So much to celebrate at Bead in Hand!

So much to celebrate at Bead in Hand!

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe

Bead in Hand, located at 145 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District, has two reasons to celebrate this November: the kickoff of their 30th anniversary celebration year and the 10-year anniversary of Kim Humphrey owning the store.

As a child, Kim was taught to do things with her hands. She remembers being five years old and her mother sitting her at the sewing machine to practice stitching on paper. “My grandmother lived with us until her death. She was an artist and it was considered a valuable skill. I realized later in my life that not all families see it that way.” But it wasn’t until she was a mother with young children that Kim started beading. “I had little kids and I needed something that didn’t talk back and didn’t move and it really fit the bill,” she says with a laugh.

Although she can’t pinpoint the date, Kim thinks she started patronizing Bead in Hand within a few years of their 1993 opening. She took a few classes and was soon working at the store on weekends. As her kids got older, she was able to add more hours. When Doris Weinbaum, the then-owner, announced that she was planning to retire and wanted to sell the store, Kim worried what it might mean for her future. “I loved the shop, the customers, the beads, my job, all of it. I didn’t want that to change.” And so ten years ago, Kim took a leap of faith and purchased the store.

Kim is honest that being the owner of a small business has its challenges. “People today have so many ways of spending their money that I think it lessens the amount they have for any one place at any one time.” But Bead in Hand also has a unique market niche which draws people into the store. “It’s a tactile business. It’s so much more helpful for people to see the product in person before they buy. We’re one of very few bead stores in the area so we draw customers from all of Chicagoland.”

They can also offer more personalized service than a chain craft store. “It’s nice to be able to provide that service. To be able to explain to people what their options are. We aren’t just scanning items at a register. Most of our items don’t have a price tag so all our employees have to know our inventory and be able to answer questions.” Jewelry repair is another unique service that Bead in Hand offers. “There are very few places where you can take your favorite necklace from your grandmother and have it restrung,” says Kim.

Classes are one of the best ways to educate potential and current customers. Prospective students can view the current schedule and register for classes online. Classes are taught by Kim or by employee Kate Linne and include Basic Earring Design, Basic Stringing, Beginning Bead Weaving, Bead Embroidery, Knotting, and Kumihimo: Japanese Braiding. Classes vary in length from 1½-2½ hours and in cost from $35-45. Materials are generally not included.

Bead in Hand is kicking off their 30th anniversary year with special events throughout the month of November starting with a November 11 trunk show of semi-precious beads. On November 18, the staff jewelry show begins, and on November 25, the traditional snowflake ornament drop-in event returns for the first time since before the pandemic.

On October 11, Kim was honored by the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce as a Community Titan “for championing the small business community … with might and ferocity.” The Community Titan Awards were presented to individuals this year in lieu of the traditional Spotlight Awards that focused on small businesses. The Titans were nominated via online submission and according to the Chamber of Commerce are “those who have worked tirelessly, relentlessly and whole-heartedly for the well-being of our business community. Their strong and wide shoulders support the rest of us to grow and flourish.”

Being a small business owner is a tremendous responsibility, but Kim is still passionate about the art she discovered almost 30 years ago. “One of the great things about beads is that it is a never-ending learning experience. You can string beads on wire, you can do bead weaving, you can embroider with beads. There are so many different ways to incorporate them that you are never really finished learning. There’s always something new. It’s amazing.”

Bead in Hand is located at 145 Harrison Street. They are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11-6, Wednesday from 1-6, and Saturday from 10-5. They are closed on Sunday. They can be reached at 708-848-1761 or [email protected].

Steve Fisher Arts Now on Harrison

Steve Fisher Arts Now on Harrison

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe


For years, Steve Fisher’s art studio has been in the basement of his home behind the Friendly Tap in Berwyn. “I’d been thinking of getting a dedicated studio space, and I finally said, ‘If not now, when?’” says Steve. “But I needed a place that was as quick to get to as my basement.” That “place” ended up being 301 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District, the new home of Steve Fisher Arts.

