stop staring.

One artist did ask me to vocalize my interpretation of his work, but I bowed out, not knowing how to express my dichotomous visceral reaction into words.

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Sometimes art should just speak on its own without critique or interpretation or research. Ultimately artists strive to connect with an audience, and too much information can create a self-consciousness about the layman’s interpretation of it.

It was lovely to reunite with other friends as we’d all been stuck in hibernation mode for far too long.

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There is something about gathering and chatting with kindred spirits among vibrant art that makes the world feel a better and warmer place again.

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The exhibit was curated by Sergio Gomez, owner of of 33 Contemporary Gallery, and Poets and Artists Magazine’s editor Dulce Menendez and has print and digital companion pieces in Poets and Artists Magazine.

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I highly recommend you see the exhibit in person as the online photos do not convey the scale or the detail of the work. I look forward to reviewing the companion poems this weekend.

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Zhou B Art Center is located at 1029 W 35th Street in Chicago, IL. The gallery currently also hosts Zhou Brothers: American Period and Things Forgotten…Remembered by Joe Milosevich.

Burpalicious Trunk Show at Aurora Rose

This year Aurora Rose Boutique hosts trunk shows every fourth Saturday of the month. This month, Saturday, April 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. it is Burpalicious’ turn to showcase its wares.

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Burpalicious offers bib and burp cloths, pre-made blankets, customized blankets, car seat covers, pillowcase covers, and other baby gifts. You can even supersize those warm cozy blankets for adults.

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During the trunk show you can place custom orders, pick your own colors and designs for Burpalicious’ handmade pieces. Baby products by other vendors are also available in the store.

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If you don’t have any expectant acquaintances, you should still pop in and browse all the other varied handmade gift selections Aurora Rose offers. Creativity abounds and new vendors are added on a regular basis.

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Snacks by Kim Peters, Tastefully Simple Independent Consultant will also be provided.

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Stop in any time to see a great selection carried at Aurora Rose, A Unique Boutique or view the Burpalicious Facebook page. Aurora Rose, A Unique Boutique is located at 111 Stephen Street, Lemont, Illinois 60439.

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Mark your calendar for my trunk show in June, at which you’ll see a wider variety of my desktop minis and wax and wire jewelry.

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Chocolate Fun

Since Easter is also Chocolate Celebration weekend, here is some trivia we shared back in December during a Network of Entrepreneurial Women gathering:

After Chocolate was presented to the Spanish King by Hernán Cortés in 1528, the Spaniards kept it a secret from the rest of the world for 100 years. Cortés presented the Spanish King, Charles V with cocoa beans from the New World and the necessary tools for its preparation. Cortés later postulated that if this bitter beverage were to be blended with sugar, it could become quite a delicacy. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon.

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In 1609, The first book devoted entirely to chocolate, Libro en el cual se trata del chocolate, was written in Mexico. A recent book reported scientific evidence that pregnant mothers who eat chocolate will have children that are sweeter.

Pepero Day in South Korea is a holiday when friends and loved ones give each other long, thin cookies dipped in chocolate. Scheduled on the date that looks most like the cookies themselves, Pepero Day is held on November 11.

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Roald Dahl suggested in his autobiography that he was at least partly inspired for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by the time he spent as a child testing flavors for Cadbury.

Ruth Graves Wakefield invented Chocolate Chip Cookies when using a chocolate chip substitute in the chocolate cookies she was preparing to serve at her Inn. The Inn was named TollHouse, thus becoming the origin of TollHouse cookies.

The Field Museum’s World Fair exhibit is on display now (and NEW will visit it in August).  Chicago Woman Bertha Palmer of the Palmer House Hotel invented the Chocolate Brownie for the Chicago World’s Fair. A chef at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel created the confection after she requested a dessert for ladies attending the fair; it should be, she said, smaller than a piece of cake, though still retaining cake-like characteristics and easily eaten from boxed lunches. These first brownies featured an apricot glaze and walnuts, and they are still being made at the hotel according to the original recipe (definitely a lovely activity to do with out-of-towners).

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The Women’s World’s Fair of 1925 was held April 18–25 in the American Exposition Palace. It attracted more than 160,000 visitors, and consisted of 280 booths representing 100 occupations in which women were engaged. The fair was the idea of Helen Bennett, the manager of the Chicago Collegiate Bureau of Occupations, and Ruth Hanna McCormick, a leading clubwoman and Republican politician. Women publicized and ran the fair; its managers and board of directors were all women.

