Find Out About Me

One of my hats.

Biography — My Personal Life

On this page I will give you an idea about who I am. I have lived now more than six decades. I came from Germany to settle in the United States when I was 30 years old. It was quite a different world I entered, not only the culture and the people who created this culture, but also the land that was so vastly different.

The climate is subtropical here on Anna Maria Island in Florida. I came from the northern part of Germany, a rather cold climate in comparison, and to this day I have not adjusted fully and I think that I probably never will. I still prefer the winter here over the summer, even though the most beautiful and dramatic skies decorate the island in the summer.

Ulrike sitting on old cast iron lion.

— On one of my trips back to Germany —

I came here because I met my husband Michael in Germany, we fell in love and decided to live in his childhood vacation spot when we quit our jobs after having gone through some traumatic times in our professional lives. We could not accept the corporate politics that ruled our lives, we are both artists, free spirits with the deep desire to be free and free of irrationality. So this island offered us a partial chance to reach this goal.

The desire to create art has been the guiding star in all of the major decisions in my life. This drive determined even whom I married, because the understanding by this man of what I must do was a prerequisite in my choice. The drive to create is a very strong one that can not be denied and must be nurtured as well. So I think that I chose wisely, and in this year of 2009 we have known each other now for 40 years. We are seeing the shadows grow long together.

Beach chairs with long shadows.

Since I grew up in a city and within the corporate world, my lifestyle was very different from the way I live now. Things were designed and polished, the cloths I wore seemed to be cut out of a fashion magazine. But I lived a split life. On the weekends I was roaming the forests or went sailing. I always enjoyed being close to nature, knowing all the plants and wild flowers, the critters. I also developed a passion for mushroom hunting and the days I spent in the forest with the goal of a meal in my mind were always very special days for me. These times, alone by myself, suited me just fine, at heart I was always a loner and perfectly happy doing the things I love all by myself.

But when I found Michael I started to love his company, so we shared a lot of the things that I always loved to do by myself, he even embraced with full gusto the hunting of the mushrooms. Any of you who know Michael will apreciate when I tell you that he got exited about this as he is excited about his native plants now.

I also am a bookworm, devour book after book. I love stepping into other worlds, into lives that are different from mine, imagining to be part of that world in a given book. In these pages here you will find some of my stories, I hope that you will become part of these stories as I become part of the stories by others.

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Divider. Ulrike Design Logo

Biography — My Professional Life

All my life have I "done art". From early on my greatest pleasure was to create something. The something could be made from sticks, from snow, from old things I picked up in dumps, from leaves, from pressed flowers or strips of newspaper. It never made any difference, the only thing that mattered was that it was something I could use to create with. My schoolbooks had more drawings in them than text, the sidewalks were an easy mark for my chalk and quince juice that oozed out of the plentiful fruit to become paint that washed away in the rain.

The first artworks that gave me some income were colorful drawings of ballerinas that I sold to my fellow classmates to decorate the little friendship books with. We all had those books where the classmates wrote a poem or a saying into the book of a friend. My drawings were highly sought after. Now and then I would also create some ink drawings of little critters or flowers.

Kissing doves

Most of the art I created was only for my own pleasure though, I just could not stop. I worked deep into the night to finish a project, or if I was forced to go to bed early I could not sleep because my mind would race on with the creating. Often I would build things and with that learned to use the tools of my future profession.

I remember a funny little episode: My girlfriend‘s sister was much older than we were and was going to be married, so I wanted to dress up for the occasion. At that time I did not have shoes that would fit the bill, so I made some. I took many layers of cardboard that I had cut into the shapes of my feet and glued each layer together with the other, in between I had incorporated a pretty strip of fabric that became a bow on top of the feet and held the sandals on, sort of. I pressed the cardboard together with a brick that sat on the sandals over night.

Then came the big day. All I could think of was my fancy shoes. Walking was hard in them, they were not flexible and slid off of my feet, but that was alright. The biggest unforseen thing came though when shortly before the bride and her groom arrived we were standing by the decorated door and a spring shower surprised us. I stood in the rain with my shoes getting soft and then just disintegrating. I was crushed and learned a lesson well. From then on I researched possibilities in advance. I imagined the things that might happen beforehand, a major component in creating something useful.

My cardboard shoes

For the most part of my young life I painted and drew just for the fun of it. I painted pictures for all my relatives, I made cards for all occasions. I decorated anything that needed decorating in my mind. That constant involvement in this activity was on my parent’s mind when they convinced me to enroll in an engineering program in our company town’s company, VW. “There you can draw all day” they said, “there you can use the fun you have drawing things.” Going to any art school as I would have liked was out of the question.

