Search Response(s)


Video still circa 1990, just for fun.

I’m seeing an increasing number of searches for ‘Melissa Jay Craig classes / workshops 2012’ which is very nice: thank you!  I do have some excellent ones scheduled for summer, and am currently in talks about a couple more. I’ll post them here as soon as each goes live for registration! (My web site is still frozen in limbo, and likely to remain that way for awhile; I can’t add anything to it. So please check back here or on my Facebook page.) My final 2011 workshop is the new, extended two-day Portable Papermaking at Evanston Print and Paper on December 10 and 11, and I believe there are still spaces open.

I’ll be giving a workshop and critique sessions in conjunction with this solo show in January, but for St. Ambrose University students only.  However, the artist’s talk and reception are open to all, so if you are nearby, please come and say hi.

And, if you are in Miami tomorrow through Sunday, Zia Gallery will be representing my work at ArtNow.

There have also been searches for Natural Cycles: Sustainability in Book and Paper Arts.  My web site woes, the fact that the formatting options of Blahg leave much to be desired, and other projects are causing me some delay getting it online. I am experimenting with a few new ways to present the show, and I truly hope to publish one here soon!



I am feeling quiet and private after a rich holiday weekend.  The time didn’t go quite according to my very loose plan: I’m much further ahead on some tasks than I had anticipated, and still sluggishly behind on others.

So here is some very good and impressive news from out there. Granted, it seems slow, but bravo to Denmark for taking the official lead.  On a tiny scale, I was pleased to be termed an activist, as well, though activism through art seems to be an even slower, oblique process, one in which artists are largely preaching to the choir. Hermine Ford articulates my stance almost exactly, much better than I can myself, in this essay:

“Artists are not obligated to play a public political role, or express politics in their work though they may, and often do. However, as private citizens they have the same responsibilities as do all citizens of a democracy. I am a very political person, but I don’t make political art. However, one can make the case that all art is political on some level. The best art comes from a place of deep freedom, freedom and the empowerment to explore oneself, and through that to find commonality as well as difference. One could say that in itself is a political act. I do not experience a conflict between public and private concerns. The work I do as an artist provides the opportunity to make those concerns one and the same. I make work for myself and for others. If, through my work I provide a life raft for myself, I also provide a life raft for a few others. The individual’s responsibility, both in the public realm and in our own work, is to stay clean, “speak truth to power,” keep all dictators, including dictators of taste, the market, the academy, at bay.”


I love holiday weeks because the energy focus changes, becomes less urgent. The inboxes and texts have calmed down. My plan is to both relax and quietly wrap up projects over the weekend, hopefully allowing much of December in the studio: something to be grateful for indeed.

The lovely print above is by Marilyn Sward, done in 2006.  I had forgotten about it until I ran across it this week, carefully tucked away. On the back is a note full of good things that can still make me blush, including a bit about ‘organizing’. I’ve mounted it and hung it on my office wall so that I will never forget so very many things.

Here’s a nice review of Natural Cycles by Sara Burrows that came out this week in a number of North Shore local papers; big thanks to Alicia Bailey as well: I am honored.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Lost in Translation

Most of the current round of writing is done and delivered now, except for one project that’s giving me trouble.  Yesterday, I gave it up and escaped to Ryerson Woods to document the show, and realized that (though I’ll still make a page) it’s going to be a very unsatisfactory, anemic collection of images on a web page; photos don’t at all translate the highly interactive experience, the essence of being there.

Then I spent a couple of hours walking the trails, clearing and cleaning my brain and myself, letting the calligraphy of trees, the drama of omnipresent lifecycles, the curiosity of critters, and the swelling symphony of scents do the profound, simultaneously exciting and peaceful things they do for me.  I tried to think of ways to put that in words, and realized: I can’t.  Some of what I experience comes through in my work, imperfectly; it is its source, and that will have to do.

 I spent some time with the farm animals as well, particularly enjoying the company of two fat, bright-eyed, short-legged, mischievious wee pygmy goats: comedians.

It was a numbing week: dealing with volumes of pesky details, wrestling with the writing, internally questioning a great deal, looking at things I’ve too long avoided confronting (yet reaching no conclusions); becoming incredibly upset and angry over the systematic attacks on the Occupy movements (mitigated only somewhat by the response at the Brooklyn Bridge), and too many bouts of insomnia…an uncomfortable, deadening sludge. The only time I felt alive, wholly present in my body and in time was during those few hours communing with trees and little goats.  There’s something wrong with this picture, or at least its proportions.

