Plant Stakes for the Trunk Show

Last summer I made a dragonfly stake on a whim and it was well-received. This year I took the production level up a notch and added ladybug stakes to the collection. I distributed them at my various boutique outlets, and they steadily fly off to new homes. A post on Facebook prompted Ayla’s Originals to coordinate a trunk show with me.

So for Ayla’s Trunk Show this coming weekend, August 12 and 13, I am replenishing the batch. The traditional ladybugs go fastest, so red was on the brain this week.

Meanwhile, the jig I had set up for the Morpho application needed to be dismantled. However, I was inspired to create a stake form that setup before making the change.

I had also just made two mini-books, and that book setup led me to make two bookish stakes.

Then I changed the jig to my custom-created dragonfly template, and started bending wire into the popular dragonfly stakes. When my fingertips were sore I closed the studio for the evening.

The next morning I fired up the griddle and my irons, and started laying out the outfits for each critter. I hand-stamped lime green paper and interfacing fabric to reflect the writings of a book. Then I painstakingly added each page, which takes a lot of aligning, adjusting, cutting and realigning.

The books are my most time-consuming piece at this stage, followed by the dragonflies and their waxing intricacies.

I hand-colored interfacing with rainbow stripes (in permanent marker) for the ever-popular rainbow dragonfly.

One ladybug was begging for polka-dotted fabric, and the other two were given red tissue paper.

Storm clouds were brewing, so I also used that tissue paper and another fabric scrap for a test ladybug ornament, which I swiftly hung outside.

Soon the buckets came down and even splattered onto the deck.

Nonetheless, I stepped out in the rain to see how my own two creatures were faring. Rain was bouncing off the dragonfly.  The ladybug was shielded from the onslaught, but soon the angle changed and it too started getting wet.

After the storm, both ornaments were wet, but undamaged.

Upon closer inspection you can see spots of rust in the dragonfly, which has accumulated since I hung it in April.

But overall the droplets just hang out on the wax until they evaporate, and the fabric and tissue strips remain intact.

I waxed my new creations. The whimsical oval piece was fun to design.

Then I photographed them as the light and angle allowed.

Stakes are harder to take pictures of than my other pieces. They don’t lay flat like regular ornaments, and getting all the angles in a photogenic way is challenging.

The Everlasting Fire Studio vases showcase each one well, though.

I really like the bookish ones, which will be a whole other outdoor test run. As ornaments, these books are more fragile than my other pieces. So for now I’d recommend them indoors only.

Good thing I have a volunteer with an outdoor plant I can send one of these off to.

My fireplace mantel is also a bit crowded, so I played with one corner for now, which isn’t ideal.

I will need to work on a light box setup to block out the windowsill.

Meanwhile, they look pretty as a bouquet and by themselves, and make me happy.

Since I will be showing at a bead store next, I also wanted to play with some bling on a stake.

The organic creation received 3 led crystals, which I know will hold up outside.

I plan on asking Ayla what else is suitable for outdoor sun catchers when I set up my trunk show this weekend.

The new creations will have their own table at the Ayla’s Originals Trunk show. I will also bring my jewelry and angels of course. 

Ayla’s Originals Store is located at 1511 Sherman Avenue in Evanston. I will be there Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 to 5 pm. Then all unsold pieces go home with me again.

There are lots of fun shops and eateries around 1511 Sherman. Be sure to take a selfie with Wonder Woman at the Other Brother Coffeehouse!

Testing Critters for Outside Use

As my critter plant stakes gain popularity, the question of how they hold up outside is asked. So in April I put together a dragonfly that has a variety of materials waxed in for testing.

I have some alcohol inks that are designed for metal and others that are not, so I painted parts of the dragonfly with various colors. I also tried colored wax, and left some parts ‘bare’.

Then I hung it outside to brave the elements. I used various types of gift tissue paper, a colored teabag and a scrap of cotton fabric to test.

That evening while I was at a pop-up we had a rainstorm, and I got to peek at the dragonfly when I returned.

The droplets just hung out on the waxed paper.

But the next morning you could see rusty spots.

I don’t mind that patina, but some people might.

Another rainstorm happened in daytime, and I checked out the dragonfly again.

I noticed the rainbow markers were runny, and I observed additional rusty spots.

So I purchased permanent markers for additional research. How cool is it that my business expense is rainbow markers?

I colored a new teabag for testing (original markers, rained out markers, permanent markers below).

I also decided to replace one piece of tissue with a handmade paper scrap to see how that holds up. Then I touched up rusty spots with colored wax to see how that holds up for the purists.

For now, rainstorms don’t bother the dragonfly structurally, and the paper/fabric remained attached.

I am curious what hot summer temperatures will bring, but my guess is that as long as the dragonfly just hangs out and doesn’t get handled in the heat, the paper or fabric will hold up fine.

Soon I will be checking some fabric versions of a ladybug too, since I have a second hook on my porch. Dragonfly 2.0 is awaiting the next rainshower. 

Unfortunately my web shop is undergoing repair right now, so you don’t see the full catalogue of my pieces there. You can check out the Hip Circle Empowerment Center, Sacred Art, ReVive Consignment and the Evanston Art Center Pop-up Shop for select pieces at retail shops.

