Interest Groups


ALCHEMY participants interested in discussing alchemy related resources are meeting on a series of Monday evenings at Boatyard Brewing in Kalamazoo. Topics range widely from the historical roots of alchemy, poetry, philosophy, psychology and creativity. It’s an ever revolving group of people that show up, some the same, many new to the table, all pull from their bag of tricks thought-provoking additions to the discussion or tasty tidbits to accompany the good brew from Boatyard. The folks at Boatyard have been most generous in providing the space for our group in their back area where the garage door is flung wide; we’ve been lucky to have a good breeze and watch the sun set before us. Resources shared can be found on this website.

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Begin With A Rattle


ALCHEMY was welcomed into the enchanting home, studio, and gardens of Paul and Brenda Mergen, where we were introduced to their work, ever in progress, and lovingly attended to by artistic hands and thoughtful minds. Paul had much to share because as he sees it, he has been engaged in one alchemical examination after another. We strolled though their gardens so full with Michigan flora and art objects, nooks and crannies to behold and ponder. He showed us his collections, among those rattles and bells that we played with.


It was a consummate treat to see his and Brenda’s workshops. Her loom room vibrates with color and promise; his metalsmith shop with fire, chemistry, and magic. He read and then we discussed one of Jane Hirshfield’s poems, The Envoy from her book Given Sugar Given Salt. It was all nourishment to the soul, we left feeling peaceful and inspired.
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Exhibit at Ninth Wave Studio


Eight visual artists of Alchemy: An Artists & Writers Initiative accepted the Ninth Wave Studio invitation to exhibit their work during the month of July. The artists were: Kimberly Hosken Eberstein, Michael Dunn, Lad Hanka, Jana Hanka, Anna Ill, Honore Lee, Deborah Mattson and Linda Rzoska

The opening reception was during the July 8th Art Hop. If you missed the opening and you would like to visit the exhibit  – send a text message to (or call) Linda Rzoska and arrange a day and time to see the exhibit: 269-271-3161

13600104_1106891286050931_3903003034242508099_nNinth Wave Studio is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the historic Mary Louise Haynes House.

  • Ninth Wave Studio
  • Mary Louise Haynes House
  • 213 West Walnut Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • 269-271-3161

Below are photos of the hanging of the artwork and conversations of the participating artists. Click on the image to enlarge.



In Transit

Autumn Brown in her busOn June 15th Autumn Brown, metalsmith, drove her studio-bus to Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s home and studio! She talked to us about her life as a metalsmith and artist. She set the interior of her bus up with her concept laden, technically nuanced artworks, and those of other artists she admires. Her work is engaging, and fun to play with, many with locking component parts and creative fixings. You can view her works at her web page:

At her request we each brought a small object that contained both ceramic and metal, such as a spark plug or computer part. There were a number of whatsits, each with an aspect of conductivity, and each with a story. 

Bus and Margraitte.jpg

The poet Margaret DeRitter talked to us about the chemistry behind steel and then circulated a writing prompt that she linked to the subject of the evening. In all, it was interesting and enjoyable!

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The Transformative Present with Horses 


On Saturday, May 14th, Kristin DeKam introduced the basic principles of equine therapy, that is, using horses to deepen our awareness of body, emotional intelligence, and intuition from a non-predatory point of view. We discussed essays she distributed in advance, excerpts from the equine-learning specialist, Linda Kohanov’s books, The Power of the Herd and The Way of the Horse. As well, to prep for discussion she instructed us to watch the film, Dakota 38 as an “… an example of how and why the Dakota people are using horses in long distance, ceremonial rides.”

002Kristy divided us into groups and half went with her to interact with her horses, Max and Tess. Through her guidance we focused on activities that help mind and body be present, which is at the heart of all equine learning and therapy. She states, “Horses are master teachers of emotional and intuitive intelligence. They are expert readers of emotions, body language, and environmental cues as a means of survival and well being.”