Steve has been painting since he was a child and was particularly influenced by his family’s visits to the Art Institute of Chicago. He always liked the Impressionists, and then, in the mid-1960’s as he about to start high school, Steve took in his first Picasso exhibition. “It was a wake-up call. I walked from one end of that show to the other and back again. From then on, my art was never really the same. Before, I had done the kind of art kids do to get a pat on the head. After, I went my own way. The experience opened doors for me.”

While he has focused throughout his life on different art forms, primarily painting and printmaking, Steve is interested in how these different mediums can coalesce into something new. “Instead of working in different compartments, I want to put them together and see what happens,” says Steve. He’s excited by the possibilities of his new studio space where he’ll have more room to work the way that he likes to—bouncing from one project to another instead of staying focused on one piece at a time.

Steve compares his work as an artist to a physicist working on equations on a giant blackboard. “They start with a hypothesis and different ideas. But then things start to mesh. That’s what I do with my artwork; I push things around until my ideas crystallize.”

Other artists continue to be an influence too. “I love the artist Matt Lamb. He dipped his canvasses in a proprietary emulsion to create textured, multi-colored surfaces. I’m creating the ‘poor man’s version’ by pouring polyurethane, floating acrylic on top, and sandwiching glitter in between. The result is a standard painting that takes on a different quality.”

Steve talks a lot about influential artists who opened doors and how today’s artists shouldn’t see those doors as shut but should continue to walk through them and expand upon their ideas. He references Robert Henri who wrote in The Art Spirit (1923), “When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. … Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.”

While Steve intends to use his new space as a studio, he also plans to display a rotating collection of paintings that will be available for purchase. He is tentatively planning to have regular hours on Wednesdays and to have tie-ins with Arts District events. “I’ve been flying under the radar for a while, but I’m trying to get into more shows and branching out online. But it all starts with doing art that you have a connection with. If you do that, then the work speaks for itself.”

Steve Fisher Arts is located at 301 Harrison Street. Steve can be reached at 708-788-1709 or at [email protected].

Mosaic Counseling & Wellness Fills A HUGE Void

Mosaic Counseling & Wellness Fills A HUGE Void

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe

Carey Carlock believes she was born to be a therapist. “I believe in recovery and healing and I’ve always been a good listener,” she says. Now after working in mental health for more than 25 years, Carey is excited to be opening the new flagship office of Mosaic Counseling & Wellness at 215 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District.

Carey grew up in Indianapolis, graduated from Purdue University where she studied psychology and law and then moved to Chicago where she worked at R.J. Grunts in Lincoln Park. “I learned so much working in the service industry. I loved it. I still have dreams about waitressing,” she says. Graduate school at Boston College brought her to the East Coast, but she’s a “Midwesterner at heart” and she and her husband decided to raise their three children here.

Carey and her family moved to Oak Park in 2008, the same year that she started working at Riveredge Hospital, the largest psychiatric hospital in Illinois. She resigned as CEO in 2021 to co-found Mosaic with her business partner Jeff Bergren. “I was at Riveredge for thirteen years and I loved our mission of serving the underserved. But more and more people would say to me ‘You work at a psychiatric hospital, you’re on the board of NAMI, you must know a therapist that I can get my kid into.’ But my Rolodex was woefully thin. And that was very troubling to me.”

She felt called to focus on quality integrated therapy in her own community. “The calling kept pulling me—psychiatry and therapy within one team; creative arts therapy and traditional talk therapy within one team.” That call led her to be the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mosaic Counseling & Wellness. “Our mission was to build something in our community that reflected our community. We have four BIPOC clinicians, two LGBTQ clinicians, three art therapists, a dance/movement therapist, and a yoga instructor therapist.” For Carey, a key to integrated therapy is psychiatry and therapy under the same roof with providers that will “actually talk with each other.”

To help make mental health care accessible and affordable, Mosaic is in-network with several insurance companies including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Medicare. “If we are not in network, then I try to refer people to places that will take their insurance. And I always say, ‘If you don’t get a callback, then call me back and we will troubleshoot together.’”

