Oh, 2021. How can I even describe this year?

Eventful, more so than 2020, anyway. Still, it was another year of uncertainty, for so many reasons. Will I be able to keep my appointments, or will Covid numbers factor in? Is it safe to teach yet? Will I be able to participate in any of my indoor art fairs?

I decided to go with the flow and not fret about any of that, because it was all out of my hands. I’ve also made it a point to get to the bottom of a lifelong problem – worrying.

Maybe you’re with me, here. I can’t even fathom the countless hours I’ve spent worrying about things – when I was a kid, it was nuclear war (I was in high school in the early ’80s, when the threat was pretty real). As I got older, it was career worries. Then monetary worries. Then relationship stuff. Then health stuff.

Lately, it’s been scheduling worries. I’m a person who loves to challenge themselves, but that means that many times, I overcommit. I’ve never been “late” on any deadline, but I still worry constantly if I’m doing “enough”. Well, I’ve decided to let that go.

I looked back on last year’s post, where my word was “transition”. And I’m very happy to say that I hit EVERY goal that I set for myself! This year, with my word being “fulfillment”, I’m going to set different goals. Here goes:

  1. Set a pace that works for me. This is going to be more difficult than it sounds, because right now I’m in the middle of a 1000-piece collage project. 😀 I’m LOVING this project, but it’s a big one! I probably won’t have any that large for the rest of the year, so I’ll pace myself a little slower.
  2. Take some days off. For my mental health, I feel that this should be Priority One. This year, I gave myself some Saturdays, and that was fantastic! I’m going to continue that this year, with maybe even taking one or two weeks off in the summer and at the holidays.
  3. Check my email once a day. This will be difficult on some days, when I have deadlines looming, but I would like to untether to the constant checking. Same with social media.
  4. Spend more time with those I love. This may sound like a no-brainer, but because of our Covid-fueled beginning of the Twenties, it was really difficult. I think this is actually doable this year!

To me, these are points which will help me reach that fulfillment goal – to have a healthy balance of work and life (even though they’re really the same thing to me, because art IS life and vice versa). And maybe it’ll help to cut out some of that worry.

What’s your word of the year? I’d love to hear it! Email me at mel(at)kolstad(dot)net and let’s chat. 🙂

Making the most of our time

A blog post?  In March?  How is this possible?

Well, as with many things right now, it’s all thanks to COVID-19. But I recently saw an article being posted around my Facebook feed that got me thinking about this particular time in all of our lives and how it’s affecting us in different ways.

You might’ve seen the article yourself – it’s about how to ignore all the covid-inspired productivity you’re seeing. To sum up, in case you don’t want to read it for yourself, it’s basicially saying that to rev up into hyper-active mode is to assume that things will eventually get back to normal, whereas the author proposes that what we thought of as “normal” before will never return.

After I read it, I wasn’t defensive, per se, but I did wonder why I didn’t necessarily agree. I mean, my go-to mode is lazy.  Those who know me well – like, mainly, my Jones immediate family and offspring – will agree.  But even those of my dearest friends may scratch their heads, because I’m usually busy.  VERY busy. In fact, this is what has been canceled for the months of March, April, and May in my schedule in just the last two weeks:

  • Two nearly-full mixed media printmaking classes
  • A papermaking class that I do yearly at our local university
  • A very nice week-long residency
  • My curatorship at our library’s gallery until at least May
  • A big art fair (possibly two)
  • Two private classes for large groups
  • A talk I was supposed to give for the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries
  • A solo exhibit at our local university
  • Our local gallery walk
  • My tech school classes for the remainder of the semester

So I had a fairly full plate.  🙂

When the cancellations started coming in, my first thought was about all the money I was going to be losing.  What gave me comfort was that we’re all in this together, and we’ve all tried to help each other out.  It is very important to me that I “pull my weight” in our household finances, be it with monetary income or by saving money with home economizing. So the loss of income hurt. But after the initial shock, I started realizing what a gift I had been given.


