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leaping off the high dive

©2012 Emily Obermeyer Lindsay in the Studio
"Another word for creativity is courage."  --  George Prince

My training and comfort zone is in textiles.  Anything with looms, needles, hooks, string, or beads I can do without hesitation. This knowledge extends to dyes, photo transfers, and screen printing, but painting...painting is reserved to gouache and generally only for sketches.  Yet, last year I had my first exhibition of my gouaches.  They started out as sketches for large quilts, but eventually took on their own life and became fully formed paintings. Friends joked asking me how it was to create something in under a week.  My embroideries and installations are often elaborate and can take 2-3 months to make.  Joking aside, the response to the work was favorable and received good critical review, so when the opportunity to came along to paint a fiberglasss form for an outdoor exhibition, I took it.  

Uhm, what was I thinking?  Acrylic isn't anything like gouache.  A fiberglass form isn't anthing like a large piece of watercolor paper.  Oh, lordy.

My original design for the Regal Fritillary wasn't far from from my comfort zone.  I was going to treat the form like one of my gouaches, stylized with flat use of color and small brushwork details, but then something happened.

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer painting butterfly
I started to paint, you know, like mix the colors and push them around.  I explored textures through the use of various sizes and styles of brushes. I added different gels to see what they would do. Sometimes you just need to leap off the high dive and explore the medium.  I haven't worked with acrylics in years, so it's been a learning curve, but I'm having a blast.

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer painting butterfly


urban wildflower walk



Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.  
~Chief Seattle, 1855

While not as common as hostas and geraniums, wildflowers manage to hold their own throughout the Chicago region and are a primary source of inspiration for my Glass Prairie series.

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Virginia bluebells

These lovely Virginia Bluebells grow in profusion in a small woodland strand of wildflowers next to the Evanston Art Center.  

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer purple cone flowers and black eyed susans

While walking last summer through the Ravenswood neighborhood, I came across this gorgeous collection with purple coneflowers ,black eyed susans and prairie blazing star.

©2010 Lindsay Obermeyer Purple Coneflower French Beadwork, photo by Larry Sanders
Here's my own rendition of the purple coneflower made from beads and wire.

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Blackberry Lily

The blackberry lily isn't a native wildflower though often seen in wildflower plantings.  It was introduced to the United States from East Asia and while it produces lovely flowers, it is invasive spreading by seed and rhizomes.   

A walk through an alley last summer brought this surprise, a great mullein at over 6' feet in height growing through a crack in the cement. It's another non-native wildflower, this time from Eurasia.  The plant spreads itself by reseeding.  If you have one in your garden and want to keep if from taking over, head it before it seeds.  The seeds are hardy and can last in the soil for several decades before germinating! 

©2011 Lindsay Obermeyer Great Mullein

Of course, wildflowers are as beautiful when fading as when in full flower.  These last two photos are from an mid-autumn walk through the Skokie River Nature Preserve in Lake Forest, IL.

©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer Wildflower fall
©2009 Lindsay Obermeyer Skokie River Nature Preserve

storytelling: a talk with Pon Angara of Barkada Circle


"We remember best through stories." -- Pon Angara


The arts providing tools for nonprofit businesses to grow?!  As I read about branding and listen to all the balu about social media, I find the need for experience-based marketing to be  ever more relevant. I recently caught up with Pon Angara, creative director and principal of Barkada Creative to discuss his launch of Barkada Circle.  Barkada Circle provides educational arts-based programs that help participants discover and harness the transformative power of the visual arts, music, theatre and more to spark creativity in telling their organization's stories, stories that fully engage people.


What made you launch Barkada Cicle?
After years of years of working with nonprofits on branding, visual communication and marketing, it became apparent that a critical piece of the message was missing.  This lack of message prevents a nonprofit from taking it to next level.  I kept thinking, “Your story isn’t compelling. Why should I care?  Why should I want to be conncted to this organization?" To effectively help my clients, I realized that I had to help them tell their story.

Isn't a story the same as a mission statement?
No, a mission statement is just a statement of purpose.  One statement of why a business exists. That's it.  A story goes deeper.  It involves the emotions, relating the struggles and successes of a nonprofit, its people and its consituency. It can take many more forms than a statement.  It may be told in different mediums - word, image, sound, etc.  The key thing is the emotional part.  We remember stories because we remember the emotions running through them. 

Give me an example.  
The mission of Barkada Circle is to give nonprofits a creative forum in order to develop different ways to craft their own stories using techniques in the arts that is usable on their website, in their brochures, etc.   

One story of Barkada Circle is in why I launched it. Immersing myself in the activities of a nonprofit organization, I had the opportunity to experience the same struggles they were having in trying to get a compelling message across. Some nonprofits were more successful than others, but the challenges were there nonetheless.