004The other group stayed back with the poet, Billy Reynolds. We discussed the readings together and then he provided us with a inspiring writing prompt. We then switch groups so all of us were able to experience all that was offered. Later we enjoyed a beautiful potluck lunch, and discussion was intimate and interesting. In all, it was deep and rejuvenating work. Kristy generously offered to meet with this group again to further the work.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

WORKSHOP schedule

Images and recaps of workshops can be found under WORKSHOP RECAPS here:

Tuesday, January 26, 6-8:00

We Find Our Way: Our first meeting will remind us of the depth of The Project’s participants. We will lead into a discussion of alchemy generally and cited passages from Alchemy of Love You will receive these via email within the week. Please come on the 26th having bonded with at least one of the passages, enough to engage in conversation about it.

Place:                      Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s studio

Monday, February 8th, 6-8:30

Chemists are People Too: Steve Bertman will speak to us about the idea that although scientists are often parodied, they are in fact inspired and driven by the beauty and power of nature. Elizabeth Kerlikowske will formulate a writing prompt!

Place:                      Steve Bertman’s home

Saturday, February 20th, 9:30 – 3

Form & Surface: Vicki VanAmeyden, Honore Lee, and Mary Whalen will demonstrate both digital and handwork approaches to manipulate surface and spatial relationships by combining, removing, constructing, and deconstructing. Participants will learn techniques to add text and actual texture to an image: transfer, chine-collé, monoprint, transposition, stitching, etc. Digital media methods using photography, scanning, image manipulation, and printing will be covered as well.

Place:                      Kalamazoo Institute of Art- Print Studio

Tuesday, March 22nd 6:30 – 8:30

The Vocabulary of Short Forms: Elizabeth Kerlikowske will present an overview of short poetic forms, how they are most effective and what they can accomplish.

Place:                      Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s studio

Thursday, April 7th, 6-9

Black Magic Mark Making: A night of drawing and brew-ha with the illustrious Michael Dunn! The equally celebrated Susan Ramsey will concoct the writing prompt!

Place:                      Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s studio

Monday, April 25th , 6-9

Rattling the Alchemy Behind Clay, Story and Fire: Anna Ill will provide us with an evening of culling our stories and finding an image to integrate into our own clay rattle. Robert Post will rig us with a writing prompt!

Place:                      Boatyard Brewery (backroom) è432 E Paterson St, 49009

Saturday, May 14th 10am – 1pm

The Transformative Present with Horses: Kristin DeKam will introduce the basic principles of equine therapy, that is, using horses to deepen our awareness of body, emotional intelligence, and intuition from a non-predatory point of view. Billy Reynolds will charge us with a writing prompt.

Place:                      Kristin’s farm

Wednesday, June 15th, 6:30-8:30 

In Transit: Autumn Brown, metalsmith, will show up to Elizabeth’s with her studio-bus! She will talk to us about the alchemy of CeraMetal, and life as a metalsmith. Bring a small object that contains both ceramic and metal, such as a spark plug, computer part, and any whatsit with an aspect of conductivity! Margaret DeRitter will circulate the writing prompt!

Place:                      Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s studio

Monday, June 27  6:30-8:30ish

ALCHEMY Interest Group: Many of us have discovered fascinating resources about Alchemy, and Elizabeth King suggested that we start a special interest group for those who love to share and discuss Alchemy related topics. For our first meeting we’ll share our resources. Please bring one resource, alchemy related, that you’ve found intriguing, useful or insightful. Possibilities include a book, a website, or an article. You are also welcome to come, listen, and form opinions!

Place:                         Boatyard Brewery (backroom) è432 E Paterson St, 49009

Thursday, July 28, 5:30 for cocktails! or 6-8:30ish 

Begin with a Rattle: Paul Mergen has invited us to his home and studio which is a container filled with a lifetime of artisan collections including rattles and other objects of power. As well, their land is a labor of love and magical. In all, it will be a treat.

Place:                         Paul and Brenda Mergen’s studios

Monday, August 8, 6:30-8:30ish

ALCHEMY Interest Group: After the first meeting on June 27th we will send an email and let everyone know what we will be discussing today.

