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.

Blossom

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.

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.

From the vantage point of the beginning of the summer, it seemed to stretch away, full of endless possibility.  Suddenly, the golden leaves in the woodland outside my window beckon my eye, school has begun again . . . and autumn is upon us.

Autumn is my favourite time of year.  The spicy scents of the woodland blow through me, the sunlight is mellow and golden, and the world seems to be under the Midas touch.  This autumn for the first time carries with it my first time teaching at the Art & Soul Retreat in Portland, Oregon.  I am excited to be making the journey to share creative richness with our west coast participants.  I am looking forward to the time, to the extra days allotted for driving the west coast, enjoying the autumnal scenery and discovering the city of Portland in my spare time.

After a day’s exploration, I will be joining the Retreat on Friday, October 5th to teach you how to create the starbook form.  It is a multi-layered, complex-looking book form that opens out to a full and dramatic circular display.I’m here to tell you it is not as complicated as it looks, and I will be with you to walk you through step by step to creating this wonderful book form.

Image by Greg Yavorsky

Detail from “Dictionary of Sorrows”, Dea Fischer

On Sunday, 7 October, I will spend the day teaching you many techniques to build and enrich your collage surface.  We will work from preparing our substrate board up through many layers to final embellishments, to give you the opportunity to really learn these many techniques for building depth and richness into your collage.  Photographs can’t ever quite convey the visual depth that can be achieved in these ways, but you will come away from the day chock full of inspiration and with your mind teeming with ideas on how to utilise these techniques to your best effect.

I am really looking forward to meeting you!  See you in Portland . . . .

“Remembering”, Dea Fischer

Home again, home again, jiggity jig . . . .

I have just returned from my first ever trip to Chicago.  My purpose was to attend and teach at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in the Chicago suburb of Lisle.  Not ever having been there, I really didn’t know what to expect.  Boy, was I surprised!  Chicago is truly a beautiful city in all the ways I had been led to expect.  Downtown is gracious, and full of beautiful juxtapositions of wonderful architectural styles spanning the last hundred and fifty-ish years since the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Yet even more so, there was an atmosphere in downtown Chicago that I found incredibly charming.  People were happy.  People were friendly.  It helped that the city was bathed in a golden light from the slanting summer sun that made the entire city shine with a nostalgic light, but the thing that blew me away was the people.  It brought out the inherent friendly chattiness in my own nature, and I found myself having engaging, entertaining exchanges with people of all sorts, everywhere I went.  There was a genuine quality to their interest, not a ‘customer service’ be-nice-to-the-customer niceness.  People met my eye, returned my smile and my gaze, shared my laughter and extended themselves in my direction.  Not everywhere you travel gives you that, and in return, I fell in love with Chicago and its people.

Four full days were spent teaching and sharing with the most diverse, interesting and fun groups of people.  We made books, we learned collage techniques, we photographed and printed and transferred images together. And all along the way, we laughed, we talked, we shared, we hugged.  In my last class of the week, I was chatting away in a happily animated conversation with one student when I happened to glance down at her nametag and noticed her hometown . . . was the same town my parents live in in Missouri, a few states away.  I found myself saying, ‘Hey, my parents live there!”  One of those wonderful conversations ensued where we gave each other clues until we reached the meeting point:  This student was a member of my parents’ church and sat in the next pew!  Of all the hundreds of students and dozens and dozens of classes, she had become a student in my class.  This big old world of ours shrank a nice bit for me then.

The products to emerge from the classes were pure lusciousness, and I enjoyed the different aspects of the classes.  The only drawback was to be unable to attend the other workshops as a student!Evenings off led us on some wonderful adventures in other Chicago neighbourhoods, and a dusk sojourn to the Queen of Heaven Cemetery to photograph the old monuments . . . . Did I mention the behind-the-scenes tour of the Newberry Library?  I left Chicago with a keen appetite for more.  So much to discover, and I hope I will get back there soon.I would like to say a very big thank you to all my students for their keen interest, enthusiasm and creativity; to the ever-lovely Tiffany Teske, my travel companion, roommate, co-teacher and all-around partner in crime; and to all the staff at Interweave and on the CREATE Event Team for their organisation, calm nerves and stamina, and their ever-ready smiles.  What a wonderful week!