I'm reading a lot these days about the use of storytelling in branding.  How is Barkada Circle different?
The Barkada Circle approach differs from the others in that the focus is on a multi-sensory experience using the arts, whether the visual arts, theater, music, writing or cooking.   The best way to really embody a story is for the storyteller to engage as many of his/her senses as possible in creating the story, so that telling it engages multiple senses for the listener. This approach was inspired by the book The Experience Economy:  Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine.  

Barkada Circle, Fall 2011 Workshop
Why have your targeted nonprofits for your program?
In my book, they are the ones that deal the most with complex emotions, concepts, ideas, and challenges.  They deal heavily with humans, not just products for humans.  It’s all about the people.  Nonprofits generally have direct impact on issues that affect the quality of life in our communities. It has become my personal choice to share in this mission.

If teaching artists are interested in working with you, what’s the best way to contact you and what will they need in terms of experience?
They have to be skilled in their craft, but also have a personal mission for educating others about it. They need a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience with adults, sharing and demonstrating their passion.  I am willing to talk to new artists after June to see what they have to offer. It's best if they read through the website and then leave of comment expressing their interest on the Our Artists page. 


I'm honored to have been working with Pon on this venture since its inception.  My workshop for Barkada Circle, The Power of Symbols, looks at the way symbols have inspired change throughout history.  It's an amazing experience to work with directors from small and large nonprofits, helping them to better understand and harness the storytelling potential of their organization's visual symbols.   

paper flowers

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Paper Flowers

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."  --  William Wordsworth

I can feel another obsession coming upon me.  First it was oil pastels, then it was beads, followed by yarn and now paper.  I catch myself running the edges of a sheet between my fingers, thinking of the possibilities.  What shall I make today?

I had purchased my die cutter with thoughts of quiltmaking in mind.  While I haven't abandoned the idea of quilting, I'am more enchanted with running scores of different papers through it.  I'm currently making dozens upon dozens of flowers - zinnias, carnations, black eyed susans, violets, peonies, you name it.

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Paper Flowers

It doesn't end with flowers.  I am running pages torn from magazines and medical textbooks through the die cutter to make envelopes.  Paper from used books that are yellowed with age are my favorite to use, but the paper is brittle and tears too easily. I wonder how pages torn from wallpaper sample books would behave...?

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Envelope Experiment

And for using up every last scrap, I love the Fiskars Squeeze and Lever punches.  Now what to do with the mounting piles of flowers, snowflakes and circles strewn across my table?  

The obsession doesn't end in the studio.  I've been cruising the Internet for inspiration.  Mental overload!  Here are links to a few of my favorite websites:

http://papercutart.no/papercuts/art/ - Sublime papercutting. 

http://www.lalalaurie.com/ - Paper flower inspiration to the third power.

http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-flowers.html - Go ahead, get lost in it.

http://www.annabondoc.com/ -  One of these days, I will purchase her papercut designed vegetable wallpaper.  Oh, la,la!

For more, check out my ever growing Pinterest board - Paper Goodness.

school of hard knocks

Craft Racket, Spring 2012, Rebecca George and Shawna Smith

Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.
– Coco Chanel

The topic of last week's Craft Racket, a quarterly networking and professional development program hosted by the Chicago Craft Mafia, was on getting your crafts into shops. Leading the discussion were Rebecca George of Purple and Lime, Shawna Smith of Shawna Smith Handmade Goods and Amanda Shell of Whirley Girl Designs, Inc.  Each presented a different aspect of the process, whether selling on consignment or wholesale and how to go about approaching retailers. The conversation was lively with folks attending from as far as Grand Rapids.  One question really struck a chord.  An artisan relatively new to the field asked how we as Mafia members have managed to keep going with our respective businesses despite all the challenges of being self-employed.  It got me thinking, how in the hell have I managed it?  Truth be known, I have several advanced diplomas from The School of Hard Knocks.  

My first mistake came with my first business, a wholesale jewelry company with sales in the US and UK.  I was a brazen hustler.  I did everything Rebecca, Shawna and Amanda advised against doing - I went door to door.  Yep, I flew to NYC and with samples in hand I went up and down the streets of Manhattan entering stores that looked like a good fit.  If the store was slow, I asked to speak to the manager / buyer / owner.  If it was busy, I took a business card, called later and set up an appointment.  This was before the age of the Internet (I am dating myself here...) when you can do retailer research online.  Doing your research is critical to not only finding shops that are a good fit, but also to making sure they will pay for orders.  I got my jewelry into a great store on Madison Ave.  At least I thought it was great until I realized the owner was never going to pay.  If I had done some research with others showing in the shop or run a credit check on him, I would have learned that he was in default with many of his suppliers.  I was owed thousands of dollars, tried using a collection agency to collect,  finally filed with the NY courts, but never received payment.  After filing yearly for seven years (the extent of the statue of limitations) for debt collection I finally wrote the loss off on my taxes.   