Mosaic currently employs fifteen clinicians, eight of whom are full-time. Carey is proud that they have availability and can get people in right away. “I am currently hiring so even if one therapist’s schedule fills up, then I’ll bring someone else in. We can see you next week,” she says. They provide care for all ages and can treat a variety of conditions. The prescriber on staff, a psychiatrically-trained advanced practice registered nurse, does psychiatric evaluations and medication management.

When Carey and Jeff started looking for space, they thought they would move into an existing office suite. “When we first saw the building on Harrison, it was available for lease or for sale. We ultimately decided to get a small business loan and purchase the building. So we were suddenly faced with having to create a space that would appeal to our clients and our staff and our community.”

The building was built in the 1940s and used to be a grocery store. It has a beautiful bowstring truss ceiling that they wanted to highlight while still ensuring privacy for clients. The solution was a “doughnut” layout that has enclosed therapy offices and an open foyer and hallway. Light fixtures that also illuminate up draw attention to the ceiling. “We wanted to create a space that felt earthy and soothing and natural. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the industrial design of the building.”

And while being in the Arts District might not seem like a natural fit, it is for Carey. “I have an unbridled bias toward the creative arts. I worked with dance/movement therapists before it was in fashion because I believe in the mind-body connection. I think that our services are a complement to the area. We hope to get to know some of the artists here and learn how to support, lift up, and celebrate our shared community. Because that’s what integration is.”

Mosaic Counseling & Wellness will open its new location at 215 Harrison Street in mid-September. To learn more or to make an appointment, call 708-628-8000 or visit

Problem Solvers Offers STEM Classes In The Arts District

Problem Solvers Offers STEM Classes In The Arts District

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe

Maryann Woods was always a curious kid. Her mom still tells the story of how she would go under the kitchen table as a five-year-old, unscrew everything, and then put it all back together. “I was always asking ‘Why? Why does it work like this? Why does it do this?’ I like to know a lot of different things so I ask a lot of questions,” says Maryann. Now she has combined her passion for STEM and her love of teaching at Problem Solvers at 17 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District where she offers STEM programming to elementary and middle school students.

Growing up in a missionary household, Maryann spent a lot of her summers in India where she always spent time with the children—teaching songs, doing arts and crafts, and playing cricket. “I had a huge passion for kids and for a long time I wanted to be a pediatrician,” says Maryann, “But then I realized that I wanted to have my own children someday and I wanted to have enough time to be with them. So I decided to become a teacher.”

She attended Trinity International University in Deerfield where she earned her B.A. in Elementary Education and her M.Ed. in Diverse Learning. She started her career teaching fifth grade in Waukegan and then her principal asked her to pilot a STEM program. “I was teaching in a low-income community with few resources, but our goal was that every student in the district would have access to the program.” Maryann wrote the curriculum and it was eventually rolled out to every elementary and middle school in the district.

“It was a dream job. It combined all my passions—science, technology, engineering, and math—and I got to teach them to kids. But then I felt a call from God to quit my job.” Her faith is a big part of her life, so Maryann told her principal that the 2019-2020 school year would be her last.

To make ends meet during the pandemic, she started tutoring and doing custom design work. She incorporated her business as Niravadhi Services. “My parents are from India and Niravadhi means ‘several’ in Sanskrit. So my business name literally means ‘several services’ which is perfect because I’ve always been a jack-of-all-trades.”

When asked how she ended up opening Problem Solvers (the education services arm of her business), Maryann laughs. “I had no intention of opening up a storefront. I was just looking for a small storage space, but then my realtor showed me the photos and the price was reasonable. I got the keys on July 1.” Maryann had never abandoned her dream of making STEM accessible to all children, and now with her new space, she is hoping to make it a reality. “Problem Solvers is all about getting kids to think critically. Too many kids are focused on instant gratification. If something doesn’t work, then they just give up and move on. We teach them how to push through and persevere.”

