art retreats, book arts, dyeing, fiber art, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Slow cloth

Madeline Island: Chapter 6, Friday

Peering into the final dyepot.

Part of the patchwork of the 15 nine-squares the class laid together on the floor. Mine is the one in the bottom right corner.

The second book and two final fabric bundles come out of the dyepot.

I don’t mind that I nearly destroyed the La Pointe Cemetery papers through impatient handling and poor protection in the dyepot – the beautiful decay is fitting for the object’s inspiration.

One of the prettiest spreads in my first book.

I used the drip paper to make a protective cover for the La Point Cemetery book and sew pages into the first book.

I am done. I am exhausted. I am full to the brim with goodness. I hug India and say goodbye to my new friends, the friendliest and most soul lifting group I have ever studied with.

Waiting for the ferry. What the heck is that red stuff in the water? Is it natural?

Brenda drives C___ and me to Duluth to pick up the shuttle to Minneapolis. What a generous, lovely woman. As we wait at the Duluth Radisson on the patio, I notice the subject of a recent Facebook photo making the rounds – the outside of the Duluth Public Library.

C___ and I collapse into our hotel room in Minneapolis. I have deep and pleasant dreams.

Update 11-27-20: As I moved these photos over from my Flickr site and edited these posts, I noticed that I glossed over or left out almost all the negative aspects of this trip, and there were many, enough that India canceled her next workshop there and I have never attempted to go back there for another workshop. On the shuttle trip there, India totally lost her temper with the driver for texting while driving. The food that the school provided was mediocre at best. There were ticks in the bedrooms. A couple of the women fought over their bundles on Thursday. Then the school scheduled my shuttle back to the airport on this particular morning, and would not refund my money when I objected. Brenda volunteered to drive C____ and I, a three hour trip for her, so that we would not have to miss the last day of class.

I liked C____ a lot, but she was a very strange person, and I didn’t use her name because she was extremely phobic of being on the Internet and, apparently, sewing of any kind. I felt like I took her under my wing: odd behavior for me, but I guess I related to her as a person who has been considered “weird” all my life. We kept up through email for a short time, then dropped it. Brenda and I remain friends on Facebook. My roommate asked me to come visit her and stay in her beach studio in San Diego! And I lost her name and contact information! GAH!!!!

However, I understand why I focused on the positive. The workshop itself was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The La Pointe Indian Cemetery was a source of inspiration and sacred awe. And my classmates, well, my classmates made me feel like a queen. I had the odd experience of being very popular, and people came to me before I left and said sad goodbyes and how much they enjoyed getting to know me. A very, very different art retreat experience for me in that way. I’m glad that I took so many photos.

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, fiber art, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Slow cloth

Madeline Island: Chapter 5, Thursday

“This is Day Four,” India pronounced ominously at the beginning of our class. Then she passed out chocolate frogs that she brought all the way from Australia as a preventative for any Day Four woes.

Day Four is when patience grows thin, things go awry, bodies get weary, minds get overwhelmed.

We stretch and do a centering exercise, as we have every morning. Dropping a stone in the mind pond. Ahhhhhh.

The dyepot produces unusual bright green hues this morning. Here are my bundles.

My workspace. The silk square on top produced the best plant prints. I twisted the bundle tightly before I tied it up.

Another fabric/paper sheet is sewn for an impromptu project. We were to sew a word onto each sheet. I chose “NSFW” (Not suitable/safe for work) because I was thinking “inappropriate” but that seemed too long to stitch in a hurry.

The project involved a trip to La Pointe Indian Cemetery, which is the subject of the next post.

Here is my little book just before I bundled it with a piece of lichen covered oak bark and some maple seeds. We finished stitching our dye samples together.


That evening, I finally got on a bike and C______ (I shall refer to her in the grand old Victorian fashion) and I pedaled to town where we had a marvelous meal of smoked lake trout on mashed roasted sweet potatoes and sweet snap peas and gazpacho at Cafe Seiche. Unfortunately the photos turned out fuzzy so no more food porn for you!

I had to walk through Tom’s Burned Down Cafe to take some photos, although we didn’t have a drink there. There is a wooden platform, there are some walls, there is a tarp, there is a junked car beneath the floor, there is a bar, and there are signs. Lots and lots of signs.

art retreats, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin

Madeline Island: Chapter 4.1, Wednesday afternoon

Between class and soup on Wednesday, Brenda, Pam, and I drove down to the Town Park to walk on the beach of Lake Superior. I think that I showed great restraint by not filling up my suitcase with rocks. I have done it before, you know.

Then we bopped around to three of the art galleries on the island. I bought some beautiful local handspun alpaca yarn from Woods Hall, and if I’d been rich, I definitely could have laid down a bundle of money at Bell St. Gallery, which had a variety of media including paintings, ceramics, artwear, and jewelry.

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, fiber art, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Slow cloth, Slow Food

Madeline Island: Chapter 4, Wednesday

Daisies, mullein, and lupines were everywhere on the island.

After finding out that the raspberry tea bags made beautiful pink marks that magically turned blue on the cotton paper, raspberry tea suddenly became the most popular beverage in our class!


India shows us what we are to do with our cloth/papers. They will become books.

Going crazy making more bundles now.

