Into 2012

One of Paul’s friends recently got an embroidery machine. This is his name for me:

Bro left and we headed out to the ‘burbs for our family gathering yesterday. A quiet celebration tonight and this year’s sweet rich holiday season is over: time to see what 2012 will bring.  It will start out with a sustained monthlong busy bang, so I am grateful for the time we’ve just spent with friends and family, and I am always, always thankful for this wonderful connection with all of you here. Thanks so much for visiting with me!
And now, of course, it’s time for Odd Search Engine Terms 2011 – the most amusing ways people have found their way here.  Most searches were for me, the blog itself, specific artworks, shows and classes, and a nice number for people I’ve mentioned or subjects I’ve written about. I lost the week-by-week list I was keeping in the hard drive crash and didn’t start another, so these are all culled from the WordPress summarization for the year:
  • kozo paper fossil leaves
  • all therapists are crazy thats why I am one
  • paca paca passion stencil
  • how do work the Hollander beat?
  • “Elizabeth in pain”
  • limp clean jaw
  • the book are lick mush room
  • real life memory card
  • art Melissa feet
  • piano vibrates on sand and others
  • bifocals admin boring
  • upside down toonie
  • why my tritomas glowing
  • mad road is my address
  • old linnin beatter
  • fourfeetleven
  • millimeter melissa
  • twist and turns signs
  • be museum contextual instal lation contextuall
  • mjc healing house fucking
  • Melissa Jay Air Canada
  • my abaca my life
  • Walloshroom
  • Listen Listen Listen thirtysix
  • Swearing Lichens
  • hand felt shoes discoloured lower leg
  • Ragdale resllying
  • marvelously jay
  • dayline focus MK2 headlights
  • I ho ohh i
  • some have been searching for books
  • papersculptur fat ladies
  • bindwijze van cater pillabetsy
  • bookarty paperarty
  • Stencil graffiti fungus animals
  • how long it take to hear from resdency program studio center aplacatin notofocation
  • Women with one short leg and brace ouch
  • the book are have fungus lichen
  • Melissa J Craig disappearance 2009
  • Translation good for the mind

…aaand my favourite this year: Melissa Jay Craog Blig

Have a warm, happy, safe celebration tonight, everyone. Bliadhna Mhath Ur!

Pie, Productivity, Play

We’ve been having a lovely, relaxed and rather hilarious time here. That said, I’m still working: resolving curating issues, helping a few folks apply to grad schools (the only type of effective academic recommendations I can still do). I’m also applying for a few things soon, so, thanks to last summer’s hard drive crash, once again I must research myself from February 2010 till now, to update the various CVs and resumes. Blahg is invaluable for that! And I’m hammering out the schedules for the de-installation of Natural Cycles and the details of the next quickly upcoming 2012 shows…. so there is really little change, other than the Company of Good Friends and Too Much Good Food (if there is such a thing). I guess the biggest difference of having a holiday week on our own terms is my personal internal permission not to evaluate each day solely in terms of productivity, of What Got Done or more accurately: What Didn’t Get Done. There’s a lesson here about balance: perhaps I should declare 2012 a holiday year.

Paul ensured both productivity and great pleasure with his absolutely amazing gift. He took a look at the structure of a borrowed mould and deckle I’d admired and praised, snuck off to the wood shop, and made seven of them for me! They were all cut from a single clear slab of recycled old-growth lumber, once part of a massive convention center display. I’ll be able to increase my class sizes, and will have new sheet sizes for my own work as well. I am beyond pleased!  (And, he’s going to do all the waterproofing!) Beautiful, yes?


Why not a blog on Christmas eve?  For me, it’s the beginning of a sweet holiday week.  For the first time ever, Paul and I are home tomorrow.  I’m progressively cooking a feast, it’s warm and lovely and the house smells like the spicy pie I just baked, and tomorrow the atmosphere will be savory, redolent of our roasting dinner. Monday old dear friend (family) the Bro will arrive and be with us till Friday, and much more cooking and even more warmth and laughter will ensue. (OK, I will need to work a wee bit, off and on, but I’m deliberately not thinking about that right now).  Both Bro’s family and ours are having postponed holiday gatherings at the end of the week, which makes this all possible, and gives us the best of both worlds this season. I hope you are all as relaxed and contented as I am right now: Happy Holidays to you, whatever and however you celebrate!

It’s Now

It’s the Solstice, tonight or tomorrow morning, according to different sources.  So here’s my annual link to the Maeshowe web cam; it’s streaming live this year from 14:00 to 16:00 GMT, which translates to 8am – 10am Central US time.  The sun is setting at about 3:15pm in the Orkneys, and tomorrow is supposed to be partly cloudy there, but the webcam is on till the end of January / early February, and you can view animations from previous years at the site. Hurrah for the return of the light!

Follow Up

I am coming out of a major slump at long last; it’s something I haven’t wanted to write about, but it’s lasted a couple of months, really. I think I might write about bits of it, soon, or at least about some of the things that are bringing me out of it.  Part of the relief is finally beginning to get long-backed-up things done, and one of those things is this: page for Natural Cycles.  The show closes this week, but won’t be de-installed until the beginning of a hectic January, or rather, a hectic year.  So, enjoy, far-flung folk who couldn’t see the show: this is the best I can do to give you a sense of it.  Someday soon, I do want to do another version, if I can find an environment as lovely as Ryerson Woods. Today’s photos were taken while Shawn and I worked on the installation.

Happy almost-solstice and Heading Into The Holidays week!