Little did they know what enrolling into this program entailed. At that time VW had their own schooling within the corporation and I learned machine design. That included all the skills and methods that one might encounter having to know about designing. I learned to work all major metal working like forging, casting, lathe work, honing, turning, welding and so on to be able to understand how things are built. The schooling was thorough and took long hours every day. The required discipline I learned was invaluable later on in my life. Of course technical drafting was a big part of this and math.

After working in the metal shops and drafting offices school work was required at night, so there was not much time for many other things. But I managed to go on with my more artfull things on the weekends, like designing sets for rock concerts and huge carnival events. Those activities I continued for about eight years, later on I took vacation time to work full days for the carnival events which I took on in a leadership position.

Stylized leaves.

My future job was not that enticing to me, I craved more of the artistic kind of occupation. But I had to sign a contract to stay on for 5 years before I started the education. I heard about the car design studio they had tucked away in the secret department of development. After long hours of trying to speak to the boss there I finally got an audition. I was asked to provide some samples of my drawings and paintings. All was excepted and I was allowed to continue my education in the styling studio while also continuing my studies towards the diploma.

In the styling studio I first learned from the other artists how to go about rendering the things that were needed in that profession as a designer. I taught my technical drafting skills in turn to some of them so they could better show their own work to the engineers. At that time period VW was just starting to have concept cars developed, artists had taken positions in the studio, it was the time after the dominance of the Beetle. Part of the learning I got to do in the studio was wood and clay work to make models in order to understand working with the modelers when I was designing things. The time flew by doing all this interesting work, but it was still not what I craved.

Vector Graphic

So on the side I worked with my first mentor in the field of graphics. We founded a small company and got jobs in graphic design from the local businesses. He taught me the fundamentals of graphic design and I got so good at it that I took over a lot of the graphic work for the styling studio, for the presentations and brochures also. The plan was to quit eventually and go into freelance full time.

The plans changed when I met my future husband and second mentor who was to become the new chief of the styling studio. He was hired to bring American style to Germany and teach this to us. Eventually he was pushed out by terrible politics within the corporation’s leadership.

We quit our jobs not willing to put up with this, I continued to work with my graphics partner for a while, but he could not leave his job then to go full time. He had a family with small children and was not willing to risk his safety. So I continued on my own in the business and became rather successful in town within a short time. But then Michael and I decided to try our luck in America, in his country, and we moved to Anna Maria Island in Florida where he had spent many childhood years.

Burning the midnight oil in my studio.

— Burning the midnight oil in my studio —

There we both started to work as fine artists. As a designer the capacity to draw and paint is a given, so picture making was a natural for both of us. My work started to sell quite well and so Michael became my manager for some years to come.

He eventually started working as a residential designer but kept helping in my business. After two decades of doing the galleries and show circuit, it was becoming very tiresome. We were on the road a lot, often away for many weeks and several downturns in the economy did not help. So I searched for a new thing where I could use my abilities and get some income. I found silk painting. It opened the door to the fashion industry. I have always had a flair for fashion. My developed color sense of course came into play big time now.

We went to many Fashion Accessory trade shows in Atlanta and also in New York to sell my silks to clothing stores. The business boomed, I got some reps to help with the sales, I took on some help for the routine work. After several years and another economic downturn my business got smaller but world wide.

Stylized leaves.

Michael learned to make a website for the silk scarves and in the year 2001 we started selling to a new market: the internet market. I had not had time yet to learn working with a computer. My hours were too long each day—most days 14 to 16 hours—to also do that. Slowly I dropped out of the wholesale market and now do almost all retail sales. It is a new world for us, but we adapted. It is a thrill to work within this rather new medium.

I have learned how to work my art in the digital world, I love it and hope that I find more for me to do within this field. All my experiences in the real world have made it easy to slide right into this virtual world, it requires knowledge in the visual realm, which I have and can utilize. It can be seen throughout these pages on Sandcastle Stories — Ulrike.

Ulrike on her 64th birthday.

— On my 64th birthday in 2009 —

Divider. Sea life.


To visit the site that Michael has for his work and philosophy on the sense of place for Anna Maria Island—Native Landscaping—here is a link to Perfect Island —

I have been a member on SitePoint for some 4 years now in this year of 2010. I have been voted to be the Graphics Guru in the community for the last 3 years in a row. I must say that I am forever grateful to the SitePoint community. Most all things related to creating a website I have learned from the members there at the forum. Thank you all. Here is a link to SitePoint, just in case you might want to find out how websites are made —

I met some very interesting and wonderful people there on SitePoint. One of my dear friends is Shaun Rambaran from Trinidad, you can see part of his photographic work on his website —

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