14064049_10154561859572268_8199250885273091585_nI am in process of transitioning to a new single existence based in Cambridge, UK.  Having dissolved my old life in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, I am cycling through six weeks of travels and visits with friends and family before the final transit to my new home.  Taking this time, this pause between actions, has been so deeply grounding and nurturing.  The interval has permitted time for grieving and letting go of the old life, transiting through ever-changing emotions as I move toward the gateway to the new life.  As part of this time, I spent five days with my dear friend Nancy and her husband Francois in their sanctuary of a cottage on Lac Sheen in the Quebec woods.  It was a time of deep peace in stunning surroundings, early morning kayaking in perfect stillness, haunting loon calls in the wee hours, heart-to-heart talks, endless creation, afternoon lake swims, wonderful food and the gift of old friendship and new.  I was able to spend some of the time building components of my latest artist’s book, A Walk in Quebec Woods.  With periods of papermaking, suminagashi and acrylic marbling interspersed, it was a blessed time to deepen my bond with these dear friends and to soothe my soul in the waters of their magical lake.  

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1914753_1053798144661581_5564570931144068029_nIt’s been an uncharacteristically long time since I blogged here.  How considerably my life has changed in the last two years.  In the face of such enormous change and transition, adequate words have failed me and I’ve turned away from blogging on a regular basis.  Through it all, I have continued to work, to teach extensively and to write in different venues.  Interestingly, much of my work over the last year has related to art journaling, and I have finally achieved the break away from my attachment words that I sought for so long.
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I am drawn back to this blog at an interesting time.  Months ago, I wrote about the end of my thirty year marriage.  That has entailed a two year long process involving a combination of hard work and slow acceptance.  A year after my four months of travel through the UK and Europe with my daughter, I am now putting a change of life into process that began to formulate in those travels.

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By this time, I am replete from a month of farewell lunches, get-togethers and gatherings.  The tidal wave of love and caring I have received from coast to coast has tumbled me and humbled me, learning the depth of regard in which I am and have been held.  I rode the crest of that wave into my journey to a new life.  I finally resigned from my full time job, sold and disposed of most of my possessions and furniture, packed my suitcase and departed on a journey to finally becoming the fully itinerant artist and teacher I have worked so hard to be.  I am grounding firmly with six weeks of visits to dearest family and friends.  Once steady on my feet and ready for launch, I will board a plane with my daughter to return to our beloved England to make our home there once again.

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Is that the end of the story?  Oh no.  It is the barest beginning of the vision I have.  I have worked more than a decade to build a business that can come with me.  Though based in the United Kingdom, I will begin to more fully and regularly divide my time between Canada and the US and the United Kingdom.  Free of a demanding full time job, I will be able to turn more fully and readily to my studio to bring the many manifestations of my creative vision to life.

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As I dismantle my old life, I am quietly sweeping away my footprints behind me.  I am filled with love and gratitude for the life I have led the last twelve years, and to all those who have shared my path over those years.  It is time for a new path, stepping fully into the artistic life I was born for, and that has grown and grown around me over these years.  Riding the crest of that uplifting wave of love and regard, I go forward.  There is so very much to look forward to, and you will begin to see me in some new ventures and venues as the year advances.  Watch out for upcoming workshops and some new online workshops coming for 2017, two new articles in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine and my work venturing further afield for exhibition.  The images included in this blog post show two recent artist book works completed:  Anonymous and Rime.  You can check them out on my Facebook page!  I look forward to seeing you about.

Oh my dears, Spring is in my blood!  My eyes see her colours everywhere; drink in the high, flawless azure of the Alberta sky; scent the rich loam thawing under the sun’s gentle caress.  The blood is racing in my veins like sap rising.  I’ll have to strap myself to the saddle to keep my seat on the gallop this season will bring.

There is so much to do.  I will be teaching solidly through March, April and May, before taking off on a three-and-a-half-month adventure with my daughter . . . .

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March and April

The first offering is a two-part workshop, “The Book as Art”, being held here in our stunning Bow Valley of Alberta.  I have not offered a workshop like this here since 2011.  It’s my custom to repay my community every year for its support by offering locally-delivered workshops at greatly discounted rates. I am offering these workshops for just $100 plus a $15 materials fee for two 12-6pm days.  This is a third or less of what you might expect pay to join me for these workshops elsewhere, so it’s well worth the journey if you’re willing to make it.  Part 1 is 21 March 2015, and part 2 is 4 April 2015.  If you are interested to take a spot or two, please message me through my contact form.

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I am also offering my training workshop “The Care and Mending of Books” at various times and locations in Alberta.  This is a workshop I have delivered to the staff of public, university and school libraries for a few years.  I taught it at the Canadian Library Association Conference in Victoria, BC last May and have now been asked to offer it in Alberta.  This is a full-day workshop and I have one or two places available at the Three Hills Public Library, Three Hills, Alberta on 28 March, and also at the Paul D. Fleck Library at the Banff Centre in Banff on April 7th.   The cost is $150 per person.  Please contact me if you are interested in attending.

