I wrote last month about our impending return to England, ten years after we had left it to move to Canada.  I haven’t yet found words to express the range and depth of feeling that emerged from that time.  I can only visit in vignettes . . . powerful impressions and emotions and a great sense of homecoming.  Fresh in my heart today is a visit we made to a lovely old cottage hidden away in the pine forests surrounding Holkham Bay in north Norfolk.  It is a place that has always spoken to my heart’s dream and reminds me of an editorial piece I wrote about it many years ago . . . .


From the Oxford English Dictionary

Elysium (ɪˈlɪzɪəm) n. 1. Also called Elysian Fields. Greek myth. the dwelling place of the blessed after death. 2. a state or place of perfect bliss [from Greek Elusion pedion, blessed fields].

What is your concept of paradise? To each one of us, it can be so different – a place, a person, a time, all of those things taken together to produce an idealised utopia. My own image of paradise may seem somewhat drab and bare by comparison to some, yet I can’t seem to let it go.


You see, there is this little cottage. Only such a little thing. It stands on top of a high sand dune in the middle of a pine forest, its glass front facing bravely to the North Sea, it’s hand-clinked sandstone chimney turning the curve of its backbone to the sea’s gales.


The clapboard exterior has been scoured silver by sand and salt-laden winds. Indeed, the whole cottage looks truly scrubbed within and without. Whenever I climb the steep steps to the little verandah, a little gypsy breeze greets me with its heady sweet pungence, all salt and sea-borne things, hot baked sand and marram grass, pollen and pine sap and cool green moss. Peeping through the wide windows, it is always empty. There is invariably a little pile of sand blown under the door, waiting for a loving hand to sweep it away. 


It has all of three rooms. The little galley kitchen at the back is empty of all but a few candle stubs in jars. From the side window, you can just see into a narrow sleeping room of two bunks stacked on each other. Most of this scoured shell of a cottage is given over to the large front room facing out over the sea. Silvered floorboards are bare of furniture or rug. The room is empty but for the overwhelming glory of an enormous fireplace in the seaward corner. Above that fireplace, you see, is the mirror. Oh, such a mirror! So out of place it looks, as though it has been plucked from Neptune’s own palace and deposited to hang alone in that sand-scoured little cabin.


Every inch of four feet high and as wide, the mirror is surrounded by a great, curving frame, deeply encrusted with seashells and barnacles. No, my friend, this is not of the souvenir-from-the-seaside variety. The shells have aged into the beauty of subtlest evening-sky hues, giving the thing an odd grace and grandeur. The enigma of that mirror intrigues me.


This little cottage beckons me, speaks to me, belongs to me. And I belong to it. I long to sit with it on that dune. In my mind’s eye, I watch the sunset sea through the pines from its porch, return to its welcoming arms after a storm-tossed beach walk.


I long to light a driftwood fire in the grate of that amazing fireplace. I would line those wide sills with treasures from the sea. I would sit and rock and watch the stars reflected in Neptune’s mirror. I would eat samphire from the shore cooked in that tiny kitchen. My soul and I could find each other there. I would paint and paint and paint, and when there was no colour left to the day, I would write, by the firelight, content and alone.


 It will never, can never, be mine anywhere but in my heart. Yet we know we belong to each other, this little cottage and I. Maybe that is all the paradise I need.


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

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 . . .

I have come to a brief and natural pause in the intense work of the last few months.  Two enormous and important projects that have occupied my desk have finally been completed.  Art & Soul in Portland beckons in a couple of days.  For a moment, I am resting back in my chair, a sense of intense satisfaction filling me.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

I have been toying with two or three different blog posts for this week and find my thoughts returning again and again to one subject:  Joy.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘joy’ as:

a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
c : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
d : a source or cause of delight
I have had an opportunity to observe the course of joy through my life and through my spirit of late.  I wrote recently about an important process of change I had undergone, or rather a transformation of thoughts that freed me from alot of expectation, both from others’ and from my own.  In preparation for writing today’s blog post, I took some time to revisit my posts of the last year or so.  An unexpected pattern jumps out at me and confirms my suspicions.  What I can see with clear hindsight is an emergence of joy.  Joy of life.  Joy of spirit.  Joy in living.  Joy in relationships.  Joy in the work of my hands.  Joy in the service to my community.  Joy in the work of my spirit.  Setbacks seem often to be transmuted into joy in my mind.  How did this come about?
We all have periods of trial in our lives, some thankfully brief, others deeper or more intense or requiring more healing.  I have experienced my share of those, and the last six years have been some of the most trying I have ever experienced.  I have at times over those years felt lost in a foggy world.  Emergence took longer, but it still came.  And with emergence came a return of joy.
I must admit, I have not tended to see myself this way, and so this has come as something of a surprise to me.  I mean that I have not recognised my own propensity for joyousness.  I have always put my ability to ‘bounce back’ down to resilience and doggedness, the terrier strain in me.  And yet, in recent times, a dawning awareness has crept upon me, and I have begun to recognise the underlying emotion beneath the resilience.  It is a deep well of joyousness.  And it has always been there.   And I have begun to see that it is my natural state of being.
When I wrote about the thought transformation I had recently undergone, the firming of boundaries and the release from expectation, I had no idea then quite how profound the effect of that transformation would be.  Eckhart Tolle spoke about this in his book, “The Power of Now”:
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thought about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.
Looking beyond myself and my own surprise, I see that the release from expectation has been a complete release.  Not just from their expectations of me, or from my expectations of myself, but fundamentally and primally – a release from my expectations of them.   That is the tie that has bound me.  By relinquishing at last all of the ‘shoulds’ from my own mind, the fog has lifted perhaps genuinely for the first time in my life.  It has cleared my vision and opened my eyes and my heart to the joy that resides there, and to the joy in others there is to respond to.

And so, I turned my eyes toward the presence of joy in the wider world.  I look at the people I am so lucky to have in my life, and I can suddenly and clearly see the glow within them that is their own capacity for joy.  And I can just as suddenly see how fundamentally I respond to the presence of a corresponding wellspring in them.  What a wonderful foundation for friendship!  One of the greatest and most lasting gifts this life has given has been the opportunity to connect on a deeply meaningful level with the friends, family, colleagues, students, teachers, artists who fill my life.  I see these relationships differently now.  I can see so clearly the common thing that bonds us.  I look at the work I do in my community, and how continually my passion for the work is fed by this wellspring of joy within myself.
What you react to in others, you strengthen in yourself.   ~ Eckhart Tolle
I open my arms wide and breathe deeply, draw the joy deep within my lungs.  It has always been there.  It always will be, if I only have the eyes to see it for what it is.  I am grateful for this understanding.

Hi, I’m Dea Fischer.  Welcome to my place! 

Image courtesy of Michael Buckley

It is so nice to welcome you to my blog.  This weekend, we are celebrating the excitement of the upcoming CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Irvine, California with a chance to meet many of the instructors who will be teaching workshops there.  The list of blog hop participants is at the bottom of this page, and I do hope you will hop around and visit these wonderful artists to see what they are up to.  I’ve got a fun little giveaway too, so keep reading!

Among busy roles as a wife and mother, and full time work for a public library, I’m a busy book- and mixed media artist.  I live and work in the breathtaking Canadian Rockies.   The world is quite a  fascinating place to me, and I like to explore its themes through my work.  The mysteries of the natural world provide me with continual inspiration.  I work across disciplines, including collage and photography, but artist’s books are my chief form of expression.  The possibilities are absolutely endless, and I am never short of ideas to convey my world through the pages of a book.  When I’m not in a fury of creation in my studio, I enjoy lighting the fire of creativity in others and engaging my community in acts of random creation.

Image courtesy of Richard Berry.

Nowadays, I am privileged to be able to share my enthusiasm for everything associated with mixed media art and book arts through Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, CPS Studios magazine and Interweave’s new emag Art Journalling Exposed.  The editorial team of Cloth Paper Scissors is a pretty fabulously talented and organised group of kindred spirits who are as thirsty for inspiration as the rest of us.  They were kind enough to invite me to Loveland, CO this winter to record a CPS Workshops DVD:  Handmade Book Essentials.  There’s a really nice interview here with Jenn Mason, and a clip from the DVD, if you would like to check it out.  Want to win a free copy of my DVD??  Take a look at my course listings further down and find out how you can win one.

