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?

Affair of the Arts Spring Show

Last Sunday took me to the Shores of Turtle Creek in Spring Grove for the Affair of the Arts Spring Show.

The grounds are so pretty and I can imagine the festive events that are held here.

Like the holiday show, we had ample setup time. The load in was smooth, and soon my table was all set.

I had time to visit my friend Cindy Lesperance’s booth.

She had already made two sales before opening.

Of course I had to pick out one of my favorites as well, since her ‘stippling’ technique in encaustic is so fascinating.

My neighbor was the lovely coat lady of KatKo Designs, for which I still need to save up funds. The transformation of the coats on different people is amazing. They each have their own personality.

Across from me Kari’s Clay Creations had her table, and her ‘drunken mugs’ were admired by many.

It was fun to interact with so many friendly people.

The Lodge was filled with amazing art and one of a kind creations.

I love the bright skylights and rustic decor.

The downstairs level was also filled with talent.

Cindy was one of the booth award recipients this time around. The winners are automatically part of the Fall 2017 Show on November 19.

You can apply for that show here.

I had a great day and was happy to see my creations go to new homes.

Organizers Karen and Joe Isacson also had a booth.

Check out the web site of J + K Isacson for upcoming artist events.

I am excited to have a bit of the show in my home.

 

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.

Exploring Crystal Lake

On Friday I was scheduled for an evening art fair at the Immanuel Lutheran School in Crystal Lake, a suburb I had never visited before. So prior to the 4:30 pm setup time I decided to take the afternoon to explore the town. An online search produced an intriguing map of a nice walkable cluster downtown, so I figured out where to park and set the coordinates for a leisurely drive.

The weather was lovely (albeit slightly chilly), and I parked my car in a 4-hour spot. Then I oriented myself based on the map by the train station.

Since it was lunchtime I checked the list of restaurants first, and picked two that looked intriguing. While passing a bunch of enticing windows I decided on Le Petit Marche, a lovely french-inspired bistro.

I ordered a tuna salad brioche with tea, which was served quickly.

The ambiance is lovely, and I would love take part in a wine and cheese evening sometime.

I was going to leave some postcards for Affair of the Arts, but someone already had. 🙂

Fully nourished, I walked to the end of the street and fell in love with the Crystal Lake Antique Mall. This place has rooms upon rooms of vintage pieces that inspire nostalgia and tempt those with a flair for spinning stories about old pieces. I saw a lovely wooden desk secretary at a bargain price, but instead settled on a tray I actually needed. I do think I’ll visit again though, maybe I will know a place to put that piece by then (if it is still there).

Fully uplifted by this historic surprise, I strolled back outside and made my way back into modern times in an old-town setting.

I meandered 2 fabric stores, some fashion boutiques, and then stumbled onto Kaleidoscoops via a gift shop, and couldn’t resist treating myself to a cone. This is a nice after-school hangout for teens. I needed caffeine for a long evening so “The Grind” was a perfect fix with its delicious caramel and the crunch of chocolate covered espresso beans inside.

Across from the ice cream store was Evolve, a store with yummy-smelling chakra candles, lots of healing crystals, altar pieces, incense and beautiful instruments to center the soul. I could have spent hours in there but had a schedule to keep.

So I strolled in and out of a few more cute stores before being stopped by the Metra. In the future I could catch the UP-NW metro line in Mount Prospect for a mini trip to Crystal Lake.

On my way to the car I spotted this fun sign that applies to so much of life.

Five minutes later I was at the Lutheran School to unload my car in the gym.

Soon the place was transformed into a vibrant and colorful fair.

Fancy meeting Le Petit Marche here again!

It was fun getting back into the booth setup routine.

I had fun doing a quick perusal.

 Tupperware is more vibrant these days.

Now that I am sewing again, this coat by Ginspiration spoke to me.

A raffle drawing was held every 30 minutes.

I gained some new admirers and a few pieces walked away.

My angels, dragonflies and ladybugs were all petted.

A friend stopped by and snapped me in action.

My neighbors were fun to connect with.

Soon it was time to pack up again and head home. It was a good evening and I look forward to visiting here again.

On to Affair of the Arts!

Dragonflies in the shop

Last week was Dragonfly week and I uploaded a few of my favorite odonata.

There will be more to come, and I have a few in my head.

With spring coming I want to make more plant stakes.

Maike's Marvels Dragonfly Plant Stake

I also did neck shots and earring shoots as the sunlight permitted. I don’t have a photo studio so it’s just how the light falls in the living room.

It’s time consuming to get situated, but fun at the same time.

The aftermath of a photoshoot…

I cropped and recropped and set about writing product descriptions.

I also put two popular paper wedding anniversary pendants up on the shop. Earrings and bangles are coming soon.