I rarely have enough of it, it seems. But as I’m about halfway through Week 3 of a self-quarantine, and I am of the firm belief that if you can stay home, you MUST stay home, I find myself with an abundance of it.  (It is here that I should tell you that I don’t have kids that I need to worry about – that is a whole other ball of wax and if you are dealing with the onset of trying to home-school and figure things out, you need to just do what you have to do, with NO judgment from me or anyone else. Same goes for those of you who are dealing with a spouse being laid-off or any other high-stress incident that has occured, especially [and g-d forbid] illness.)

Two things that haven’t left me are a 30-print exhibit at the end of April in conjunction with World Migration Day at Ubuntu in Fond du Lac, and the opportunity to show my work at Cappaert Contemporary Gallery in Door County.  Because of these two wonderful series, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy until at least the end of April.

Even without those things, though, I will not allow myself to “take it easy”.  Unfortunately, if I go that route, the bad feelings emerge.  I just can’t allow the fear to take over.  If I even go one week “on vacation” from my work, it will become two, then three, then more. In my 51 1/2 years on this planet, I’m finally getting to know the real me – and that real me has had agorophobic tendencies in the past, periods of years where I couldn’t open the drapes in my house, and years where all I did was watch TV and maybe get showered and dressed that day. I didn’t exercise, I didn’t visit friends, I didn’t care about much except my family and their well-being.  Most people don’t know these things about me.  But if I allow the fear to become depression – well, many of you DO know what that’s like. And since we’re under a self-imposed agorophobia anyway, I really don’t want to make it worse.

Plus, I’ve finally found something that I can lose myself in, whenever I can.  And that’s art.  I believe that for many of us, our respective passions will be the saving grace of this ordeal. No, I KNOW they will be. And that’s where I may not agree with the initial article.  I feel like if you’re lost – and hey, aren’t we all feeling that way right now? – it’s actually okay if you do practice whatever makes you lose yourself and the bad feelings that have arisen.  Because like the first article states, you’re in denial/refusal of facts if you’re feeling good during a crisis like this. But if art, or cooking, or exercise, or whatever it is that floats your boat makes you feel better, then you owe it to yourself to dive right in and find that Happy Place. If you’ve been given this extraordinary gift of time, I say, make the most of it.  Savor that work on your easel. Create that pie you haven’t had time to make. Go ahead and plan for that half-marathon you’ve always wanted to do, but maybe were afraid to do before.  Let something amazing define this period of time, so that when you think back to the Spring of ’20 you’ll think “yep, that’s when I first started knitting/tai chi/reading War and Peace, and I wish I had that kind of time again.”

If this is how you fell “authentic”, then you do you!  🙂

Figuring things out (FINALLY)

Wow, friends.  It’s the end of the year, the end of the ‘Teens, and the end of my first decade as a full-time artist.  Yes, just two days from now, it’ll be ten years – TEN! – since I took that terrifying leap and quit my job in the newspaper biz.  I can scarcely believe it myself.

I fully intended for this blog post to be a run-down of all of the things I did this year – but about a quarter of the way through I realized that it was going to be so long that even I wouldn’t want to read it. 🙂

My job – my career – is art. And finally, this year, I embraced that title fully.  It’s so odd, this way of life; to be so fully dependent on my ideas and creativity, well, it’s so much harder than I thought. A decade ago – hell, even four years ago, I honestly thought that I would just hang out, make art sometimes, and it would all fall into place. I mean, what else is there to it?

Any working artist reading this is laughing right now, but for those of you who aren’t artists, it would be like someone going into business for themselves but, you know, casually forgetting that they need to keep track of income and expenses, and taxes, and overhead, and customer relations, and feedback, and promotion, and morale….you get the idea.  🙂

I’ve finally figured (most of) that out.  🙂

After years of trying things – new techniques, new color palettes, and new sizes, it wasn’t until I fully embraced who I am that everything fell into place. Who I am is an artist who works very small. And I’m done making excuses to myself for it.

This epiphany began last year at my own TEDx Fonddulac talk, and this year I actually began to believe my own words. I’m enjoying my work more than I ever have in my career, and getting those same elusive feelings I had when I first started making ATCs all those years ago.  The joy is back. And it should be, right?!  I mean, isn’t this why we’re artists to begin with, because we love the creation of it? Part of it is being able to teach what I know, and seeing folks make their own prints to their own delight.  It’s such a rewarding experience and I never want to lose that wonderment and surprise.

