Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kali Butterfly on WGN for One of a Kind

Last year the One of a Kind show was my first "big-girl" art fair. Getting into the Etsy pavilion was the perfect entry point into the show and was tremendously exciting.

One of a Kind this year marked the one year anniversary of selling jewelry full-time. Every day I'm amazed at my life--people pay me to do what I love. It's incredible.

While last year the One of a Kind show led me to believe that I really could survive--and thrive--as a working artist, this year they gave me an even cooler gift: the first appearance of my jewelry on television. For those of you who missed the piece on the WGN midday news, you can view the video by clicking here:

Yes, she's wearing my necklace. And yes, I almost pass out with joy every time I see this.

The One of a Kind show also got me some internet love. Chicago Shopping listed my red lizard vest as one of their best picks for the 2011 One of a Kind Show in Chicago. It was a great weekend.

I love the One of a Kind Show. Did I mention that?

Vanessa Walilko
Aluminum chainmaille jewelry
Handmade chain mail jewelry

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Year In Review

I had every intention of writing a re-cap on October 1, after the completion of the Year of Fearlessness project... but I've been a busy lady. I thought that end of the Plaza Art Fair would be the beginning of my vacation. I was wrong... but at least I'm never bored. However, I've learned many lessons in this past year, and I feel like sharing a few.

1) Life is very much like spinning plates. If you've ever seen someone spin plates on the top of sticks, you know that the difficult part is getting the plates up in the air. Once they're up, you just have to use momentum to keep them going. I'm done with the overwhelming effort of putting my business together, now I just have to maintain the energy. Even despite languishing after the Herculean task of starting a business, and then grieving for my grandfather earlier this year, I still managed to get into a number of awesome art fairs, win awards in the Bead Dreams competition, the British Bead Awards and the Designer Jewelry Showcase, and show my work in international competitions and exhibitions (I'm up to three continents!). It's uncanny.

2) If a photographer contacts you about using your pieces, make sure that they're reputable. I dealt with a photographer from Model Mayhem who asked to keep my pieces for two weeks and ended up holding on to them for two months. He pretty much ignored me for most of that time, not answering messages until I posted something on his online magazine's Facebook page about how frustrated I was. That was over a year ago, and I still haven't seen the photos from the shoot, haven't heard back from him, and it looks like the photos won't be included in the magazine. Creative talent does not equal business talent, unfortunately, and my time and energy were wasted on this guy.

Conversely, I dealt with a fantastic stylist named Apuje Kalu who sent me a contract, shipped my pieces back in a timely manner and sent me images of the photo shoot directly when the photographer was overwhelmed by his personal life. Because of my work with him, my jewelry has been featured in two very beautiful fashion editorials. If he contacts you, work with him. The photos will be amazing, I assure you. Plus, you might get your pieces in an Australian magazine like I did. That's pretty neat.

3) Research out of state art fairs VERY CAREFULLY before you take the time and effort to leave the state. I made the mistake of doing the Milwaukee Domes Art Festival this year. The location is gorgeous, the crowds who came out for the show were lovely (although many of the people had no idea that there was an art fair happening in the Domes that weekend), but it's a new show and that turned out to be problematic. As I said, attendance was VERY low and show policies were unclear. While the volunteers were generally nice, I ran into a couple problems:

--The show ended at 7pm on Saturday. Since I had a booth inside, this meant that the lights were turned off at 7pm. Seriously. I had a customer at my booth who was thinking about what merchandise to purchase. First the lights were shut off on her (how was I expected to clean up in the dark?). Things were then made worse when the volunteer at the door started clapping her hands and shouting, "Finish up your shopping and let's go!" If the customer had any doubts, that would have been the end of that sale.

--The director of the art fair walked up to me and said excitedly, "We're giving out the awards now." When he shook his head to indicate I didn't win one, he said, "I just wanted to have one of those American Idol heartbreak moments." I'm not exactly sure what I did to incur his passive-aggressive wrath, but I really wish he would have just brought it to my attention instead of being hurtful. A cash prize (they're generous at this show) would have made this lackluster show a real winner.

4) I already knew this, but the more time you spend doing what you love, the more confidence you develop about everything in your life. I credit improv classes with a lot of my freedom to say and do what I want. (They drill in your head immediately that if you think something you should say it.) However, doing what I love and being successful at it have worked wonders at making me freer with my opinions. There is no greater experience than just being yourself:

Aluminum chainmail jewelry
Handcrafted chainmaille jewelry

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prepararing and improvising

Since I started taking improv classes in the beginning of January, I've spent a lot of time thinking about improvising. And I'm not talking solely about comedy shows, but the very process of creative, uninhibited thinking that goes along with doing improv. When I did the Evanston Lakeshore Arts Festival this past weekend, my improv training came into use.

