An Interview with a MOST Unusual Pet: Meet Cookie, the Axolotl!

SoCharmed: I am so happy for everyone to meet my new friend and special blog guest, Cookie, the axolotl. I ran across them on Instagram and… well… I just fell in love with their smile! I thought it’d be fun to get together to chat and hope you’ll enjoy this interview. Yay!

Cookie, thank you so much for agreeing to meet up to chat! I must admit you are the first axolotl I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. For the uninitiated amongst us can you give us a little basic background about yourself? Are you a fish? A baby dinosaur? The cutest little monster ever? Just what are you?

Cookie:  Hi! Why yes, I AM the cutest little monster ever but I am actually an amphibian salamander. It’s okay to Axolotl questions! Ha!

Some people even call me and my friends “water puppies”! We have the best personalities and actually love people and do tricks for them. I live in the water full time, unlike a frog or other lizards that can live outside of water and sunbathe in the warm sun and I actually prefer colder water and night time the best. Axolotl’s have very poor eyesight since we mostly live the dark and we’re actually natives of Mexico!  Ole!

SC: Haha! I love a friend who can drop a good pun. So, I always bring snacks to interviews, but I must admit, I just didn’t know what in the world you might like to eat. You are so adorable, I bet you like candy, right? My favorite is Twizzlers!

C:  My favorite candy is big, fat juicy earth worms! (I only eat every other day!) I used to eat bloodworms when I was a babylotl because I was too small for the big worms!  I’m sure if I was able to eat candy, it would be gummy worms!

Here’s a video of me eating. I have to be hand fed with tongs because I can’t see my food unless it’s right in front of my face.


SC: Oh, I find gummy worms delicious too. I wonder if I might be part Axolotl! Cookie, I hope this is not too private or embarrassing, but I heard a rumor that no one quite knows just yet if you were born a male or female and that’s why I’m using they/them pronouns. When will we all find out?

C:  What are pronouns?!  I haven’t decided what I want to be yet since I’m only a year old. Sometimes we don’t know axolotl genders until we are about 18 months old. My humans have been trying to figure me out for months and they still don’t know either so right now, I just identify as a water puppy.

SC: Right, that makes sense. Most people have plain old (boring!) puppies and kitties as pets. What qualities make you an extra special pet? Do you have any super-powers you can share with us?

C:  Yes! Axolotls can regenerate limbs if they are ever “amputated” and we are 99% more resistant to cancer cells than humans and scientists think we might carry the cure for cancer one day!  There are some of us that can also glow in the dark! It can only be seen under UV light and the axolotl must have the GFP gene. This is a recessive gene that can be passed from generation to generation. GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) allows the Axolotl to glow under UV light. When the Axolotl has less pigment, they will glow brighter like my friend pictured below.

SC: Wow, that is pretty amazing indeed. I wish I could glow in the dark!

SC: Speaking of superpowers, I heard a couple of Super Heroes take really good care of you. I think they are all grown up now; do you have a more recent picture of them you can share with us?

C:  Sure, here’s a current picture of my besties, Jackson (12) and Carson (almost 11).

SC: Whoa, they sure are grown up. Do you ever get lonely for the company of another axolotl? There are rumors that axolotls don’t really play well with others. Is this true, Cookie? You look too gentle to fight.

C:  It’s not completely true, but we will fight and nip at each other. I have never been roommates with another axolotl so I wouldn’t know. If we have to share a tank, it’s best we are the same gender and the same size to grow up with. I’m pretty content staring at my cute little self in the corner of my tank when I’m not interacting with my humans or busy eating.

SC: I understand that, I like my alone time too. How did you come to live with your family? If someone wants to bring an axolotl home for a pet, where should they go to find one?

C:  My family found me through a reputable axolotl breeder in Indiana, Strohl’s Herptiles and they shipped me in the mail! The breeder made sure I was nice and comfy on my trip to my new home.

If your human friends are interested in bringing home an axolotl, tell them to do their research and prepare their tanks well in advance or else we can get very sick and die if the conditions aren’t right for us.  We are very sensitive to temperature, oxygen, bacteria, lighting conditions and even the decorations that you put in our tanks. We learned some very hard lessons, so please do your research well in advance and prepare your tank at least a month or two before your axolotl’s arrival to create the perfect nitrate/nitrite and bacteria conditions. Watch lots of tutorials from experienced axolotl care takers. Our skin is also extremely sensitive, so please do not touch us very much.  We do like to bump heads with your fingers and taste them (but don’t worry, we won’t bite…we don’t have teeth!) Sometimes I like to crawl up into my dad’s hand…he’s very gentle.  Just be sure to wash your hands without soap extremely well before giving us a light, quick touch.  Our skin is like a fish’s, so removing the slime coating on us is not good for our health.

SC: Thanks for all that great info. It’s definitely important for humans to be very responsible in adopting such an unusual pet. Cookie, thank you again for being so cute and fun and willing to share about yourself. The world can seem so stressful, but you really appear to have a happy and peaceful outlook! Do you have any advice for our readers on how to navigate the ups and downs of life?

C: If you see someone without a smile, just give them one of yours…it’s what I do!