Yes, I’ve been INSANELY busy this year, and yes – I do lie awake at night, wondering whom I’ve forgotten to thank for a particular opportunity or whom I’ve neglected in my friendships. In the coming year, I do hope to see more folks out and about, and find a balance with my work and my relationships. It’ll happen. In the meantime, thank you for your patience while I do what I love, more than ever.  🙂






Cutting it Close – and Taking a Break!

I have had a WILD 15 months or so – I’ve essentially worked non-stop since April 1 of 2018 and have roughly 275 new pieces of work to show for it, almost all of it in the form of tiny drypoint prints (with about 50 tiny collages in there too).  That’s a piece roughly every 1.7 days. In that time frame I’ve also taught many classes and participated in a whole bunch of art fairs, curated 15 exhibits in the Langdon Divers Gallery, and completed a 7-week residency at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac!

I have to say – I’m kind of proud of my output!  I’ve had three shows since March – my enormous 200-piece show called 200 Days: A Life in the Quotidian at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in March-April; Bird Fest at the Masonic Temple in Oshkosh in May, collaborated by Carol and Roy Toepke; and Places we’ve Been, a collaborative show at ArtSpace Collective in Oshkosh that I just finished, where I took my husband Brian’s photos from our vacations and recreated them in drypoint and watercolor.  Here’s a slide show of that show, which just hung last Friday.

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When I did my “200 Days” exhibit, I wisely gave myself about two months after the completion of my last print to frame, promote and create the companion book for the show.  During the Bird Fest time frame I took a long time coming up with a theme for bird-related art and therefore only had about four days after the last print and before the actual show.  But for “Places we’ve Been”?  I only had five hours between finishing the last print and when we left to hang it. That was nuts, and I never want to recreate that scenario!

I’m tired!  I’ve given myself a couple of days this past week to partake in some fun activities – Monday I got to spend the whole day with my wonderful niece Natalie in Madison, and yesterday, I took in my favorite places in Algoma – Yardstick Books, James May Gallery and James May North, where my friends Megan Johnson, Mindy Wittock and Kendra Bulgrin (also the owner of the galleries) are all in a gorgeous show called MOTHER + ARTIST, and a new shop and gallery called Yonder, co-owned by two very cool artists, Erin LaBonte and Don Krumpos.  It was much needed.  This coming Monday I’m taking advantage of the new Amtrak bus service from Fondy to Milwaukee and then taking the train from Milwaukee to Chicago, where I’ll make my quasi-annual trek to the Art Institute.

I’m telling you this because I want to stop feeling guilty about taking some time for myself. My rational self knows this time is essential, but my productive self is telling me that I’ve got 20 commissions waitng for me in my studio and that I should be doing these before any more fun adventures, even though I’ve been told by those patrons that there’s no rush. I can blame this attitude on my hearty Midwestern work ethic, which I love but which can also be a bit of a burden at times.

If any of my fellow artists/musicians/writers/creatives of all stripes are reading this, can I get a what-what from you all?



Goodbye, 2018!! I will actually miss this year.  I learned so much that it feels like it was two years long.  You know how it was when you were a kid, where the days stretched by endlessly (but in a good way)? That’s the way it was for me. New Year’s Day seems like a loooong time ago.

I had two incredible things happen this year – the first was that I was asked to have a solo exhibit at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, right here in Fond du Lac.  This is something that I never thought would happen in a zillion years – it wasn’t even on my radar! There was more than one time this year when I thought I’d probably get an email saying they’d made a mistake and that they’d have to rescind their offer.  But here we are, only three months (and seven days, but who’s counting?) until my show opens. I will have 200 tiny drypoint prints in the exhibit – a print a day, chronicling my day from April 1-October 20 of 2018. As of this writing, I only have ONE more to finish!  I am also creating a companion book that people can use as a guide when going through the exhibit – 200 is a LOT to go through!  It’s called “200 Days: A Life in the Quotidian”. I’m very excited about it and to be honest, quite proud, too.

“Northbound Train”, one of the 200 drypoints in my upcoming exhibit at the THELMA!