Place:                         Boatyard Brewery (backroom) è432 E Paterson St, 49009

BB has great hand-crafted drafts, as well as snacks, and they’ve been generous in allowing us to meet in their space. (We can also bring our own eats, but please, no alcohol other than their offerings.)

Saturday, August 13, 4 p.m. for Bread making demo or 5:00-9

Mysticism, ALCHEMY, and Bread: Join us as we look at some of the more mystical aspects of alchemy! Jana Hanka will take us through the shamanistic doorway; Debbie Eisenbise will query the tarot with a question we all agree on; Sydnee will query the IChing with the same. Hedy Habra will fill us in historically and conjure the writing prompt. At 4:00 p.m. Sydnee will share her magically easy recipe for the MOST delicious seedy salt yeast rise bread!

Place:                         Sydnee Peter’s home and studio

Wednesday, September 21 6:30 – 9:30

The play’s the thing. Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, William Shakespeare: Hamlet’s alchemy: using a play as a scheme to expose a murderer, changing drama into a truth-detector. Focusing on dialogue techniques, this workshop has the potential to transform participants’ writing, be it fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or simple day-to-day communication. Participants will possibly never look at or use dialogue in the same way again.

Place:                                   Arnie and Debby Johnston’s home

Saturday, October 22  11-3 or 11-5 if you want to leave with your charcoal – otherwise you will need to retrieve yours from Sydnee at a later date.

Fire     Wood     Charcoal     Rope: Paul will provide a variety of types of wood but he invites you to bring a wooden object you would like to see transformed into charcoal. The line between firm charcoal and something more fragile is fine so your object should be interesting but not too precious. It should also be dry wood and a maximum of 6-8” on its longest dimension. If we time it right everyone will leave with a transformed object and a bag of charcoal suitable for drawing or grilling. While we wait for our wood to transform into charcoal, Paul Mergen has offered to show us the fine art of rope making and fire breathing!

Place:                                   Paul Nehring and Amelia Hanson’s home and studio’s

Friday, November 11, 10am – 3 or 4pm

ENCAUSTIC MAGIC: In this workshop Linda Rzoska will provide an exploration into the art of painting with encaustic. Elizabeth King will be aiding and abetting! In combination with encaustic – workshop participants will be introduced to embedding elements into wax, incorporating mixed media such as oil pastels and paper as well as a variety of mark making devices and techniques. You will learn about how to manage the medium and materials and safe studio practices. Basic materials for all workshops will be supplied in the studio for an additional fee. Materials fee includes: panels, encaustic medium, clean up medium, oil pastels, some collage materials and the use of tools.

Place:Linda’s studio at Ninth Wave Studio, Second Level, 213 W. Walnut, Kazoo


Chemists Are People Too

Dr. Steve BertmanSteeped in readings about Jung and Alchemy, as well a book on the periodic table called The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, a group of us braved Michigan’s winter with her icy roads and were rewarded with a beautiful woodland scene at the welcoming home of Dr. Steve Bertman, atmospheric chemist and chemistry professor at Western Michigan University. Steve led a discussion about what science is, what it does in context of the study of nature; and chemistry, which specifically analyses the world at the atomic level. Dr. Bertman credited the early alchemists with inventing equipment that later scientists benefitted from. He introduced numerous ideas particular to the world of chemistry including how symmetry plays out as a theme, and gave the fascinating example of the enantiomer which are molecules that mirror one another yet are not superimposable. He discussed differences between the alchemists and the chemist, how the alchemist was committed to learning about the world we live in and scientists insist upon clearly defined methods to test notions. He posed questions such as, what is the connection between creativity and curiosity? In all, the evening generated much thoughtful discussion.  All of us in the ALCHEMY Initiative are seekers of what makes the world around us tick; some of us have or had other lives seeped in scholarship in one of the sciences which led us into our work as writers or artists.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske provided the writing prompt based on the Periodic Table of Elements and a writing technique called “Cleaving”. We were instructed to write a poem that works the way the periodic table works: when read across it means one thing and when it is read from up to down it has another meaning.

Click on images to enlarge.