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The Care and Mending of Books Workshop

A healthy collection is a happy collection!  Is packing tape your best book mending friend?  Join Dea Fischer of Canmore Public Library to learn the skills and tools you need to mend and repair your own materials.  Extend the life of your collection materials at minimum cost, and reduce your reliance on bindery fees and replacement materials.

In our morning session, you will learn and practice repair techniques on several most common repairs (e.g., broken spine, torn pages, replacing pages, repairing torn hinges).  In our afternoon session, you will learn and practice more advanced mending and conservation techniques, including re-casing a book, replacing a spine, repairing and reinforcing corners.  During the day, you will also learn aspects of collection maintenance and handling, and some reinforcement techniques to avoid or delay some common problems.  You will also participate in a question and answer session to deal with your mending and repair questions.

May

Then, in mid-May, I am flying to Portland, Maine.  I am excited and delighted to be the featured artist at a getaway with Idyllworks of Maine!

Idyllworks offers extraordinary getaways for busy women around the globe to connect and unwind. Designed to encourage relaxation and spark creativity, each of their getaways is a unique opportunity that I’m thrilled to be a part of.

One of the perks of making a living as an artist is that I get to share my craft with others. At this getaway I’ll have the opportunity to teach an intimate group in a beautiful setting about what I do and spend the weekend with them as they embrace their own creative spirit.

I’ll be working with guests to hand construct your own unique and beautiful long-stitch journal.  You will then go on to work with another featured artist, Leslie Beattie, to work on content for your lovely journals.  As an added bonus, this getaway takes place in gorgeous coastal Maine. When we’re not developing our artistic skills, there will be plenty of time to explore the surrounding areas or relax on the porch and take in the views from Grey Havens Inn.

Find out more about the getaway here. It’s worth mentioning that Idyllworks accepts both full retreat registration and also day registration for those living more locally.  I would love to have you share this incredible experience with me!

Idyllworks_for_Day_Students__Page_1 What’s next?

June through October this year, I am so excited to be taking a leave of absence in order to travel through the UK and Europe with my beautiful, soon-to-be-graduating daughter, Millie.  It’s in the nature of a grad trip and the chance to move her toward her goal of attending the UK art school her father graduated from.  I am working on setting up some teaching in the UK while I’m there, so watch this space and I’ll let you know.

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And of course, if you aren’t able to join me for one of these great workshop opportunities, I have an instructional DVD and download with Cloth Paper Scissors: “Handmade Book Essentials”, and a web seminar, “Tags, Flags and Memories” available from the Interweave Store and Craft Daily.  Whatever you do, I hope you will get out, get your hands mucky and your heart singing this spring!

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Roll on summer!  Hilarious, considering spring seems to be experiencing considerable difficulty getting underway.  Yet the year is galloping on ahead despite the lag in the weather, and we are mid-May already!  I have already started plans and preparations for my various teaching gigs this year, so I thought it was about time I shared some information with you!  All this and more detail will go up on my website shortly, but here’s a nice little taster.

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My very first teaching engagement away from home will be, unusually, teaching in my role as a library conservator.  I will be teaching introductory and intermediate book repair sessions at the Canadian Library Association Conference in Victoria, BC on May 28th.  A chance to spend some springtime in Victoria can only be a good thing!

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I am excited to have some different teaching opportunities this year.  I absolutely love teaching at CREATE, and I will be doing so again this year.  Only . . . in different venues!  I am so excited to tell you I will be teaching at CREATE in Dallas, Texas for the first time this year, at a fabulously creative looking place called the Night Hotel.  I am offering five workshops in Dallas, and you can see details here.

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I am not long back from Texas and I will be winging my excited way to Idyllworks in Maine for a long weekend steeped in connection and art making at the beautiful Grey  Havens Inn.  A much more intimate experience, a group of us will gather to create our own journals and then work on filling them while we fill our souls with walks and wonderful food and sea air and companionship.  Just look at the details here.  Won’t you please come?

After Maine, I have a very, very exciting thing shaping up which I will need to tell you more about once the details have been pinned down.  For now, I will just say, all of you in Australia who have been asking me to come may finally get your wish!

And then, toward the end of October, it’s back to CREATE, this time in Seattle, WA.  I so love the Seattle area and am excited to have the opportunity to teach in this more northerly west coast venue.  I’m really hoping to see some of the lovely people in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada that I’ve been hearing from for so long.  In Seattle, I have seven workshops on offer, and there is so much more deliciousness to choose from besides.  Do check it out!

I will put greater detail on my website shortly, and you can always view updates on the latest on either my Facebook page or my Google+ page any time.  I hope to see you at one of these great venues this year.