The other extraordinary thing that happened this year was my TEDx talk for TEDx Fonddulac! I decided to go for it when the proposals opened early in January. I had applied in 2017 also, but I thought I’d keep trying until I actually got in. I’m surprised it only took me two years! My talk was entitled, “Channeling your Inner Kid for your Career”, and it was about making my tiny art the focus of my art, and being true to oneself. Here it is, if you’d like to view it for yourself!

I had never practiced this much for anything, EVER. I would record myself on my phone and then listen to my drafts while I was on my walks or even while working. Poor Brian was the recipient of my freak-outs and would listen to my talk every night and critique my performances. I couldn’t have done it without him!

To say this was a highlight of my year is a ridiculous understatement. I can honestly say it’s a highlight of my life.  I am so grateful to Sarah Spang and the TEDx Fonddulac crew for giving me this opportunity. It’s also a huge milestone for me that I can still watch this video without cringing.  To me, that means that I did a pretty decent job.  🙂

Smack dab in the middle of the year, my whole family had a very scary thing happen – my mom got a cold. Now for most of us, this is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience. But my mom has advanced COPD, so that cold developed into pneumonia, which triggered a heart attack because one of her valves was 98% blocked. The first night, she went into organ failure and I came home and wrote her obituary.

I don’t even like this overused word but I have to use it – miraculous. It’s still shocking in the best possible way that she’s still with us, and doing amazingly well – like nothing ever happened, really! She had a stent put in and survived that procedure as well. She also has Alzheimer’s, so she can’t remember any of this. I don’t think that’s a bad thing!  😀

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I realized where my priorities lay. For a while, I thought we’d be planning a funeral and all that entails. And that’s all that mattered.  I have to say that to have two enormous projects to come home to and focus on was a life-saver for me. But in the end, I realized my fear of failure – for everything – was pointless. It was a not-so-great summer, but it taught me that I need to just plug away and DO IT. And yeah, some people won’t like the work I do, or the talk I give….and that’s okay! All that matters is that I try.

So I’m going to call that “growth”, and I made it my word for 2019, because I want to continue on this journey of discovery. How do I want to grow in the coming year?  I want to be more professional. I want to continue what I finally started this year, and that is a daily work practice, where I work for 6-8 hours/day on my art (and not beat myself up about the fact that I came to this realization so damn late in my art career). I want to clean and organize my studio! I want to do more residencies. I want to boldly try new things in my printmaking. I want to teach more, because I got my mojo back this year! I want to sell more. And I’ll even admit that yeah, I want more recognition for my art, if I deserve it. I don’t want to call my Thelma exhibit the pinnacle of my career, because I’m too young for that.  But it’s a huge deal for me. (Here’s the event on Facebook, if you’re so inclined to attend the reception! I’d love to see you there!)

Here’s to a wonderful 2019 for all of us!!



That’s my word for 2018.  I began this practice of finding a word that describes how I want to define the coming year when I read about this cool website called oneword365, where you do just that – ruminate on how you want your year to go.  Last year, my word was “direction”.  When I saw the tweet yesterday that asked, “What’s your one word for 2018?”, I didn’t even hestitate – it just came to me. BETTER. 

I want to be a better instructor. I have been teaching for 10 years now, and as it is with many things one does for a long time, it’s easy to get in a rut.  My students deserve better than “rut”!  I want to have even more returning students than I already have.

I want to be better at time management. This year, when we got our two Pommies, I had to change how I use my studio.  Because they like to gnaw on things, I’ve had to keep my studio door closed when I’m not working.  This has brought about a change I wasn’t even looking for, but has made me more aware – that by closing my door at the end of the day, I am signaling that I am done working. And by making that connection, my time in the studio is more precious than ever. And I’m spending less time online (ironic, but YAY!) and WAY more time in the studio.  I’ve got a new stash of jazz records I can play, and I love spending full days doing nothing but working.  It’s a dream come true, and even though I’ve been a full-time artist for 8 years now, I’ve never been more aware of how damn lucky I am to have my studio time.  I love it so much, even more than I did in 2010.

I want to be better at saying “no”. I have really improved in this arena over the past couple of years, mainly because I just don’t have the time anymore. This is a great thing, because it means that my art is my priority.  As it should be.  Alas, that means less volunteering and fewer long lunches, but my practice has improved tenfold.  And my income has more than doubled in the past year. This year, I want it to double again.  So there’ll be even more times where I don’t allow my fear of being disliked to overwhelm my resolve to make my art the most important aspect of my workday.

I want to be even better at trying new things. Last year was the first year I did outdoor art markets.  It was terrifying for me.  But I did three, and they were fantastic (even if the weather was awful for the first one). This year, I’m seriously contemplating applying for a residency that would be two weeks long, in a very remote place. EEK. But I have to try, right?  🙂

I want to be a better artist. This one’s a no-brainer, or it should be! Of course I want to be a better artist!  I love learning new techniques and also combining techniques I’ve already learned in new ways.  I am currently doing that for a show I have in a month called “A Cut Above”, which will run from February 1-23 at ArtSpace Collective in Oshkosh.  It’s my solo member exhibit, and I’m combining printed letterpress blocks with collage.  I’m super excited about it already, and I’m only 1/7 of the way through!

(Here are two of the pieces that will be in the show – they’re called Mail I and II and are each 2″ square. The two men are the letterpressed blocks incorporated into the rest of the collage.)

I want my world to be better.  Okay, I have less control over this aspect, but there are things that we can all do if we want our communities, our government and our surroundings to be better.  And I want to be better at using those resources to make a difference, however small. I also know that I can be a better human being, and that means more kindness, more acceptance, more patience (I REALLY need help here) and more courtesy toward every other human.

I want to take better care of myself. This means eating better, exercising more, and moving more.  The older I get (and I turn FIFTY this year!), the more I realize that one’s health is the most important thing we have.  I’ve been too lax for too long in this department, and while I enjoy a pain-free life, I understand how important it is to keep it that way.  We just take it for granted, but if 2017 taught me anything it’s that nothing’s for certain, and we have to be proactive to live the life we want.

What’s YOUR word for 2018?  Follow the link and you can play along!! 🙂  Happy 2018, everyone! May the new year bring you happiness and well-being, and better things.  🙂

The Year of Firsts!

What can I say about 2017? For a while, it could go straight to hell. It started off not-so-great, with several sad personal events happening in the first couple of months. I am happy to report that by the middle of June, the year began correcting itself in terms of my personal life. That is a huge relief.

But in most ways, it was amazing! Professionally, I think I can honestly say that it was my best year ever. It was the first year I more than doubled my sales, which I hope to repeat in 2018. It was the first year I had a booth at the IgNight Markets in Green Bay and The Artery Holiday event in Kimberly.

My booth at The Artery holiday market in Kimberly, Wisconsin, in December

It was the first year I worked almost exclusively in series, and I absolutely LOVE IT.  Looking back, I have no idea why I constantly limited myself by only doing one-offs. But I’ve done three series this year (Painted Desert, The Collagraph in Miniature, and The Detritus Project), and one mini-series (Color Collages), and a few others here and there for a total of 152 pieces (YIKES! I guess it was just a feeling that I was busy this year!). I’m working on a new series for my solo exhibit at ArtSpace Collective in Oshkosh – another first for me, as I just joined ArtSpace in October! It’s a group of 14 artists in and around the Oshkosh area, and they’re just lovely people. I’m so excited to be a part of this group!

I’ve already talked about my amazing Treehaven experience, and some of my teaching experiences, and I had three fabulous residencies this year – the first two were one-day school residencies where I either demonstrated a reduction linocut (at Friendship Elementary in North Fond du Lac), or led a day-long collage workshop for some art club students (at Brandon Middle School). I also had my two month-long library residency at the Appleton Public Library, where I showed my Detritus Project exhibit and had a class, demo and lecture about The Detritus Project (more about that project, here!).

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This past summer I was invited by printmaker extraordinaire Christine Style to participate in The Wisconsin Idea Alphabet, which was a group of about 50 or so printmakers, each assigned a letter of the alphabet.  I got the letter “Y”, which I entitled “Yessiree Bob!”, a tribute to that great Wisconsin statesman, “Fighting” Bob LaFollette.  You can see my block in the photo below, with the remainder of the alphabet!  It was such a wonderful weekend and I’m so honored to have been asked to be a part of such a great project.  I didn’t mention the best part – it was a steamroller print!  We printed right on the dock by the Hardy Gallery in Egg Harbor, Door County!  So great.

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I also was accepted into Issue 35 of my favorite magazine, UPPERCASE! It was all about data-driven art, and I made it with a few of my collagraphs! This is my fourth time in the magazine and it’s always an honor! Thank you, Janine!  🙂

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Another unique experience this year was being a part of a design team with Kevin Rau of Rauhaus Design + Letterpress to create the invitation for one of my sister’s friend’s daughter’s wedding. I drew the tree image and Kevin made a photopolymer plate of it and also letterpressed the entire invite! It was such a cool project, and I’m happy to have been a part of it!  😀

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I was commissioned by my in-laws to do a grouping of pieces to complement their living room decor. As is ALWAYS the case, I freeze when asked to do commissions, and starting this year I decided to limit my commission work only to those people who I know or who know my work well enough to know how I work and what they’ll get. It’s a process that’s fraught with peril for me, but in early November I finally finished the project! It’s a nine-piece set of monoprints in the same colors as their furniture. I have to say, I was really pleased with how they turned out but more importantly, my in-laws were thrilled. That meant so much to me! I was sort of possessed when making these pieces and they’re in a style I never work in, so I’m very glad they were happy.  🙂

A series of nine monoprints made for Brian’s parents

One amazingly positive event that happened personally was the addition of our sweet twin puppers, Peggy and Maude! (Yes, it is a given that any pups who are part of our family will have their own Facebook page.)  🙂 They are twin Pommies and we love them dearly. We adopted them on October 4 and they have added so much to our lives.  They’re our sweet babies and we love them so. It’s so nice to have puppers in the house again, and these ladies are only two, so we hope to have them for many years to come.

Maudie (left) and Peggy, hoarding their squirrels and other stuffies. 😀

I don’t know how I can top this year – I mean, there’s really only one time that one can be immortalized in a bobblehead!

Brian surprised me with this amazing gift for my 49th birthday!  🙂

Happy 2018, everyone! Here’s to a fresh start with lots of art!








My Awesome Treehaven Experience!

This year continues to be a year of firsts for me – first art fair, first invitational solo exhibit…and now, my first-ever art retreat class at a remote location!

I applied for the ArtStart Rhinelander‘s School of the Arts retreat called Art in Nature back in May.  I had heard about it through Arts Wisconsin – the School of the Arts has a rich, 60-year history and ArtStart is revitalizing it, which is wonderful news.  So imagine my delight when I discovered that I would be teaching my proposed class, “Collagraphs from Nature” there!

The entire retreat was held on the Treehaven grounds.  This place is AMAZING.  Imagine a fully modern summer camp, and you get the gist of the place.  It’s used year-round, mainly by UW-Stevens Point forestry students.  It’s nestled in the middle of nowhere, in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.  It’s truly remote – I felt so secure in its isolation.  I love places like this. (MAJOR bonus – it was about 15 degrees cooler there than in Fond du Lac, where we’re having a bizarre heat wave of 90 degree weather this week!)

My sweet room in the White Pines cabin!

Don’t you just love this handmade sign for the gift shop? 😀

This is the Winterberry Dining Hall. I felt like I was back at family camp!

I arrived on Friday afternoon and immediately set up my room.  I was so happy I could do this ahead of time, because then I could relax the rest of the evening.  We all had dinner together and heard the keynote speaker, Kristin Thielking, who’s a professor of sculpture at UW-Stevens Point.  She talked about the beautiful structures and installations she and her students create in natural settings.  It was so inpsiring, as it was the first time I’d ever really been interested in large sculptures.  I broadened my mind as to what a “sculpture” could truly be!  And now I have some ideas for our own Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum!

My class was right away on Saturday morning, so I ate breakfast with the group and got back to my classroom to make sure everything was set up and ready to go.  I had nine people in my class, which was a great size!  I showed them how to make collagraphs the way that I make them, and we had a total blast.  Here’s a slideshow of their beginning monoprints, their composing stages, and their final collagraphs, which were made from items found right on the Treehaven grounds or from some items I had gotten in our prairie.  Each student’s finished pieces were unlike anyone else’s, and that made me so happy. I absolutely LOVE it when that happens – when the artist’s vision comes through in their work.

