May coda

Oh. My. Oh. My. Oh. You don’t want to know what these past few days have been like.  But: the web site is finished! Finished!  Except for a lot of meta-tag tweaking; and then, in the fall, a lot more artwork to be photographed and added, oh, and a links page.  During the last three days, in particular, I kept thinking, “Ye gods, I have made somuchwork!” but the truly scary part is that only a percentage is on the site…

 Ironically, the thing I really want – no, need – to do now is to get into the studio and make more: get my hands dirty, make something tactile and tangible, work my body, smell the fiber, touch…yes, the site is a Good Thing, and artists have to live with virtual reality now, but I have just spent way, way, way too much time in it. Enough.

Now, except for oh, a day of more writing, my body will definitely be worked in the (yet again and always, frantic) run-up to the summer teaching road trip that begins in exactly one week. During the web building blitz, Arrowmont called to say my class was full, and did I want to find an assistant?  Serendipity brought the lovely Heather LG Bella to the rescue again; in fact, she was already headed that way.  So, we’ll get to repeat our Penland alliance at Arrowmont, woohoo!

Here’s the skinny on how I’ll spend a good part of tomorrow (which also brings the evening reception for Beaten and Bound) and especially Sunday: what’s happening and who’s doing it at the fabulous Ragdale Day. So many friends, and the weather is supposed to be great: another fine antidote for the past week.

Last but not least, in fact one of the best: I am giving myself a total, indulgent treat after the teaching road trip. I’m heading back to Cleveland in mid-August to take Aimee Lee’s class at the Morgan.  Friends! Hanji! Hands! Hooray!

Working with my hands, 1984. Found in the big box of photos I dug out of storage to scan some for the site.  Haven’t opened it in 15 years (ignore the cigarette):

Things, Images, Words

I am dealing with all of the above in rather huge quantities, relentlessly. My mail art archive from the 70’s to the mid-80s, along with a pile of ‘zines, went off to live at the Joan Flasch Collection at my alma mater today, and a DVD with the scanned images of a huge pile of slides arrived. I am quite pleased with the results, and on top of that, the folks at SlidesToDigital have been absolutely great to deal with. I definitely recommend them if your practice, like mine, has spanned the 35mm to digital eras (and oh, I do not miss slides, not one bit). Check out the results:

Old scan

New scan – as is, without color correction or any manipulation. 

So now it’s site-finishing in major earnest on top of the stuff-shifting, on top of the writing. But this afternoon, I threw it all to the winds, or rather to the pleasant breezes of a perfect day, and weeded the already outrageously overgown gardens.  21 tritoma blooms so far, peonies, roses, hollyhocks, volunteer marigolds and clematis are all playing at the moment, with the early daylilies and yucca just about to step onstage. Sweet.

Getting back to things, images and words, I keep forgetting to say that, like many, many friends and colleagues, I have a few books in this book: it’s out now. I haven’t gotten a copy yet, but sitting down and feasting my eyes when I do will be another sweet break. It’s a grand gathering.

(This is the Japanese edition; there’s one in English too!)


I hopped the South Shore Line to Michigan City to collaborate on the layout of the Beaten and Bound show yesterday; with the help of a fantastic crew, we got it unpacked (carefully documenting as we did), laid out in the gorgeous space, and almost all installed before I had to make a mad dash to catch the evening return train.

If you are near Chicago this summer, I highly, highly recommend it: 38 21st-century works by 13 excellent book / paper artists: Doug Beube, Beatrice Coron, Brian Dettmer, Andrea Deszo, Lesley Dill, Dawn Gettler, Richard Minsky, Audrey Niffenegger, Pamela Paulsrud, Andrea Peterson, Shawn Sheehy, Robbin Ami Silverberg and Buzz Spector. The show runs all summer, from May 26 – August 26.


I’m just plain happy, that blissful, singularly Ragdalian state of happiness, to be participating in this:

I’ll have a bit of an exhibition in the beloved Meadow Studio and will be contributing a demonstration with fiber harvested from the Meadow as well. There are tons of Ragdale artists, writers and performers participating, but the beautifully renovated / restored Ragdale House will be the star; here’s a lovely video view.