One of the absolutely best ways I’ve ever enjoyed to fill me with inspiration has been to attend a CREATE Mixed Media Retreat.  Again in 2012, I’ll be travelling down from Canada to Irvine, California to share with the truly wonderful array of mixed media artists of all kinds in the luscious selection of fantastic workshops on offer this year.  I will be teaching a few workshops myself, including co-teaching with my dear friend Tiffany Teske.  Here is some of what I had to say about the experience in 2011:

“The experience of CREATE was unbelievable.  So many skilled artists full to brimming with information, ideas and techniques to share, it was often difficult to distinguish teacher from pupil.  We became equals sharing together.  I find the experience of working in such an environment incredibly stimulating.  Everywhere you look, there are wonderful things going on, a positive feast of creations to look at and pore over and discover.  So many exclamations rang through those rooms of ‘How did you do that!?” and “Wow, that’s amazing!”  I was inspired, honoured and thrilled with the sharing and exchanging that went on during the workshops I attended and taught.”

Here’s a run-down of the sessions I’ll be teaching.  I hope you will come and immerse yourself.  You will be so glad you did!  If you do, make sure you look me up and say hi. . . .   The first person to read this post and then come and say hi to me at CREATE Irvine will receive a copy of my DVD!

CREATE Mixed Media Retreat, Irvine, California,
May 30 – June 3, 2012

Just One Sheet of Paper
Join book artist Dea Fischer to learn how to transform a single sheet of paper into a simple and beautiful artist’s book. No needles, no thread and no glue required!  We will paint, decorate and embellish paper and add text or images to create a book form that you can use again and again.

Star Light, Star Bright:  The Chinese Star Book
Join book artist Dea Fischer to learn how to create her most intriguing and perennially popular book:  The Chinese Star Book.  The Chinese star book is an apparently complex, multi-layered book form that has many possible uses. It can be experienced in the hand like any other book, or opened out to a dramatic circular display.

Creating the Vision: Printing and Transferring Your Images (co-teaching with Tiffany Teske)
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.

Photos courtesy of Virginia Jaquez

We are enjoying a blog hop with many of the participating instructors from CREATE Irvine this weekend.  Here are the participants, and I do hope you will stop by and visit with them all for temptation galore!  Have fun, and I hope to meet you in California.  Don’t forget, I’ll be giving away a copy of my DVD to the first blog-hopper to find me . . . .

The Create Mixed Media Retreat’s Meet the Instructors Blog Celebration Weekend:

And Cloth Paper Scissors Editor Jenn Mason!

Do you remember me telling you about the white collage piece that was wanting to be made?   Shades of white, gleaming with pearl and glinting with silver.  What comes next for me is always the connection.  What is the spirit of the thing?  What is it that this piece wants to say?  There is a story hidden in the objects I choose for a piece, and it is my job to tell it.  With textures, with objects, with words.  I return repeatedly to gaze at the box contents, and to feel the story growing in my heart, in my fingertips. 

A recent trip to the antique shops of Nanton, AB  yielded some unexpected treasures from which a story idea began to emerge.  A bag of ephemera, letters and manuals and oddments, $2.  I sifted through the contents slowly, turning over seed catalogues and old letters offering loads of potatoes for sale.  Tucked underneath was a night telegram addressed to Miss Florence M. Porter of Oak Park, Illinois.  Intrigued by the wonderful red and blue envelope, I slipped the telegram from within it and read . . . dated October 25, 1912: 

“I love you little girl coming home to you soon.” 

It was signed simply “Ralph”.  A thrill shot through me and tears pricked my eyes.  How beautiful.  How simple.  I purchased it, along with a tiny envelope addressed to “Mr & Mrs R. M. Walker” dated August 1915 and containing a tiny birth announcement.   I didn’t know if the “R. Walker” was the same Ralph as in the telegram, but at least in my imagination it could be . . . Among the photographs I had purchased, there was the handsome young soldier in his uniform.  And here was the pretty girl in her lace-edged sleeves, holding a teacher’s pointer.  And there, in my lap, lay the story to be told by the white and shining collage.
   When I brought these articles home, I lay them with the collage materials on my desk and allowed the idea to formulate.  Within days, the pressure building from the story to be told pushed me from collage to book.  And so, the story hinted at of Florence and Ralph has grown into an artist’s book. 