The fair had the double purpose of displaying women’s ideas, work, and products, and raising funds to help support women’s Republican Party organizations. The booths at the fair showed women’s accomplishments in the arts, literature, science, and industry. These exhibits were also intended as a source for young women seeking information on careers. Among the exhibitors at the fair were major corporations, such as Illinois Bell Telephone Company and the major national and regional newspapers. Local manufacturers, banks, stores, and shops, area hospitals, and women inventors, artists, and lawyers set up booths demonstrating women’s contributions in these fields and possibilities for employment.

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Mayans and Aztecs knew chocolate offered a high and called it magical. The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California believes that “chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana, and that these chemicals may be responsible for certain drug-induced psychoses associated with chocolate craving.”

Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical, or even divine, properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.

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The basis for cocoa powder was invented during the 1830s in the Netherlands (my father land). Dutch process chocolate or Dutched chocolate is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder taste compared to “natural cocoa” extracted with the Broma process. It forms the basis for much of modern chocolate, and is used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.

The Dutch process was developed in the early 19th century by Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten, whose father Casparus is responsible for the development of the method of removing fat from cacao beans by hydraulic press around 1828, forming the basis for cocoa powder. These developments greatly expanded the use of chocolate, which had been mostly used as a beverage in Europe until that time.

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The Broma process is a method used to remove cocoa butter from cocoa mass, leaving cocoa solids (cocoa powder). In about 1865, someone at the Domingo Ghirardelli factory discovered that when a bag of cocoa mass (ground cacao beans) was hung in a warm room, the cocoa butter dripped off, leaving behind a residue that could then be processed into cocoa powder. More cocoa butter (fat) is extracted by using the Broma process than by using a hydraulic press, and less fat remaining in the cocoa (powder) makes it easier to dissolve the cocoa into liquids. Broma process cocoa also has a more intense flavor than Dutch process cocoa, as no alkalis are added to the cocoa.

All chocolate photos are from Belgian Chocolatier Piron, except for the mousse which is at Symphony’s in Evanston.

Enjoy chocolate mousse with us at Symphony’s on Thursday evening.

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Crystal Clay demo at A Bella Bead

Last Wednesday the Network of Entrepreneurial Women had its Meet & Munch at A Bella Bead in Glen Ellyn. Since I am getting back into beading, I knew this was going to be a risky event for my wallet.

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Sharon Dotson started out making jewelry when she wanted something to go with an outfit for a wedding. As she created pieces people would follow her in grocery stores and buy her necklaces right there.

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After doing trunk shows and fairs, Sharon opened a shop selling her jewelry, but when the owner sold her building after two years, it was time to make a change.

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In October 2013 Sharon opened A Bella Bead, which provides beading supplies, beading classes, and handmade jewelry by Sharon. Sharon likes to re-purpose vintage pieces and matches crystals and other accoutrements of that time period to the base piece. She can also do jewelry repair of vintage and not-so-vintage pieces.

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Sharon also believes in supporting the community and teaches classes at schools and churches. She hosts open tables on Saturdays where people can come in and play with beads for a set time frame.

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We quickly started discussing the challenges of solopreneurship in a retail store, and Sharon credits her family members and friends with keeping her going. They volunteer their time and offer business insights that help her innovate and brainstorm new offerings.

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Our group discussed goal setting and how to determine whether to hire an intern or staff member. That theme continued in my inbox that evening when I came across Leonie Dawson’s How To Hire Staff When You Want To Do It All Yourself article.

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One member suggested taking 90 days as a “year” planning cycle, and setting milestones for those 3 months at a time. She said that just by doing one thing on that list, other tasks may work themselves out as an effect of that first action item.

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Sharon’s Wine cork classes and Cystal Clay classes are the most popular, and I can see why. She led us through a demonstration which has me itching to buy a kit and get sparkly.

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The kit comes with an epoxy (gray) and clay (white in this case but available in all kinds of colors), and a small stick with beeswax for crystal setting. Sharon prefers using the magical pick for her crystals, and who wouldn’t want a touch of magic?