Good Heavens!  Is it 2014 already?  I had such plans to blog about the amazing events of 2013, and then, before I knew it, the year was over.  I don’t make resolutions as such, but I do have aspirations for the coming year.  One of them is to get back to blogging on a more regular basis.  Starting now!524284_423843824323686_1004332719_n

When I last wrote, I shared with you the exciting acquisitions of my work that had taken place in 2013.  I remain a little bewildered and deeply grateful for those events, and hope things continue along those lines in the coming year.  “River Worn” has since appeared in an exhibition of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, University of Toronto, as part of the “A Death Greatly Exaggerated” exhibition.

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2013 was significant for me in other ways too, including travel to teach at CREATE in California and in New Jersey.  Those trips are always a great deal of fun, having the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones that share my passion for art and creativity.  In the summer, I travelled to both Los Angeles, California and New Jersey with my dear friend Tiffany Teske for a busy couple of weeks of solid teaching.

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As it turned out, as great as they were, these were not the most lasting memories 2013 brought.  For in 2013, I celebrated my 50th birthday.  The gift I chose was to make a solo road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway of California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  On previous trips, I have travelled the PCH from near the Mexican border to LA, and from Seattle south to the border with California.  The Washington/Oregon trip had been transformative, a few short days that changed my inner landscape profoundly.  I hungered for another time at the wheel, experiencing this time and place in its fullness, through my own eyes and soul.  

The time was fully as transformative as expected, but not at all in the way I thought.  As part of this important time, I took the opportunity to share some of the time with an old, old friend I had not seen since high school more than thirty years before.  The time shared was powerful for both of us, dredging up deep and long-buried feelings of separation and loss, and the painful goodbyes and torn roots that characterised our military lives.  The connection in some ways completed a circle, and in others tore open old wounds that can’t ever really be resolved.  I met my young self on that trip, traversing that road for the first time since I was five years old, and looked some of my oldest hurts in the face in a way that released some things I have carried all my life.  In between the tears and the talks, there were many hours cruising the PCH, stopping at random times to photograph, laughing over the kitsch, experiencing the Monterey Bay Aquarium and rekindling a long-cherished and remembered friendship.  The circles continue to widen from that trip, an internal revolution.  Resolution.  Transformation indeed.  I am finding words inadequate to express the depth of impact, the quake that continues to resonate through my very being.

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Part of my plan to mark this auspicious 50th birthday year included a list.  At the start of the year, I embarked on fulfilling a list of 50 Things I’ve Never Done.  Although there are still five months until my next birthday, I’ve only a couple of things left to accomplish.  I started off with no plan, opportunistically and openly embracing new things as they arose and seeking them out as they occurred to me.  Fulfilling the list has been by times fun, liberating, profound, eye-opening, terrifying, thought-provoking and laughter-filled.  I won’t share the whole list, but the list has spanned everything from something as simple as cooking and eating new foods (e.g., vegetarian moussaka) and destinations (New York!) to reaching beyond my own inhibitions and fears into the places that scare me (like lighting a bonfire with gasoline on New Year’s Eve!).  The activities have often been shared or brought to me by dear friends and have provided some unexpected bonding moments over the year.  I might have to make a list of some sort part of my lexicon each year! 057 (2) (480x640)George Washington Bridge (480x640)

And then, before I’d had a chance to catch my breath, I was picked up and whirled into a trip of a lifetime to South Korea!  I was fortunate to have had a piece of work juried into the Alberta Craft Council exhibition “Pulp Paper Pages”.  A collaboration with the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, it was an opportunity to showcase the best of book and paper arts happening in Alberta at this time.  As part of an existing relationship, the Council applied for and was successful in obtaining grant funding to send a delegation of artists and the exhibition itself to South Korea.  I was so lucky to have been chosen as one of the artist delegates to accompany the exhibition to the Hanji Paper Festival in Wonju in the Gangwon Province of South Korea.  I have recently been commissioned to write an account of that trip for Bound and Lettered magazine, and so will wait to share the detail with you in that article.  From a personal perspective, the trip carried great gifts of new friendships and discovery, and included many items on my 50 Things I’ve Never Done list (like eating stingray and praying in a Buddhist mountain temple).  For the time being, let me share some of the images from this most wonderful trip.

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What a busy, fabulous year it has been.  There have been so many more events and participations I haven’t even mentioned.  I’ll leave you with a little clue to some of what has occurred this year.  Look out for lots more!  Wishing you and yours absolutely the best this year has to carry over your threshold.  Be well, be creative, be strong.  Happy New Year!1397961_617779771596756_516434779_o

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“Follow Me”, Limited Edition artist’s book, copyright 2013 Dea Fischer

Have you visited my Dea Fischer – Book Artist page on Facebook lately?  There are some fun tutorials and lots of pictures of my book arts and other work out in circulation, plus many great shares of book-arts-related info and the work of gifted book artists working around the world.  The number of ‘likes’ on my page has been steadily leaping upward.  I promised when we reached 500 ‘likes’ that I would do a giveaway when we reached 1,000.  With that number, it seemed most appropriate to give away a copy of Quarry Books’ “1,000 Artists’ Books”, published last summer.