Ten More Days

I’ve been quite busy, but with things not interesting enough or too as-yet unformed to blog about (composing reference letters, researching several things, writing, preliminary curating with a dear friend, doing some work on the house and tons of somewhat surprising thinking and cautious planning, to name a few).

I am so much more aware of the approach of the solstice (and so, the holidays) this year; much earlier than ever before.  I think it’s because I’m working at home, where the waning of the light, the onset of each day’s earlier and earlier darkness, is so much more noticeable. I got our wee lights installed earlier than ever and they bring a snug comfort (and make me want to cook, too).

Yesterday I went to Ragdale’s warm lovely annual holiday party, arriving a bit early so I could enjoy a wee visit to the prairie before the light went.  It was wonderful to see Ragdale House looking like this, much like a friend recovering well from surgery, and also to see all the new copper trim lit up by the early sunset:

I had so much fun, and so many consecutive conversations that unfortunately I missed each and every tour of the interior!  But a friend and many-time resident of the house who did step inside said, with a huge grin: “It looks like…like…Ragdale House!” I also ran into a few folks who knew Barbara Metz, and we traded stories and toasted her. Of course, I had my annual tarot reading, which hinted that there is good reason to anticipate the sun’s return. I took the long, non-freeway route home, just to enjoy all the holiday lights along the way.

(For those still searching for ‘Melissa Jay Craig Classes 2012’, thank you again: here are .pdf links to two ‘summer sneak previews’:  Arrowmont (June 10 -16) and Women’s Studio Workshop (July 9 -13) !)

Another Goodbye: Barbara Lazarus Metz

Yesterday I sadly received the news that another friend, mentor and stellar book arts personage has left us: Barbara Lazarus Metz. I first met Barbara at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when I was a grad student.  I was teaching assistant to Joan Flasch, another Chicago book arts legend, when she passed on at far too young an age. Barbara, as Joan’s friend and fellow bookbinder / book artist, helped organize the bookbinding studio in the aftermath.  Barbara was one of the founders of the legendary Artists’ Book Works, which was located in one of the two storefronts of her building on Irving Park Road.  I participated in some of the shows there, but didn’t get to know her very well at that time. So, I was extremely surprised to get a call from her shortly after my graduation: “I want you to come teach bookbinding at ABW.”  I remember replying, shocked: “…Me?  Teach binding?! But I’m…I’m a book art weirdo.” She laughed and said, “But you are a book art weirdo with skills.” Cautiously, I went, I taught, I liked it, the students liked it, and that was that: I began teaching regularly at ABW, then the Newberry Library, then other places. A few years down the road, Artists’ Book Works and Paper Press combined to become the Center for Book and Paper Arts, so it is directly due to that one fateful call from Barbara that I met Marilyn Sward, Judith Hoffberg (they were great friends), Bill Drendel and so many, many others.

Barbara was also an extremely active curator and exhibit organizer, and as the new Center’s exhibitions manager, I worked closely with her on a number of excellent shows.  One of the most memorable was a miniature book show: there were over 600 exquisite tiny books in the small original Center’s gallery.  Installing was exhausting, but I learned so much from Barbara about displaying books that couldn’t be handled to their very best advantage, things I was able to adapt to countless shows later.

Barbara was enormously feisty and could be prickly, and in later years I found that, unknown to me at various times, people were wary of me because of our association, but she always treated me very, very well. We had fun and laughed a lot together, even during a sweltering week painting her entire large kitchen ceiling in four separate layers to make a rather odd faux finish. It was that feistiness that drove her to get things done…and she got a LOT done.  Her life was rich with accomplishment, friends, opera, world travel, gardening (her backyard garden was lush and lovely, and we traded plants several times), her family and grandchildren.

There’s another thing I owe to a sudden call from Barbara.  During my divorce, when both my financial situation and general direction were extremely precarious at best, she called because she had found a deal with a local distributor: a fantastic price on a Kutrimmer, if two were ordered at the same time.  I absolutely shouldn’t have; but she convinced me, “You need to equip your studio!”  So we went in on them together and I still have that machine, good as new.  It not only immediately earned back the (rent!) money I spent on it, but has paid for itself many times over, each year I’ve owned it.  After that, I made a vow to myself to acquire one piece of equipment yearly, no matter what. If not for one of those calls from Barbara, even my sweet home studios may not have happened.

In June 2008, at the very same time we all received news that Marilyn Sward’s departure was immenent, Barbara suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage while traveling in Turkey. It made her last years difficult in many ways, and lately she’d been living in Minneapolis, near one of her children (who were marvelous at keeping her widespread friends informed about her). Fittingly, the last time I saw Barbara in person was due to her unexpected e-mail popping up in my inbox. It was just at this time of year: was I going to the Ragdale holiday party?  She was not allowed to drive anymore, and wanted a ride. I picked her up, and we had long talks on the way there and back. She was quite open and frank about her brain injury, and laughed heartily about the more absurd aspects of the ways it affected her.  After the party, I took her to Whole Foods at her request, and then carried her groceries up to her apartment, and we talked awhile longer.  She was excited (as always) about an upcoming trip: yet another adventure.  Today, I am finding immense comfort thinking of Joan Flasch, Marilyn Sward, and Judith Hoffberg all welcoming Barbara to that big ongoing party and eternal adventures together.  The annual Ragdale party is this weekend, and I will quietly toast them all, these strong, lovely women I and so many others have been so, so privileged to know.

Barbara’s memorial page.

Some of Barbara’s marbling on a card from a few years ago:

(As for me, I have been sick, sick, sick with a flu for the past six days and am just now poking my head up, even more monumentally behind on things).