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You mix equal parts epoxy to clay and rub it together for it to adhere. Then you place the clay into the surface you wish to embellish, a bezel, ring, bracelet, earring, pen, brush, comb, etc. They can be metal or plastic backings.

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Then you set the crystals into the clay, either forming a design or just as inspiration strikes. Sharon recommends Swarovski crystals as other crystals don’t have the same lustre. One has 2 hours to set the crystals before the clay starts to harden.

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After all the stones are set, a little crystal dust is applied, which also comes in various colors. This gives the piece a shimmer rather than the matte clay finish.

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Et voila, a pendant is born. This will now dry for 24-48 hours.

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This could easily become a new addiction! I opted for a few crystal beads to embed in a vision I had before entering the store, and I will leave the Crystal Clay kit for a time when I have made room for new tools in my overflowing supply drawers.

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A Bella Bead’s calendar is updated on its Facebook page. We might have to do a wine cork class next!

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We also happily took some promotional photos to aid Sharon in her social media needs.

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Next week we’ll be dining at Symphony’s in Evanston and rotating after each course to get some quality networking time in with each other. (Last year’s progressive dinner was a blast). NEW’s May events are up on the calendar. We’ll be exploring Native American Culture at our next Meet & Munch and escaping to a spa during Wine Women and Wellness. Join us!

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Some photos courtesy NetworkHoncho.com, others by Maike’s Marvels

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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.

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Oh yeah, we had delicious munchies too!

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Hippity Hopping

I recently visited Norridge for a Trunk Show that was a lot of fun.

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The sign makes me think of The Wedding Singer.

It was my biggest display table yet, so I had to take two shots to get it all in.

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Fellow Network of Entrepreneurial Women member Marianne was there with Melaleuca and her embroidery.

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The Amazonite set went straight to the table and I wore the double coil collar and my chakra stone bangle for the fair.

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The Easter Bunny Hippity Hopped in.

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For lunch I had my first Sloppy Joe ever.

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I had fun conversations and gained some admirers who proudly walked off with their new purchases.

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The Double Coil Collar then made its way to Aurora Rose Boutique in Lemont.

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My shelf has been refreshed with a few new pieces there.

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Scarf pendants have a discount this month and there are other Springy deals in the store, but you’ll have to check in with Kim or Amber to find out what it is.

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Etsy is fully updated with items intended to bring joy to the recipient. Taking photographs is always a fun project.

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Sometimes my lingering Buckeye distracts me from the task at hand.

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If you are green with joy at the coming of Spring and the celebration of new life, enter Coupon Code GREENWITHJOY on Etsy and get 10% off your purchase. Get the scoop on my latest shows and coupon codes with my monthly newsletter.

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You’ll find pendants celebrating the Resurrection with passages pulled straight from the Bible.

Have a fantastic, lush week.

Creativity abounds

Spring is finally creeping into the Midwest. All the snow has melted and some flowers are beginning to emerge.

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I cleared my workspace one evening, cleaned my tools and got creative.

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The sunshine and longer days drew me into the studio several times and I’ve enjoyed shaping and embellishing the wire into my vision.

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This wasn’t always successful, as an attempt at triple hearts just didn’t pan out, and a single heart became the final piece.

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Since coiled wire takes some wrangling, I goofed around a bit too. Maybe tiaras will be a future line…

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I matched an earcuff from the Renaissance Faire with my swirly pearls.

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Bangles have been popular lately so I created a few of those.

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There is something soothing about stringing beads. This one is a chakra bangle.

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They’re fun to put on.

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One birthstone bangle was sold, one is at Aurora Rose Boutique, and the third is for me to wear out for now.

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Ayla’s Bead Bazaar inspired me to incorporate Amazonite into a bracelet and collar set. Amazonite turns out to be a lovely, healing and positive stone.

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It went straight to a trunk show I will post about next week.

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I’m also feeling a love of springy colors.

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What’s your favorite piece?

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Lady Lepidopterists

“Amongst the earliest known entomologists
were women of rank, wealth and fashion
who reared butterflies,
painted them and embroidered their images on cloth.”
~ Michael A. Salmon, The Aurelian Legacy

This month my Lady Lepidopterists encaustic collage is featured on Light Space & Time’s online gallery. This collage was in the works for some time, as I delved more into biographies of women who studied butterflies throughout 2012 after being so smitten with Maria Sybilla Merian.