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My book “A Sense of Place” is included in this wonderful and inspiring book of some of the best book arts happening around the world today.  There are only 53 ‘likes’ to go and then it’s giveaway time!   I will use a random number generator to choose the lucky recipient from all those who have ‘liked’ the page up to and including the 1,000th person.  So, what are you waiting for?  You have to be in it to win it . . . . .

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“A Sense of Place”, copyright 2011 Dea Fischer

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
~Jacques Yves Cousteau11bc86ce365a11e1abb01231381b65e3_7

And so, the time approaches for me to make what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the California coast of my childhood.  Excitement is building as I have made travel arrangements and begun my work on samples and supplies.  The opportunity to travel back to California regularly has become the greatest gift of my artistic life, and has given me a touchstone with my past that has long been absent.  We lived in the Greater Los Angeles area for a number of years during my childhood, and returned there often to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I spent my childhood on LA’s beaches and imprinted my soul with the colour of its sunlight.  Visits have involved a kind of double vision for me, seeing the LA of today and the LA of my childhood overlapping.  My beloved grandparents lived out the second half of a life that was amazing to my eyes on that coast.  Returning brings me back into the arms of those aunts and uncles and cousins I so love and teaches me that, for me, California will always be home.

This year will be the fourth year in a row I’ve been privileged to make this journey.  The trip this year marks some precious landmarks in my life.   Once again, I will enjoy sharing and creating with all the enthusiastic, talented and creative students and teachers at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Irvine.  A full week of creation, good talk and fun times (with a bit of wine, I’m sure) to come.

50 birthday cake

The second week will be something very different.  For the first time since my husband and I met 27 years ago, I will take a vacation on my own, away from my family.  The trip will mark another of my growing list of Fifty Things I Have Never Done.  For June 6 will be my 50th birthday.  To mark it, I will undertake the next leg of my journey to complete the Pacific Coast Highway.  This time, I will tour north from Los Angeles, ending up with a few days seeing old friends in San Francisco.  I haven’t been to San Francisco since I was a very small child.  The trip will culminate in meeting with a most dear friend I have not seen since we were both in high school some 34 years ago.CA-Highway1Sign-XL

As with my trip along the Pacific Coast Highway in Washington and Oregon last year, my days and nights will be spent kicking along through the nostalgia of the small coastal towns, walking for hours barefoot on the beach, touching the sea and talking with my grandfather, whose ashes were scattered in the sea off that coast 25 years ago.  This poem was my grandfather’s favourite and was read at his funeral. The words of the poem go to a deep place inside me that expresses the feeling of my sojourns to the sea better than any words I could conjure. My favourite line? ” . . where the wind’s like a whetted knife . . ” I’ve never known another that expressed my family’s feeling for the sea quite so perfectly.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

I am eager for my days by the sea and for all those weeks will bring.  Leaving will be hard, harder each time, harder than ever this year with such special things and people to say goodbye to.    Even the prospect of a painful goodbye will not keep me away.  My beloved sea, I’ll be on my way soon.285789_10151228140617268_1161624324_n

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

CREATE 2013 I'm Teaching ButtonAs April winds towards its end, I am beginning my preparation to attend the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Irvine, California.  This is a time each year that I relish for multiple reasons.  The atmosphere, new and old friends galore and creativity combine to make for a fun and enjoyable time.  I lived in California until I was ten, and it is always a joy to return.  Best of all is that I get to travel with my dear friend and colleague Tiffany Teske.  Tiffany and I both lead busy lives in the same community, and so time for anything more than the occasional cup of tea together can be hard to find.  We look forward to the time of travelling (and co-teaching in a couple of workshops) as our time.

This year, in both CREATE SoCal and CREATE New Jersey, I am teaching six workshops!  Here is a little run-down of the classes I’m teaching.  I do hope you will take the opportunity of a vacation with us in Irvine, California or in Somerset, New Jersey to play, create and join this band of friends.  Join us!

Here are the six workshops I will be teaching at both retreats.  There’s a little something for everyone.   Hope to meet you there!

