Two fourteen fourteen


It’s warm enough again for pack walks (it’s the kind of winter when 20F feels warm); we start with all four of us, do our block and an adjoining one, then Paul and Chance go in and I take Lupe for another round of a few more alley blocks. Those late winter dirty grey piles of snow have always been able to get to me, but if I begin to ‘feel too February’, all I have to do is look back at other ugly piles from five years ago to be thankful for how much more genuine life is now.  Who knew blogging would prove to be so useful?



The mail brought this: I’m pleased to have had an image of a page spread from Manifest, O illustrate an article by Anneli Rufus in the current issue of Spirituality & Health magazine.  The author discusses the ways that reading fiction can increase our empathic qualities in our everyday lives.  When I was asked for permission for the image to be used (one of those things that gravitated into my inbox) I was not familiar with the magazine and didn’t know what the article would cover, but I did like its title.  As a lifelong fiction addict it was gratifying to have my work extended in context with ideas I agree with and can support (and to have the check that accompanied the two copies help support me as well; thanks to Art Director Sandra Salamony). In a few weeks, there will also be an online slideshow of all the artists’ works used in this issue.


The mail also brought this sweet wee bit of dyed kozo from a Connecticut postmark, with no note.  I’m calling it a valentine, since it arrived today. Whoever you are, mystery mailer, thank you!


Playwithme playwithme playwithme!

I laugh when I read more recent past blogs, about thinking this would be a quiet year.  Chance is now full-tilt into his hellion phase, and had a two-hour yowling tantrum in his crate last night; even with pack walks and playing in the yard and daily training sessions and a lot of fetch and tug of war, he spends time each day just tearing around the house at top speed, sometimes having his back legs overtake his front. He’s hilarious, and Paul, Lupe and I are laughing but really, really tired.

(In spite of it all, I’ve finally gotten the peskiest essay / statement finished for an important new page for the web site; tomorrow is lots of running around town rather than publishing, but that was a breakthrough!)

While I was out #2: Paper / Book

(Richard Minsky‘s column in Fine Books and Collecting actually belongs here, so I’m mentioning it again! And I still haven’t seen it…)

The Art of Handmade Paper opened, had its run, and recently closed at Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, curated by Sandy Bernat of Seastone Papers. It looks like a lovely show; documentary photos (with slideshow option) are here.

Paper III closed at Gallery Shoal Creek in Austin, and there was good news for me!

Aimee Lee’s long-awaited new book is almost here! Huge congratulations to her! Well before my recent loss of words, I wrote a ‘blurb’ for it, and was honored to find that it has been included on the back cover. I meant every word:

“Hanji, an incredibly strong, beautiful, versatile and sustainably sourced paper, was once literally woven into the fabric of Korean lives. That wide-ranging presence is also how hanji affected Aimee Lee as she spent a Fulbright year intensively studying with some of the few remaining masters of hanji-making and its related arts. She takes us along on an intimate, comprehensive journey into this ancient, essential, humble yet noble material, from its history to its struggling present to possible paths for its future. This book is a valuable resource, a must-read not only for papermakers but for anyone interested in perpetuating honored traditions into an environmentally responsible future. Read it, and then get your hands on some hanji. You will be as enthralled with it as I am, and as grateful to Aimee and the Morgan Conservatory for bringing hanji production to this country.”  (update, 10/10: the link to the publisher’s page is now fixed)

I am also very pleased to have a quick view of (S)Edition included in The Papermaker’s Studio Guide, Helen Hiebert’s new DVD. It’s a complement to her book, The Papermaker’s Companion, which is The Book I recommend to every new papermaker, student, or anyone who asks me how-to questions about making paper. You can check out the trailer and order a copy (and get the book) here!

On the same day, shortly before coming to Ragdale, I took the Art on Artmitage installation down, and had a good short visit with Mary Ellen Croteau, whose amazing bottlecap self-portrait was doing well up at ArtPrize. I had a good time installing bookshrooms and talking with Jen Thomas at Werkspace for Thinking Outside the Book. I couldn’t attend the opening since I’d just arrived here hours before, but Jen published bits on Tumblr as the rest was being installed, and it looks most intriguing. I’ll just have time to see the entire show after Cleveland and before Vermont!

And, I shipped and/ or arranged to have shipped work for Artists Working in Paper at William Busta Gallery in Cleveland; it opens October 12, and there will be a special reception for the Watermarks conference on Friday, October 19.

All this makes me triply excited to be attending my first (double) papermakers’ conference ever, the day after I leave here. I’ll come home (for four days before leaving again) with Aimee’s book and Helen’s video, and will meet several people I have only known through the web, and reconnect with many others….and it’s hosted by the Morgan! And now I’m caught up on the blahgpast. (Happy sigh).

While I was out #1: Cleveland, Smith Stories

Here’s the first half of things that happened while I was experiencing blogsilence.  A couple of them made me uncomfortable for awhile, and contributed to that silence.