Definitely I feel far, far removed from things like this (I forget what I originally sold these for; I gave most of them to friends) or this (Zia is mentioned in ArtNow.  I’m glad they’re going, and that they’re happy, but it would be a zombie nightmare for me).

Some new same old

The view till Wednesday, at least.

I’ve been back in full-tilt, nothing-else writing mode for the past few days with a few more days to (ahem) look forward to. I discovered (to my dismay) that on my calendar, I’d put the correct day, wrong month on a project that was due in October, not November, quickly contacted the people involved, and found that the piece is still wanted, so now I’m working furiously on that. The very next incoming e-mail brought the same situation with another deadline, only this time it was the folks who needed the info who’d sent the wrong month: November, not December.  So, I’m working on that, and on two more similar projects as well, of course all due -or overdue- at the same time. None, alas, are proposals. This morning, I finished writing responses to a lengthy e-mail interview about Natural Cycles, and sent that off. All this has kept me from getting back up to document the show, but lovely Marnie of Monkey Rope Press has blogged about it (with photos), so here it is, while I write and write and write.

(This post-publish message provided by WordPress, just for fun – I like the readers I’ve got, thankyouverymuch:

You used the following categories and tags: Deadlines and exhibitions. Add a couple more to make your post easier for others to discover. Some suggestions: mail interviewnatural cyclestime none and dismay.)


New Things

I’m now represented by Zia Gallery in the Chicago area. They’ve already made a page for me on their site. Zia is a young-ish gallery in the area, just over a year old; it’s a small space with big ideas that I liked a lot. They’ll be part of Art Now at Art Miami / Basel next month. Currently, Zia has eight pieces of mine ‘in stock’ and my work will be featured in a show there from the end of November 2012 through early January 2013.

It’s a whole new adventure for me.  Gallery representation has never been much of a personal goal or interest.  (I’ve been affiliated with Gallery Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas, for several years, and I definitely enjoy that, but this is a wee bit different, and local to boot). Beyond sending out a small Chicago mailing many, many years ago, and once dropping off some slides to a local gallery a smart friend said would be ‘ideal’ for me (all of which were ignored), it’s something I’ve never pursued.  The galleries I’ve shown in have found me, which is how I prefer to roll.  I know that’s exactly the opposite of what young artists are firmly taught to do, but it’s how I am. So, I thank Zia, and I’m looking forward to learning what this is all about.  It felt appropriate to formally begin on Halloween / Samhainn.

The mail recently brought an inscribed copy of this (relatively) new book by Sylvia Ramos Alotta, along with a nice note. Sylvia took my bookbinding classes in grad school, many years ago. She has an amazing ability to make rapid, accurate sketches, (while simultaneously building the books!) and her drawing style is impeccable. So, if you wish, you can see several structures I taught in Bookbinding 1 and Intermediate, circa 2000-2002, along with classes by Barbara Korbel, Scott Kellar, Maria Fredericks, Betsy Palmer-Eldridge and RaeAnn Collins. It’s an excellent resource, particularly for visual learners. For me, it provided many memories, since I evolved the structures, handouts and class content considerably in later years.

Some works of mine will be included in this upcoming book, as well.  Thanks to Jen Thomas, whose work is also featured, for letting us all know (via Facebook) that it can be pre-ordered.  The editor was just lovely to work with. I suspect (and hope) I’ll be seeing some of you in there as well!

(As long as I have all this ‘me’ stuff today, I might as well add that I’m pleased that Ryerson Woods chose an image of my work to represent their ‘Green Design’ programs this year, which included ‘Natural Cycles’. And now, back to a whole whole lot o’ tedious admin.)

A sweet warm November day

A bit of the Ryerson Woods Preserve

When a show opens on Sunday, Monday feels like a weekend, especially when it also includes the ‘fall back’ aspect of daylight savings time.  I’m sitting here in the wan November light, blogging, answering e-mail, finally organizing my over-cluttered MacBook desktop and chatting to a friend in NY about mimeograph machines; nice.

Brushwood; we exhibited in two lovely rooms, the foyer, and a wide long corridor that runs the length of the house, which has curved archways dividing it.

