I am Mabel Dean, the “Wild Sage”! I am a person with diverse interests and eclectic taste. I live in Tucson, Arizona where I pursue my creative journey with a focus on writing, art-making, photography, and travel.
I like to spend time each week making things – especially art-like projects. My friends have often referred to me as an “artist”, but I’ve stopped labeling myself an “artist” because for me it’s a loaded term. I associate the word with a person who makes art every day, enters shows, sells art through a gallery etc. etc. I’m not really that kind of person. I make art for my own amusement. Sometimes I enter it in shows to support organizations I belong to. Occasionally I sell a piece, but I don’t have a gallery and I do not make art every day in my studio.
But I do consider myself to be a creative person who lives a creative life. That life includes a wide variety of activities – inventing ways to make my life easier and more interesting, creative cooking, unconventional decoration, writing poetry (often not very good poetry), visual journaling, photography, undertaking many kinds of art-making, finding new uses for ordinary items and traveling to interesting places.
Many years ago, when I first started making artists’ books, I noticed that most book artists had a special press name for their self-published books. Since I lived in the desert, love desert sages and have always thought of myself as a little bit unconventional, I decided to call my press, “Wild Sage Press” – a little play on words.
There are a couple of other names I use when I’m in my art-making mode. I wanted to find a unique way to sign my art so I decided that I would create a special art name and signature – “maybelle”! It’s my artistic version of my given name, Mabel!! About ten years ago I started making jewelry and I thought I should give the inner jewelry designer her own name – “Maple Jean”. I discovered this variation of my name on a letter addressed to me! I had given my name and address over the phone and instead of it coming to Mabel Dean, it was addressed to Maple Jean!!!
I find inspiration for my art and my life all around me but especially in nature. I like to work intuitively, allowing my heart and my unconscious to direct me. The first step in my creative process usually involves harvesting from my experience. I gather items, images, ephemera, articles, poetry – any “stuff” that appeals to me that is related to a topic that interests me. And then I let things ruminate – sometimes for days but often for months and even years! Even when I’m cooking, this is the process I use. I read a lot of recipes focusing on a food item that I want to cook. Then after an hour, or a day, or even a week or more, I’ll create my own version.
In 1993, after a varied career that included teaching, writing, consulting, financial marketing, and restaurant ownership, I embarked on a new journey in the arts. That fall I made my first book. I enjoyed the tactile experience of handling the paper and making stitches in it with needle and thread. This was the beginning of a long love affair with artists’ books – making them, appreciating them and teaching others how to make them. I think of all the things I like to make, building one-of-a-kind artists’ books is the thing I most enjoy.
Making books was the beginning of a exciting journey. I became immersed in the study of art media and processes by taking classes with dozens of nationally know artists. I learned to love paint, collage, fiber, printmaking and working with metal. Now all those materials plus many more live in my studio where I can play with them whenever the muse calls me.
In 1994 I helped found the FeMail Press, a group of six book artists who met at a calligraphy conference workshop taught by Susan E. King. The group collaborated over a period of ten years, each year producing a limited-edition artists’ book. These books now reside in numerous private and university collections throughout the country.
In Tucson I am probably best known as the founding president of “PaperWorks, The Sonoran Collective for Book and Paper Artists” which was established in January, 2001. It is now a flourishing arts organization of over 200 book and paper artists.