Rust Belt Chic was published. It’s an anthology of works addressing the concept behind its title, which is articulated nicely here.  I haven’t read the entire book yet, I’m skipping around, but what I have read, I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve been acquainted with David C. Barnett (click ‘on-air personalities and scroll down) for many years, though we are not often in contact. Last summer, suddenly, he popped into my inbox to interview me by e-mail for a piece in the History section of Rust Belt Chic, about some early art activity I participated in, titled ‘Tales of the Regional Art Terrorists.’

Then, when I was in Cleveland a few weeks later, DCB visited the Smith’s living room, and recorded a very long, fun interview, portions of which were broadcast a couple of weeks ago.  The segment is available to listen to here, and runs from about 8:40 to 18:30 (of course, I can’t hear much).

The bridge pillar read “Birthplace of Various Industrial Byproducts”.

Just recently, Richard Minsky’s interview (that also included bits about my early life) along with some images of of my work, was published in the Autumn 2012 issue of Fine Books and Collections magazine, in Richard’s regular column. It’s titled Book Art: Without Words.  I haven’t seen it yet; I’ve asked Paul to forward the issue to me here at Ragdale when it arrives at the house.

Why was I uncomfortable about these things? It’s simply that I’ve never talked much publicly about my early life (the reasons for that might be the subject of a future blog).  Then, last summer, I decided those reasons were (there is no more appropriate word) hooey.

So, I mentioned the early (enormous) influence the Cleveland Public Library had on me (as both safe physical refuge and source of absorbing escape while I was a young, homeless runaway) to Richard during my lovely interview visit. He asked rather incisive follow-up questions. At one point, I did try to back away, but Richard said, “No, no, this is good.”  David already knew parts of my history and also asked direct questions. Except for that frisson of discomfort while talking with Richard, I was fine with answering all, but as the time neared for publication, I experienced some more oddness, and, well: my words shut down.

My good longtime friend Smith (also featured in the Rust Belt Chic article and radio segment, where he said Really Good Things about me) has never had any such qualms.  It’s something I’ve always admired him for.  Maybe that’s why the first descriptor that comes to my mind after having read his new book is ‘brave’.

I’m certain he doesn’t see it that way; he doesn’t hold back anything, ever, unless what he has to say might harm someone; he is an open book.  Stations of the Lost and Found, co-written with his lovely and talented wife, Lady K, is utterly, at times even painfully, honest. It’s all there: outrageous drug use, armed robbery, sex, adultery, his near-death by alcohol…and, perhaps glossed-over a tiny bit: redemption.  A Next Chapter needs to be written, definitely.

I liked this book, A Lot.  Much more than Kerouac, to which it has been compared. Yes, Smith is my friend; I’ve read earlier versions and have known some of the stories for years (and have lived through some as well, though I learned some new things, like about the LSD). This is the best telling ever, no question, and I think I would have liked it if I didn’t know him or the stories.  Smith’s own blurb about the book is much, much better than anything I can write; so please read it here.  He has led one strange life. The oddest thing about it, though, is that Smith is – and has always been – one of the most morally sound people I know.  And absolutely one of the funniest.  One story that didn’t make it to the book is something another friend told him years ago (the second thing that comes to my mind after ‘brave’): “Smith, if we just went by the facts, none of us would be here.”  Read this book; it’s truly true and stranger than fiction.

Great DisContent, Great Read

Man, God and Magic – Brian Dettmer

Google Alerts just brought in a fantastic interview with Brian Dettmer.  I thank him hugely for the shout-out, but more importantly, I also agree wholeheartedly with just about everything he says here about books, being an artist and finding your own way. It’s an excellent read, heartening for young artists especially. Enjoy (and internalize)! (Here’s to being ‘stubborn and delusional’.)

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’

Sunday studio

I realized last night that when I leave, I will have been at Ragdale during every month of the year.  Dark November skies are beautiful, the autumn scent of coming snow spicy, bracing, as is the brisk wind. The prairie is deceptive at this time of year, stark and muted in the long view, riotously vivid in detail.

I have my eye on this big gorgeous wasps’ nest: papermakers.  It’s waaaaay way high, and if it falls while I’m here and survives, it’s for me.

I’ve begun to occupy that space I covet: I am not thinking in words, though an intense, rich, flowing language is everywhere, a symphony of images, tactility, scents, association.

I’ve always been baffled by artists who complain about ‘the isolation of the studio’. It’s the very situation I crave.

Give me a large daily dose of that isolation, unspoiled land to observe, and like-minded people within easy reach, and that’s when I most come alive.

Those are all the words I have. Here’s how it’s going:

No Words, New Words


That 3 am window…

I’m all snow, ice, severe insomnia, skin o’ my teeth and full-tilt insanity: the addition of the office move, plus the six-hour Friday class, plus way, way, way too many other important-to-me deadlines leaves me wordless. This is beyond grueling. And it ain’t gonna stop soon.

So: here are links to Very Good Words elsewhere:

Little Bang is a new literary/ art magazine you need to see. Or contribute to. Check out the writing exercises.

Sign of the Owl is a new, much needed book arts blog that you need to read, if you are at all interested in the discourse.  Scroll down to ‘Undefining the Book Art Field’ to learn why.

…Of A Lesser Goddess?