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This teaching experience is another highlight in a year of highlights for me.  I enjoyed myself immensely!!  And to top it all off, I stayed for the afternoon and took Debra Jircik’s Harvest Papermaking class, which I’ve wanted to take for the past three years or so.  Kismet!  I loved it, as I knew I would.

Here we are with our papers made from corn husks, milkweed stalks, iris leaves, day lilies, and Abaca fiber with crushed leaves! They all turned out so beautifully.

It was one of those weekends I’ll always remember and cherish.  I was yet again reminded how extremely fortunate I am to be able to teach and create art in this way. It doesn’t get much better than this!  🙂  Many, many thanks to Melinda Childs and Ashley McLaughlin for just a wonderful retreat!


Ten Years of Live Trades

Think for a moment about those things you like to do in your free time – do you belong to a club?  Is there a hobby you have where you meet with folks who share your passion? If so, have you enjoyed these meetings for a long time?

For me, the answer to all three questions is a resounding YES. And yesterday, we celebrated TEN years together!

Some background, and I apologize to those readers for whom this story is a repeat: back in August of 2006, I was enjoying a lunch break at one of my favorite downtown places, Bagelmeister. I had picked up a new (to me) magazine called Cloth Paper Scissors, and immediately fell in love with its contents.  But they kept referring to these ATC things, and I was lost.  What the heck was an ATC?  When I Googled “ATC”, the first thing that came up was Air Traffic Controller.  Apparently more research was needed!

When I realized that it stood for Artist Trading Cards, I was instantly obsessed.  I checked out every book from the library that I could; I read every article online; I scanned Flickr (this was pre-Facebook for me by about two years!) and created my own account; I looked through Yahoo! Groups.  And in my searching those groups is where I “met” Carolyn Brady.

Estimating ATC
One of my favorite ATCs – it’s really simple but I love how I found a vintage invoice and a kid’s book illustration that so beautifully worked together. Looks like I made this one on November 20, 2010.

I had been trading ATCs online for about a year when I first started chatting with Carolyn, who was looking to start a live trade in the Milwaukee area.  I LOVED this idea, and while I couldn’t make the first meeting for some reason, I started going by the second one, in September of 2007.  None of us knew that, ten years later, we’d have only missed ONE month in that decade, and that was only because of a snowstorm last December.  None of us knew that we’d be around in 10 years.  None of us knew how awesome Carolyn would be, and how many wonderful friends we’d make because of this group, which is still going strong.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 12.35.36 PM
Here’s Carolyn (middle), Pauline (right) and me at my very first trade ever, at the now-defunct (but always fabulous Artist & Display in Milwaukee. Notice that this was pre-glasses and short gray hair. 😀 (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Brady, as is the featured image)

I found out yesterday that in the ten years we’d been meeting, I’d attended 65 of the 119 meetings, which put me in the Top 20 of attendees.  I’m really honored and proud to be in this group, which has meant so much to me in the last 10 years.  It’s such a comfortable group, which is extremely organized by Carolyn but at the same time is totally laid-back and super fun. There’s ZERO pressure in this group to be anything – you can do anything you want, there’s no judgment, and there’s always a feeling of inclusion and camaraderie. Those are rare and wonderful things in any group, especially after meeting every single month (except that one) for a decade.

If it weren’t for this group, I don’t think I would’ve grown enough as an artist to have the courage to leave my job and persue an art career full-time.  Indeed, when I think back to that time, at which time I’d only been making art for about 3 1/2 years, I feel a little sick to my stomach at how brazen and confident I was.  That was the ATCs talking, for sure.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 ATC
As you may already know, this was the ATC that literally launched my full-time art career!

I love this group so much, and I’m so happy I found these wonderful people when I did.  I won’t be able to attend a meeting again for four months due to (ironically) all of my other art teaching gigs.  But I’ll be there in December for my favorite trade of the year – our annual holiday potluck and funtimes in Cudahy.  I can’t wait.