The celebration will be tinged with a slight bit of personal sadness, because it will also be a sort-of farewell to Susan Page Tillett in her 12-year role as Executive Director.  What she has accomplished for us all during that time is astounding, and she will be sorely missed. But I plan to also celebrate her stellar achievements, and to wish her the very best on her new, well-deserved journey (and a bit of R & R as well).


My personal Enormous Restructuring Project continues expeditiously: most of the circulating artwork has now moved from the old, soon-to-be-abandoned storage space to its new (recently completed) home at home; other works and bits and pieces are slated to travel to more new homes in museums, university collections and community arts organizations next week; web pages are steadily being built in the evenings, and, during the nearly five hours spent commuting on els and trains or waiting for them yesterday, I wrote the first draft of a grant on my phone. Whew!

In Other Words

I’m sort of impressed with what I’ve gotten done this week, until I look at what’s still on my overloaded plate.  My sweetest breaks have been to read: reviewing Aimee Lee’s outstanding manuscript, and also an unprecedented number of papers that were written about my work during the just-ended semester (something which still finds me astounded).

Two thoughtful, articulate grad students have kindly given me permission to publish excerpts from theirs; they are Ceci Cole McInturff, at George Mason University, and Barbara Landes, at the University of Iowa, Center for the Book (who interviewed five artists in total, including Aimee). When I compiled these quotes, I quickly perceived a distinct dialogue between the two, who will meet this summer in my first class at Women’s Studio Workshop. I am looking forward to that, very much.

Detail: That’s Life

“…in the late 1990s Craig decided to deprive her work of what she increasingly could not hear: words. The resulting bodies of text-free work are more narrative than her early word-involved and altered book works. They achieve a heightened level of aesthetic beauty. And they reveal more inner core in terms of belief in the cyclical power of nature and its lessons to us, while communicating vestiges of loss/ frustration/ anger/ resilience. They emphasize the intuitive.” – McInturff

“Previously, she created objects that communicated witty and intellectual ideas. Her work has become more direct and expressive, and can be “read” through the use of materials, scale, color and, in the case of (S)Edition, repetition”. – Landes

“Not only is this art of hand-created paper evocative, it may be importantly timed. New generations using…books digitally…are tempted to view art objects and installations as separate from “book,” (art being seen as relational, experiential, in the context of social change, or in contexts of museum, gallery, collection or decorative quality). Melissa Jay Craig’s narrative sculpture blurs such categorical lines. She plays out a love-hate relationship with language on one level, but on another, recalls Carrion* in that her work can be interpreted to still imply words by subconsciously evoking the mental images words convey.” – McInturff

“Another strong work from the Davenport show is “That’s Life,” an open book which sits on a table about waist high and rises above and to either side of the viewer. Its openness appears to leave it vulnerable. It seems to vibrate as if it is emitting sounds, a visual depiction of paper’s rattle. The different textures of this work are a feast for the eyes. They replace words with a more urgent communication. The inner pages are rippled, crisp and translucent, edges tinged with red. They are operatic, deeper sounds echoing in smaller denser ripples against the inner kozo cover….This is a book that will not close, it has something it needs to say.”. – Landes

“A survey of her work progressively and increasingly epitomizes what Joanna Drucker characterizes as an auratic quality. That is, books which ‘generate a mystique, a sense of charged presence, seem to bear meaning in just their being, their appearance, and their form through their iconography and materials.’” – McInturff

The scale of her work in the show struck me in a powerful way. I was surrounded by open, flittering books, some of which were as large as myself. Her works have a presence that one does not get from her website. They are made to be at a human scale and are often the wingspan or height of a viewer; they demand attention. – Landes

“…she argues for hearing, seeing and communicating on deeper and non-overt levels, and requires things reflective and perceptive of her viewers – something needed and rare in an over-stimulated contemporary culture.” – McInturff

