Mandalas and Music

Mandalas and Music

Kate SchimkePeople may know Kate Schimke as the founder/owner/creative force behind Prayers of Nature; a shop housed in Wilton’s artist-filled Mill Building.  They may also recognize her as the person who organizes art marketplaces in Town Hall and as the person behind the Wilton Arts Market Newsletter. But there’s another side to her that’s been hidden and only recently began to emerge -  singer/songwriter Kate.

When I visited Prayers of Nature a few months ago, Kate handed me a CD she recently recorded in Nashville. After listening to it, I knew there was more than one reason others should get to know this multi-talented Wilton business-woman and musician.  

This is her story:

It all started with Mandalas.  Or at least that’s what brought Prayers of Nature to Wilton. The mandalas that are the focus of her shop were created by Linda Wyman, mother of Kate’s partner, Aaron Derman.  Linda used flowers from her garden she carefully designed into over 100 floral mandala-shaped works of art.  She photographed each one, from which she made large prints.  Both Kate and Aaron knew their beauty needed to be on display and not buried in a dark storage locker, where they rested after Linda’s death.  They rented space in the Mill as a vehicle for displaying these designs.  The shop name came easily. The mandalas were created with Linda’s mantra behind her designs, “flowers are the prayers of nature.”

What came next is all due to Kate’s desire to find ways to market the mandalas in ways other than as two-dimensional prints. She educated herself in marketing techniques and technology.  She admitted, “I had a huge mountain to climb to learn how to put them into products that would sustain the shop.” She now works with suppliers who print them on clothing, cards, candles and mugs that she sells on-line and in the shop. The other products she sells at Prayers of Nature include Aaron’s jewelry and other items she’s selected from vendors she’s met at regional craft shows.

Then there’s her music that had an entirely different beginning. Her father was a bass player who gave her an eclectic appreciation of all types of music from folk, honky-tonk and American roots music to Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

 But you might say her music education really started in a cabin in the woods. Until moving there, she never took music seriously for herself. That was until Aaron encouraged her to learn to play something easy, like the ukulele. It didn’t take long before she informally played and sang anywhere she could with no real plans to take it beyond merely entertaining herself and anyone else who cared to listen.  Then she picked up a guitar. While learning to play her guitar, she realized how much this instrument helped focus her voice. She was on her way.

One of the most transitional things she and Aaron did was to build a stage behind their cabin.  This they’ve shared with the local music community for the past five or six years.  As she observed, “There’s more local musical talent around here than most people know.” When I asked how many that might be, she put out the figure of “somewhere around a hundred people who play music in some way that I can count.”

 In turn, Kate learned about sound and music promoting and made connections that set her on the path to creating her own music. It was one of these connections that brought her to Nashville were she made a demo disc of several of her songs with a group of well-known studio musicians. While there, she gained insight into the best methods and tricks to use when producing music, thus furthering her music education.

Kate credits other musicians for helping her along the way.  Local people like Tyler Allgood and Charlie Chronopoulos who’s been willing to do a lot for other musicians.  She said, “Charlie gently helped me prepare for my Nashville recording when I was a mess of nerves.”

I asked why she began to write her own music.  Her reply was open and honest.

“I do it for me first.  It’s what keeps me going. When dealing with personal issues I write a song instead of picking up a drink. All my songs have stories behind them.  When I first started to play seriously I did covers of other people’s songs, but I always tried to come up with my own versions to make them my own.”

She continued, “Now singing other peoples’ songs can feel like glorified karaoke.” She wants to connect with people through real emotions and to do so, playing and singing songs she writes does that best. As she says, “The best music comes from real emotions.  Take your struggle and put it out there and other people will react.”

Kate’s played at the Bull Run and Mario’s on Main in Massachusetts, but is looking forward to her first few bookings in New Hampshire.  She’s scheduled to play at Wilton’s Folk Café and at the Blue Bear Inn in Francestown and is looking forward to future performances throughout the year. Check out her music and schedule at

When I asked about her future plans, Kate admitted that her music may change.  She wants to experiment with what she calls “industrial music” with electronic sounds.  “I want to get weird now that I have a keyboard that does far more than a guitar.” I want to be someone who people haven’t heard before, but my messages will always be personal.”

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