If you are an artist, especially if you enjoy attending art workshops, you might have heard of Madeline Island School of the Arts. MISA is headquartered on an island off the coast of Wisconsin in Lake Superior. The school offers classes in plein-air painting, photography, fiber arts, writing, and of course quilting among other topics. It’s a wonderful place to get away from it all and concentrate on creating.

However, as I myself have experienced, it’s difficult to convince people to come to northern locations, such as Maine or Wisconsin, in the middle of the winter. For some reason… I can’t imagine why….

At any rate, the Madeline Island location is seasonal. When cold weather strikes, MISA moves to warmer climes, following the snow birds to the Southwest. They call the retreats MISA West, gathering at Tanque Verde Ranch Resort just outside of Tucson, AZ. That’s where I spent the third week of January, teaching fabric collage to a group of 19 students. It was nice to escape the cold here in Maine for a while, though being located in the Sonoran Desert, the temperature got down to freezing at night, though it warmed up nicely during the day. At least I thought so. For some reason, I didn’t have any takers to join me for lunch outside in the sun by the heated pool. It wasn’t shorts weather maybe, but it was a nice break for me.

My classroom at Tanque Verde. (photo thanks to Charlie Alolkoy)
Mornings start with an instructional talk of technique-of-the-day. (photo thanks to Joe Hayes)

It was an unusual retreat for me as mine was the only quilting class among three creative arts selections. I often meet up with familiar faces of quilting colleagues. In this case, the other classes were writing and plein-air painting. It was an interesting change of pace.

Tanque Verde is a dude ranch, so it had some amenities that other places just don’t have. Before and after classes—and during since there were others besides MISA attendees—they offered such things as a nature walks, horseback riding, and cowboy poets in the DogHouse Saloon. Wednesday night was the Cowboy Cookout BBQ in Cottonwood Grove. Complete with cowboy singer guitarist. Lots of cowboy hats and boots to be seen.

Tanque Verde Ranch Slideshow

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Desert animals of a pronghorn and wild cat with their makers, Carlotta Brandenburg and Denise Withrow.

Hope Kirsch unleashing her inner kracken. (photo thanks to her classmate and cousin Laura Steiniger)

But of course it was during class that the real action was taking place. I had students with a pretty typical mix of subject matter: some people, some pets, and some other animals. I hadn’t taught in a few months, so it was a pleasant way to get back into the swing of things as my schedule heats up between now and July. It also reminded me of why more and more I insist on teaching for five days whenever I can. Five days gives me the time to gradually deliver the information and skills students need without feeling like I’m force-feeding it to them through a funnel. Of course, I expect that even so, at least some of my students still felt like there was a lot to absorb.

Student Work at Tanque Verde

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My Tanque Verde class (left to right, back to front): Jil Deheeger, Joe Hayes, Sally Carruth, Kenci Lewis, Denise Withrow, Esther Dungan, Beth Sprague, Joyce Maggard, Jane Munsell, Karen Fisher, Charlie Alolkoy, Marchon Miller, Carlotta Brandenburg, Hope Kirsch, Laura Steiniger, Sonja Winter, and me. Not pictured: Kira Freed, Sharon Waggy, Debra Fried Levin. (thank you Heather of MISA for the photo!)

As always, it’s a bittersweet goodbye to my attentive and hard-working class. A lot of bonding happens in five days and everyone looks forward to the updates and finished photos that eventually make their email rounds. In the meantime, thanks to more photos from Joe of his worktable on day one and then again on day five, I’ll fondly remember the wonderful fabric mess that they all made.

In September 2018 I will be teaching with MISA again, this time at their Madeline Island, WI location. They are already taking registrations, so if you’re interested here’s the link: Madeline Island School of the Arts–Susan Carlson Class.

You might consider bringing along a friend or spouse (or someone who is both), as there are other classes running concurrently if they are not interested in fabric collage (though I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be). Also, my husband Tom says that the Apostle Islands are a world famous paddling mecca. He’s planning a kayak tour while we’re there.

We’re making steady progress toward our goal on Patreon, the website I’m using to collect contributions toward supporting this blog and my ongoing efforts in developing an online class. It’s never too late follow this link (or click on the button in the sidebar) to read my pitch and browse the incentives (called “rewards”), such as freebies and individualized project feedback. If you think this blog is worth supporting, I urge you to contribute at whatever level you think appropriate. Thanks.


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