For those of you who have been following, you will know that I have been participating in an Altered Books Round Robin with my chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild since last fall.  As this was a collaborative long-term project that spoke to the very essence of who I am as an artist,  I have been blogging about the month’s theme and creative process to respond to it.

For those not familiar with a round robin of this nature, here are the rules:  Each book artist in the group begins altering a hard cover book of at least 50 pages on a theme of their choice.  The original artist creates one two-page spread of original artwork within the book.  They then send their altered book with instructions to the next person on the list, who will create their own two-page spread in the book, and then send it on to the next person on the list, and so on until each altered book has travelled around the group and returned to its home.   After seven months+ of circulation, my book should come home to me containing seven pieces of original art in addition to my own, and each of the artists in the group will own a similar book.  You can read the previous rounds here:

Round 1:  Dictionary of Sorrows

Round 2: Teaching Kids to Shoot

Round 3, Round 3 update: Patterns of the Earth

Round 4:  Cubs Guide, Discovery

Round 5: Silver Tea Shop

Round 6: Atlas of the World

Round 7:  The Book of Important Things

And so at last, we have come to the final round of the CBBAG Altered Books Round Robin.  Appropriately, this final round is one of pleasure and satisfaction, a final opportunity to speak with my natural voice.  The book is an unusual one, a craft book about cushion making.  Nothing remarkable in either subject or appearance.  Yet the owning artist has made it extraordinary by her choice of subject matter:  we are to respond on the subject of folklore.  As I found with the last book, my greatest response to this volume has not been to the book or its original content.  My entire response has been to the choice of theme, and to the artwork created by the preceding artists.

There was absolutely no thought or consideration required for my response to this theme.  My immediate, fundamental, centuries-deep response was to illustrate the story of the Green Man.  The iconic character from folklore that has spanned most of human history, into a resurgence in the emerging ecologically-aware world of today.

He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known.
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where’er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.

~ Percy Shelley, Adonais

In today’s world I believe we need the Green Man more than ever before as a symbol of our interdependence with the natural world.  William Anderson, in his book about the Green Man puts it very well:

“Our remote ancestors said to their mother earth: ‘We are yours.’  Modern humanity has said to Nature: ‘You are mine.’   The Green Man has returned as the living face of the whole earth so that through his mouth we may say to the universe: ‘We are one.'”

Mike Harding puts it this way:

“His face stares down at us from the roofs , pillars and doorways of our great cathedrals and churches, he appears on second century Roman columns in Turkey and in Jain temples in Rajasthan. He is found all over England, some parts of Wales and Scotland and a few rare places in Ireland.

On the continent he has been seen and noted in Germany, France, Italy, Holland and is said to be found in Spain, Hungary and Poland. India and Malaysia have their own Green Man and though he doesn’t seem to appear in Native American traditions he can be seen in his modern role as a bringer of fortune on the walls of banks in New York and Chicago.

His roots may go back to the shadow hunters who painted the caves of Lascaux and Altimira and may climb through history, in one of his manifestations through Robin Hood and the Morris Dances of Old England to be chiselled in wood and stone even to this day by men and women who no longer know his story but sense that something old and strong and tremendously important lies behind his leafy mask. One of the earliest English epic poems Gawain and The Green Knight may refer to yet another manifestation of the Green Man as the God that dies and is reborn. He is the Green Man, Jack in the Green, the Old Man of the Woods, Green George and many other things to many other men but one common theme runs through all the disparate images and myths, death and rebirth and the Green that is all life. . . .  There is a strong reason to believe that the Green Man, as an image, is extremely old. Paintings on cave walls showing shamanic dancers may be depicting an earlier form of the image. Second century CE temple columns from the Mediterranean show him as a leaf mask on the capitals and in Britain, from the eleventh century on he appears in the churches and cathedrals.

