Making Plant Stake Critters

I have distributed plant stakes at 3 locations this week, which means a lot of stake-making happened over the past month.

Staying focused to pick up more wire was indeed a danger zone during my hardware store trip.

Something compelled me to make stakes late last year, but then winter happened and ornament production kicked in. With spring/summer finally emerging, I decided to make more dragonflies and also play with ladybug designs.

I had to allocate enough pieces for Evanston Made, my own Pop-ups, a Sacred Art Consignment, and the new Hip Circle Empowerment Center Retail Zone.

There are popular colors, and then I keep finding scraps I want to play with, so it required some focus to get it all done. Shopping sprees also provide more fun colors.

I created a design on my Now That’s A Jig for the dragonfly. The ladybug is just two rounds and then I hand-bend the wings and the dots.

Then I cut out the patterns and place them on my palette to be waxed.

I fuse the paper layers onto the wire.

After that, I cut the paper or fabric to size.

It is easy to poke my eye out in the process, but so far so good. I also keep discovering new scratches on my arms…

Some stakes are embellished with alcohol inks, and I have one dragonfly hanging out on my porch to test all that for weather-fastness.

Rain causes a little bit of rust, and we’ll see what the sun does in terms of heat and fading.

Stakes are hard to photograph, so I need to figure out the setup for that if I load them to the shop.

Bouquets need a better backdrop as well.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the old bottles to use as a display.

So I scoped out Everlasting Fire Studio’s new glass vase designs that they debuted at a recent trunk show.

Based on my stake height they created two larger versions for me, and I love this much more than the recycled pieces.

I will still use the bottles as ‘car seats’ for my critters.

On Tuesday I dropped off my pieces at the former Hip Circle Studio.

Tonight the Hip Circle Empowerment Center makes its debut (changing Hip Circle from for-profit to not-for-profit) and the Women-Powered Retail Zone will be open for business.

I made special pieces for the occasion.

Class-goers have already admired all the gorgeous goodies by The Collage Cafe, Rita Shimelfarb, Golden Sapphire, See Jane Sparkle, Strait Jacket, Maike’s Marvels, Chai Wolfman, and Rock These Socks. We’ll be up for a month or two until the retail Zone features other woman makers, so you’d better shop during their new business hours.

The Women-Powered Retail Zone is open: 3 to 6 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,  1 to 4 pm Fridays, 15 minutes before & after all classes/workshops, and during the Custer Fair June 17 & 18. Here’s to my creatures flying off to new homes.

I also tagged a bunch for the Evanston Made pop-up shop at the Evanston Art Center, which opens tomorrow evening to the public.

All that spread-sheeting and number tracking has me looking forward to making more fabric versions next.

Blog Hopping

This month several FUSEDChicago artists are participating in a blog hop. I was asked to participate by Alicia Forestall-Boehm, whom I see at various FUSEDChicago exhibits. Her work is quite fascinating, as it takes encaustics to a sculptural level, and I love how she takes cheesecloth, wood and wire and turns them into abstract yet energetic works of art. Her pieces evoke atmosphere and make me rethink shape an texture a lot. You can see her work at my recap of the Hairpin Gallery show.

AliciaForestallBoehmAlicia’s “encaustic and fiber sculptures reduce larger images and concepts into elegant simplified forms.  By paring down basic elements of color, shape and movement I am able to acknowledge another kind of space. Ultimately they become symbols of incompleteness that come together in works of art that are complete and whole. My work elevates the humble cheesecloth.  When married with encaustic it becomes surprisingly malleable allowing for a broad range of sculptural treatments.  The resulting works are abstract representations of urban history that often explores the physical and mental boundaries of public and private spaces we inhabit.  I am currently working on an encaustic and fiber sculptural installation for a solo show at Art on Armitage in Chicago December 2014.” Alicia’s blog is at

1) What am I working on/writing?

I’m preparing for my next trunk show at Platt-A-Palooza in Bloomington, August 30 from 1-6.  It is time to implement ideas I have had simmering for a while and stock up on popular jewelry designs. I’ll be showcasing a few new jewelry pieces as well as new collage art. I’m also evaluating some Fall exhibit options and stretching my possibilitarianism as I apply to events I don’t quite feel ready for.