The new space is designed for after-school and summer camp programming for students in grades K-8. Maryann is planning to start with classes in LEGO Robotics, Storybook STEM, and Laser Printing. While there is a one-week camp session August 8-12, most programming will begin in September. All classes focus on the Engineering Design Process, problem solving, and learning through play.

Both Maryann’s businesses have a charitable component inspired by 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” She donates 70% of the profits from her custom design work to two non-profits—Urban Reformers and Reaching Indians Ministries International. And she is committed to providing Problem Solvers scholarships to students in need to make STEM education more accessible.

Maryann still can’t believe how much her life has changed in the last few years. She quit her teaching job, started a non-profit with friends, moved from her parents’ home, met and married her husband, and started her business. She and her husband Raymond have a white board in their home where they write down their dreams. Looking around her new space, Maryann says, “Everything that’s here is on that white board. It’s amazing to see it all become a reality.”

To learn more about her custom design work, visit For the Problem Solvers class schedule and to book online, visit Maryann Woods can be reached at 847-331-2641.

Slowfire Ceramics Now Open in the Oak Park Arts District!

Slowfire Ceramics Now Open in the Oak Park Arts District!

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe

Noelle Allen grew up on the West Coast (Sacramento), went to college on the East Coast (Smith College), and has called Chicago and Oak Park home for the last twenty years. And while she will continue to operate a large studio out of the home she shares with her husband Tim and sons Henry and Zeke, she has recently expanded her business, Slowfire Ceramics, to a second location at 907 S. Lombard Avenue in the Oak Park Arts District.

Although her mother was an artist who had an art studio in the house, Noelle preferred ballet to art until she was a teenager. “I really loved dance and thought that I would do it professionally, but the body-shaming culture wasn’t healthy for me. So when I found art at Smith, it was a light bulb moment.” She switched her major from sociology to studio art and never looked back.

Noelle is a tenured professor at Dominican University where she runs the sculpture and ceramics department. And for years, she also exhibited her work in galleries and museums. Then two years ago, Noelle started offering private lessons out of her home studio. “I put a call out on Facebook and advertised that I would accept children who were neurodivergent. A lot of my initial students had mental health challenges and really needed to get out of the house during the pandemic. My studio was a safe space that was cozy and intimate.”

Before long, she couldn’t accommodate everyone with private lessons and so she formed small group classes and hired another teacher, Alice Arreola-Perez. Alice trained at Dominican and had worked with Noelle as an artist assistant for several years. “Alice has been amazing and is like family to me now. I couldn’t have done any of this without her,” says Noelle.

Within eighteen months, Noelle was employing several teachers and the business had expanded into all kinds of art in addition to the wheel throwing and handbuilding that started it all. By this spring, her teachers came to her and said, “This is out of control. You have to expand.” The space that had felt cozy and intimate now felt too crowded. “Our classes were always selling out,” says Noelle.

She considered some different options in Oak Park and then one of her teachers told her about a space that was available next to Buzz Café. “I looked at it and made a decision on the spot. It seemed kind of perfect. It’s in the Arts District, it’s close to the train, and my staff love being next to Buzz. It all made sense.”

Although the business is called Slowfire Ceramics, Noelle wants people to understand that they have a lot of different offerings. The new location has classes and camps for children, tweens, teens, and adults in disciplines including ceramics, painting and drawing, and knitting. There is also a makerspace and classes in 3D printing and CNC routing. “I was interested in a multidisciplinary approach. I don’t believe in just one medium,” explains Noelle.

Classes continue to be small with a maximum of eight students and a minimum 4:1 student-teacher ratio. “Even with just four students, I’ll have two teachers if necessary or I’ll bring in a 1:1 aide if a student needs it. I heavily staff everything so our students get tons of attention.”

Noelle believes that the mission of Slowfire Ceramics is what sets it apart. “As our program has grown, I’ve realized that we’re filling a need that I didn’t even realize existed in Oak Park. We offer a bridge between a community art center and private education services. Our mission is to be an inclusive space, a safe space. Our students know us and we know them. It’s a big family.”

