A hand-made necklace designed by Amanda Pohlman. Photo provided.

Breathe in fresh art at the eighth annual three-day Evanston Art Festival, Aug. 13-15 on Sherman Avenue and Church Street in downtown Evanston. This highly anticipated fine art festival boasts more than 130 unique artists, showing original art in a wide variety of mediums and price points.

Enjoy all Evanston has to offer in its eateries, shops and businesses – many of which will be open during the fest.  Admission is free, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Treat yourself to a day of beautiful art al fresco!

Among the world-renowned artists participating in the Evanston Art Festival this weekend is Evanston-based Amanda Pohlman, founder of Monarca, a shop that specializes in ethically sourced, hand-made butterfly wings and pressed flower jewelry.

Monarca (Spanish for butterfly) is a family affair. Originally from Popayán, Colombia, Pohlman and her sister, Olga, worked for three years to find the best way to preserve butterfly wings, flowers and feathers.

Their mother, Aurora, is an expert at selecting, pressing and drying the flowers. Many of the jewelry pieces incorporate stones, beads and metals that are found only in the U.S. The business has recently expanded to five key team members, all women.

No butterfly or bird is harmed or collected from the wild to make the jewelry available from Monarca, according to detailed information found on their website.

Most butterflies have a short life span. Some species live from two to 20 days; others might live just one or two days. Butterfly farming is an option for small family-owned farms in tropical forests around the world.

Monarca team members Olga, Aurora, Mary, Ximena, Amanda. (Photo provided)

Most butterfly farms have enclosures in which they breed the species of butterflies that are native to their area. When the butterflies mature, the farmers release a number of them back into the wild to keep their populations healthy. The wings are collected after the butterflies have expired naturally.

Monarca has partnerships with butterfly breeders from South America, supporting legal insect traders within the U.S. who import butterfly species from all over the world.

The companies are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which ensures that the species used are not protected or endangered. Monarca also has a permit, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to work with butterflies.

The jewelry makers use a few species of flowers that are commonly found in gardens and nurseries. They treat the flowers in their workshop from start to finish.

They have a small nursery where they grow mainly hydrangeas and elderflowers. Experience has taught them when to collect the flowers so they maintain their colors.

The company’s feather product line is small in comparison to the flower and butterfly wing lines, which allows them to be selective with their sources.

Peacocks lose their feathers naturally after every mating season, with each bird shedding about 160 feathers. Feathers are sourced from family-owned farms in the U.S. that sell small quantities of feathers, collected from their own peafowls.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.