I can also make custom designs of course, just pop me a message and peruse my Facebook page for samples.

Collaging Dragonflies

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

~ Lin’s Domain

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


A fabulous explanation of the mechanism is below:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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

~ Elena Harris, Editor


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

Artrageous is back, and you can vote!

Last year the Lincoln Park Champer of Commerce held its first Artrageous event. My Swift Swallowtails were selected to participate, and it was lovely to be part of the activities surrounding the inaugural event. I was thrilled to see Artrageous listed among calls for art earlier this year, signaling its success. Of course I wanted to enter again, and I am thrilled to be part of the line-up again this year.

The grand opening of the event is tomorrow, with trolleys available to shuttle visitors between art locations. You can download a map here. Between 2 and 5 p.m. on April 20, some artists will be available at their art locations for a Meet and Greet.


The trolley will be available between 2 and 5 on Saturday and stops at: Diversey and Hampden, Clark and Diversey, Clark and Wrightwood, Clark and Arlington, Clark and Webster; trolley picks up on the east side of Clark and the south side of Diversey.

My pieces will be at Vapiano Restaurant, 2577 N. Clark Street. I admired the trees on the table last year and look forward to dining there this time around. Vapiano’s is open between 11 am and 10 pm every day, so pop in for lunch or dinner and peruse my pieces.


If you cannot make it to the Clark street corridor in person, you can still vote for your favorite pieces. My entries are Dragonfly – Damselfly Diptych (pair) (Encaustic photo collage on board), Maike van Wijk – CSLP 14; Piano Scrolls Diptych (pair) (Encaustic painting on cradled art board), Maike van Wijk – CSLP 15; and Ruby Meadowhawk (Encaustic photo collage on board), Maike van Wijk – CSLP 16.

However, since the votes are by art work and not by artist, if you want to focus the vote, pick #14, the Dragonfly-Damselfly Diptych. I believe you can vote daily.


12-spotted Skimmer encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels

Dragonfly – Damselfly Diptych encaustic collage by Maike’s Marvels

A few of my FUSEDChicago peers were accepted into the contest as well:

Katsy Johnson’s Little School on the Prairie, Retreat of the Farmer’s Daughter, and Woodland Worship is at Potbelly Sandwich Works, 565 W. Diversey. She does large scale photographs with encaustic wax and oil on cradled panel, which I admire since it is really hard to get the photos to adhere well without bubbles.

Gina Van der Reyden’s encaustic wax painting Heart of the Matter is at Ravens, located at 2326 N. Clark Street, which looks to be a perfect place for cocktail hour.

Jenny Leaners encaustic painting Emerald is at Langford Market, 621 West Diversey.

Photographer Doug Boehm, who was in the PerficalSense Salon show with me, has Room with a View at BankFinancial, 2424 N. Clark Street.

Ruby Meadowhawk encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels

Ruby Meadowhawk encaustic collage by Maike’s Marvels

Not only will your vote for people’s choice support the 39 selected artists, but you can win prizes too!  Present the Punch Card on the reverse side of the map at each business where you visit and view the art on display. Note that a lot of art is available for sale (including mine), and you can contact the artists directly to inquire about their pieces.

Visit 25 of 33 participating businesses for a chance to win a $1,000 Clark Street Prize Package. Visit 15 of 33 participating businesses and you will be entered to win a $500 Clark Street Prize Package. Visit 5 of 33 participating businesses and you will be entered to win a Clark Street Door Prize.


After viewing the art and having your card punched at the various businesses, complete the information on the form and detach from the map. Please deliver your completed Punch Card to the drop-off locations listed on the map no later than 5:00 p.m., Sunday, May 5, to be entered into the drawings.


Meetup organizer Jennifer Yang and I at last year’s Artrageous opening

The Chicago Painters and Artists Meetup Group will gather for an Artrageous Art walk at Hanig’s Footwear on Saturday April 27, at 11 am. You can RSVP here.

A walk through Ryerson Woods

When I lived in Arizona, I was spoiled with the beauty of national parks within a few hours’ drive. Moving to the Illinois prairie I didn’t expect anything spectacular from nature. However, every time I visit a new nature preserve or park, I am pleasantly surprised.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I use Illinois State Parks: A Guide to Illinois State Parks by Bill Bailey  and Country Walks in the Chicago Region by Alan Fisher as starting points for my excursions. Recently I also started perusing the Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserve web sites for information.

Recently, I’ve discovered a new preserve just under an hour’s drive away from my home. The Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area, better known as Ryerson Woods, is a peaceful nature preserve that caters to the whole family. When I first looked at the web site, I was intrigued by the mention of praying mantids.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Just off I-94, the visitor center was easy to find. On a Sunday it opens at 11, so I was a bit early. A monarch lured me onto the path without a map, however.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I followed the obvious trail (mowed grass) and was observed by a deer in the distance.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

As I kept wandering, I enjoyed the lush woods, and was fascinated by the number of critters.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Now I wasn’t a big fan of spiders and mosquitos either, but Lauren Levato’s Facebook feed has shown me that the less-appreciated insects are living beings too, and I’m slowly adjusting to that concept.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Which is a good thing, because I invariable inched close to plants that had a vast amount of spiders on them!