Yesterday, I made a return visit to the Nanton stores to see if I could find some more photographs or other material I could use.   Well, what to my wondering eyes did appear . . . from the same bag of ephemera, a letter to Ralph from his sister, and another letter, addressed to “Mrs Florence P. Walker”.  And so, it seems to be confirmed that Ralph and Florence were indeed Mr & Mrs R. Walker, and that they appear to have come from Illinois after the Great War to make a life in Nanton, Alberta.  I feel tender and protective toward the characters of this story, these suddenly very real people whose intimate life details have emerged from a bag of ephemera in an antiques store. 

The book is developing along with the story.  And the white and shining collage?  Well, you are just going to have to wait and see on that one!

This is how I work.

I’ve been benefitting enormously from the link sharing I receive through Facebook, and some of the blogs I follow.  I thought this week, it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite links.  There are some cracking good resources here that I enjoy visiting over and over again.  Have fun browsing . . .

Junk Gypsy Co.


The online shop I am most currently in love with is Gypsyville by the Junk Gypsy Company. 

I hardly know where to begin with this, be it the blog, or the resources or the tongue-in-cheek animated graphics, or the irresistable shop.  It’s fun, it’s jaw dropping, it’s vintage style like you’ve never seen it before, and it will win you over lock, stock and two smokin’ barrels. 

The fulfilling dream of three Sikes women:  Aime, Janie and  mother Jolie, they had me at the first picture of the Airstream . . . . The deeper I get into their wonderful site, the more I find to love.  Take a browse and get inspired.



A place that has become a real favourite of mine is Uppercase Gallery.  Website, gallery, small press AND magazine, expressed as being for “the creative and curious”. 

I first met Janine Vangool, the visionary diva behind this array of utter vintage-inspired deliciousness, in Banff a few years ago.  She was visiting for Banff Culture Days in her gorgeous little caravan to run a free button-making workshop on Banff’s streets.  Well, boxes of ephemera and several gorgeous buttons later,  we got to chatting and I learned of the magazine of the same name that Janine publishes.  Since that time, I’ve consumed every issue, visited the gallery in Calgary’s Art Central often and participated in an exhibition and collaborative art project at the gallery.  Janine is the brains behind the whole operation, but is also the eye behind the camera on the atmospheric and vintage-feel photography.  Her stark white backgrounds showcase the collections and artwork to perfection. 

I’m always on the lookout for inspiration, and particularly enjoy ways of reducing the amount of waste paper flowing into my home (need to keep LOTS of room for the stashy papers and back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors ;-)).  Imagine my delight, therefore, to discover an online magazine dedicated to my favourite subject?  Altered Arts Magazine, otherwise known as The Mailbox Muse is a publication is now only available online and caters to the dedicated mixed media artist .  Check out the ‘miscellaneous’ page in the shop to find some great ephemera packs at super-low prices.

I am not normally one to push any particular product, and normally won’t.  However, in my collage and mixed media work, I use alot of acrylic mediums of different varieties.  I am, I have to say, wedded heart and soul to Golden

Golden acrylic mediums

Acrylics for that purpose.  I’m fortunate to live in an area where we have an active Golden Working Artist, who comes regularly to run demonstrations and workshops (and bring us fabulous free samples, no less).  The array of products Golden offers for these purposes seems limitless.  Best of all, Golden provides a full catalogue of video tutorials and demonstrations on using their products.  I don’t purely paint all that often, but I have learned so much from Golden, from their Working Artists  and from these videos for the applications I utilise in my work that they’ve really won me over. 

Well folks, I think that’s all for today.  Next time, I’ll share some of the blogs I’m following for fun and learning.  Have a great day! 

I’ve been busy, busy, busy working furiously away on book, article and workshop proposals, grant applications, submissions and new artwork.  All that beavering away has left a little corner of my psyche quiet and observant.  I have found myself contemplating the vast difference one year can make to a person’s life.  I have found myself smiling happily to think of some of the wonderfully crafty, gifted and wise women (and men!) I have crossed paths with in that year.  I thought it might be fun to share a bit of the activities of those friends I am now sharing with, watching, and learning fabulous new things from.   Come on, share the love!

