We have the enormous privilege of meeting many amazing women artists as we go along putting together our Art Camp offerings. We can’t have them all here at Art Camp – every year – so we are at least going to let you meet some of them for yourself.
These interviews can get long, but you will meet wonderful artists and role-models for how you may want to be when you grow up – I know I have (and I’m in my 60s). To read the article in its entirety (Part I and II) click here.
Dea Fischer – Part 2
AC4W: Do you have any off-the-cuff tips for beginners? Women that would like to become full or even part time artists?
No one can make you an artist per se, that compulsion to express yourself in a visual way is born within you. However, becoming a practicing artist happens by calling yourself an artist, and acting like one. When you do this, it is amazing how quickly everyone around you begins to treat you like an artist in response. What does acting like a practicing artist look like? The single thing that made the greatest difference for me, and every other working artist I know, was to have a dedicated studio space in which to have ready access to all my materials and tools, to surround myself with things that inspire me, and to have a door to close against the intrusions of the world. It doesn’t matter whether it is a fabulous purpose-built and kitted out space or a table in a corner, it is yours.
There is another thing that is an absolute essential for me and for every other working artist I know. That is to make attendance in your studio part of your daily practise. I spend time in my studio every day, even if it is only ten minutes. Often, that time is spent pottering around, cleaning up or sorting my materials, but it all goes to putting me in the creative frame of mind required to lead me to work ideas. When I have my tools or my materials readily accessible and in my hands, it is a small step to using them. I try to do a little bit of something every day to keep me in that head space, and it really does help me to get quickly down to work when the muse strikes. I always keep several projects cooking at once, between large and smaller projects, so that I can keep the flow going while I’m waiting for one to dry, etc.
The other essential is exposure. You need to fill your vessel. Trying to draw inspiration from a dry and empty vessel is a recipe for failure and disillusionment. By experiencing art, connecting with other artists and exposing yourself to creativity, you enrich your inner life, inspire your mind and fill your vessel. Feed yourself with activities that enrich and fulfill you. Give your muse something to work with.
When you get stuck with your work – do you have any tricks to get unstuck?
I’m never able to answer this question because I never get stuck. I have the opposite problem: I never have enough time to articulate all the ideas I have. I work in many disciplines, so if one isn’t working for me, I just move to something else or focus on a different medium for awhile. I have only had one instance of something akin to getting stuck in recent years. I was under pressure to produce a piece of work for a deadline. I wasn’t inspired and the piece I was trying to create wasn’t working. It wasn’t working because I was trying to force it. I pulled the piece apart and started again, and it emerged as one of my best pieces. It could only do so because I recognised it wasn’t working, and that I was trying to force something that wasn’t right or wasn’t ready, and I was prepared to stop and backtrack, and to not beat myself up about it. I wrote a blog post about the experience: http://thestarbook.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/when-a-failure-is-not-a-failure/
Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
I never seem to lack for inspiration, but I do have a ritual. I usually tidy my studio before I start working. My studio gets into a hell of a mess when I’m teaching a lot and running, running, running. I tend to just put stuff down and close the door. But I can’t work that way. I need to have my tools and materials accessible and under my hand, and to be able to move freely around the room. Otherwise, I get irritated and frustrated. I avoid that by tidying up the room and my desk first. That time helps me to connect and get into the right zone or head space and prepare for work. It also inspires me by ‘visiting’ with my things. My space is my sanctuary, the cradle of my creativity. I bare my soul to its walls and it embraces me with tenderness. I am a solitary and contemplative artist, and there is a considerable spiritual element to my work. I need space and peace in which to still the chaos and listen to my spirit and my thoughts. When I am able to do that, I produce my best work. As a wife and mother with at least two full time jobs, I also have a tendency to work through the night!
AC4W: Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.
You’d never know it, but I actually have a full time job! I am a conservator and clerk at a busy public library in Alberta, which means, among other work, I am responsible for maintaining the health of the collection through repair and rebinding of the books. It’s a wonderful environment that keeps me visible in the heart of my community and provides me with the flexibility to pursue my visual arts career in tandem. In addition to that, I volunteer extensively in my community. For example, I give free public workshops and engage my community in making a public art project every year during our ArtsPeak Festival of the Arts. I also teach a free workshop during Alberta Culture Days, volunteer for our annual Kids Art exhibition and teach free public workshops on bamboo lantern making for our Festival of Lights. I utilize my legal skills in working on local government committees, and for the last two years have chaired an Advisory Committee on a volunteer basis to design and implement a new community arts centre in our community
AC4W: With regard to teaching: Why – do you teach?