Lesson learned: Do a credit check whether formally with a credit agency or informally with other colleagues in the field.  Do not send work without payment upfront until a level of trust has been established. I apply this same lesson with the exhibition of my art.  I always ask others before approaching a new gallery.  Do they pay on time?  Are they professional and responsive?  Work is not sent until a contract has been signed by both parties (me and the gallerist) regarding consignment terms and expectations.

The ramification of not receiving payment also meant that my cash flow was tied up.  Without cash flow, you can't sustain a busines.  I hobbled along for 3 more years before I finally called it a day and entered graduate school.

Unfortunately, MFA programs don't offer business classes.  I got a great training in semiotics, postmodernist theory and such, but nada in terms of what one needs to know to start and run a business.   (And yes fellow artists, art is a business.)  Well, I'm lucky in that I come from a family in which self-employment is the norm. I had a great resource to draw upon - my parents.  But as is often the case with families, I thought I was smarter than my parents.  

When I finished graduate school I took over an existing textile art supply store.  It was well established with an existing customer base.  Groovy!  Yet, once again I learned my lesson the hard way.  This time I killed my cash flow by moving my store to a new location while simultaneously opening two new departments.  I didn't realize the impact moving would have on foot traffic.  Though I had an active mailing list with over 2,000 customers, many others were not on it.  I'd get these panic calls from customers sitting in front of the old space demanding, "Where are you?!"  This transition may have run smoother with the development of the Iternet (which was in its infancy at this point) and the invention of smart phones, but that's just a guess.  I compounded the problem by adding the new departments.  Customers needed time to adjust to the move, but I still had bills to pay.

Lesson Learned: Build your business slowly.  Get advice.  Take business classes.  

Fast forward to now, I am selling retail online, consignment to galleries, and freelancing with international craft supply companies.  I am much more cautious and do tons of research on prospective clients.  I've joined trade associations, attend conferences, network and attend professional development workshops.  Most recently, I've hired a business coach to help keep me on track with my goals.  In other words, I am finally learning from previous mistakes, including the one that failure isn't failure, just a learning lesson on the path to success. 

Magic Garden: The Regal Fritillary

Regal Fritillary - photo PA National Guard
May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
-- Irish Blessing

My art for the past two years has focused on the prairie flowers of Illinois and the Midwest.  I now turn to the insects that support this fragile ecosystem. The Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) is a rare butterfly due to 99 % loss of our native tallgrass and has been placed on the endagered species list. My proposal for a 3 foot sculpture dedicated to this gorgeous creature has been accepted into  the public art exhibition, The Magic Garden.  I pick up the fiberglass form on Saturday and have just over two weeks to complete it.  Eeek!  The opening is the first week of May in Highland Park, IL.  By placing such a sculpture in a highly trafficked area, I hope to heighten people’s awareness to both this butterfly and its interdependence on plant life, thus encouraging gardeners to consider planting a few prairie flowers and grasses that would attract it and many other butterflies. 

To read more about the butterflies of the Midwest and what actions are being taken to restore their habitats, check out this article by Doug Taron, curator of biology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.

free pattern: Dotty Necklace

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Dotty Necklace

"Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly."  --  Epictetus

I wanted a colorful accessory, something simple and not fussy - enter Dotty Necklace.  The colors reflect my love for spring, the soft greens of ferns and moss.  Each bead was needle felted following my pancake bead pattern. The directions I provide are for an 18" necklace.    


16 pancake beads made from Clover's Natural Wool Roving in Chocolate, Mint, Moss Green and Off White

tiger tail or other bead stringing wire

2 silver crimp beads

2 glass beads to match roving

2  silver 5mm jump rings 

1 heart toggle closure

flush cutters

needle nose pliers

milliner's needle



©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Dotty Necklace

Using the milliner's needle, poke a hole through the center of each wool bead.

Cut a 24" piece of tiger tail.

Open one jump ring, slip one half of the toggle clasp onto it and then close the ring.

Thread the tiger tail through one crimp bead and the jump ring and then back through the crimp bead.

Squeeze the crimp bead using your crimp pliers.  Give it a quarter turn to round the bead.

Clip off excess wire.

Add a glass bead to the wire. 

Thread your milliner's needle with the wire and proceed to add the wool beads.

Remove the milliner's needle.

Add the final glass bead.