The only pattern I have found so far is that he seems to appear in his greatest concentrations in Europe wherever there are stretches of old relict woodlands. Thus the biggest collections I have discovered so far seem to be in Devon and Somerset and on the edge of the great forests of Yorkshire and the Midlands. Southwell Minster for example which has some wonderful Green Men in the Chapter House is on the edge of the old forest of Sherwood. It could be that the images represent the God of the Woods, the Life Spirit, the Spirit of Death and Resurrection and, as an image, the Green Man has his counterpart in one of the oldest English Folk images, the Corn or Barley God whose beginnings stretch back to the camps of the Neolithic farmers.”

And the Rosslyn Templars put it this way:

“In classical thought the Green Man has been the symbol of inspiration or of the fruits of learning, and could have a place in Christian iconography for such a reason.

His presentation as one who devours and disgorges vegetation suggests the mystery of creation – death and rebirth in the world of nature, a theme which illustrates Christian teaching on the death and resurrection of Christ.

He may represent the bringing of the tree spirit or spirit of nature under the guidance of Christ, in the way that many pagan ideas and rituals have been baptised into Christianity – a common practice in the attempt to lead people from other beliefs into the Christian Faith. . . .

The Green Man has a special meaning today. After centuries of man’s exploitation of nature for his own benefit, as if mankind is the only creature that counts, we are now beginning to realise how dependent we are upon the natural world, that we are part and parcel of the whole of God’s creation, and therefore must learn to work in co-operation with it. The Green Man, especially in his strange structure blending the human form and vegetation, can be taken to symbolise the unity of mankind with the natural world. Perhaps it is not surprising that he should have a place in Christian Churches of all types for when they were built mankind was much closer to nature than we are, at least in the industrialised western world.”

As I’ve worked on this piece, I have poured all of the sense of my deep connectedness to the earth into it.   The Green Man is a symbol that has fascinated and resonated with me for decades.  He seems to embody all I feel within myself about my relationship to the earth, a connection down through the ages to a time when mankind understood his place in the natural order, before the arrogance of technological advance gave him a belief in mastery.  I lived in the United Kingdom for 25 years, and spent all of those 25 years digging into the rich ancient history of the land of my heritage.  In its turn, that ancient history dug itself into me, into my spirit, into my cellular and spiritual memory.  I became so deeply connected to the ancient power in the land that my reaction to it became visceral.  If I were searching for an ancient monument in the wild and open landscape, I did not need to see it with my eyes.  I could close my eyes and feel it in my body like a magnetic pull. 

So perfectly attuned to this ancient world have I been that my hands and my spirit knew exactly the pieces to go into this work, reached for them readily almost without my eyes even looking for them.   Rich leafy backgrounds, natural textures.  I have held a piece of work in my box for thirty years that I drew just out of high school.  A detailed pen and ink drawing of foliage and leaves accurately drawn from my forays into the hedgerows around my Norfolk home, it depicted peering through a gap in the hedgerow into a forest clearing . . . .  The foliage became the framework for this piece, stained with inks and gilded and overwritten.  The emerging image is one of richness, of growth so verdant you can almost smell the leaf mould.  This is the only piece I have fallen into headlong, known from the depth of my soul and the soles of my feet exactly how to create it.  The creation was an act of joy and of deep pleasure, an opportunity to reconnect to that wellspring of spiritual balance that filled me in those years in the homeland of my soul.  In finishing, I sat back with a sigh of pleasure and satisfaction, to have conveyed to my own satisfaction the sense this icon instills in me.  That, my dears, is a rare thing indeed in just about any artist.

I shall leave the last poignant words to Ronald Millar:

“Two millennia old or older, the Green Man is the vibrant spirit of the wild wood, of vegetation in leaf or bud, of spring, pool and river, earth and sky, indeed the totality of nature. His voice is the hiss of the high wind in ash and oak. And his profundity those sudden silences of a forest when all Nature seems to hold her breath. When we hear or feel him no more mankind will have run its course.”

