Daniel Mack

Casual Alchemy                          

Daniel Mack's Approach

Dan has been teaching for more than forty years. 

His very first course, The Many Faces of the City, was in 1968. For several Saturday mornings, he guided suburban high school students through the rich ethnic areas of downtown Toronto. It was "sociology" cloaked in the discovery of new foods, different languages, unusual smells, colors and objects.  

That is an approach he has continued to use throughout his teaching life: Just let people discover or resonate with the wondrous realities around them. Teaching is really just setting a good table; inviting people to join, to share what they know and who they are. It's creating--weaving-- a place or moment in time and space when people, in a group, can actively discover more about their own livliness and the delight of working with others. This approach trusts that learners can be partners in their own educational experience.

Dan has been a "professor" in graduate and undergraduate programs but always felt tired by the institutional gravity.  Even as "faculty" at arts and craft centers, he felt workshops dampened delicate primal curiosity by the implied connection to "work". 

His years at The Omega Institute, from 2000 to 2018, have allowed him to develop a fluid balance between the need for the clarity and order of teaching about tools, techniques and materials and the equally important need for how this all "fits" into the life of the learner. This has brought him to Casual Alchemy, a form of Creative Coaching: exploring non-traditional ways of learning, to accommodate the changing needs of learners 

Models and Metaphors for this approach

Haiku is the inspirational model for this group.  It is short and to the point. Yet it incorporates something of the season, the Moment, something of the heart, the Personal, and something larger, the Eternal.  There is a discovered Ah Ha

The "Haiku Ginko" is an organized walk where people come together to experience the same walk through nature as the basis of the haiku they'll be writing. We've done them here in Warwick in the cemetery and in the woods. . We are both together and alone.

MORE on:     Weaving    Pot Luck

Experiments in Casual Alchemy

2019  Several meetings at the local library on the topic of Creative Aging  A term for pleasantly cloaking the basic human need to figure out the ways through transition.

2018-2000  Workshops at Omega

2017-2001 Woodlander Gatherings

2009  a six-week on-line group for people who want to be in the virtual company of others who are making things in the Spirit of the Imagination.  It emphasizes accident, coincidence, dreams and things lost and found.   A group of us "associates" for six-weeks... creating a virtual alembic in which we all cook a bit differently than we do alone. It's really just a time to help yourself focus on some lingering creative interests. That's where Dan comes in as the "coach"... or weaver, helping keep your attention focussed--lightly--on tasks you've identified.

In that spirit, just being in contact, just being in the salon, has its own value.  If you choose or discover that sharing and sending objects to others or uploading pictures and comments is too jarring or time-consuming, you are welcome and encouraged to forge your own kind of connections with the group. It is likely that over the period of six weeks, you will develop several old and new ways of working with the others in the group. This is as much an experiment in affliation as it is in making..


Ability to scan or photograph work and upload in moderate size jpegs

Join the free site www.fineartamerica.com

Dan sends out the same or similar materials to all involved. 

         Do you want to see part of the first mailing?

Participants collect and send materials to the Organizer

Cost: $190   ... that’s $30/week + $10 postage for each workshop

Salons are action-oriented.    We are makers. 

1. We will be making several kinds of objects: 

Imaginal Trading Cards-- small (2½"x3½”) collages and

Imaginal Tools—found object assemblages which resemble common tools with handles, heads, purposes. 

Each has a different rhythm which reveals over the six weeks. Thomas Moore calls these things "magical decoys".

2. We will be foraging for imaginal experiences, liminal places, thresholds and recognized coincidences.

The Plan

In the first week, we all collect materials to share with others.  These materials are sent to the organizer who then assembles packages of shared materials for all in the Salon.


In the next five weeks: we work on the Cards or Tools, sharing thoughts, concerns, and uploading photos on-line at the Working with Natural Materials Group at fineartamerica.com


In response to the developing work, the Organizer comments on, shapes and re-shapes the themes of the collective work as expressed in a sets of cards or set of tools. The Organizer continues to provoke ongoing discussion and evolution of the work for the duration of the workshop.

2007          Learned from the 2007 on-line Salon:
This is an Imaginal Environment and not a curriculum. People will react to it differently.  People will work at different speeds and intensities and side projects and discussions between people will appear.  Some people will just want to watch what’s happening; others may engage very actively.  It all depends…   see a record of that course at  www.imaginalinstitute.com/imaginalcards.htm  

We encountered the indirect nature of virtual community.

Virtual community is built in spirals, twisting up and down, in and away.  Nobody is standing still in front of you for very long.  The geometry is not the line, the rectangle with its sides, not the circle.  Ach, that spiral.  The coffee keeps spilling!


Virtual community is built in real time, not linear time. 

If we all convened at a room for two hours a day for four weeks, that's one kind of community.  That's a kind we've all grown up with. Clear requirements and obligations... and probably some shared rules on how to behave when we were there. In virtual community, that's not the way.  We are released from that slightly medical model of behaving... "Oh, sick Students, Come Here and I will diagnose and prescribe.  You shall see yourself reflected in the sickness of others and ye shall get well. Just do what I tell you.  12 steps... homework, sponsors..."  

Virtual community thrives on misbehavior, on pathology.  (Have people really read all the course materials?)  So virtual community honors the complexity of soul-time, where nothing is really a pathology and time is not measured.

Virtual Community is viral.  Beacuse the rules are altered, violated, things seep in and linger, not unlike Lyme disease.  From my own on-line seminar experience in 2006, I had intense reaction to another person and it stayed with me in a way that I have found very supportive... but only a year later. Again, it reflects a shift in expected time frame.  Everything does not start and end in The Course.  Actually, nothing really starts in the course... it already has... and nothing really ends with the course. It can't. So the Course is a imprinted experience, waiting to become more or less active at another time.