woman-owned * single-owner small business * art inspired by nature
My name is Danielle and I am the artist/owner of Autumn Phoenix Designs. Here's a bit of my story and why I do what I do.
I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee (West Allis) and was never really connected to nature, other than going to the park or visiting state parks. I studied Biology in college, and even then, I went through life pretty much entirely disconnected from the natural world around me.
I moved to the opposite corner of Wisconsin for my teaching career (I've clocked 10 years as a high school science teacher) in a small, rural community. It wasn't until about two years ago, my husband and I moved to a house on about three acres of land, that I finally started to connect to nature.
Our three acres of land provided something I didn't even know that my soul was craving.
Shortly after moving, we got a few goats (as pets, not for food or dairy), and taking care of the goats forced me to get outside every day--no matter the season or weather. I began to notice things that I was never even aware of before. I watched trees cycle from bud to dying leaf and back again. I found tiny flowers amongst the grass that I never even knew existed, because I never thought to look. I steeped in the peaceful silence of a quiet winter morning, with the snow absorbing sounds in a way that the grass of the summer simply cannot do; I used to avoid winter as much as possible, and while it's still my least favorite season, I gained a new appreciation for the beauty of that time of year. I started to pay attention to the moon, the stars, the sun, and noticed how they changed position in the sky as the days came and went. I quickly learned that one of the most beautiful things is just sitting quietly outdoors, just taking in all the rich sounds, smells, and sights--no matter the season.
When I found wire wrapping, it woke a creativity in me that sat dormant for over 30 years. I was quickly drawn to making trees--it wasn't that I sought out how to do it, but rather, I firmly believe that I was called to do it, and I simply followed a calling.
At first, it was an irresistible force--there was not enough time in the day to satiate my hunger for creating. Now, I work when I feel drawn to it; sometimes that's three days in a row, sometimes that's three days between projects.
Have you ever looked closely at a stone--like, really looked close? Have you ever wondered where it came from, or how long it took nature to make the particular piece in your hands? I look at things so differently now--I love that I have the scientific understanding of how things are created and work, but there's this undercurrent piece, too--of feeling the awe of the larger force of creation. I'm constantly in amazement at how cells work--they are so crazy-intricate and complex--and they rarely make mistakes as they carry out their life processes day in and day out. And then you put trillions upon trillions of them together to create a larger organism--like a tree--and wow. Just wow. The coordinated dance that they perform, that which maintains life, seems utterly impossible...yet it works. The magnitude of my awe and reverence for life has increased a million fold since actually paying attention.
It doesn't matter whether or not I sell what I make. I mean, yeah, it's nice 😛, but I create what I do because it brings me joy, because it fulfills my deep human desire to create, and because (which I didn't realize at first, but do now) it provides me a way to say back to nature, "Look at how utterly beautiful and amazing you are....I will help show others your magnificence."
In early February 2019, I went to a class on basic wire wrapping techniques, and it opened the floodgates for a dormant, untapped creativity to flow out of me. Wire wrapping became a therapeutic outlet for me, keeping my hands busy and quieting my mind. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to just create.
I started with simple pendants, but soon I felt the pull to learn to make wire trees. I watched a YouTube video and quickly learned how to make them. I also started making more complex wire wrapped pendants, dream catchers, mobiles, and more...
I had no idea how much creativity was in me until it started to come out! It was like the opening of a floodgate. And soon, my passion led me to create Autumn Phoenix Designs.
I went to a 2-hour workshop in January 2020 with my husband, and I immediately loved the stained glass process. My parents used to do stained glass together and had a ton of materials in storage--a grinder, tools, glass, etc--and they gave it all to me.
I started playing around with the process at home in July 2020, and quickly took to the art, adding it to my repertoire.