Daylight Savings Should Last All Year

It’s the time of year when we Midwesterners grasp with delight (and no small amount of desperation) at every scrap of sunshine we’re granted, something which is not present at all in Chicago today.  I had a pleasant goofy Triptophan Fest with Paul’s family, over-ate, recuperated and walked a few miles the next (sunny!) day, and yesterday, on the last day of the Respite show, I drove down to Pilsen (another sunny day!) to spend a lovely afternoon documenting, eating more lovely food and talking with Shawn and a few friends who stopped by the gallery…that rich, delicious, not always comfortable type of conversation that resonates long afterwards.  This morning, I worked on my photos and put up a web page of Respite. (Maybe that’s something comparable to daylight savings: artwork savings…the show can continue to exist, backlit on your screen).

The day before Thanksgiving, I found out that I’ll definitely be spending the winter at home. I had only applied for one winter residency, and, though it was offered to me with generous partial funding, it wasn’t the full fellowship I applied for, so I can’t afford to go.   I’m spending this grey day taking care of web biznizz, finishing off a fat pile of recommendation letters (that activity will carry over till Tuesday), writing new course descriptions, and planning some of what will be happening here during those winter months.  To that end, on the way home from Vespine yesterday, I bought a slide scanner to augment my all-in-one printer’s scanner,  for the re-vamping of the web site and the digitizing of great quantities of Too Much Stored Stuff.  (I still need to get a shredder). Tomorrow I take the show down, pack it securely and cart it directly to storage, and then finish more admin and prep for a crazy weekend coming up, with one event after another for three days in a row (most all of them great, fun things, but at a fairly frantic all-over-town pace).  Hopefully, there will be sun for some of it!

Working Questions

Sunday’s brand-new Portable Papermaking class was excellent, if small. I transported a setup that would allow everyone to work simultaneously to the shop, gave a presentation, went over the handouts I’d made, demonstrated the setup and processes, then turned people loose while I circulated, answering questions and advising. Everyone worked and experimented enthusiastically for a few hours, and then we used two pressing methods, including my odd new portable vacuum press. (I got the idea for it at Women’s Studio Workshop, when I fell in love with their superb vacuum table. After Ragdale, I acquired components, then tinkered about in my basement studio till it worked…beautifully!) Everyone energetically pitched in on the cleanup, which is part of the class: if you’re going to do this, it’s an essential part of the process. (We were done and packed up in time for me to get to an opening at the Noyes Center afterwards; I’d thought I might have to miss it).

It was a lot of work, yet thoroughly satisfying, just as the class in San Antonio was, and on the way home, I realized with a jolt: I still like teaching.

Not only the in-class time, but the entire process: creating a class to expand and enhance a group of course offerings (or even a curriculum), deciding what will and won’t be presented as well as how that will happen, designing sequencing and structure, researching topics and techniques I don’t personally use that will nonetheless amplify the experience, writing supplemental materials, and in this case, making samples.  It’s something that seems to come naturally to me; not by any means effortlessly, mind you, but it’s challenging work that I enjoy and am damned good at. (I once designed a grad course to teach other artists to teach art, taught it for years, and liked it as much as my studio classes). Yeah, I still like teaching* as a job. I’m not at all sure I’m entirely pleased with that realization.

For a long time now, I’ve considered workshop teaching to simply be  a temporary juncture, a bridge to The Next Phase, and I’m definitely not relinquishing that view. Yet, I’ve been looking for an earning-a-living direction that ‘feels right’ and so far, nothing has approached the fit of making and teaching these classes.  So now, I have to re-open myself to questions about something I thought I’d ruled out; the lid has popped back off this particular can of worms.  The first and most essential question is: Can I make a feasible living at teaching without re-entering academe?

Fortunately, I do have time to come up with the answers, to that and a host of questions that follow, and to continue to explore new directions as well…and the workshop teaching is providing that cushion.

My next ‘big’ event, I hope, will be retrieving the Beautiful Bronze Beater! (It needed more work than originally planned, but is now nearing completion). I’ve been in the basement studio a lot, planning the major space revisions that will soon be carried out to accommodate it, and also having a veritable blast with fibers harvested from my garden. Except for the Triptophan Fest, and having the time to get back to the woods, that’s how I’ll be spending this much quieter holiday week, before winding up November by taking down Respite. I will document the entire show beforehand, though, and post the images.