Shawn Sheehy and I worked hard but had a fine time installing Natural Cycles last week.  One of the reasons I personally wanted to do the show was to interact with the fantastic, beautiful space in the historic Brushwood House.  It had its quirks; we couldn’t use nails or even pushpins, so we rigged up more monofilament than I’ve used in perhaps 20 years. There were absolutely delightful quirks too, like a big selection of old cased taxidermy and plant specimen dioramas from the Field Museum. We had enormous fun selecting and arranging them to form wry dialogues with the works in the show.

Part of the Reading Room, where books and ‘books’ could be handled.

Shawn and I work and play well together, and it’s always a pleasure. Seren, Julia and the rest of the Brushwood staff were fantastic. We finished installing a day early. The night before the opening, Seren learned that several large Audubon prints that had been out being restored were returned to their original places, displacing some of the works. But it only took a quick 15 minutes before the opening to adjust the show, and two of the gorgeous prints added their own sweet conversations with nearby works, making it even better. I’ll have to go back to document properly; that will be a pleasure. Since I can’t yet add to my web site, I’ll make a separate page here on the blog for the show, identifying all the works and linking to the artists who have web sites, when I do.  It’ll be soon!

Yesterday’s opening was a pleasant surprise.  I hadn’t expected many people to make the trek, but it was hugely well attended, with lots of unexpected familiar faces and a large unknown-to-me audience as well.  Everyone was completely engaged with the work and then could walk straight out into the gorgeous Ryerson Woods preserve for another direct interaction, and return. There is a working farm (the roosters, sheep and goats were out), wide meadows, nearby paths through the woods with labeled trees and plant species, and miles of trails. Though the weather was windy and brisk, it wasn’t bracing, and inside, warmth –  not just temperature –  was palpable and perfect. We capped the day by celebrating with Paul at an excellent crab house on the way home, eating, talking, laughing.  As the unsaved daylight faded, we basked in the glow of a tree covered in little blue lights.

New year, new adventures, new show.

Happy All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s, Dia De Los Muertos, or New Year.  I’ve been so busy that I never even got pumpkins to carve for last night’s celebration, so I went back in time to Orkney for today’s photo.  I spent yesterday finalizing a new association / adventure that I’ll tell you about soon.  That was supposed to happen last Friday, but I was hooked up to machines. Having it finally begin on October 31st seems appropriate: a new path for a new year. Now I am behind on only about three projects, and have the day ‘off’ to do some work on those, catch up on laundry, collect seeds from the garden, and get ready for this:

Below is Shawn’s excellent statement about the show.  We necessarily invited all local folks and we’ve been excitedly collecting the work this week. Installation begins tomorrow!

“In assembling work for an exhibition entitled “Natural Cycles: Sustainable Book and Paper Arts,” curators Melissa Jay Craig and Shawn Sheehy not only included artists who use sustainable materials, but also those who consider sustainable concepts and techniques. As a result, many of the artists in this show treated this theme by either limiting their use of new materials, avoiding use of toxic substances or fossil-fuel power, or considering the theme of sustainability in the content of the work.

The exhibition includes a number of pieces from Craig and Sheehy—for the most part sculptural artist books based on forms and creatures of the natural world, and made from handmade paper. Another notable work using handmade paper is Jen Thomas’s “Forced Sustainability.” Her outdoor installation piece, composed of 10 handmade-paper panels, tells the story in words and images of the loss of her car to the July hailstorm and her decision to move exclusively to bike riding for transportation. Cecile Webster’s handmade sheets demonstrate the papermaking potential of many local garden plants and weeds.

Many of the pieces in this show are created from re-used/recycled/reclaimed materials and boldly explore the concept of sustainability. Scott Wolniak creates gorgeous sculptural weeds from junk mail and trash. Leah Mayers, in a piece called “Constellation Prize,” uses reclaimed umbrellas pierced with star chart patterns to comment on light pollution and a longing for a more ‘natural’ world. For her series of sculptural books, Karen Hanmer pledged to use a minimum of electricity and new materials.

The curators thank Ryerson Woods for the opportunity to exhibit this work and they also thank the artists for their participation and inventive treatment of the theme.”

It’s been much fun, and the installation will be as well; the gallery is an unusual series of spaces in a graciously-proportioned historic home.  The work is wildly varied, and someday I would like to take this exploration even further. Below is a sneak peek at only one page spread from the lovely Cecile Webster’s sumptuous book of papers.  She is Chicago’s Own Queen of the Harvest: