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Meet Maike Van Wijk of Maike’s Marvels

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maike Van Wijk.

Maike, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in the Netherlands and lived in Germany for 7 years prior to our family moving us to the United States in 1990. I have always been a crafter, spending many days at the dining table making various projects from hobby books. When I lived in Germany my cousin and I would frequent PerlenSpiel and make earrings together.

Little did I know that decades later all that creativity would come back to me. Recently I returned to Germany for a wedding and that lovely bead store still exists!

I followed Suze Weinberg [] after a 2007 workshop with her, and as I followed her on social media she mentioned beeswax. Per Merriam-Webster, Encaustic pant is “a paint made from pigment mixed with melted beeswax and resin and after application fixed by heat.” As I learned more about this medium I found that there are a plethora of encaustic artists, and soon I met members of FUSEDChicago. []

Encaustic gives me a freedom that I didn’t find with pencils and paintbrushes. You have to let the wax do its thing when you heat it up, and that flow releases my inner perfectionist to just experiment over focusing on precision.

I started taking encaustic painting classes in 2010 and incorporated encaustic medium and encaustic paint into my collage work. Then one wax and wire workshop in 2012 with Crystal Neubauer [] really stuck with me. As I posted my wax and wire creations on Facebook people wanted to buy them, so I started focusing on jewelry.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Choosing to be an artist creates a lot of mind-games with my practical nature. It is not easy to be a full-time artist, and there have to be side gigs along the way. I freelance write to fill up my funds but would love to see my art sales become a bigger chunk of my income.

Especially in the jewelry category, it is challenging just to get into shows at times.The individuality of each jeweler isn’t always considered when jurors are working with a limited amount of booth slots. Initially, I took those rejections personally, but now I am aware that it is a blend of show aesthetic, space constraints and first-mover advantage that leads to those decisions. My focus is to find the people that truly resonate with my creations and want to become collectors.

You can do all the market research and business planning you want, but in the end, there is no set formula for attracting customers. I use the business tools I have, but ultimately it is about presenting my creations to the public and being as visible as possible. No amount of research can substitute for trying different venues and experimenting with ways of getting the word out and developing relationships along the way.

Maike’s Marvels – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I started Maike’s Marvels intending to launch a greeting card business, but a bit of number crunching had me move up to larger collages to sell as wall art. I showcase these larger pieces in exhibits such as June’s Evanston Made Group Show at the Evanston Art Center. []

After the wax and wire workshop, I was hooked on the combination of industrial steel and delicate paper, and this art form resonated with my immediate community. People initially think my pieces are made with stained glass because of the translucent effect the waxed paper gives.

They are surprised at how lightweight the steel and paper combination is. While the pieces seem delicate, the steel wire gives them a lot of durability. Since my first pendant in 2012, I expanded to bracelets, earrings, collar necklaces, and keychains. In 2013 I added angel and snowman ornaments for the holiday season. A Swarm exhibit expanded that collection to dragonflies and ladybugs.

Now I am also working on a line of plant and garden stakes for indoor and outdoor use. It has been fun to come up with different designs ‘on a stick’. One of my wax and wire angels became a company mascot after she photobombed a local wine walk. Since then people ask where it is, so it’s been fun to create vignettes with an avatar.

I enjoy interacting with admirers during indoor pop-up fairs. Working in steel wire has garnered inspiring connections with other artists. I am always looking for new places to showcase my work. It is an honor when boutique owners ask me to be part of their store, and I am grateful to Sacred Art, The Pop Up Gallery, Evanston Stitchworks and Green Edens Horticultural Services for their support.

My next pop-up will be at Handmade Market on April 14. On May 18 I will have a table at Creative Coworking during their Art & Wine Night.
store links:

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My biggest leap was to strike out on my own in 2011 and see where it would take me. Originally I planned on a one-year sabbatical from my corporate career, but have been able to stretch out life without a regular paycheck up until now. As a calculated risk-taker that comes with its challenges and heart palpitations at times.

But being a freelancer allowed me to engage more in my community and truly get to know my Main-Dempster Mile neighborhood. I love exploring new communities through the various art fairs in Chicagoland, and genuinely enjoy the vast array of opportunities that exist for local artists.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Bordeaux Studio

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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