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I read Fiona Mountain’s Lady of the Butterflies about 17th Century Eleanor Glanville and was fascinated by the story of determination Eleanor had in spite of being considered eccentric and later being accused of insanity for her butterfly hunts.  The title page of that book is incorporated into the collage.

“Butterflies were Margaret’s key to freedom.
Studying them gave her a socially acceptable way to
exempt herself form a traditional domestic role on England. “
~ Natasha Scott-Stokes, Wild and Fearless

Thanks to the Evanston Public Library I also discovered botanist Ynes Mexia, author Hilda Simon, Margaret Fountaine, and a range of women naturalists mentioned in compilations or in passing. I am astounded by the bravery of these trailblazing women, who didn’t care that they were made out for lunatics but kept pursuing their passion in spite of societal and wardrobe constraints on women at the time. I also admire contemporary butterfly artists and researchers, and love discovering more.

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The collage includes my drawing of a rice paper butterfly, also called the Large Tree Nymph. My friend and drawing teacher Lauren Coyne gave me this specimen when I took her drawing workshop a few summers ago.

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“A lepidopterist or aurelian is
a person who specializes in the study of Lepidoptera,
members of an order encompassing moths and
the three superfamilies of butterflies,
skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies.”
~ Wikipedia 

In May 2012 my neighborhood was a butterfly haven and I saw my first Painted Ladies and Question Marks. I had never seen either of those butterfly species before, but both were feasting on the local foliage and were wonderful posers.

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The Question Mark gets its name from the silver marking on its underwing, which resembles a question mark. It is similar to the Comma butterfly, which doesn’t have the ‘dot’ on its underwing, just a comma, and also doesn’t have the purplish edges on its wings that the Question Mark does.

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Upon commemorating the brave woman lepidopterists of current and past centuries on my substrate (Eleanor Glanville, Margaret Cavendish, Maria Sybilla Merian, Lauren Levato Coyne, Hilda Simon, Rachel Ruysch, Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe, Margaret Fountaine, Jeannine Oppewall), I layered encaustic medium and green hues of encaustic paint onto the surface.

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“I was careering wildly after everything I saw,
though catching tropical butterflies was no easy matter,
the intense heat seemed to have a most invigorating effect on them.”
~ Margaret Fountaine, Love Among The Butterflies, 1907 in Mombasa

After a few layers I added the collage materials, with the large photo of the Question Mark going on last.

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The 3rd Annual “All Women” Art Exhibition will be featured through April, and then move to the Light Space & Time Archives. The art in the Special Merit Category could have also been placed in the top tier of the entries selected, but due to size constraints was given its own category.

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The gallery received 709 entries from 22 different countries from around the world, including Armenia, Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Sweden,  Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the Ukraine, and entries from 36 different states in the U.S.

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You can peruse my butterfly art work on Etsy, including collages of various sizes and pendants.

“Reading about the lives of the collectors
we sense that they are people who,
however inept at dealing with matters of state,
have accidentally found the secret of happiness—
concentrating with astonishing tenacity
to the details of another parallel world—
rising above the ills to which human flesh is heir,
on the wings of the angelic butterfly.’

~Miriam Rothchild, June 1999, The Aurelian Legacy

Recommended butterfly/naturalist reading:

  • Ynes Mexia: Botanist and Adventurer, Durlynn Anema
  • Swallowtail Butterflies, Jane Dallinger
  • Butterflies and Moths, Ken Preston Mafham
  • Luna Moths: Masters of Change, Sandra Merkle
  • Butterflies and Moths -Eyewitness Handbook, David Carter
  • Wonders of the Butterfly World, Hilda Simon
  • An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair With A Singular Insect, Sharman Apt Russell
  • Lady of the Butterflies, Fiona Mountain
  • A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton Porter
  • Wild and Fearless: The Life of Margaret Fountaine, Natascha Scott-Stokes
  • Love Among the Butterflies: The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady, Margaret Fountaine
  • The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and their Collectors, Michæl A. Salmon, Peter Marren, Basil Harley
  • The Family Butterfly Book, Rick Mikula
  • Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Die Blumenkönigin. Ein Maria Sibylla Merian- Roman, Inez van Dulleman
  • Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis, Kim Todd

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