This fall, Noelle is planning to expand into preschool programming. “I’ve hired a behavior therapist who also has a painting degree. Evelyn has been working at an autism center in Chicago and she is going to offer small group preschool classes during the day and afterschool classes specifically geared for kids on the spectrum. In addition, she speaks Spanish, so there will be a Spanish immersion component as well.”

Noelle is committed to making her classes available to everyone and has been funding scholarships out of her own pocket since she started. But she recently formed a 501(c)(3) called Slowfire Arts Foundation that will actively fundraise and provide scholarships for students in need.

To learn more about the class offerings at Slowfire Ceramics visit To make a donation and support the scholarship program visit

What’s Blooming on Harrison presented by Mosaic Counseling & Wellness

What’s Blooming on Harrison presented by Mosaic Counseling & Wellness

By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe

For the first time since 2019, What’s Blooming on Harrison is returning to the Oak Park Arts District. This year’s festival is on Saturday, May 21, from 11am-7pm and spans Harrison Street from Humphrey to Cuyler. The Taylor Avenue Beer Garden and Main Stage will operate until 9pm.

Started in 1999, the festival has grown over the years to include an art fair, local business and non-profit booths, food vendors, a children’s carnival, an art raffle, a beer garden, and an entertainment stage. This year’s festival is sponsored by Mosaic Counseling & Wellness who will be moving to Harrison Street later this year. “Helping to bring back this event to the community is an honor, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month. We are opening offices in the Arts District at the end of the summer and could not think of a better way to contribute to our new neighborhood,” said Carey Carlock, founder of Mosaic Counseling & Wellness.

The entertainment stage will feature family programming from 11am-2pm and will include performances from Ovation Academy, Oak Park String Academy, The Actors Garden, Pro Musica Youth Chorus, and student musicians from Oak Park and River Forest High School. Meg Lanfear, founder of Oak Park String Academy, said, “We will be performing many pieces of music! Bach, Mozart, Paganini and more—even an Irish fiddle tune or two. Our students and teachers are looking forward to performing at the festival and then enjoying all the booths afterwards.”

Val’s halla Records is putting together a Main Stage lineup that will perform until 9pm. The acts will include an 80’s all-woman punk band called Barbie Army who are celebrating their return to Chicago after 30 years and the release of their new LP. The group was formed in Hyde Park in 1986 and has had a modern revival thanks to a YouTuber who posted some of their songs online.

The Art Raffle will feature several prizes displayed in the lobby of Centre Physical Therapy at 207 Harrison Street. Included are works from Oak Park Arts District members Mimi Comerford, Kim Humphrey (Bead in Hand), Janice Elkins (Gallery PINK), Ann Viernes (Purple Sun Arts), and other local artists. Tickets are $5 each or 6 for $25.

Food vendors will include local proprietors like Tim Giuffi from Lyman Ave. Bread who has been selling bread subscriptions and delivering his product by bike since 2019; Popify who will also be there with a bike selling their artisan ice pops; Smokey Joel’s Red Hots and his Vienna Beef Chicago-style hot dogs; and Trattoria 225 and their mobile wood-fired pizza oven.

This year, Taco Mucho, a relative newcomer to the Oak Park Arts District, will be selling beer and margaritas at the Beer Garden. Margarita flavors will include classic lime and strawberry guava. Wine will be available at Trattoria 225.

Admission to the festival is free, and while credit and debit cards are widely accepted, the Art Raffle, Beer Garden, and Children’s Carnival are cash only. ATMs are available at the gas stations at Austin Boulevard and Harrison Street.

The artwork for this year’s promotional materials was designed by Tia Etu of Whatever Comes to Mind Studio. She said that she was inspired by the idea of something “tropical” when she created it; the bright pink flowers capture the energy of What’s Blooming.

This is the first year that new Oak Park Arts District Marketing Coordinator Annette Coffee has been involved in planning the festival. “I hope that people will sense the passion that these business and property owners have for the Arts District and for Oak Park. They are bringing their love for the community alive with this street festival filled with all kinds of art and family fun.” Added Annette, “It’s the biggest and best block party in Oak Park!”