Opposite of DePressed

I didn’t do much of what I had planned for the last few days, but that bothers me not one whit: with huge thanks to the marvelous Tom Balbo, I’ve been blessed with press.


Thursday, I removed cabinets and wall hooks and cleared space.


Friday, Tom arrived with the press; he and Paul wrestled it into the basement, with much inspired tilting and twisting around corners and under ductwork, at one point balancing the whole thing on a single wheel.  I scurried around moving lever boards and getting things out of their way. 


I won’t get to use it till I return home for the winter, probably.  Paul had built these lovely platens awhile ago for something that didn’t work out.  With just a little width added and a wee bit of beefing up, they’ll work nicely.  We’ll add a water collection device leading to the sink or floor drain. When Paul’s shop re-opens in a couple of weeks, he’ll do the build; when I get home at the end of November, we’ll install it. This, in combination with some experiments begun at Haystack, promises an exciting, intriguing winter in residence. I’m looking forward to that!


Tom will take the guillotine at some point in the future; I cleared it so we could strategize after he’d seen the space.  It unbolts from the stand but we might need to further disassemble it.  (Four very hefty mover guys carried it in, all straining mightily). I returned it to its role as guillotine / storage unit (which it does well).


Meanwhile: big congrats (and thanks for the mention) to Aimee Lee for this long-overdue recognition!

Yesterday, after reconfiguring the studio, I headed to ZIA for the evening, and a had a fine time, meeting, enjoying work by and talking with Fumiko (who knows Aimee) and Tim, and of course Anne and all the ZIA folks. And I met a nice person who’d just purchased some of my work: sweet evening.

Tomorrow: a birthday of workplay in the refreshed studio (also sweet).


New homes for the fridge, the additive / chemical / adhesive / pigment cabinet and the little press. I’m amazed that it all actually fit as well (and as easily) as it did.

Domestic restructuring #1

I expanded the first group of home projects, or rather, decided to work within the natural order: as shelves and cabinets were moved to the places they were slated for,  I took the extra time to deal with the newly freed spaces as well.  One of those was my upstairs studio / bindery, which was also still unsettled from sorting through and jettisoning stuff into the yard sale before I left for fall residencies. I’ll finish up there today (and I really like it).  This weekend, I can go back to working in both studios!


This photo shows why I couldn’t work in the paper studio and on the house at the same time: sawdust and paper don’t mix, at least not in ways that I want or need for my work. But my studio was the only convenient space to set up power tools, so amending that situation was my first priority.


After Paul and Pat did some re-wiring, patched the old outer walls, insulated, built new interior walls and tiled the floor a few years ago, this laundry / furnace room quickly filled to the point where there was only a pathway (past the laundry machines and into my studio) through the jumble of stuff haphazardly stored in it. Now I’m able to set the tools up in here for the next projects without compromising the studio, and clean up in the freed utility sink as opposed to my studio sink.  All it will need is a couple of tarps tossed over appliances and storage.


While this makes a boring blog, the surprise is how enormously satisfying it all is, much more than I had anticipated. I’m ultimately always an installation artist, and the state of my surroundings affects me, perhaps too much.  The place has been in chaotic upheaval for most of the past year as we sorted, gathered and eliminated stuff.  Now I’m re-settling us in, optimizing the ways we move through and use our space. With every bit that’s completed, I feel myself standing taller, flexing, re-adjusting my bones, literally with room to breathe.


That’s in concert with the very best thing I did: after almost a year of this area being used as a sorting/ temporary storage space, I now have a dedicated place to stretch and do physical therapy in once again (where waiting ear-fungi accompany me for awhile). I’m using it daily and it feels so, so, so good.

Books & books & paper: but first

I’m currently very quiet, but:

  • I’ve happily agreed to book one more bookish (group) show this year; it will be excellent.
  • Guaranteed to be the oddest sort-of-autobiography you have ever read: Smith’s new book is out and you can get one. Heed the blog headline!
  • Friday night I had a lovely time at ZIA’s summer group show opening; Rita came down from her Ragdale residency for it, and we had a blast reconnecting. I can’t wait for her new book.
  • This is a blog I wish I had written, or rather, I wish I had written about my own visit, and had taken photos. I seem to always have this conflict between Being There and writing about it (or even thinking about writing about it), particularly when I’m on the road.