My participation in this project for the last nine months has given me enjoyment, angst and deep insight into my own creative response and process.  I have come to know and understand myself as an artist more as a result, and am grateful for the insights and growth.  I have learned that I can respond to stimulus that is not of my generation.  While it may not produce the most profound work I have ever created, it has been good to learn that I can respond in this way successfully.  At other times, the process has pulled responses from deep within me in a most surprising way.  At the very least, it has fully proven to be the learning and stretching exercise I sensed it would be.  I would like to thank all the participants for their contributions to my growth and learning, and to my own book, The Dictionary of Sorrows, on its way home to me.

Freshly returned from a trip to southern California for the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat, I am immediately up to my neck in our local artsPeak Festival of the Arts.  Before I get too carried away with those activities (about which I will tell you next week),  I just had to share with you a wonderful new publication I’ve had the opportunity to review this week.

A few of my artsy pals and I are helping Cate Prato at Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine spread the word to all you eager mixed media beavers about an absolutely wonderful new book.  “The Encaustic Studio, a wax workshop in mixed media art” by Daniella Woolf is so full of inspiration and practical advice from this delightful and knowledgeable artist that it is difficult to know which aspect to start with.  I began glancing through the book in preparation for a review, and within the first minute was deeply absorbed.

This excellent book is clearly and logically divided between essentials of encaustic practice, and a rich array of mixed media techniques for use with encaustic.  Now, I’ve been working with encaustic in a limited way for a few years, so I was keen to get my eyes and hands on this book.  I often find that books on encaustic either repeat much the same hackneyed information, or are far too technical and do not address the use of encaustic for mixed media purposes.  I do not wish to particularly paint with encaustic, and so these books have not had much for me.  Imagine my delight to finally see Daniella’s wonderful book absolutely stuffed to bursting with mixed media-specific tips and techniques.  I can’t help but give you a particularly tasty example that made its eye-opening advent into my life recently.  That is the Hot Wax Stylus Pen.

I had the pleasure to attend a workshop at Easter time to learn how to decorate Ukranian pysanka eggs.  To do so, a wax resist pattern is created before the eggs are dyed.  I had the pleasure of using an electric hot wax stylus.  All the while I was using it, my mind was popping with ideas for its application in many different mixed media art projects where not a single egg was present.  You may, therefore, imagine my delight to find Daniella referring to the hot wax stylus as a useful tool for writing and drawing in encaustic!  I will be adding one of those to my arsenal of tools very soon.

Another great example that is very pertinent to where I live in the Canadian Rockies is the use of a SKI WAX IRON to fuse your encaustic.  Now, I have to say, I never would have thought of that.  These little items turn up pretty cheaply in our thrift stores and ski swaps with regularity, so you may imagine the bulb going off in my brain at that point.  Have you noticed I hadn’t even got out of the tools section yet???

Just about every question I’ve ever had about using encaustic for mixed media purposes, including many that have been tossed out to me over the years, are all addressed in this informative and lushly illustrated book.  As if it were possible to get any better than this, I finally arrived at the back of the book to discover an accompanying instructional DVD . . . .  Underpinning all of this goodness is Daniella’s personal philosophy of creativity and authenticity in creative practise to inspire you.

As a special treat, I have the opportunity to give away a free copy of “The Encaustic Studio” to a lucky blog reader.    Leave a comment here by midnight CST on Wednesday, June 21, 2012 and we’ll enter you into a random drawing to win a free copy of Daniella Woolf’s book from Interweave! I’ll contact the winner directly and we’ll get the book shipped off to you the same week.  In addition, Cate Prato has some more giveaways on her kick-off blog post.  I do hope you will hop around and visit with the others.

Party Hop Stops:

Kicking it off: Cloth Paper Scissors Today

Meet the author: Daniella Woolf

Bianca Mandity

Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Jane Davies

Jodi Ohl

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

Suze Weinberg

Enjoy the tour, and don’t forget to leave your comments by midnight CST on Wednesday, June 21, 2012 to win!

