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I had the pleasure of presenting my Aon Celtic Art workshop in Canada's capital city, Ottawa, courtesy of the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa! With the nifty new digital camera my dad bought me for Christmas, I was finally able to take some photos of one of my workshops, this one being a 2 day beginner/intermediate weekend workshop, with a slide show presentation the friday evening before we began. I can't say enough how GREEN Ottawa was, and how nice all the people were. Special thanks to the family who opened their house to me, and their adorable cat and dog who were kind enough to chase balls and twist-ties with me during the evenings. Thanks to the members who attended the workshop, I had a lot of fun and wow you folks did really well! So thanks again. :-) Below is a review of our workshop, written and printed in the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa's newsletter.

A Knotty Weekend

Workshop Review by Heather Taylor

The weekend of May 8th and 9th saw a committed group of lettering afficionados armed and ready to plunge into the fascinating and mysterious world of celtic art, as portrayed by artist Cari Buziak.

There are many books out there which aim to teach the traditional method of building knotwork and other ancient celtic designs, but sadly, a number of them lack a clear and concise approach. The "mechanics" of these methods yield mechanical results. Cari has developed her approach by studying the wonderful exemplars of centuries ago. Although many of the ancient artists used tools to help them attain consistency in their interlacings, they relied upon their creative imaginings to portray people, animals and abstract designs.

When I signed up for this workshop, I had already browsed Cari's website and was suitably impressed with her work. What I didn't know was how she would teach it to relative neophytes. Some of us had taken a workshop on knotwork in the past or had used the textbook methods. I was hoping for a fresh approach and I was not disappointed. At the same time, I was also curious to see how Cari has made these ancient designs come alive in 2004.

Our first day was spent trying out Cari's "big dot-little dot" method, familiar to most as the grid in which a knot design is laid out. Interlacing lines around the dots become the strands of the knot as they are woven together in an alternating "over-under" pattern. As we worked our pencils, one could hear a low-toned, Gregorian-like muttering around the room interspersed with sounds of erasing: calligraphers united in the under-over chant! The basic notes Cari provided each of us included the dotted grid as well as some typical grid layouts which, when completed, produce traditional knot designs such as a Celtic cross.

To everyone's credit and I think, great enjoyment, we progressed quickly through our knotty trials, replete with twisted jokes and dizzying puns, to begin to think "outside the dots". Cari showed us a very organic way to develop any sort of squiggle or doodle into the start of a free-style or abstract design. Freedom! We then explored how to fill in those areas of negative space created by the knot design using triskels, circular patterns, swirls and spirals, to name a few. This is where one's imagination can really expand. We discussed the approach to colour and Cari demonstrated how she has made use of modern mediums such as watercolour, markers and acrylics. Her down-to-earth, easy-going personality kept the tension out of our practice and made it more like play. In many ways, isn't that what it's all about?

We spent our second day learning how to depict zoomorphs, such as dogs, lions, dragons and snakes, those animals most commonly seen within the interlacing. Again, we benefitted from Cari's extensive study of these medieval creatures, whose bodies are stylized and generally do not resemble a living animal. Yet, because certain basic characteristics are retained, we still recognize them for what they should be!

I came away from the workshop with a renewed appreciation for celtic art and a renewed confidence and desire to continue on my own. On behalf of all of us, I thank Cari Buziak for sharing her special talents and her "knotty secrets" with us. Yes, Cari, you've drawn us into your world! Thanks also to our CSO workshop organizers for making it happen.