Thursday, February 21, 2013

Opportunity Knocks!

Gail Rieke in her home studio

 I am delighted to announce that Gail Rieke will be coming to the Maison Conti this fall to offer two workshops. The first, September 24-26, is already full. Since demand was high for this course, Gail agreed to stay on for another week and teach a second session October 1-3, for which we have just two places left. If you are interested in coming you can find details on our website.

I first met Gail in 2003 at the San Francisco Center for the Book,  a place I haunted in those days, and where each year she offered several courses. I never took a workshop there that I didn't enjoy, but Gail was, without doubt, my favorite instructor. The first thing I found was that she was very knowledgeable about the book arts and had an amazing number of techniques in her back pocket. She has a talent for listening and understanding what her students are trying to accomplish with their projects and she is able to offer each one various technical ways of approaching and realizing their ideas. I found her very inspirational and the work each of us created in the course was unique and magical. I learned as much from what others were doing as from what I was doing myself.

Often in such courses, the project is defined and the steps for achieving the end result are set out. Everyone comes up with the same solution, as only one is offered! I don't knock that, since certain kinds of book forms are best learned in that kind of structured way. There is none of that in a course with Gail, however. The goal is never to come up with a cookie cutter solution. It makes it more challenging, since a lot will depend on your own imagination, but the encouragement and support that is offered is so nurturing, that one is bound to be successful and satisfied, while all the time being opened up to an entirely new way of solving creative problems.

It was only after experiencing what a wonderful teacher Gail is that I discovered what a talented artist she is as well. These two skills do not necessarily go together. In fact I have often found that excellent artists are not such good communicators. But while Gail is an internationally acclaimed artist in her own right, she is also one of the best and most interesting teachers I have worked with.

Gail and her husband Zack, a painter, live in Santa Fe where their home is not only their studio, but a gallery for their art. It has been featured in several art journals. I have never personally visited, but I have seen some wonderful photos of Gail's suitcase wall, which Zack built for her collection of valises. 

Each case holds an entire collection of books and objects which represent a journey Gail has taken. She is a keen world traveler. I love her collection of globes, as well.

Gail has a particular attraction to Asia, and has traveled and taught in Japan, Laos, South Korea and Thailand. She offers workshops all over the United States, including Haystack in Maine, as well as in Mexico. This will be the second time she has offered a course at Maison Conti.

This time the focus of the class is on maps... broadly defined as a diagrammatic representation of either outer or inner landscapes. There will be inspiration for developing content and instruction for binding the content together in a journal, book or other form.

The possible results are somewhat endless! In Gail's own work, she strives for a strong theme to represent the emotional content of each of her adventures.

She also endeavors to create a completely different feeling in each of her pieces. Her students are the lucky recipients of her own imaginative and diverse solutions.

Gail generally brings some of her own work to the class to share with others, and she also begins with an extensive slide show of things to inspire and excite.

It's especially nice to share these days with Gail at the Maison Conti, as we all live and eat together for a packed and exciting few days. It's a lot like camp! Only the accommodations are more elegant.

October is one of my favorite months in Montmirail. The virginia creeper on the house is turning bright red and the forest, where we will certainly walk together, is beginning to think of putting on its fall colors. Days are usually blue and mild.

I hope you will consider signing up. I would love to welcome you at Maison Conti and I can so highly recommend Gail's course. I know you will enjoy yourself!


  1. Oh. My Stars. I would love to do a class with Gail. And maps! drool...

    Unfortunately, the timing is not so good. I'll be in New York mid June, then in UK til July 8.What a shame I'll miss it.

    Still trying to factor in a trip to your paqrt of the world...

  2. That sounds like something I would LOVE! perhaps the stars will align???