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!

I have arrived at Round 4 of the CBBAG Altered Books Round Robin I have been participating in since last September.  You might not think a piece of work to do once a month would be much of a challenge, but in amongst a full time job, a family and a very active visual arts business, time to sit down and devote concentration to it has been difficult to achieve.

To recap, I am participating in an Altered Books Round Robin for my local chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild.   As this is a collaborative long-term project that speaks to the very essence of who I am as an artist,  I decided to share the process.  I expected it to be interesting and challenging, as, other than my own book, I am responding to the style and theme choices of other artists.  Once a month, I blog about the month’s theme and creative process to respond to it.  For those not familiar with a round robin of this nature, check out this post for the rules.

Halfway through the Round Robin year, the process has already borne its share of surprises for me.  I have had to reach to places inside myself in order to respond to themes chosen by other artists.  As I have contemplated the fourth book to come across my desk, as I have felt my own response to it, I find a consistent theme of my own emerging.  No other project, not one of the many other collaborations I have participated in has ever demonstrated to me so thoroughly the purpose my creative and artistic process serves for me.  I found myself questioning my family today:  Am I a painfully serious person?  They laughed, no.  Yet I see at this halfway point that, no matter how tongue-in-cheek the original subject matter, no matter the levity of my own initial response, each spread  I have prepared for these books has taken a serious, thoughtful, spiritual tone in the end.  From the beginnings in my own altered book, ‘Dictionary of Sorrows’, I went on to create a spread in ‘Teaching Kids to Shoot’, illustrated by the images of serious-eyed female combat soldiers that spoke to the dramatic change in the roles of women in traditionally male-oriented activities.  From there to my soul-response to ‘Patterns of the Earth’ that speaks to the fundamentals of my own artistic practice – the capturing of the dialogue between earth, nature and soul that is the bedrock of my artistic, spiritual voice.  And this week, to the activities in ‘Cubs Guide: Discovery’.When I opened this fourth book, a smile came up from the very deeps of my soul.  I was an active Brownie, Girl Scout and Cadet until I was about 15 years old.  Leafing through this book brought happy memories, a few chuckles and another fleeting insight into the things in my life and growing up that informed the person I am today.   It takes me back to the hikes in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains with my scout troop and with my siblings, always carrying home rocks and feathers and leaves.  I am the fourth of five children, the youngest of three sisters.  Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, my mother often sewed clothes for us (home-made clothes were an economical alternative in those days).  One Easter, when I was no more than six or seven, my mother made matching car-coats for the three of us in sky blue linen with a white linen collar.  My mother refused to sew pockets into mine, as she said I would only fill them with rocks . . . I was happy to receive those hand-me-downs and graduate to pockets.  And she was right, I did fill them with rocks.  And acorns.  And daisies.  At least it was better than my brother’s propensity for carrying home snakes and lizards . . . .

The aim of this altered book is for the artists to choose an activity from the ‘badges’, perform it and then alter the book to express their experience.  We have been encouraged to include three-dimensional objects in the box that relate to our activities.  Well, you may be utterly certain that the first page I stopped on was

“Black Star Requirement No. 2: Make a collection of natural articles such as leaves, weeds, rocks, seeds, etc., and tell about your collection . . .”