BowWorkshop Name: Paper Quilting
Class Length: 3-Hour
Skill Level: All Levels
Description: When working in collage, we are always looking for ways to add depth and interest to our surface. One way to build layers, depth and surface interest is to quilt your papers, or adhere embellishments with stitches or wire. In this workshop, you will have the opportunity to experiment with quilting techniques on paper and board using threads, ribbon and wire.
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Workshop Name: Magnificent Marbling
Class Length: 6-Hour
Skill Level: All Levels
Description: Don’t let the intricacy and beauty of a marbled paper fool you. Those ripples of color may look hand-painted or machine-stamped, but they’re actually created by liquid paint. Marbleizing, which involves using absorbent papers to pick up ink or paint from a water bath, dates to the twelfth century, when it was practiced in Japan and possibly China. Join Dea Fischer to make your own rich and vibrant designs by marbleizing paper to use in your mixed media projects.
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Workshop Name: Instant Travel Journals
Class Length: 6-Hour
Skill Level: All Levels
Description: You are in your hotel room. Sights, sounds and smells are teeming outside your window. You look in your suitcase and find . . . nothing. Once again, there was no room in the suitcase for journalling materials, but there are so many impressions to capture! Fear not, good journalling materials are to hand. In minutes, with few or no tools at all, you can have a great travel journal to write, draw, paint or collage into. Make folded journals, a flag book journal and a pamphlet stitch journal in this fun workshop.
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Workshop Name: These Little Wonders: Miniature books
Class Length: 3-Hour
Skill Level: Intermediate
Description: What is more delightful to the eye and the hand than a small and perfectly formed miniature book? Join book artist Dea Fischer to create a deliciously tiny mixed media treasure less than 2″ high to wear as a pendant or hang from your Christmas tree.

And co-teaching with my dear friend Tiffany Teske:

Image from "Nightfall"

Image from “Nightfall”

Workshop Name: Creating the Vision: Photography for Mixed Media
Class Length: 6-Hour
Skill Level: All Levels
Description: Creating your own photographic images for your mixed media work doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or require a lot of fancy equipment. Join mixed media artists Tiffany Teske and Dea Fischer to learn how to use low technology methods to create your own images.  You will receive instructions and materials to build and use your own pinhole camera, and also experience other low tech camera equipment hands-on.  Tiffany and Dea will take you on a walking field trip around the area to experiment with Polaroid cameras and Fuji instant films, Holga plastic cameras, and cyanotype (‘sun’) printing with objects. You will leave the workshop with up to 20 finished images to use in your future mixed media work, some exposed films to process and your pinhole camera to further your experiments at home.

Detail from "Dictionary of Sorrows", Dea Fischer

Detail from “Dictionary of Sorrows”, Dea Fischer

Workshop Name:  Creating the Vision: Printing and Transferring Your Images
Class Length:  6-Hour
Skill Level: All Levels
Description:  You’ve mastered the photography, you’ve created images you love.  Deepen your layers of creative engagement by learning to incorporate images of your own creation into your mixed media artwork.  Join Tiffany Teske and Dea Fischer to explore fascinating image printing and transfer techniques that can be tricky to master effectively. You will create cyanotype or ‘sun’ prints from negatives, and practice making gel medium skins and transfers, blender pen transfers, encaustic and heat transfers.  You will produce several pieces during this workshop that you can take away to use in your work.

As a book artist, I am endlessly fascinated with all things book related and can’t see enough of the imagination employed by artists to re-interpret this form.  I participate in some online communities whose focus is on book binding and book arts.  My participation in these groups fills my life with a wondrous and at times quite breathtaking array of book-related arts and works.  With participation has come the gift of friendship with some of these talented artists.  They bring so much pleasure and inspiration to my life that I thought it would be nice to share my favourites with you.  There are, of course, many well-known and talented book artists in these groups whose names are frequently seen, and I would love to share all of them.  However, I thought today I would like to share the breathtaking work of some lesser-known artists you might not be aware of.

Copyright Su Blackwell.

Copyright Su Blackwell.

An artist whose work never fails to catch my immediate attention is the British artist Su Blackwell.  I have frequently shared her works on my Facebook page for their perfect detail and winsome atmosphere.  Su took an MA in textile art from the Royal College of Art in London, but it was her travels in Thailand that opened her eyes to the wonders of paper.  Su has become known for training her delicate focus on fairy tales in her works.  She does so with a perfect feeling for the nostalgia of the piece, and breathes life into precious stories we remember from our childhood days.   Yet these are not sugar-coated pastel-painted children’s stories. Through her innate sense of staging, her use of lighting and backdrop, Su creates an atmosphere with an undercurrent of slight menace, the lurking wolf among the trees . . . the child lost in the woods, the beckon of a lit window.  The vignettes she creates invite.  I want to peer through the tiny lit window . . board the illuminated rail car and discover the even greater wonders that must be hidden within.  I hope you will visit her website and see these treasures, and how she has moved to interpreting the magic on a larger scale.

Copyright Su Blackwell

Copyright Su Blackwell

Copyright Nancy Trottier

Copyright Nancy Trottier

One of the greatest gifts of friendship that has come through my door has been with Nancy Trottier of Ducks in a Row Press in Ontario.  Nancy combines her beautiful sense of colour and pattern in printmaking with sweet artist’s book forms that want to be handled and enjoyed.  Nancy imbues her work with her truly thoughtful and deeply spiritual nature.  She has shown a generosity of thought in our friendship that I have rarely encountered in another human being, and our shared vision for the voice this work can embody has bonded us across the thousand or so miles that lay between us.  Nancy and I continue to pursue opportunities to work together, including studio time on Skype!  Nancy created a deeply moving piece for the Sketchbook Project 2012.  Do check it out.