Anyone who spends any time with me will quickly either be won over or utterly exhausted by my boundless enthusiasm for communicating my love of nature and creativity. Barely secondary in my motivations is my love for lighting the spark of creativity in adults and children alike, and teaching them the value of understanding and interacting on a meaningful level with both our natural and human environment. To me, the end is far more important than the means – knitting our community together through a love and appreciation of each others diverse gifts and the environment we are privileged to live in. Engaging the members of my community in acts of random creation is the most deeply rewarding and fulfilling activity I have ever been involved in, and the personal satisfaction I derive from it only spurs me to repeat the experience.
Do you have a particular method or slant on teaching others to make art?
I’m all about instilling confidence. My teaching skills were gained during my career as a lawyer, and I discovered that I have a gift for taking an impenetrable subject and breaking it down into understandable language. I have been delighted to translate those skills into my visual arts career. The rewards of seeing a ‘can’t do’ person emerge from the end of a workshop with a beautiful piece of work we’ve accomplished together step by step are vast. I guess the other characteristic of a workshop with me is talk: good, satisfying, deep and soulful connecting.
AC4W: Do you have a community of artists in your everyday life? If so how did you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
Being part of a community of artists is very important to me. I am moved and inspired by the creative spiral of energy that is generated through sharing and collaboration. Many of my closest personal friends are artists, and we have a strong and close-knit community of support and encouragement and love that I truly treasure. My husband is also an artist (although we had to stop sharing a studio if we wanted to stay married. . . . !), and we are very active in our local arts community. I held a position on the executive of the local arts guild for seven years, I have spent two years chairing a local government advisory committee designing and implementing a community arts centre in my community. My husband manages a contemporary art gallery. There is just nothing for it but to get involved, and our participation in these ways has been instrumental in helping us to build the creative life we craved. I am part of a wider creative community that has been no less influential. I am a member of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, and we have an active local chapter, which has widened my community considerably. I also participated at a national level as a member of the CBBAG National Education Committee. However, the biggest influence has been my online community. I participate in online groups through which I exchange with artists from all over the world on a daily basis. Through Facebook, my website and participation in a book arts list serve, my community has grown enormously. As a result of this interaction, my website is now regularly accessed from over 120 countries around the world. Just getting involved, speaking up in these various forums, having a voice, encouraging my colleagues wherever I can and being present has built that community into a gift of immeasurable magnitude. Part of my practise is mentoring young women artists. I am in turn mentored by several older and more established artists than I, all women, who continue to support and encourage my work, and who I know will be prodding me, lovingly and gently, but firmly, if they haven’t seen any new work from me in awhile. AC4W: Where are you published and where can we look at your work?
I am published by Interweave Press (now part of F & W Media) and have had material published in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Pages magazine, Art Journalling Exposed emag and Studios magazine.
I also have a workshop DVD published through Interweave called “Handmade Book Essentials”.
My work was published in Quarry Books’ “1,000 Artists’ Books”
My work is held in private collections in Canada, the United States, England and Japan.
It is worth a peruse of my website http://www.thestarbook.ca All publications are listed on there with links.
AC4W: What do you think about residential artist retreats and workshops?
Residential retreats and workshops bear the hallmarks of community I referred to earlier. The spiral of creative energy generated is inspiring, and every student and teacher is a potential new friend. Workshops often involve a great deal of sharing, either of tools and materials, ideas and resources, or in deep soul talks. I actually love teaching workshops to small groups, because the talking that happens is so enriching for us all.
AC4W: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
I hope to have pulled back from working full time and be able to devote much more time to my own studio practice. Teaching and publishing create a demand for my work, which is wonderful and deeply appreciated, but the correlation is that I get less time in the studio to produce new work to fulfill that demand. Balance is needed!
I adore what I do and I just want to do more of it. I am always working to expand my bookbinding skills and deepen my expertise and understanding. I am fascinated to explore some more alternative photographic processes and learn to develop my own film. I recently purchased a printing press and am looking forward to creating small letterpress runs of some of my simpler books. I enjoy writing and recording to reach a wider audience, and I hope to expand my published materials over that time.
For more of Dea and her art go to her website: http://www.thestarbook.ca