2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

The FUSEDChicago scene is quite varied in and of itself. The encaustic artists I know have a very distinct style and color palette that make them distinguishable among each other.
My twist on encaustic painting is that I add photo collages into the mix which are taken during my nature jaunts. There are still many techniques I have learned that I haven’t worked with enough to truly make my own, but I look forward to practicing and creating.

My wire jewelry grew out of a workshop with Crystal Neubauer and then just kept moving forward. Thus far I have challenged myself to create each wire piece out of a single piece of steel wire, without soldering or attaching separate pieces of steel wire. This has resulted in coils becoming part of my work, and some people consider the coil, which sometimes gets interpreted as a violin clef as my trade mark. I am still studying the wire wrapped jewelry landscape, but my pieces tend to be more rounded and less angular than what I see on a comparative level.


3) Why do I write/work what I do?

When I am in the studio I feel at peace. Time enters a different dimension and the materials and colors fill me up with joy and gratitude. I like infusing each piece with happiness and positivity, and my hope is that that energy translates to new owners. The look of wonder as people examine my work at fairs makes me happy, and knowing that they will own something truly unique that cannot be replicated.

As someone who never quite fit into a mold, I like the quirkiness of my creations, and how even if I try, no two pieces are ever the same, just like humans. In spite of the tendency toward conformity, it is important to hold on to one’s individuality and be aware that what makes each of us different is the special gift that makes us unique and one-of-a-kind in this world.

The necessity of using a heat source in encaustics helps me let go of my inner perfectionist and allow the wax to flow. I cannot be as precise as one would be with a pencil, and yet this aspect frees me tremendously. Likewise, the heavier gauge of the wire forces a more ‘rugged’ look rather than the delicate precision of different kinds of wire. Learning to balance my vision and precision with the energy and ‘pushback’ of the materials is a lovely analogy of life in general.


4) How does my writing/working process work?

I absorb a lot of stimuli and inspiration both in my head and captured on paper, a memory stick (what used to be film), and in other objects. Eventually something in particular will bubble up and come out during my studio session. My studio is filled with inspiration pieces that help me visualize what I want to create.

Sometimes the materials and I work in harmony, and at others the wire and encaustics will nudge me into their own direction, where my vision doesn’t always match the outcome.
I cut up lengths of wire and prepare them (sand and hammer them) for bending into pendants, earrings, bangles or collar necklaces. Then I pick out the beads, decorative wire, papers and other ephemera I want to embellish them with. This determines the shape and form of each piece.

For wall collages, I research images and words and prepare collage sheets ahead of time and print these out. Then I fire up the griddle to warm up the color palette of the day and melt the wax. I layer on the medium and pigments and then fuse the materials to the wooden substrate. As the layers come together I cut up the collage sheets and lay out the pieces to see how they fit the with photographic centerpiece. With each layer the layout takes on more permanent form, and eventually all parts of the collage are fused together.


Avid readers of my blog know Lauren Levato Coyne taught me how to draw. Our shared love for Moths and Butterflies provided initial conversation fodder, and now we enjoy sharing delicious foods on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing her upcoming show.

HeirloomLevatoCoyneArtist and writer Lauren Levato Coyne is a collector of exotic and unusual specimens with a focus on the entomological and anatomical. Lauren’s work comes from the intersection of wonder and memory and how the body itself becomes a wunderkammer, amassing all manner of mysterious and confounding issues, dramas, revelations, and dilemmas that either touch us as a fleeting corporeal moment or take up permanent residence in the body’s collection. The themes of body as wonder, memory, and curiosity have been the foundation of Lauren’s on-going series of self-portraits. She is preparing for her upcoming solo exhibition, Wolf Peach, at Packer Schopf Gallery which opens September 5. Lauren’s blog is at where you can read her blog hop next week.

I met Lisa Wilson at Shawna Moore’s encaustic workshop and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I enjoy the Oracle Card deck she participated in on a daily basis, and love the insights Being Breath has to offer.