"You Will Decide", copyright Nancy Trottier.

“You Will Decide”, copyright Nancy Trottier.

Randi Parkhurst is an artist whose work simply takes my breath away.  This US artists describes herself as “a paper geek that LOVES to make artists’ books that move, flip, spring open and surprise.”   The sheer cleverness and vision embodied in Randi’s works thrill me on every level.  I love her exuberant use of colour, and the interlocking, interdependent, hidden treasures in her pieces thrill with delight and mystery.  Randi’s piece “Patience” can be viewed on video – it simply cannot be fully appreciated any other way.

"Patience" copyright Randi Parkhurst.

“Patience” copyright Randi Parkhurst.

"Colony 45" copyright Randi Parkhurst.

“Colony 45” copyright Randi Parkhurst.

An artist whose works intrigue and please me is Michele Riesenmey.  She creates soft, appealing artists books filled with intriguing imagery and illustration, but Michele also makes ‘books’ in the form of curio boxes that just shout to me.  Michele is a multi-disciplinary artists from the Loire region of France whose work explores memory, time, matter and the relationship between the infinitely small and the very large.  The content of Michele’s works intrigue and draw me to study their detail repeatedly.  There is a cabinet of curiosities appeal to them that I never tire of.  Michele doesn’t seem to have a website, but her work can be viewed on her Facebook page.

Copyright Michele Riesenmey

Copyright Michele Riesenmey

My most recent love affair is with the work of Elizabeth Beronich Sheets.  It is difficult to find out much information about this artist, other than that she lives in either Seattle, WA or San Diego, CA, and has been an illustrator all her professional life.  Elizabeth sprung up on my Facebook quite recently, and I can’t imagine how her work didn’t come to my attention before.  I have voraciously consumed everything that has been posted about her other-wordly work.  There is something rather “Mad Max” about Elizabeth’s works, as though they have been excavated from another time or even another place.  They have a richness of aging appearance and an unusual and very individual form, filled with a beauty of illustration.  Jules Verne may have envisaged such a book . . .She has a Facebook page and an Etsy store.  Check it out!

Copyright Elizabeth Beronich Sheets

Copyright Elizabeth Beronich Sheets

Copyright Elizabeth Beronich Sheets

Copyright Elizabeth Beronich Sheets

There are so many more artists out there who are doing the most amazing, inspiring work.  I hope these introductions will lead you to discover even more, and keep on looking . . .

The New Year is well upon me and I am deep in the throes of 2013’s first deadlines.  I am committed to submitting work to CBBAG’s The Art of the Book 2013, and the deadline is looming.  I completed the first book for the submission months ago, and knew I wanted to complete one or two more.297520_428117443896324_1274117134_n

Since completing “The Voice of Silence” a few months ago, I have repeatedly stalled.  I feel a great, pounding momentum rising through me, but my approach to the precipice has been dithering and fearful, building up courage to throw myself off a cliff into a deep, black, impenetrable sea of pain and sorrow.  The pressure building within me, the conflict and resistance, are driven by an untold story within me whose time has come.  More so, a story that refuses to remain silent.  I did not know until this time that “The Voice of Silence” has a companion piece.  “The Voice of Silence” is grief’s ghosts, silent and white and poignant.  Now that the silent, interminable grief has been expressed in that book, the companion has come forward for its turn.  And that companion piece insists on birth, yet carries sorrow on the back of its wings like a magpie.  And so I have procrastinated, dithered, resisted and done no work.  I have skirted, shied, resisted and done no work.  I have written before about trying to bring to birth a story that was not ready to be told.  And now, it is time to tell a story that will not be silenced any longer.  My soul and my psyche have known that I could give birth to no other meaningful work until this piece, this story, had been told.  At last, yesterday, I could stand the stalemate no longer.  I reached within and found my courage to begin.  This post, and perhaps the piece that is emerging from it, will very likely be raw and brutally honest.  I will again cry the limitless tears there are to cry over this story.  I will tremble and shake with fear and sorrow.  But it will be told.  And so we begin.001

The piece that I am creating is a scroll.  Once again constructed of layers of silk organza, this time there is no pristine and funereal white.  This time, the silk is stained and rumpled.  Its length will be wound onto old mill bobbins and housed in a brass-bound wooden box.  And between the ethereal, aged layers of the silk will flow the words of a poem I wrote in the late 1990s.  Because this book is about grief.  This book is about raw, bewildered, uncomprehending and interminable pain and sorrow and loss.  This book is about the death of my children.

