How I Relax

The May back garden. All these alliums started from two initial bulbs years ago.

Something else that inevitably happens when I get home is a period of being overwhelmed, of being hit with the weight of all the physical stuff of my own life and Paul’s contained in this house, of all the unfinished work on the building itself. It can be numbing.

Usually I lament it but then need to take off again, and very little gets resolved.  This week I got moving, and at least a small percentage of it is now out of my life, making way for the new.  It helps that it’s been raining / storming/ cool.  When it hasn’t been wet, I’ve slowly begun to address the gardens. That’s essential to me; working with growing things has so very many perks, not the least of which is an insight into time.  The tritoma I started from seed last year survived the winter and should bloom this year; so did the wee kozo tree, which will soon get its permanent home. Hollyhocks I’m trying to establish in one area reappeared where I wanted them to, but several also came up in the middle of the back lawn.

Below: ‘Spring: Concentrated’, made for the Penland scholarship auction. 

It went to a very good home.

I’m thinking forward these days, so still no writing about even the recent past.  Not very far forward, yet, mind you: just a personally exciting way to realize a project I very much wanted to do that was turned down a few weeks ago, including a way to tie it to two previous commitments.

I’m still making these and thinking about them.  The one on the right also went to the auction, along with a conventional blank book and a martini glass.

When I put up my summer schedule, it pleased me, a good slowed, steady pace with plenty of time for these other things, plus a significant family event in July;  but then a (thankfully) persistent curator reminded me of something else I’d committed to that had simply fallen off my radar. That was highly embarrassing, so I’m grateful to her (and will add it to the online lists soon). Though I’m thinking forward, I’m still not inclined to apply for anything and yet there are four nice things booked for 2012…I think this is all good.

The annuals, fewer every year, await a dry day.  

“that same ol’ place”

Well, here it is again: I hit sweet home Chicago, spend a few days decompressing and then I get swallowed. Currently I’m busy with more  unexpected-deadline research work, fortunately interspersed with a spate of pleasant events involving family and friends. Other than unpacking, packing and more shipping there’s been no studio, no gardening…and no time to write about Penland yet.  But wait! You can read about the class and get some insight into the whole Penland experience, written as it happened, thanks to lovely Linnie Trettin. (I wasn’t planning to use her full name, but she’s already been outed). Lots of photos, too!

These are just a few of my favourite handmade things that came home from Penland: on top, a lovely little felted lichen by Ingrid, who is from Sweden.  I had to have it!  Had to.  I wore it for the first time to a party last night, pinned to my sweater.  Above, what I’m calling my new whisky tot by Cynthia Bringle, who told me I had to pick out something I would use.  I’ve always wanted a special glass for special drams, and this is not only gorgeous, it felt just perfect in my hand, fitted beautifully.  Be sure to read about Cynthia at her site. And below, Char astounded me by giving me this incredible heavy glass bottle she’d glazed with real silver…

Another Interlude

I’ve been home since Tuesday night, and am still quite tired and so am blissfully relaxing. For the first time in six years, I’ll be home till late summer (except for a nearby solo show), and I’m very happy about that.  The past nine weeks gave me a great deal to write about, but at the moment, I am just not in the mood for words, nor for the various manifestations of the internet. Mostly, I am thinking about the gardens, about what to plant and about being here to enjoy the growing, and of working in my own studio, which is lovely and cool in summer: perfect. 

Brian Dettmer sent me this photo last week.  It was part of a feature on books in the Sunday magazine of El Periodico de Catalunya, a large newspaper in Spain. It’s titled “Books with Interior Lives” and tells where to find Brian’s work in Barcelona, talks about the DCCA exhibition, and says: “Visual lesson for those who question the future of the physical book. Example: book-mushroom by Melissa Jay Craig.”  Muchas gracias.


This excellent book is by Amanda Thatch, Penland Core student: I absolutely loved how she took the long / link stitch structure and ran with it. (More to come).

It is also where I am, in the midst of all that flat land in Dayton, Ohio…I’ll be driving through the flattest of all in a day or two on the rest of my way home.  Below is where I am not, anymore (sigh). I will miss Penland; and I will return, definitely, if they’ll have me.

This is part of what I drove through yesterday, portions of Tennessee that were flooded to make recreation lands.  An overlook shortly before the Cumberland Gap tunnel and the bland interstate highways…

I am now visiting the Bro, who wore clown makeup when I painted his portrait about 30 years ago; I didn’t wear any for my wee self-portrait (painted with my left hand) shortly afterward.  Yes, my hair looked like that; yes, Bro was wearing one of those shirts with the three-inch collars.  We have much to catch up on for the next few days. There’s SO, so much left to write about Penland, and Delaware as well, but that will happen after I get home and settled.  Or as settled as I get.  See you then.


The penultimate Penland week is over and it was good; mostly I was here in my role as advisor, and most everyone is working away on several projects.  I’m very pleased that said projects are quite wildly varied and that some also extend on out of the class.  Something that’s been brought back to my attention while I’ve been here (which is in no way exclusive to this place) is that all too often when I see books or other projects, I know exactly who the person showing them has studied with.  Sometimes it’s a signature technique or structure that’s barely been changed, if at all; other times, particularly in the academic world, it’s concept or subject matter, taken on to achieve approval and/or decent grades. That’s sad to me, especially when I am jurying a show and see such cloned works. Copying to learn can be a good thing initially, perhaps the very first time, but it is a copy, a model. I want my students, whatever the learning context may be, to learn to make their own work.

I’ve been asked if I would teach here again in the future.  Yes, I definitely would, but I would want to teach a class I designed and proposed.  I would want to cover a little less territory, and go into each area more in depth.  I have always had certain difficulties teaching courses other people have designed, no matter how much respect I have for the other teacher or how similar our outlooks might be. In this case, we did manage to touch on everything in the class description, and added a few other things besides. I have one more talk left to do on Monday: how you can do this (to some extent) at home, essentially a mini Portable Papermaking session, so I’m wrapping up with something of my own.

Friday, everyone’s needs were taken care of by mid-afternoon, and I decided to head out for a bit…then suddenly, on the spur of the moment I contacted Mary, and she was free for the evening!  I threw a change of clothes in a bag, went down to Black Mountain and we went to dinner and had a fine evening.  I was happy about that; she was busy all day Saturday (in fact, she got up and left at 6 am) and then was flying out of town till well after Penland is over for me…we’d resigned ourselves to missing each other, but didn’t have to, hooray! (Though the not very much wine we drank gave me an incredible bout of insomnia and made me too bleary for the next night’s wood studio party).

The week was not good at all for good folks in Tuscaloosa; you probably also already know what happened as a result of the tornado. Warm and wonderful Steve Miller, who (among many other great things) puts out the Book Artists and Poets podcast series, lost his beautiful house. Here’s how you can help in general, and Steve in particular…I will be doing so next week, as soon as I get to a branch of my bank (there are none in this state).

Other things out in the world: the Hand Papermaking auction, which is only on for a week, and a nice blogmention.