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P.S.  If you’ve never heard of ATCs before and want to learn more, Carolyn’s FAQ is an invaluable resource!!  Start here and become obsessed yourself.  Perhaps like me, you’ll realize that you’ve made over 1200 ATCs in the past 11 years.  🙂


Craziest. Night. EVER.

We have a saying in Wisconsin that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.  (Actually, I think most Midwestern states have that saying.)  Last night, I found out how true that saying is – almost literally!

I participated in the first-ever igNight Market in Green Bay, which happens to be my hometown.  I’d heard about it via Facebook and thought it would be fun, since I hadn’t done any sort of selling of my art there.  I left Green Bay in ’96 and this business of art wasn’t even on my radar yet.

I was pretty nervous about this market, since I knew Brian would be out of town and I’d have to go it alone.  I was as prepared as I could’ve been, which is always helpful, but I was still anxious about putting up the tent myself, as this was my first real art market ever! (I also realized afterward that I just can’t go it alone to these markets – not yet, anyway.)

I got to the market at the perfect time, had a super amount of help from the fabulous staff with set-up, and was on my way.  For a first-time event, the crowd was fantastic!  I had brought my collagraph series and my Painted Desert rust-dyed encaustic series along – one on each table (you can see that in the photo, above).  I had also brought along some of my matted linocuts.  The wind was pretty strong so I had to keep some of my work flat, but it didn’t seem to matter – people were really interested and I had wonderful chats with a LOT of people, and I made some sales!  (It is here where I have to say I am so very grateful for my amazing dad in-law, who made those cool shelves for me!  He’s such a great guy.  I’m super lucky.)  😀

I also got to see many Green Bay friends whom I don’t see enough, like my old college roommate Pia and her husby, Phil.  We had a chance to reminisce and also talk about an upcoming ride we’re doing, which was great.  I saw two of my art friends, Steve Ballard and Geri Justinger.  Steve’s wife Patricia was so lovely and got me water, which I desperately needed.  Geri is super thoughtful and had brought me a huge lot of graphic tape the last time she was at a thrift store and delivered it last night (thank you again so much, Geri!!). I got to see my friend Cheri Larson, whom I hadn’t seen since 2013.  But the craziest meeting happened to be with my friend Amy, whom I met on our first day of 6th grade in 1979, and her husband Bill.  I hadn’t seen her or Bill in person in over 20 years!  It was fantastic.

It is during this reunion of sorts where things get really bizarre.  As you can see from the above photo, when the market began there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was really warm, and I was sweating profusely, but so was everyone.  I think it was even fairly nice out when Amy and Bill found me.  But then….


Yeah.  This happened.  You can see that Bill is hanging on to the tent so that it won’t blow away.  There were some other lovely people in the tent on the other side who were helping me too, just some folks who took shelter when the storm hit.  (What you can’t see is the insane amount of lightning.) The radar said we were in a “dangerous thunderstorm alert”, which was supposed to pass in about 10 minutes (it didn’t).

About 20 minutes later Bill ran and got their car and drove me to mine. I had made the executive decision to leave, on account of the fact that the streets were getting flooded and everything was soaked.  I was really afraid for my art (which, I am happy to report, made it through unscathed!).  They asked if I needed help tearing down and I said no, that it would only take me about 10 minutes.  When I got back to my booth, they were both there, waiting for me, and helped me load up my car.  I could’ve cried from thankfulness.

I drove home through one of the worst storms I can remember driving through – it was really rough.  We were all going about 35 mph for a good 20-mile stretch (Green Bay is about 70 miles from Fond du Lac).  But I took my time and I made it home in one piece, set everything out to dry, and went to bed.  🙂

The take-away from all of this?  Actually, there are many:

  • I have wonderful friends, even ones whom I hadn’t seen in decades
  • There are so many lovely people out there willing to lend a hand
  • The payoff for being super-prepared is immense
  • I will try to not sweat the small stuff
  • You don’t mess with Mother Nature – she’ll win pretty much every time.  🙂

I have one more of these markets, on September 16.  Brian is coming with me this time and I’m pretty sure the weather won’t be quite as wicked!

What can I say – I just love art. :)