My treasure book, out of the dyepot, unbundled and unfolded very, very, very carefully so that it has time to dry. Paper is very fragile when wet.

That evening, India made bee-yoo-ti-full soup for the class. We became quite silly after imbibing it, so I wonder what secret ingredient she added to it? I wouldn’t dare post the goofy photos, lest I be hunted down and murdered in my sleep, but I think this is a lovely photo of an absolutely fantastic group of women.

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, fiber art, Madeline Island, Marvelous meals, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Slow cloth, Slow Food

Madeline Island: Chapter 3, Tuesday

My bundles, freshly removed from a dyepot made with goldenrod plants (yes, you can use the leaves and stalks!)

I was a wee bit disappointed, especially in my wool samples overall, but I would soon learn that the secret of getting good plant prints included getting the tightest possible contact between the cloth and the plant material. The watercolor paper that we used to catch drips under these bundles ended up being some of the prettiest accidental artworks of the week.

One of our assignments was to stitch scraps of different natural fabrics and paper to a large piece of watercolor paper. The stitching was hard on the fingers, and toward the end I resorted to using a stapler to both tack down the pieces and to see what marks I could make when the metal reacted with the dye. We flipped it over and painted milk with handmade brushes onto the cotton rag paper for a mordant. It doesn’t look pretty, does it? That milk mordant would make my heart sing by the end of the week. I am totally into the milk mordant, since I work so much with cotton.

We would find out the next day what would be done to these sheets.

Now for the food porn. We went to a new restaurant on the island, Blue Green Organic. It was all about local and organic, and the chef who designed the menu was runner-up on one of those major cooking shows (which I confess not to watch since I don’t watch much TV and dislike reality shows in general, but especially those in which the contestants are abused or ridiculed). The service was very good and the food was luscious and artfully presented. Their signature item was a smoked trout chowder, in which the ingredients are piled into the individual bowls, then the hot cream stock poured over them at the table. As delicious as it was beautiful.

art retreats, critters, dyeing, fiber art, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Slow cloth, Slow Food

Madeline Island: Chapter 2, Monday

The meadows around MISA were gorgeous; full of wildflowers and wildlife. Unfortunately that wildlife included many ticks. If you go, do take bug repellent of some kind. I think that I may have been one of the only people in my class that did not find a tick on me at some point during my stay. Whew!

On the first day, our class included a few sessions of gathering materials for fabric bundles, in which we were given limitations in order to open our eyes to different possibilities. This is a shot of my treasures in the last session, when we could gather nearly anything.

Bundles for the dyepot – one with a cord made from twining scraps of silk fabric. The shells are my markers, since these bundles became hard to recognize after they came out of the dyepot.

That afternoon, a group of us went to The Pub in the village of La Pointe for dinner and drinks. I decided to try the whitefish livers, even though I don’t like liver, because someone who had eaten them said that they were good and children liked them. I tried them because I have never in my life heard of eating fish liver, and I considered it my duty as a Slow Foodie to taste a regional food. They weren’t bad – they tasted a bit like chicken livers, and the accompanying veggies were excellent.

I got in a hammy mood when I insisted on sticking my toes in the very cold water of Lake Superior. Don’t mind the hole in my sock, there.

The sunset back at MISA:

art retreats, Madeline Island, Minnesota/Wisconsin

Madeline Island, Wisconsin: Chapter 1, Sunday

This is an online chronicle of my journey to and participation in India Flint’s “Wayfarer’s Wanderbook and Windfall Cloth” workshop at Madeline Island School of the Arts. (Note: There are seven chapters in this story. I’ll try to make it more visual and less verbal, so expect them to load slowly.)

The trip to Madeline Island, Wisconsin was complicated and long, but it went without a hitch, other than a longer wait at the Duluth International Airport than I expected. The airport was very, very tiny and had nothing to offer people waiting without boarding passes other than a couple of vending machines. However, it did have good free wifi and comfortable seating. I didn’t fly into Duluth because the prices were 3x the price of flying to Minneapolis, and the choice of flights were minimal. Flying to Minneapolis and taking the Skyline Shuttle to Duluth and back was easy and less expensive. The Skyline Shuttle employees were GREAT. If you need to travel to or near Duluth, you should definitely check out this option.

The shuttle route took us by the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota, which was quite lovely.

From Duluth, I took a shuttle sent by Madeline Island School of the Arts (hereupon referred to as MISA), and we just missed the ferry to the island, which gave us the opportunity to check out the small town of Bayfield on the shore of Lake Superior. I would have loved to have had the time to explore it further. But we had just enough time to have a drink and a bite to eat at Morty’s Pub. I had whitefish tacos and a South Shore Brewery Nut Brown Ale. There are many excellent local brew choices in this area, and I tried to have a different one every place I went. This one was the only one I ordered twice.

We took the ferry from Bayfield to Madeline Island. A beautiful ride. The Apostle Islands looked like pancakes on a griddle to me. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. I’ve never seen pancakes from the point of view of a spatula. It was chilly and damp.

Once we were there, MISA’s wine and cheese reception was underway. Yum. I collapsed into a clean and comfortable room, which I shared with a fellow student from California. She told me the next morning that I did not snore, but I giggled in my sleep three times. I can only hope that Johnny Depp was somehow involved.