Copyright 2011 Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

A super blogger who came as a student to one of my workshops at CREATE Costa Mesa was Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  A prolific mixed media artist and designer from New York, I have thoroughly enjoyed following her blog posts.    Julie was an absolute font of knowledge and wisdom, and we really enjoyed sharing different ways of doing things.  Julie has tutorials available on YouTube that zing with her wonderful colour aesthetic and unique style.  http://www.youtube.com/user/milkcannyc?feature=mhum

Copyright 2011 Joanne Sharpe

Another artist whose style I really admire is Joanne Sharpe.  Also from New York, Joanne and I met at CREATE.   She has a true gift for “I want that!” lettering styles and pen work that are instantly recognisable as ‘Joanne Sharpe’.   Joanne’s blog “Whimspirations” is full of utter vibrant deliciousness and is well worth a visit.

Copyright 2011 Pam Carriker

Taking pride of place as the first person from this new circle to draw me in, Pam Carriker’s work is soulful, thoughtful and tender.  She speaks from a place of spirit I will always respond to.  I have been drawn in by the threads of wisdom woven through her excellent book, Art at the Speed of Life.  We made friends on Facebook once it was known we would both be teaching at CREATE, and then had the pleasure to meet and be ‘newbies’ together in California.  I was bowled over by Pam’s quiet presence and gentle nature, and by the innate spirit in her beautiful and soulful work.  Pam has a number of thought-provoking videos on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/pamcarriker.

LIBER chronos 2011

My most recent leap has taken me into the heart of a very active group of book and paper artists from all around the world, ably shepherded by Peter Lussenheide of Germany.  He runs the Facebook group LIBER chronos (a closed group) that has opened doors of kinship with artists as far flung as Korea, Morocco and England, and many more places besides.  This group has quickly become a source of constant inspiration to me and shown me just how active a discipline the book arts are around the world.  You can see more of the spectacular work he exhibits at http://facebook.com/chronosroma.

I have been honoured and fortunate to welcome these friends into my circle.  Through their friendship and the growth that has come through the last year, my world has expanded far beyond anything I could have imagined.  And naturally, I’ve saved the best for last.  One face that has become part of my daily life, and into whose circle I have been warmly welcomed is Effy Wild.  Effy is the multi-talented, multi-tasking heart behind the Canadian Wild Precious Studio.  And if that isn’t an understatement, I don’t know what would be.  This incredible one-woman powerhouse operates from a place of such deep and open spirit that it is impossible not to be encompassed and embraced by the love pouring from the extraordinary soul residing within.  In finding Effy and her 130+ community, I found a truly enriching spirit circle.  Effy has an entire range of inspiring, engaging, entertaining and informative videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/effyswild.  Absolutely do check them out!

Copyright 2011 Effy Wild

It has been fun, educational, inspiring and eye-opening to welcome these new faces to my own circle of friends over the last year.  I’m looking forward to reaching even further beyond that circle in the year to come.

How many times have I written about change in this blog?  I grew up a military brat.  Change was the order of the day, and long into my adult life, I have found my psyche continuing to operate on the four year cycle my whole life revolved around.  I have always relished and embraced change, learned to never fear it or run from it.  Experience taught me that the best medicine for an aching loneliness was to get out there and get involved, make new friends, learn to belong asap.

Seven years ago today, that cycle of change brought me to Canmore to begin a new life with my family.  I had quit the legal profession that had stimulated my intellect and sucked out my soul for fifteen years, and turned my life back to my creativity.  We arrived in this town – rootless, friendless, homeless and with no more belongings than we could carry in our suitcases – in search of a more whole life.  We sought peace, and a community in which we could raise our family and pursue the creative life we both so craved.  I will never forget those first weeks, all of us aching in our torn up roots.  And what did this community do?  It reached out, opened its arms and embraced us. 

Now, seven years later, it is hard to accurately remember living any other way.  Our lives so filled with friends and colleagues who have gifted us with their hearts, their friendship, their creative spirit and their love, living life at a level of creative vibration and enrichment none of us could ever have dreamed of.  The last couple of weeks have been incredibly trying, as I have dealt with the fallout of a difficult decision I had to make to remove myself from a role I had fulfilled in different ways since arriving in Canmore.  That decision was painful, and the fallout has been, and continues to be, even more so.   And once again, this community of friends has opened its arms and embraced, have turned shoulder to shoulder to protect one of their own.  I have found myself close to tears often over recent days, and not because of the pain or the sorrow.  No, what has moved me to tears has been the intense loyalty, the love, the support and the encouragement that has shown me truly the depth of bond established with this community.  We came strangers seven years ago, and today we remain as friends.