* (Specifically, I am truly liking teaching paper processes, which is rather ironic.)

Anyhow: Happy Thanksgiving to U.S. folks who celebrate it, direct to you from from my pulpy, booky sanctuary.


If you aren’t sick of ‘Listen’ images, the lovely Sarah Burt has put up a fine set of me working at  Women’s Studio Workshop on Flickr.

Here’s the set – or here’s the slideshow.

I honestly do not remember her shooting these, though she must have been right there! My only excuse (besides broken ears) is that this was the stage when everything was coming together. This shot’s my favourite, because that is so surely my head.

Thank you, Sarah!  I can’t wait to return to WSW – more on that soon! (ps – I recycled all those sheets that are air-drying).

So: There!

Listen, 2009, Melissa Jay Craig: 15 reconfigurable pieces,cast and hand-shaped abaca, this view approximately 12′ x 12′ x 2″

So, I’m just not a PR whiz. At all. For one thing, I got asked a million times this past weekend for for my card, and it simply didn’t occur to me till then that I’d neglected to make one for myself after I tossed the box of old faculty ones. (Fortunately, I’m quite Google-able). For another, I’m too busy on the next few things to get down to Vespine until maybe this weekend at the soonest, to properly document the show (or at least, as properly as I self-document).

But, Paul Germanos (who I don’t know) published three lovely shots on his Flickr site the next day (thanks!) of portions of my part of the show.  And, I have finally put multiple views of Listen, taken as each stage progressed, on my web site.  (Though, if you want to read what I have to say about the work, you should scroll down and do that first, before you click on any of the images, due to the quirky limitations of iWeb – see, a PR whiz would probably never use iWeb).

Now it can also be told: I didn’t want to publish full images before Listen was shown because it’s much easier to read when reduced to a photo. It’s configured differently at Vespine, and I have made some minor additions since the above photo was shot at Ragdale, but I couldn’t beat the lovely even natural light of the Meadow Studio.

Sunday’s talk was not the best I’ve ever given, though people said they enjoyed it. I was (and still am) feeling just a wee bit off, possibly from steadily consuming way too much sugar lately. There were many more cookies and cupcakes than people, but it was a nice number of folks for the space and it was wonderful to see several people I haven’t seen in a long time, and meet new folks, all of whom came out on a chilly, dreary Sunday.  (Thanks!)   Now: back to the basement studio, where I am gleefully conducting experiments.

Much More Than Respite


Openings and/or Artists’ Receptions are a fact of any artist’s life. They’re usually quite pleasant, though on rare occasions, I’ve had people wanting to argue about what they see (and, truth be told, I sometimes relish that, just for the atypical interaction). Generally, I need to take a lot of hearing breaks to rest my ears; there are almost always natural lulls in the attendance that work out beautifully for those; and invariably, I smile and say ‘oh, thank you’ so much that my face can hurt the next day.

The reception for ‘Respite’ last night was incredible!  I planned to arrive a bit early to document the work*, but the doors were already open before the ‘official’ hours, for the East Pilsen neighborhood’s monthly Second Friday artwalk, and it was crowded when I got there…and then ‘crowded’ quickly escalated to ‘packed’ and it stayed continuously, riotously so for an entire four hours.  There was not one..single…lull, not even a slight tapering off.  It went way, way beyond ‘pleasant’ and it will remain one of my favourite opening experiences of all time.


So: I want to thank Vespine, very much.  ‘Respite’ is this year’s version of their annual November invitational show; they came up with the idea and title early last June, while I was at Women’s Studio Workshop, offering the show to me, JE Baker and Maria Jose Prenafeta-pepi, as artists who might need some respite from stress. A bit later on, the show grew to include Amanda Meeks, Marnie Galloway, Sarah F. VogelShayna Cohen and Suzi Cozzens (aka Suzette En Croute) for the same reasons. Those reasons had nothing at all to do with last night’s incredible attendance, however: it was obvious throughout the evening that the big draw was the art, and the art alone….hooray! This was Chicago supporting Chicago artists, and people were engaging with the work on a very thorough level: excellent.


People reading Sarah F Vogel’s books. They read all the wall text, too…!

Women’s Studio Workshop gave the show (and me!)  a lovely shout-out from afar yesterday; I also want to thank them for their continuing incredible support.

