about the “wild sage”

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.

Mabel Dean
Tucson, Arizona