Then I asked tech support why I couldn’t figure out how to get my necklace length options to work, and of course all I needed to do was start the attributes from scratch instead  of fiddling with the one I had created prior to the ecommerce migration.

When in doubt, just reset the thing you are doing in WordPress…

Anyway, after a day of going through all my pendant listings, you can now specify your necklace cord length when ordering a product, no special notes needed.

Being my own techie is frustrating sometimes, but learning how things work is fascinating too.

I still need to decide on an international shipping plugin, and want to explore more themes so the sidebar goes where it is supposed to to help you navigate better.

For real-life perusal, I made over a few older pendants and gave them new flair.

These are so 2013.

So now they are all made over in vibrant colors.

This spring collection is at The Collage Cafe.

Let me know what you would like to see next. I have many ideas for Spring, but enjoy hearing from you the most!

 

 

 

 

Spring Grove Show Sunday

On Sunday I will be making my way to the beautiful Turtle Creek Lodge in Spring Grove. Affair of the Arts, a Fine Art & Artisan Gift Show, is held Sunday, March 5, 10 am to  5 pm at The Shores of Turtle Creek, 7908 Winn Road, Spring Grove, Illinois 60081.

The spacious lodge will be filled with 10,000 sq. ft of original artwork and artisan crafts. Admission to the event is free. You can peruse Jewelry, Ceramics, Painting, Printmaking, Photography, Fiber Art, Wood, Metalwork, 3D Mixed Media, Fine Art, Home Accessories, and Artisan Fashion items while sipping on cocktails.

You can find me in the Mixed Media category, along with:

  • J + K Isacson
  • Cindy Lesperance
  • Maike’s Marvels
  • Will Slagel
  • Maija Steele

I’m thrilled my friend Cindy’s part of it. Cindy Lesperance is an award-winning artist who works out of her private studio in the NW suburbs of Chicago. Her art has been exhibited and has earned awards in many juried shows and competitions, galleries, and museums throughout the Chicagoland area and across the country. Cindy loves spending time in nature, traveling, and learning about other cultures: their art, traditions, and architecture.

Always aware of color, pattern, and texture, these experiences are an inspiration for her geometric works of art which are reminiscent of nature, oriental rugs, and fabrics. Although self-taught, Cindy has evolved a personal style in encaustic that is highly sophisticated and meticulous in attention to craftsmanship. At times she plans out a painting in it’s entirely before it is begun but more often she works intuitively applying minute “droplets” of wax, one-by-one, to produce a tactile pattern that invites the viewer to touch.

Ceramics and Home Artists include:

  • Lynn & Diane Abbott
  • Michael Benstein
  • James Blechschmidt
  • Natasha Glumova
  • Jan Johnson
  • Feisty Dog
  • Danuta Loane
  • Regina Lombardo
  • Josie Rochell
  • Kari Thornton
  • Fiber and Photo artists are:
  • Katie Biedrzycka
  • Shari Emme
  • Meghan Faulkner
  • Kathleen Freund
  • Brook Mrkvicka
  • Upsydoozy
  • TF Wilcox
  • Jewelry artists include:
  • Marianne A. McKoveck
  • Paula Dammeyer
  • Leanne Emery – Triskele Moon
  • Amy Hassan
  • Jewels Botanica
  • Maike’s Marvels
  • Despina Pafralides
  • Kathleen Watson

Drawing and Painting artists represented are:

  • Barbara Benstein
  • Tonya Bestor
  • Robert Cairone
  • Caroline Goldsmith
  • J + K Isacson
  • Connie Olmstead
  • Elizabeth Waddington
  • Tree Frog Studio

Visitors are able to purchase beverages and enjoy complimentary snacks during the Affair of the Arts event.  Wine, mixed drinks and other beverages can be purchased on the first floor, past the central fireplace.  Hors d’ oeuvres and light snacks will be available. I was a booth winner last year at the holiday fair, and had a great time trying on fancy coats and meeting wonderful people during the day-long event. I look forward to seeing the new creations everyone has come up with.

The first floor of Turtle Creek accommodates about half of the participating artists, with plenty of room for browsers to mingle and shop.  Downstairs,  you will find another full level of inspiring fine art and crafts to purchase. All items for sale are handcrafted. There will be something for everyone’s budget, from affordable small gifts to collector pieces.

Both levels are handicapped-accessible. There is a ramp to the upper level along the west side of the building, and also a ramp sloping down to the lower level entrance. The staircase to the lower level is located immediately to the right after you enter the main entrance doorway.

The lodge is situated on 32 scenic acres. Inside, there is seating along the large windows overlooking beautifully landscaped grounds. Affair of the Arts is Directed/Produced by J + K Isacson who coordinate other art exhibitions, events and artist call via xculturearts.com.