When I got to the show, I discovered that I had a BEAUTIFUL view of the lake. I also discovered that my booth space was on a 4" slope leading to the ocean. It's not exactly an ideal situation for displaying jewelry if everything can slide off the tables. While my friend Mack and I set up as much as we could, I decided to leave most of the work for Saturday, after I had a chance to look for something I could level out the tables with.

The answer: books! I'm lucky enough to have a used book addiction, and a plethora of paperbacks and hardcover books in a variety of sizes. After protecting my books in plastic grocery bags, I promptly put them under my tables and my mannequin.

Improvising well involves being prepared, oddly enough. Having an agenda is the death of a good improv show, paying attention to what's around you and working with what's in front of you is ideal. It seems to work for art fairs too.

Aluminum chain mail jewelry
Handmade chainmail jewelry

Friday, July 29, 2011

Improving your Attitude

"When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive." - Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest survivor of the Holocaust.

I come from a family of worriers. And my own anxieties burble out of me like water from a faucet, although I've discovered how to channel them into making chainmaille. But it seems like the key to living a healthy, long life is not letting things touch you. This interview with Alice Herz-Sommer shows what an optimistic attitude can do to get you through even the greatest horrors. She's a true artist--she sees beauty everywhere.

Vanessa Walilko
Aluminum chain mail jewelry
Handmade chainmail jewelry

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Using fabric scraps to save the earth?

If you sew, chances are you have a ton of fabric scraps lying around. You don't want to throw them away, but you can't figure out a use for them. Guess what? A freezer runs more efficiently when it's full. Why not fill it with fabric scraps? This and other tips for how to keep your fabric out of a landfill can be found here: Top 5 Ways Your Fabric Stash Can Save the Earth.

How, if only I could find a way to make use of my scrap aluminum...

Vanessa Walilko
Chain Mail Jewelry
Handcrafted aluminum chainmail jewelry

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Whenever things don't work out, I take it as a sign that something needs fixing. I've recently dealt with some personal and business-related problems so when the air conditioner at my place went out, I took it as a sign. For the past week, I've been treating my apartment as my own personal sweat lodge. I mean, if people PAY to go to places and sweat themselves silly, I can use the situation as a time for personal reflection.

After organizing everything within my possession (and currently in the process of scrubbing down every surface, I've decided to focus my attention on building my business and challenging myself creatively. I'm back to using my supplies to make beautiful things (the photo is a ring I made yesterday), as well as designing new pieces for shows and to list on Etsy and Sense of Fashion.

Also, when the going gets tough, the tough work on a chainmaille kimono. My goal is to finish it by the end of the summer.

I think that's all for now. If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, now is the time. I'll be sending out the latest issue by the end of the week.

Vanessa Walilko
Chain Mail Jewelry
Aluminum chainmail jewelry

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Clearing out the Clutter

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted. Let's see, in the past two months I won first place in the Wirework category of the Bead Dreams competition, taught at the Bead&Button show, and survived the first two art fairs of the season. It was a pretty good June, I must say.

Of course, as I build my business, I'm trying to settle into a regular production schedule so I'm not furiously making jewelry in the hours before a show. I'm also just trying to be more organized in general. I'm meticulous with chainmaille, fairly messy with everything else. However, Lifehacker recently published an article on how to "de-crapify" your home, and it seems like now is as good of a time as ever to de-clutter.

Of course, supplies are what's taking up the most space, so be sure to check out my supply shop on Etsy in the coming weeks as I list all of the things that I know I simply won't be using. All my other clutter will be going to the Junior League of Evanston, partly because it's a great organization, partly because it's so easy to get to.

One last note: I'll be participating in Art at the Shops in Yorktown Center on July 16-17. Make sure to stop by, I'll have lots of new jewelry to show off.


Aluminum chain mail jewelry
Handmade chainmaille jewelry

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day thoughts of my Grandfather

Mother's Day is generally an opportunity to give the moms, grandmothers, and aunts in your life a hug to let them know how great they are. For me, Mother's Day is the anniversary of the life-changing conversation I had with my grandfather. Because of one fifteen minute conversation, I had the most productive, if not best year of my life and I continue to build my jewelry business and give myself more challenges in order to experience everything life has to offer. And, thanks to the monomania I inherited from the Walilko clan, I sent out a boatload of applications and I'm going to be in several summer shows, and in less than a month I'll be heading to Milwaukee for the Bead&Button show to teach and experience Meet the Teachers.

Every day is an opportunity to thank and honor the people who gave you life, whether physically or metaphorically. If you need the holidays to give you an excuse, use the time to say thanks to everyone. Life is short, hug those special people while you can.