“So much artwork today is viewed on a flat computer screen that the physical response to a work is lost…. Of course it is fantastic to see so much work so easily, but the experience of seeing artwork in person, where all one’s senses are called upon, is so much greater. In researching these artists, I did not have the luxury of seeing their work in person, except for Craig, so I had to rely on the computer. In writing about the work, I could feel that difference.” – Landes


“(Says) Craig: “Being deaf permeates every area of my life.” But ironically, so do words: she is an energetic blogger, and skilled writer and speaker who is highly exposed on the web in interviews, book reviews and critiques, a.k.a. a wordie.” – McInturff

Busted. But I’m also definitely a reader-wordie. Thank you, Ceci and Barbara, for providing these well-considered words. Not only do I wholly appreciate what they say about my own work (how could I not?), I am encouraged by the refreshing views put forth in terms of the overall realms of books, paper, and experiencing artwork in general. Excellent work!

* Ulises Carrion, ‘The New Art of Making Books’

Missing in (a lot of) Action

Busy, busy, busybusybusy.  The physical-realm restructuring has begun in relentless earnest, and it will be constant before I leave, and occasionally absolutely insane as my deadline for completion of various tasks strives to jive with others who are taking part in the process.  Not to mention four other deadlines built-in. It’s intense but ultimately excellent; freeing.  Tonight and tomorrow I take an enjoyable break, to finish up a long-overdue project for an old friend, who I thank for her patience. That is, after shipping out work to the first of nine (or a dozen, depending on whether or not I get specific projects finished) exhibitions before the end of the year. As I was packing, I realized that I’ve just ended the only time period – slightly over three weeks – during 2012 when my work wasn’t / isn’t in a show.  Yes, busy.  Sorry, blog. But hopefully things will become interesting when I begin my travels oh so soon…


The onion family represents each May, not always where I expect them to be.

I am so, so, so busy, and I seriously doubt that things will slow down at all before I leave town. Much of what I’m currently doing involves words, so much so that I have none left over for this space. Hence, blahg neglect: I’m just plain boring at the moment. Maybe things will become at least visually interesting as the work shifts into the physical realm in a few days (though, alas, it won’t be the studio. Not yet. Sigh.)

The web site now has one gallery up in each category. I am somewhat relieved to have an enforced hiatus while 210 slides are being professionally scanned. The fantastic Jen Thomas yesterday alerted me to the fact that the images from the site have been excerpted on Tumblr: I just have to love the title of the originating blog. A fat bunch of Google alerts tells me it’s spreading around from there.  There’s something very satisfactory about the way it’s moving, as if the (S)Edition books had released digital spores. That and the garden have me trying hard to think of all this boring work I’m doing in the same way: these efforts will eventually sprout into unimpeded studio time and many other (perhaps unforeseen) good things.

The very best, tastiest chive patch, which appeared years ago in a crack in the concrete, thrives, and refuses to be moved.


Yikes, it’s May!  Me Dot Com has one gallery up, a wee sampling of work.  Now I have GOT to tackle some 900 backed-up real-world projects (and try to get more galleries up in the evenings). The number of things I need to finish in six weeks is staggering, and includes finally getting the fall schedule nailed down. To that end, another decision came in; this time I’m the one who will probably need to turn it down. There’s one more I’m trying to be patient about; it’s been in play since January, and is now reaching mayday proportions, as whether or not I’ll attempt to attend this hinges upon it. It’s the penultimate piece of my intricate fall puzzle.

The Beaten and Bound portion of this is something I’ve been working on in since January as well, in fluctuating capacities. Originally I was co-curator, but for various reasons, a while ago I made a difficult decision: to withdraw from that position and just continue to work behind the scenes. If you are in the area over the summer, it will be a Very Good Show, a gathering of a number of stellar artists working in paper or with books (the image on the left is a detail of Doug Beube‘s Fault Lines).  I’ll be involved in its installation as well, in (gulp) three short weeks. Now: back to work!