Above are some of the things I am working on. Each has a story to tell. The telling of stories is always a bit more difficult at home. I wish that weren’t so but there is always the weight of So Much Else That Needs To Be Done when I am here. Though, I have knocked out other work besides home things this week: the finishing of one interview, the beginning of another, more prep for upcoming shows: that work is easier at home, it can overcome distracting interruptions and be easily returned to.

There are also the practicalities of still re-learning the independent teaching life. For instance, I make paper with fluctuating methods. The past two years, I’ve done a lot more with my sugetas and standard Western moulds & deckles, and have hardly touched my deckle boxes. But I brought smaller ones along on my teaching trips, intending just to use them for demos. Instead, for various reasons, I made them available for extensive class use.

Now I need them again for my own work. It was easy to see that I needed to replace the velcro, but when I began to do that, I realized that they were basically trashed: loose and wobbly, with torn seals, the finish completely worn away in parts, and several new scrapes and gouges which would let water into the wood.

That’s not a surprise; people learning are concentrating on their work and not on tools, so studio and equipment maintenance is an absolutely necessary part of the tuition that anyone pays anywhere. In terms of my own learning, I’ve found that this type of deckle box is not standard equipment at most studios; so if I want to make these available, I will need to provide them, which means I will also need to build maintenance into my class materials fees, as well as making sure the correct type of pellon is available for student purchase. Living is learning.

It’s taken good chunks of 3 days, but they’re all squared and solid again with some new screws, gouges filled in and sanded, three new coats of sealant, new velcro and new weather-strip and I am good to go. Well, as soon as I cut new pellons. Tomorrow I am out and about all day and late into the evening and then Tuesday it’s paper and books, books, books until I leave again. Freshly overbeaten fiber is waiting…

Eureka! Excelsior!

I cannot describe what the past few days have been like; I’ve been stuck in total CyberHell with the new site. First, I hit another major snag attributable to last summer’s hard drive crash.  Every single photo gallery now needs to be rebuilt from scratch, which means searching through horrid restored photo files yet again. Then, I spent two entire days trying to get my site host to recognize and register my software (or vice-versa), with no success and multiple crashes of said software after each of the host’s refusals. Then followed tons of e-mail exchanges with tech support from both host and software with lots of suggestions, all of which failed, then crashed. This morning, while trying yet another host-site suggestion that popped in overnight, once again I got the dreaded 404 refusal and the software did not crash but froze, so I force-quit it…and, inexplicably but miraculously, when I reopened it to try again, the host was registered! I published! Eureka!

So here is my new site: www.melissajaycraig.com! Granted, it is not much of a site yet – no artwork! – but I will be adding to it fast and furiously now. If you’ve got my old site bookmarked (or especially: linked on your site or blog), please change the URL,  with many thanks. (The old site now redirects, but it will go down soon). Whew!

Also under Eureka!: that long-awaited decision finally came in. It didn’t go in my favor; which is ok; I did have some ambivalence about it. So now: Excelsior!* I move ahead with a very satisfactory Plan B. Even if I had felt badly,  that would have been immediately alleviated by a rather stellar grad research paper that came in (I’ll share excerpts soon) and an anonymous nomination to apply for a lovely grant (a long shot, but it is an honor to be nominated). Maybe – just maybe – I’ll even be able to get back to my poor neglected studio soon, before I hit the summer class road. But today: I climb out of this computer.

*In the spirit of one of my favourite Kurt Vonnegut quotes: “Excelsior! We’re going to the moon! Excelsior!” Yes, I need to step away from the computer.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I am still waiting for a decision which has the potential to cause me to make some large decisions; while I wait, I must delay making other decisions in deference to that decision.  This is causing some concerns for those waiting for my decisions. The only remedy would be to make a decision not to wait for that decision and then, perhaps, need to cancel earlier decisions.  It’s becoming decidedly vexing.

Meanwhile, I have made decisions on the refurbishing front: I have software and hosting for the new web site. I test-drove several allegedly idiot-proof software samples before deciding on one; it gave me less of some things I wanted, but more of other features I needed. I’ll miss the look of the iWeb site, as this is more template-y and less flexible in page formatting, but the end result will be cleaner and much easier to navigate, to maintain and to be viewed on mobile gizmos.  I’m building away, making decision after decision, and hoping when it’s finally launched, you’ll think my decisions were good ones. (Today’s photos will be part of the site; they were design-problem-solving decisions).

It’s lovely that there’s one sure thing I don’t have to think twice about: sending HUGE congratulations to Aimee Lee! Hooray!

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?