Vanessa Walilko
Aluminum chainmail jewelry

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Featured Artist on Petite Tuques

It's been a while since I worked on this blog due to personal reasons that I should get around to blogging about in May. However, I have exciting news. My Swarovski crystal dragon was recently awarded the Gold Medal Prize in the Home Decor/Doll category of the Fire Mountain Gems Swarovski Elements contest.

And, I was recently featured on the Petite Tuques blog. Her Etsy mini is posted below--check out the cool work!

Be sure to check out the interview. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a free pair of earrings!

Aluminum chainmail jewelry
Handcrafted aluminum chain mail jewelry

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beaducation - New Order and Giveaway Winner

My latest order from Beaducation arrived the other day. It arrived just in time. A friend of mine asked me to alter a bracelet that she received for her birthday. Since she's so petite, she worried about how the bangle would fit. I'll be cutting down the bangle and creating a chainmail chain for the bracelet.

Yes, those are two fists bumping.

As such, I got the Power Punch Pliers so that I can punch through the sheet metal of the bracelet. I love how easy these pliers are to use. I tested them out with some anodized aluminum disks (spoiler alert: new designs will be appearing in my summer shows). They work great.

Punch through metal like paper with these awesome things.

As a final note, the winner of the Beaducation class giveaway is Cheryl H. Thanks to everyone for posting your comments. Hopefully I can do another giveaway in the future and offer another great prize.

Vanessa Walilko
Chainmail Jewelry
Aluminum chain mail jewelry

Friday, February 18, 2011

Living without Apology

Deisree Adaway wrote a great post about not apologizing for who you are. I recommend reading it if you ever find yourself apologizing for all the things that make you uniquely and sincerely you.


Aluminum chainmail jewelry
Handmade chain mail jewelry

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beaducation Class Review and Giveaway!

When Kate Richbourg asked me to review a class for Beaducation, I was honored. I've known about Beaducation for a while, but I fell in love with them last year after winning a gift certificate for the Bead Dreams competition. They have everything that a new or experienced jewelry designer could want, from supplies (I currently have my eye on their anodized aluminum blanks) to tools to video classes that you can watch over and over again.

I recently took the "Lilies and Leaves" class by Janice Berkebile. Their free videos are an amazing resource for jewelry-making tips, and as I discovered, the classes are fantastic too. This particular class offers intermediate students a ton of valuable information. Berkebile shows you how to make spirals out of wire and how to form a lily and leaves out of copper sheet metal... even showing how to correct a common mistake which is an incredible bit of information to offer students.

This is a wonderful project. I've made a couple forays into metalsmithing, but I'm a chainmail woman. This video taught me how to use pliers to texture metal--how clever! I also learned a couple extra tips about keeping bits of metal in one place for easy clean-up and how to lengthen the life of paper templates. Also, can I just say that I love how delightfully tactile this project is? I want to do some experimenting with my anodized aluminum leaves for a brightly colored variation.

I strongly recommend the class for anyone looking to take on a new project. Best of all, "Lilies and Leaves" is on sale until February 18.

But that's not all... I'm offering my first ever giveaway! I will be selecting one lucky person to win the class of their choice on Beaducation. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog by the end of the day on February 20 with the answer to this question: what class would you take if you win? I'll pick a winner at random from all the comments. Make sure to leave your name and email address in the comment... if we can't get a hold of you, you can't win this fabulous prize!

Don't wait--enter the giveaway today!

Aluminum Chain Mail Jewelry
Handcrafted Chainmaille jewelry

Monday, February 7, 2011

Birthday resolutions

My new year starts on October 1. I have that time until January 1 to work out what I want to achieve. I test out those goals until February 5--my birthday--and then I get serious about things. The idea of a New Year's Resolution is a little daunting, but thankfully I can break that off into manageable monthly chunks and then really get cracking on plans for the new year when my new year comes around.

There are already many awesome things a-brewin'. I'm finally sitting down to work on tutorials for my designs. Instructions for how to make a a pair of beaded star earrings are already on my VanessaSellsSupplies Etsy shop. A chainmaille belt tutorial will soon follow.

Instructions for my Unfoldings of the Implicate Order beaded necklace are in issues 28 and 29 of Bead Magazine.

And, the trophies I won in the British Bead Awards arrived, along with some neat certificates. Best early birthday gift ever.

My shameless love of winning certificates and awards has been around since elementary school, when I craved the colorful certificates that meant I had mastered one of the Holey Cards. I guess I've always been a monomaniac.

Also, I made organic wild rice crackers with a recipe I tweaked myself. It's going to be a good year!

Vanessa Walilko

Aluminum chain mail jewelry
Handcrafted chainmail jewelry