SC: That is a great idea, and I’m going to try that. Thank you again and thanks so much to Jackson, Carson, and their mom, Niki, for being so cool!

Art with Heart

Like most artist/designers, I have many (many) collections of all kinds of stuff in my home. In my case, much of it falls under the category of art. The walls are dense with pieces I’ve acquired, from friends, from yard sales, thriftstores, and from the artists themselves. I purchased the piece above from an estate sale on my block shortly after I moved in. I was blown away by the image and the workmanship. It seems very old and I don’t know anything more about it.

I love images of hearts in all styles, from vintage valentines, to religious icons, to anatomical representations. As a newly diagnosed cardiac patient, these depictions have taken on another layer of meaning for me. I ran across this beautiful object by Ukranian artist (living in Poland) Daryna Syniehibska on Instagram @duchess_of_brooches. I ran to her Etsy shop and made an immediate purchase. The description simply read: Beaded canvas Ukrainian blooming heart. Unbroken. With the last name Bloom, a heart that is literally (and figuratively since my mom’s death) broken, ancestors that hail from Ukraine, and an ongoing daily sense of sheer horror at the devastation being brought upon Ukraine by Russia, I was instantly and hopelessly in love with this work of great beauty and meaning. I asked her to sign and date the back, which she did, pictured below. A tiny-but-mighty Ukrainian flag was a perfect surprise.

I have never understood the snobbery of perfecting and hiding the back of embroidered work, of disallowing for the mark of the human hand. Life is messy, art is messy, perfection is way overrated. I will treasure this treasure forever. Please visit this amazing artist on Etsy, her sensibility and subject matter is unique, her command of traditional crafts is incredible, and her talent is evident in every little detail. The brooches pictured below are available now (with free shipping!) and I might have to have one.

In keeping with beaded artworks, I’ve owned the piece below for so long I’m forgetting its provenance. I believe I acquired it during Etsy early days, and I believe it is Peruvian folk art. Beads, buttons… what is not to love about this lovely piece?

I’ll leave you with a thriftstore piece that I fondly call Our Lady of the Bead Studio. She isn’t really beaded, but made from one of those crafty kits you might have bought in the 1960s or 70s, where you glued tiny colorful pebbles onto a patterned board. I know I did a few of those and there are no words for my adoration of this object. Suffice to say, she has watched over the jewelry studio since the very beginning. Amen!

Web Launch

I’m so happy to announce the launch of the newly designed soCharmed Web site. I’m going to miss that crazy old site; it served me well for so long I can’t even remember. Redesign was based around optimizing for mobile as well as facilitating shopping from within Instagram. I also wanted to keep something connected to the old site, and the Boot logo has been given a new coat of paint as well.

You should now have a greatly improved experience viewing and shopping on your tablet and smartphone. Stay tuned while we install WooCommerce for Instagram purchases, and follow @socharmedtribe to see what I’m up to in life and jewelry-making. Also for announcements of sales, which I do plan to have. In fact, there will be one coming up within the next week or so.

I can’t say why, after a long long break, the jewelry design muse visited with me again. I have some theories, which perhaps I’ll share some other time. Right now, I’m focusing on necklaces; they seem to provide the format I need at the moment. I do plan to make bracelets, earrings and pins again as well. I’m also excited to use this blog (though I’m not promising a particular frequency!) to share all kinds of stuff: behind the scenes, inspirations, interviews with other artists and some additional surprises.

Anyway, enjoy the new site, let me know what you think or any problems you experience using it. I want to give a massive shout-out to code-guy extraordinaire, Peter Kaizer. Hit him up for your Web-commerce site-building needs; he’s quite used to working with fussy, bitchy, insane artists and other types. 🙂 Thank you for supporting my work; I love you.

Rebel Rebel Pattern Launch

Long time, no blog, don’t hate!

In the years since, truth be told, I’ve not been making much jewelry. Well, I did make some, but then got bogged down making the Web pages… but I’ll do that one day! Promise!

Meanwhile, I’ve turned into a crazed, knitting-addicted maniac. And, even more troubling (exciting?) I’ve designed and released a pattern on Ravelry.

Thanks to a dear friend, I fell in love with stranded color work specifically, finding this technique to be one of the most joyful, creative, and thrilling things I’ve ever done in any medium.

This is an intermediate pattern; you should be familiar with stranded colorwork as those basic instructions are not included. You’ll get the charts for all the Bowie material, designed by me. The rest of the scarf is completely open-ended and even simple stripes will work (and I’d love to see that!).

If you want to follow my lead, you’ll need the two books pictured below. Anna Bauer’s Alterknit Rebellion completely inspired me and is a must-have for any colorwork enthusiast. Trust me, you will LOVE this book. And, Alterknit Stitch Dictionary is also a total gem and must-have.

And, please stay tuned because I have more patterns in development as part of my RockStar series; Lou Reed and Arthur Rimbaud are up next. I plan to eventually release these as an eBook as well. The best place to keep up with me these days is Instagram: @SoCharmedTribe.

xoxo and until next time (which will be sooner than 5 years… I promise!)