I browsed the rest of the book, but just kept coming back to that page.  Since before the days of the blue linen coat, I have always been an inveterate collector of natural objects.  Shells, stones, seeds, leaves, bark, feathers, bones. . . .  I have jars and jars of them on the shelves above my desk.  I like to keep them where I can see them and allow them to inspire me.  I use these materials extensively in my collage work and my books (for example, take a look at ‘A Walk in the Woods’, the link is above the masthead at the top of the page).    In the end, it had to be.It was immediate apparent that I would need to express this spread more like the collage work I do.  I searched through my materials and found old botanical prints of seed collections.  I started my background by laying these in with a monochromatic colour scheme to begin.  From there, I began altering and adding, layering and layering, allowing a colour theme and overall foundation to emerge.  Words always form part of the work that I do, and all the while I worked on these pages, my mind roved, searching my psyche and my memory for words to convey the deeper sense of memory and connection this spread was conveying to me.  The building up of the layers came to represent a sedimentary laying of memory and influence from these early beginnings, layers that have built into the person I have become today.  These influences and the way they have emerged to shape my creative practice are  a source of joy and happiness to me.  I am the happiest I have ever been when immersed in the minute detail of the natural world: roving the forest unhurried, examining every different bark or moss or pine cone; wandering for hours along a riverbank, experiencing every stone texture polished by the cloth of the river with my senses; laying on the sand of a beach, examining the microscopic shells that reside there, unseen, unnoticed . . . (more…)

I wrote yesterday about teaching again at Interweave’s CREATE Mixed Media Retreat.  I am really looking forward to that . . .   What I haven’t told you yet is that I will also be teaching at the Art & Soul Retreat in Portland, Oregon in early October this year!  Another new experience for me, it looks like I will be meeting some of my instructor friends there as well.  I haven’t attended this retreat before, but I know it by reputation.  I will be teaching two workshops in Portland, including a collage session and a book arts session.  Do check out the wonderful array of workshops, and I hope to see you there!

photo courtesy of Michael Buckley 2010

Book Artist Dea Fischer (photo courtesy of Michael Buckley 2010)

 I am so pleased and excited to have been invited to teach at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Southern California again May 30-June 3 2012.  Hosted by Interweave’s Cloth Paper Scissors and Quilting Arts magazines, the retreat was like wandering into a mixed media artist’s dream and never wanting to wake up. My experience at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Costa Mesa, California last year was huge.  It was the first time I had ventured outside my province (let alone my country!) to teach the subject so dear to my heart:  Book Arts.  I had never attended such an intense mixed media conference experience before, and I was utterly blown away to be surrounded by people who think like I do, who are interested in the (admittedly sometimes odd) things I am interested in, who are as hungry to try new projects and new techniques as I am.  I made new friends there and have gone on over the ensuing year to complete some other projects for Interweave and to build on those friendships.

With Pam Carriker at CREATE Costa Mesa, 2011

And so, once again this late Spring, I will venture down to California to join other mixed media artists in this incredible creative soup.  Only this time, it will be different.  I will be teaching book arts again, never fear.  You will have the opportunity to learn a painted and folded structure, or to spend a day learning how to construct my signature Star Book.  But in 2012, I won’t make the trip alone.  This time, I will be accompanied by my dear friend and colleague Tiffany Teske.  We will co-teach a workshop on image transfer that I am so excited to share with you! 

Tiffany is a multi-disciplinary artist like myself, a gifted photographer with an amazing mixed-media sense and seemingly unending technical prowess and enthusiasm, who shares my love of all things low-tech in the photography world.  To have the opportunity to share California with my friend, and to share this enriching mixed media retreat experience with her is so exciting.  We have already agreed a day on the Pacific Coast Highway with our Holga, Lomo and other low-tech cameras for a feast of photography as part of the deal.  You may be sure the results will be turning up in our work soon after our return to Canada.

copyright Dea Fischer 2011

Bookings are open for the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Irvine, California, so I hope you will cruise on over and check out the many inspiring workshops you can take.  I will be teaching:

  • Creating the Vision: Printing and Transferring Your Images (6 hours) (Friday) (co-teaching with Tiffany)
  • Star Light, Star Bright: The Chinese Star Book (6 hours) (Saturday)
  • Just One Sheet of Paper (3 hours) (Saturday evening)

Tiffany will be teaching:

  • Creating the Vision: Printing and Transferring Your Images (6 hours) (Friday) (co-teaching with me)
  • Fuji Emulsion Lifts (3 hours) (Saturday evening)
  • Fuji Image Transfers (3 hours) (Sunday morning)

We hope we’ll get to see you there!