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

After a bit of meandering, I came upon a lovely cabin, with a fabulous view.

Who wouldn’t want to live on this overlook at Ryerson Cabin?

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It is my understanding that the preserve was originally a development for summer homes, until the owners of the lots slowly donated their land to the park system.

A second cabin, the Smith River Cabin, had a lovely exhibit about the Des Plaines River, and Illinois’ glacial history. It was also surpisingly cool in that cabin on a 96-degree (Fahrenheit) day.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

It was nice to pretend I lived here for a day.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

And, so much for being away from it all, a map is available on mobile devices! 🙂

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

I spotted a Tiger Swallowtail and what I think might have been a Pipevine Swallowtail. Both fluttered too fast to snap. It is dragonfly and damselfly season too, and a few accommodated my lens.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Some wildflowers…

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The 6-mile trail circled me back to the visitor center, which also hosts a mini-farm with chickens, a turkey, sheep and two exotic birds for educational programs.

The bathrooms in the visitor center were clean, and I refilled my bottles with cold fountain water.

On a second round through he ‘internal’ trails, I came upon Brushwood, the former summer mansion of Edward Ryerson, and a Historic Place.

From 11 am to 3 pm the home is open for tours. It hosts a lovely library of antique nature books, and the park partners with the Field Museum to rotate small animal and insect dioramas, which can actually be checked out upon request.

This area also has a trail designed for those with disabilities.

This gem is a great getaway for families with members of all ages. The trails are flat and wide, and easy to walk, and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Although I wasn’t able to spot mantids, I saw plenty of other critters.

Illinois also has bogsmoraines and small-scale limestone canyons.

You don’t always have to take a road trip to recharge in nature either. There are smaller nature preserves sprinkled throughout Chicagoland that offer a lot of wildlife flanked by highways and railroad tracks.

Just google “Nature Preserve” with your zip code and see what comes up. Your state or county will likely have parks and forest designated web sites as well.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

scaling up and shop launch

The past week has been spent exploring Etsy and PayPal business options. I’ve set up shop using “How to Make Money Using Etsy” by Timothy Adam as a guide (from the library), and am reading through the remaining chapters to learn additional tips and tricks. Please check out my Etsy shop at: and let me know what you think. I am pleased someone already favorited one of my cards, and would love to see more feedback.

I’m also expanding the size of my creations with new canvases. Dick Blick conveniently has a back-to-school sale that saved me some money. Here is the Dragonfly Journey collage:
I found the dragonfly on my back porch one morning having trouble getting up, so I perched it on a ledge and it flew away from there.

First I tea-stained the canvas and wrote some travel/journey-related words.

Then I added a collage of additional background words with encaustic paint (beeswax with pigment).


Followed by dictionary entries, and compass imagery.

The dragonfly is attached with mounted tape for a raised effect.

The beeswax process is fun and the results tend to be unexpected. I look forward to playing with colors and textures some more. Here’s hoping someone loves my art enough to buy it!

Rediscovering linocutting

Ever since investigating my stamps’ copyrights, I’ve wanted to get back into linocutting (in 7th grade I made a playing card for art class). Enter the discovery of a local print shop. I asked Evanston Print & Paper Shop if they had linocut classes, and lo and behold, I was able to register for one 2 weeks later.

On Saturday Sarah Vogel of Slow Industries introduced six of us to the art of 2-block printing. First you pick out a line art image. Then you determine which colors you want to use. We chose blue and red with burgundy as a blended color.

Based on those colors, you color in your image. Then you trace your image to the wood block, tracing the parts of the one color on one block, and the parts of the other color (including blended overlaps) on the second block.

Then comes the hard part, thinking in negative. You want to carve out the things you DON’T want to print, and leave the image you want to print. Carving 2 5×7 blocks was hard on our hands and wrists. Fortunately Sarah saved me by cutting out some negative space on my block. This is something to be done cautiously as the linoleum can come off the wood. I was instructed to carve out to the edges on that block, instead of carving toward the image, in order to ensure the linoleum stayed on the block.

After 2-3 laborious hours, we were ready for the next step, printing.

Letterpress printing is quite the buzzword in stationary circles, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Surrounded by antique printing presses and steel type blocks, the print shop is teeming with nostalgia.

We were instructed to start with the dark color first (red in our case) and learned to place the block on the press, to ink it, and then push buttons and roll levers to print the first part of our image.

Everyone was pleasantly surprised by how their carvings turned out, and the character each image had based on the ‘trace’ markings.

We then moved on to the blue press. Mine required a bit of adjusting to ensure the image lined up with the red part.

At the end, we all admired each other’s work, and got to take a souvenir sheet from each person.

My dragonfly.

While my hand does need a bit of a break, I do plan on making some smaller scale stamps of my own in the future for home-based printing. Taking a full-fledged letterpress class may be starting an addiction I don’t quite need yet, but I am glad to know that I have a letterpress print shop in my neighborhood.

Are you planning on any workshops in the near future?