LisaWilsonBeingBreathLisa Renee Wilson is a mixed-media artist, teacher, and blogger at She practices, inspires, and guides others into awakening to life As It Is though Mindful Awareness and Creative Engagement with the stuff of the everyday.
Her art isn’t meant to match the couch, rather to be a reminder of a life fully lived. Her teachings aren’t meant to provide answers, rather, to show doors to walk through. And her writing isn’t meant to instruct or explain, rather, to cause a pause in thought and a deepening of breath.
You can learn more about Lisa at where her blog resides, or find her on Facebook.

I’m supposed to have 3 artist links but Alicia beat me to the punch in snagging a few blog hoppers (and some of my alternates are too busy preparing for solo shows), so I will revert back to her post to link you to those talented artists, including Bridgette Guerzon Mills, Robin Samiljan, and Ahavani Mullen.


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.

Fun factory

It’s been a veritable factory in here the past few weeks as I created ornaments for fairs, friends, families and boutiques, and sprinkled in some new pendants and earrings to keep the fingers nimble.


The start is always cutting and prepping the wire (sanding off the oily residue) and hammering it into a straight line for easier bending. Then it is shaped into what it wants to be (sometimes matching my vision, sometimes making its own).


After that the tissue paper is selected and cut out.


I leave an allowance for trimming until it is properly fitted to the piece


Then the paper is adhered with wax, mostly with just encaustic medium but at times with pigmented wax to match the figure’s color scheme.


I use a little iron for detail work.


I don’t have a favorite thing to make. Creating is such a joy and interacting with the wire, the wax and coming up with color combinations and the right carol to apply makes each ornament a unique experience.


Trees are the most difficult, so I doubt I will make those in the quantities that I’ve done for the angels.


While I do get faster as my finger-strength has improved and the bending becomes more routine, I can’t count the physical studio time as the only time I spend creating.


Numerous pieces have mulled in my head for some time and I don’t log the time spent looking up quotes or musical scores and sizing them to fit the shape (plus the time picking up supplies from the store) by individual piece.


I know there is a limit to how many wire lengths I can sand and bend in a day, as my fingertips have made that known. So in general a piece probably takes 3 days from conception to completion, though not always in a linear fashion.


Of the 70 ornaments I made this year, 50 are scattered in Lemont, Geneva and the local Expo for in-person purchasing, and 15 were shipped overseas for custom orders. The remainder will be on display at the Bucktown Fair this weekend, but they’re available on Etsy until then.



Art submissions

In the spirit of stretching and challenging myself, I’ve submitted some pieces for calls for art.

I’m awaiting news on HVNSTN and the Kedzie Admirals for a Civic Center submission.

Maike's Marvels submission to civic center

HVNSTN was fun to do. I was inspired by Katsy Johnston’s work to actually paint onto a photograph with encaustic. First I wrote some words describing what the town means to me. The purple is a nod to Northwestern University.

HVNSTN layer 1 by Maike's Marvels

I snapped the license plate in my neighborhood a few years ago. It stands for Heavanston. That layer went on top of the words.

HVNSTN layer 2 by Maike's Marvels

Then I painted over the letters with pigmented beeswax.

Maike's Marvels HVNSTN painting phase

It got a bit sloppy—wax dries fast—so I broke out the dental tools for a bit of scraping.

It isn’t perfect, but I’m happy with it for a first try. With more time I would have created a better one for the submission, but the deadline was looming and I had to enter it as is.

HVNSTN encaustic collage by Maike's Marvels

I also wanted to continue with my butterfly theme that seems to be emerging, so I browsed for pictures of local butterflies. When I did research on the Red Admirals, which I had snapped around the corner from my home, I learned that they like to settle down in one place for a week or so. I cut out the photos of two different admirals.

Red Admirals cut-outs by Maike's Marvels

Then fusing the layers began

fusing Red Admirals by Maike's Marvels

I enjoyed giving the biggest butterflies a little ‘lift.’

We’ll see what their journey holds.

Kedzie's Red Admirals by Maike's Marvels

Artrageous was the most nerve-wracking for me. It is a juried show, so there is no guarantee that I’ll get in. I attempted to create some spring-themed art with Violas, but am not happy with where that went. So for now those pieces are ‘resting’. Instead, I submitted my Swift Swallowtails. I’ll know in April whether they are actually flying off to the exhibit.

Swift Swallowtails by Maike's Marvels