  1. I read an article on the impossibility of enforcing Affirmative Action in academic enrollment. Even if racial or cultural questions are not legally permitted to be asked, admissions officers can assume a great deal simply by the applicant’s name, home address, high school demographic, parents’ colleges (or lack thereof), extracurricular memberships, and so on. Therefore, impartiality is essentially a myth.  Since it’s the academic job hunt season, when I need to decide at what point in the process I will reveal my deafness, the similar difficulties in enforcing ADA* laws (and in attempting to conceal a ‘disability’ until I’ve had a chance to demonstrate what I can actually do) immediately struck me.  You can’t legislate equity if people in power don’t actively, genuinely want it.  The only thing these laws can do is to give some recourse in situations where discrimination is utterly blatant and ironclad, with witnesses, and such situations are depressingly easy to sidestep.
  2. I had yet another e-mail snafu this week.  E-mail (or text messaging) is my phone, my primary mode of communication.  I had intended to write a strong argument, to build a case.  The response, as it so often is, was that my message was ‘angry’.  Hearing people want to communicate in the only way that’s comfortable for them, by voice, so they can make judgments on, or be reassured by, tone and inflection. (A huge part of one faculty job interview I had last year was not a discussion of my accomplishments or abilities, but focused instead on the fact that it was so frustrating for ‘them’ to communicate with me.  I was told, “I never can tell what you’re thinking!”  What I was thinking, at least during that ordeal, was “Hey! Read…My…Words.”) I used to think that e-mail was the great equalizer, that it leveled the playing field.  Not so, in a hearing world.  (And, I have found that many educators, like doctors who make terrible patients, often refuse to be educated.)
  3. My ‘el novel’ this week (I devour one or two a week while commuting) is “Talk Talk”, the first thing I’ve ever read by T. Coraghessan Boyle.  It’s about a deaf woman who becomes a victim of identity theft.  Boyle writes painfully accurate descriptions of a voice that isn’t heard by the speaker herself: “…voice like an electric drill…even hollower and more startling than usual…toneless…chopped and elided syllables…”  You get the idea (and I’m only on page 117).  I can’t really hear my voice. I feel it in my throat and skull.  I’m often asked where I’m from, or what my accent is.  A close friend recently told me, apologetically, that my voice gets sloppy, slurry and ‘low-class’ at times (which made me cringe).  Another friend, a deafened Ph.D. and ADA advocate, constantly recommends speech therapy as our hearing lessens. In an article she wrote last summer, she stated that this is necessary because hearing people most often interpret our voices as projecting either lack of interest in what’s being said, or as…anger.  So, even if I could hear on a phone, I’d be damned if I could, and am damned cuz I can’t. (Add in perplexed, frustrated facial expressions as I try to simultaneously lip-read five or six people who routinely insist on all talking at once, and I’m doubly damned).
  4. As I talk (or e-mail) with far-flung friends about my determination to improve my circumstances, I have heard (or read) several times, “Just be glad you have a job, any job, in these times!”  Sadly, that advice has come exclusively from deafened friends.  The unspoken message here is: we are ‘lesser’…we should settle, be content, never strive or take risks, because we are broken. 

That, I just cannot accept.   I would rather live in constant battle than stagnate in such a fearful, closed existence.  To do that would make me as angry as so many people already think I am.

*Americans with Disabilities Act

Cookin’ With Gas (and Reading)

The all-girl rodeo was cancelled on Tuesday, so we postponed the trip into Buffalo as well.  Andres and I made a run into Sheridan instead, where I found the perfect substrate for the new piece.  I also took advantage of the time to crank out all the dyeing for (S)Edition, worked hard for a long day today, and now I’ve reached the ‘meanwhile’ stage.  Meaning: the next few work stages on (S)Edition will consist of short bursts then drying time, and meanwhile, while things are drying, I can work on the new piece.  The new piece has hold o’ my head. Since I’m absorbed in the studio, and don’t want to bore you with my total obsession, I’ll do something I never thought I’d do on Blahg…and bore you with a list of what I’ve been reading since the end of May:

Andrina and other stories: George MacKay Brown (short stories)

Crowdie and Cream: Finlay J. MacDonald (memoir, much better than its title suggests)

The Stornoway Way: Kevin MacNeil (novel – excellent. Well, I liked it. )

The Life and Death of St. Kilda: Tom Steel (nonfiction)

Social Intelligence: Daniel Goleman (nonfiction, very interesting)

The Wee Mad Road: Jack & Barbara Maloney (memoir – delightful)

Beside the Ocean of Time: George Mackay Brown (novel)

Soil and Soul – People Versus Corporate Power:  Alastair McIntosh (nonfiction – a difficult, powerful book – I recommend it highly!  Even when you think I’m crazy for doing it.  Just keep going.)

Free Food for Millionaires: Min Jin Lee (novel)

Market Street: Xiao Hong (memoir)*

Come To Me: Amy Bloom (short stories)*

Breath, Eyes, Memory: Edwidge Danticat (novel)*

The Book of Common Prayer: Joan Didion (novel)*

Currently re-reading:

The Hand – How Its Use Shapes The Brain, Language, and Human Culture: Frank R. Wilson (nonfiction, still excellent).

*in my room at Jentel