I wrote the poem after miscarrying twins.  That, in itself, is not so remarkable in the world.  What was – is – remarkable is that I was miscarrying for the eleventh time.

As a young married couple, we had embarked on our dream of a family as any young couple does.  With hope and starry eyes and longing and romantic visions of downy heads and dewy cheeks and plump limbs.  Six months after our wedding, I miscarried for the first time.  I was in the first year of my law degree.  It was right in the middle of exams.  I scraped through.  I raised a brave jaw to the world and moved on with a heart full of hope and all the statistics for how at least one in ten pregnancies ends in miscarriage.  I learned years later that it is suspected that it may be more like nine out of ten.

In the fall of that year, I once again conceived.  Christmas was a secret delight of hopes and dreams.  We told no one, but held the secret to our hearts and hoped.  On New Year’s Eve, in the middle of a party with all our friends and miles from home, I began to bleed.  It was the first of several miscarriages that occurred around that time of year and sapped all joy from the holidays.

And so, each year, at least once a year, for a decade, this scene repeated itself.  As I charged through law school, as I struggled with mute and overwhelming grief in articles under the critical and unforgiving eyes of my partners.  As I travelled hundreds and hundreds of business miles as a young lawyer.  Miscarrying alone in a hotel room hundreds of miles from home.  Sitting in an exasperated doctor’s office after my ninth miscarriage, mute with misery, while he tried to tell me it ‘must have been a mistake’.   Years and years of investigations, of laparoscopies and drugs and reconstructive surgeries.  And miscarriage after miscarriage.  There were no answers. There was no comfort.

Yet, through it all, our longing for a family of our own shone undimmed.  People shook their heads over us, they remarked about our resilience.  I tried once to explain what it was really like.  It wasn’t about crawling through life in perpetual pain.  It was more like having the most incredibly dear person, who you love without limit, die.  And then when you think you can’t stand the grief another day, that person comes back!  And with them comes back all the love and the hope and the joy.  Only for them to die all over again.  And that kept happening.  I couldn’t describe it any other way.   After nine years and ten miscarriages at that time, we were both mired so deep in grief, we could hardly speak to each other.

Finally, in 1997, we were given the chance to try in vitro fertilisation.  Ostensibly, this was to try to learn what was going right and what was going wrong.  We were terrified but hopeful, and embarked on the regime of drugs and injections and procedures bravely.  Well, I tried to be brave, but I cried every day of those injections just from the pain.  I will never forget the day we arrived at the clinic for the pregnancy test.  At 7:00am.  To hear the nurse announce that it was positive.  And then to continue carefully with the supportive drug regime, walking cat-footed, protecting my precious cargo.

At nine weeks, we were set to have our first scan.  All had gone well to that point, we were eager but terrified.  Returning to the clinic with our hearts in our mouths, I submitted to the scan.  In the silence of the room, the technician’s words dropped like stones.  They could detect no heartbeat.  A howl of wildness was rising in me.  We were dismissed, the failures, to stand weeping on the pavement in the pouring rain, bewildered and alone in our grief.  I didn’t believe them.  Nothing had changed, my body was still pregnant.  The clinic was adamant and insisted I cease the supporting drugs.  Against every instinct, I finally complied.  Four days later, I went into a mini labour and miscarried our two children on my bathroom floor.  I do not believe to this day those children were already dead before that day.  I never will.    I held our children in the palm of my hand and knew them and loved them as though we had shared a lifetime.

I descended into a pit of grief and depression so deep I did not believe I could ever emerge.  For a year, I lay as though at the bottom of the sea, my skin grey and slick, my mind writhing in a dense fog.  We could find no comfort for or with each other.  I buried my grief in the roots of the roses I so loved, one for every anniversary, one for every child, and dewed their petals with my tears.  It was at that time that the poem was written.

withlostlongedfor

Am I dead?

It is dark
in and out.

Numb
where there was pain.

Empty
where there was joy.
I count my breaths.

Count them
as ticks of time
back from this point,

Look  at my life
from the
wrong side of glass.

Have I
all these years been
with child
lost child
longed for child?

What is there
if there is not
with child
lost child
longed for child?

No bend.
No end.
Just death days to mark.

Yet I live.

There is light
in and out.

Love
where there was pain.

Hope
where there was grief.

I count my breaths.

Count them
as steps to life
on from this point,
look for my life
in the eyes of my love.

There is more than
with child
lost child
longed for child.

And I live.