A personal pleasure that added to the entire experience was the fact that I used to live at Vespine; it was my home and studio for many, many years, before I moved in with Paul. Today, I’m recuperating a bit, and smiling a lot while I assemble slides for my talk tomorrow at Evanston Print & Paper. I’m thinking that Eileen’s ‘She’s Back’ applies to the entire weekend for me.

Also, most especially, thanks to everyone who came out last night. (And I am wishing Aimee a similar lovely experience at her reception in Lake George tonight.)


*I couldn’t!  Coming soon, I promise.

Been Too Busy To Blahg


” I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” – Molly Ivins


Make that select parts of Texas: San Antonio was as great this year as Austin was last year.  The class went stupendously well. People were working like mad things all over the studios (so true that I never got everyone into one photo) and the Sparks were flying! The class (and the, well, rave anonymous course evaluations – thanks, folks!) left me with a great deal to contemplate regarding the differences between short, intense teaching experiences as opposed to long involved mentorships.  (Well, I will when things slow down to a contemplative pace.)


I stayed with folks whose company I truly find a great deal of pleasure in, and it was wonderful to hang out again: easy and enjoyable.  Another friend drove down from Austin on Sunday night, and in a short space of time, amid laughter, fine Tex-Mex and storytelling, we hatched some stirring plans. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while will soon become a reality, with a brilliant twist, thanks to Judy’s idea. I’m excited!


They were full, busy days and I was happily tired each night. I didn’t have the time or inclination to cram in tourist-y stuff on top of it, but I did have an hour or two here and there just to observe all the amazingly odd things that grow in that part of Texas, which I love to do.  And every day, I got to pick and eat fresh Satsuma oranges from Beck’s laden front yard tree: sublime.  Monday, between packing up at the school studio and getting on the plane, I had a wee while to wander the San Antonio Riverwalk, which also felt like visiting an old friend. It’s one of the finest features of any city I’ve ever visited, and Beck helped clarify its appeal for me when she said, “It’s on such a human scale”.



Up in the air, heading east, I popped for internet access just for the hell of it, and discovered that an odd new class I’d proposed was accepted (similar in book-ness to the San Antonio class’s paper-ness). Home, and Paul was off teaching, but had laid in some of my favorite food; I unpacked and tackled massive paperwork for the morning.  Yesterday, bright and early, and for hours, I was instructed by a pleasant, friendly woman in the draconian processes of how and when I can collect unemployment while free-lancing (She said, “Oh, I understand.  I was married to two artists. Not at the same time, mind you.”). And then, back home, a nice new solo show came in, booked for a year from now.


This weekend, the Respite reception at Vespine, and a talk at Evanston Print and Paper, both of which promise to have a healthy attendance.

I have to say, I am liking the New Life so far, and I have every indication that it’s going to continue.  I’m just as busy as I ever was, but…no…stress. It’s  charged, positive energy all the way.


Speaking of which, here is a lovely interview with Aimee Lee, and another, and I also thank her for the shout-out.

I also want to shout out about this great class with Alicia Bailey out at Hook Pottery Paper, and, if you are in Chicago, this sale; Andrea and Jon make marvelous things, and I love the way the New Life is working for them, as well.

More evidence that positive energy multiplies; it creates its own abundance.


Delicious abundance!

Are We Having Fun Yet?


I am, actually (having fun)…but am also assuredly feeling a wee bit zippy.  October’s quiet, contemplative, organizational energy has given way to full tilt full speed ahead.  I’ve been in the studio the past few days, tweaking the work for Respite…and, of course, that planned work time was interrupted by sudden, unforeseen bureaucratic needs that stole an entire day and a half (sigh).  Today: finish two days’ worth of work in one day, pack everything up for the show as well as some stuff for Texas. Tomorrow: load up the show, drive to Vespine, unload, install, a quick dinner with friends, drive back home, finish the packing and Friday: fly to San Antonio.  And it won’t calm down when I return. So, while, I’m doing all that, if you are in Chicago:

Jerry Bleem, one of my favorite artists, has a new show up, which I’m determined to get to see when I return.  This time around, he’s using American flags rather than fish scales, termite wings, or postage stamps.   This weekend, RAR RAR press will be showcased at the MCA.  And Site Unseen is happening at the Cultural Center. Read this about curator Julie Laffin, one of my favorite performance artists of all time. I love her absolutely innovative solution to her current limitations.

(I’m sure, in addition to missing two of these great events, I’m missing other shout-outs, but: sorry,  I’ve got to get back to it!)