I’ve ceased to wonder at the things life throws at me.  No matter what idea I have of how my life should go, or the things I hope it will bring for my family, I find life and the universe, God or the Great Mother, or Providence, or whatever you believe in has some very firm ideas for me.  Whenever I take a step off the path it considers right for me, I am given a firm and loving redirection.  Sometimes, if I don’t listen well enough, like any errant puppy being trained to the leash, that correction can be quite sharp and insistent, as now.  It knows me well, it knows if ties are permitted to remain, I will be drawn back to give myself again, to expend my energies fulfilling the drive of a passionate heart and detracting from the energy I need to expend in other directions. 

Seven years have taught me to love, have bonded me to this community in a way I have never been bonded in my homeless military life.    The decision I made created a space in my life into which creative spirit and opportunity rushed.  The last week has brought riches to my feet I never dared to hope for and showed me unequivocally that the decision was the correct one.  I am honoured and grateful for the support that has been shown me, for the many kindnesses directed at me from unexpected quarters, and for the staunch love with which I have been barricaded as I make yet another massive transition in my life.

I bear a tattoo that encircles my upper left arm.  It is of two entwined serpents knotted together in a Celtic knot pattern.   It means Respice Prospice, in Latin.  Translated, it means “Look backward, look forward.”  Now is a time to look forward, and I turn my face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind me.  Those knots mean more to me now than the day they were carved into my arm to mark the end of my old life and the beginning of my new one.  Now, they symbolise the knots of friendship. (more…)

A collage workbox developing

It is late.  I have come to the end of a day in which both my body and my spirit have wandered far.  I have accomplished several weighty tasks from my ever-growing list, and am preparing myself for the work to come.

There has been a collage piece I have long thought of doing. It presents itself often to my mind’s eye in shades of white, gleaming with pearl and glinting with silver.  At last, I am ready to create it.  Over the last few days, my desk has blossomed a workbox that has received contents from my frequent studio visits.  I have browsed my collection of objects, papers and ephemera and have begun to build a ‘set’ for this piece.  This is how I work.

What comes next is the connection.  And for this piece, the love has begun.  A warmth builds in my chest as I respond to the materials.  There is a story hidden in these objects, and it is my job to tell it.  With textures, with objects, with words.  I have returned repeatedly to gaze at the box contents, and to feel the story growing in my heart, in my fingertips. 

Not yet ready to begin, I took the day off today to make a trip with a couple of fellow mixed media magpies.  We drove down to visit the widely-reputed antique shops of Nanton, AB.  We spent several blissful hours scouring the corners of these well-ordered shops for the real loot, those hidden finds that had value only to us.  An object here or there garnered my loyalty.  Yet the after-lunch visit to the largest and finest of these emporia finally brought my steps to the true treasure trove. 

A bag of ephemera, letters and manuals and oddments, $2.  I sifted through the contents slowly, turning over seed catalogues and old letters offering loads of potatoes for sale.  Tucked underneath was a night telegram addressed to Miss Florence M. Porter of Oak Park, Illinois.  Intrigued by the wonderful red and blue envelope, I slipped the telegram from within it and read . . . dated October 25, 1912: 

“I love you little girl coming home to you soon.” 

It was signed simply “Ralph”.  A thrill shot through me and tears pricked my eyes.  How beautiful.  How simple.  I purchased it, along with a tiny envelope addressed to “Mr & Mrs R. M. Walker” dated August 1915 and containing a tiny birth announcement. 

When we returned to the car for the drive home, we shared our finds.  Reading these items again, a story peeped at me around the edge of the telegram.  I turned back to the lovely old photographs I had picked up earlier.  Sifting through them, suddenly there was the handsome young soldier in his uniform.  And here was the pretty girl in her lace-edged sleeves, holding a teacher’s pointer.  And there, in my lap, lay the story to be told by the white and shining collage:  The love, the separation, the return, the marriage, the child in years of war and ravage.