© Dea Fischer 1998

A year after this loss, we were contacted by St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.  They were the highly successful IVF unit of which our local clinic was an outreach.  They asked us to try again.  They told us they had learned so much from the first treatment that they really thought they could help us.  I was difficult to convince.  I was terrified.  I was lost in grief.  We were offered a few months of grief counselling, geared toward helping us to accept the likelihood that we would never have a child of our own.  With the help of counselling, and in a more even state of mind but without hope, we agreed to try again.  And so, once again, drugs and daily injections and procedures and many trips to the hospital in London.  The regime was adjusted to account for what they had learned.  Each stage was more successful than it had been last time.  We crawled through every stage, utterly without hope.  Just get through the pregnancy test.  The pregnancy test was positive.  Just get through today.  I talked to my little pearl every day, every minute of every day, encouraging her to stay, flooding her with love.  We bargained.  I stonewalled.  I refused to have the early scan.  We bargained for a scan at ten weeks.  The clinic relented.  I bargained with my little pearl for her to sit up nice and proud and wave at the camera.  You may imagine, I am sure, our abject terror on the day we attended the clinic for the scan.  I lay rigid on the table, my eyes screwed tight and tears pouring down my face.  The room was hushed while the technician operated the scan.  And then, in a soft, kind voice, she said “. . . There . . . . ” and turned the screen towards us.  And there, on the black screen was the unmistakable flutter of a tiny heartbeat.

Every day of my pregnancy was a bargain, just to get through that day.  I could do no more than cross the days off one by one.  I could not look forward.  I would not look forward.  In any event, steadily and by stealth, my body began to change as our child grew within me.  I began to bloom.  I was well.  I was healthy.  Life began to assume a patina of normality.  I wrote every day, committing every day’s events, however tiny and insignificant, to memory in case it was the last day.  I talked to my little pearl and played her music.  And then, on the morning of the first day of my sixteenth week, I suddenly started to bleed.

That day is etched in my memory forever.  The tense, white, silent drive to the hospital with my parents-in-law.  Meeting Phil at the hospital.  Another rigid, clenched, weeping scan bed.  And then, to see the technician’s face relax . . . again to turn the screen towards us and show that our little pearl’s heartbeat was still strong.  We learned later that I had miscarried a second tiny fetus.  Nobody realised there were two . . .

The rest of my pregnancy continued on the same way, our hearts in our mouths.  At five months, a large tumour was discovered in my abdomen.  I spent much of the last three months of my pregnancy in hospital.  I continued to count one day at a time.  I prayed and I bargained and I would have hung upside down like a bat for nine months if that was what it took.  But finally, we reached the point in the pregnancy where our child could survive outside the womb if she were born.  Every day after that point was a blessing.  Despite hospital stays, I carried her nearly to term.  Because of the tumour, we were told a cesarean was required.  Again, I fought medical intervention at every step.  We had so much of it, I wanted to finally greet my child in the most natural way possible.    I had to accept the cesarean.

On April 7 1999, at 9:22am, our beloved daughter Millie Rose was born.  Words are completely inadequate to express the overwhelming emotion of that day, or the days that followed.  The surgeon came to visit us late on the afternoon of Millie’s birth.  She told us that it was a very lucky thing Millie was born via cesarean in the end, because she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice.  If I had tried to deliver her normally, the surgeon believes she would have died during the birth.  At that moment, I released all I had been carrying and laid it firmly in the hands of the Greater Spirit that was so clearly guarding my little pearl.  Millie Rose was born of my twelfth pregnancy.261461_199785876738721_6360191_n

As the days of parenthood have passed, the terror for Millie’s survival has slowly been replaced by intense joy.  We have celebrated her days and her milestones.  We have seen the glints of the sun on her tumbled mass of white-blonde curls like a halo, carrying the light of her siblings.  We have learned not to check her breathing when she is asleep.  Now, at 13 years old, the joy has been joined by a healthy dose of aggravation and we are at last a normal family.  I miscarried three more times after Millie’s birth, until another two tumours finally took my ovaries and my fertility.

I believe we are given the experiences we are given for a reason.  Whether it is, as some believe, to repay a karmic debt, or to fulfill our destiny, I know this valley of sorrow we travelled for so many years was for something.  I have believed I would write about it one day, to provide help and support to some other poor family experiencing what we have experienced.  I have a decade and more’s worth of journals to plunder for the right material.  Yet, I have never been able to do it until now.  I have wanted to live the joy of Millie’s childhood days unshadowed.  I have not wanted to dwell on sorrow or grief, or to burden her existence with the lives of her siblings.  Millie knows the story.  Maybe not the details, but she knows what we went through to have her join our family.  Now, as a wise, beautiful and talented high school student, I guess she is mature enough that I can trust the story to be told.  295124_427262743991032_1600707521_n

I know this is a raw story, and not the usual fare I bring forward in this blog.  If you have read this far, I am honoured to have you share my story.  Some stories just have to be told.  And what will emerge from this telling is a piece of work I think will be one of my best.  The threads of the story will be woven through it, along with the richness of experience, the veil of deep sorrow and the light of love and hope.  I look forward to showing it to you.  And from that work will come a greater work, and finally to fulfill my promise of help to those who suffer as we did.  Thank you for helping me make the first step.