Attach the other jump ring to the 2nd half of the toggle clasp.

Thread the tiger tail through one crimp bead and the jump ring and then back through the crimp bead.

Squeeze the crimp bead using your crimp pliers.  Give it a quarter turn to round the bead.

Clip off excess wire.

a basic paper daisy

©2012 Lindsay Obermeyer Basic Paper Flower
"Earth laughs in flowers." --  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've been playing with my diecutter, challenging myself to explore paper and form. Could I create an entire prairie of paper flowers?  Here's a basic daisy.



12" x 12" 80lb cardstock (I chose red and a scrap of goldenrod.)

button (size of a nickel)

colored pencil (I chose white.)

16 gauge floral wire

small spool of 26 gauge wire (I chose white.)

paper glue 

spool of green floral tape in green

awl or shape, thick needle

regular pencil


wire cutters



I used my diecutter to cut the basic flower shape. You may either purchase a pre-cut shape or draw your own and cut it out with scissors.  A hand drawn shape will be a bit irregular, but no less charming.

Once you have your shape, use your sharpened colored pencil to draw a running line of dashes approximately 1/4" from the edge of the shape.  

Trace a quarter on some scrap paper for the center circular shape.


Cut out the circle and use the tip of your scissors to snip a fringe around the edge. Your snips should be approximately 1/4" in length.

Glue the circle to the center of the paper shape.  

Place the button in the center of the flower and use your awl to punch holes into the paper through the button holes.

Cut or tear off a piece of the floral tape and wrap it around one piece of the floral wire.

Cut an 8" piece of the 26 gauge wire.


Use the wire to attach the button to the paper.


Cut another piece of 26 gauge wire, this one 12" in length.

Attach the flower to the stem by wrapping the second piece of wire around both the wire of the flower and the stem.  I used a different color, but this isn't necessary.



To finish off your flower, cut or tear off another piece of the floral tape and wrap it around the stem covering all the wire.

Try different color combinations and sizes.  Use different button styles.  Glue on a few sequins or a dash of glitter for a bit more bling.  These flowers are quick and addictive to make.

kitchen organizing

Tilt-out-wood-trash-cabinet_0-1 from ana-white.com
"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it,
it is not all mixed up." -- A. A. Milne.

Now that I'm committed to renovating my kitchen, I am looking at websites and how-to projects pertaining to it.  I've fallen in love with the website  Ana White, homemaker which features hundreds of DIY projects such as this Wood Tilt Trash Can Cabinet.  It's also a great way to add some counter space. Her simple drawer organizer is also ingenious.

Marie Claire Maison via Apartment Therapy1_03.24.09_Kitchen_rect540

This kitchen has similarities to mine with the lovely wood drawers.  I have a set in my pantry.  What if I moved them to the kitchen proper?  Too much fuss? I love the pops of color like the yellow chair.

I found this kitchen on Home Decor Concept.  Anyone who ever shopped at my old yarn store knows I love wood.  I think it makes a great neutral background for showing off yarns and in this case one's pottery colletion.  With the rest of my house featuring the orginial 1920's woodwork and stained glass, perhaps a kitchen leaning more toward wood and copper would increase the sense of continuity between the rooms.  I'm not so sure about the open shelving. It would certainly be a less expensive alternative to cabinets, but the thought of all that dusting.....

hutchstudioblogspot.com  DIY kitchen chandelier

From Hutch Studio comes this light fixture and one I could definitely make.  It won't solve all my lighting issues, but would certainly add a whimsical touch! 

etsy treasury: please close the garden gate


"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."  -- Hanna Rion

It's that time of year!  Gardening has been a passion since childhood.  Every winter I pour over the seed catalogs, plotting on graph paper how I am going to cram in more veggies and flowers.  By April it takes all my control to not go overboard. One year I planted pumpkin seeds that seemed straight out of a fairytale.  They took over the entire garden and grew up and over the garage.  I'd trim them back and by the end of the day they had advanced another foot.  Finally, I just gave up and let them run riot.  I've learned my lesson - no more squashes or cucumbers.  I simply don't have the room for them.  

With the mild winter we've had this year in Chicago, everything in my garden is on turbo charge.  The grass is now taller than my papillon. The cherry tree has blossomed.  And after patiently waiting for three years, the first tender shoots from my asparagus patch are making an appearance! Frittata?  Tart?  Risotto? Or just lightly steamed with a crack of pepper?  I can't decided how best to enjoy them.  

Thinking about my garden and my love of craft, I created this Etsy treasury.  Of course I want every item I've featured.  The sunflower seeds are perfect. Talk about a grand entrance by the garden gate with these sunny sentinels keeping guard!