This excellent book is by Amanda Thatch, Penland Core student: I absolutely loved how she took the long / link stitch structure and ran with it. (More to come).

It is also where I am, in the midst of all that flat land in Dayton, Ohio…I’ll be driving through the flattest of all in a day or two on the rest of my way home.  Below is where I am not, anymore (sigh). I will miss Penland; and I will return, definitely, if they’ll have me.

This is part of what I drove through yesterday, portions of Tennessee that were flooded to make recreation lands.  An overlook shortly before the Cumberland Gap tunnel and the bland interstate highways…

I am now visiting the Bro, who wore clown makeup when I painted his portrait about 30 years ago; I didn’t wear any for my wee self-portrait (painted with my left hand) shortly afterward.  Yes, my hair looked like that; yes, Bro was wearing one of those shirts with the three-inch collars.  We have much to catch up on for the next few days. There’s SO, so much left to write about Penland, and Delaware as well, but that will happen after I get home and settled.  Or as settled as I get.  See you then.

DelAware, Penlandamonium

Propellers! out of Asheville and back, and the Blue Ridge from above…

I’ve been trying since Sunday to complete some writing about the profound, revelatory experience I had at the Art of the Book in the Twenty-First Century symposium at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art last weekend. The symposium was erudite, provocative and as wide-ranging and comprehensive as The Book: A Contemporary View exhibition it accompanied. The selection of speakers who also were artists represented in the show leaned towards the sculptural side of the equation, something that rarely (if ever!) happens, but the big picture balanced out in other ways.  I enjoyed it all, thoroughly. (But didn’t take many photos).

How I heard.

The reason my experience was personally profound was due to the fact that the DCCA applied for and received a grant to accommodate all levels of hearing loss.  I had CART (Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning) throughout the weekend, and it not only provided for fuller participation than I have ever, ever had before in my own field, it brought me to some startling realizations…which I will need to wait to share, until there is some downtime to quietly consider and edit. All I can do at this point is to wholeheartedly thank and commend the DCCA for being so forward-thinking, so inclusive.

I have perhaps never seen a more appropriate use of the slash symbol…

I worked until the moment I left Penland, and even though the superb Shawn Sheehy has been doing the teaching since I returned, I am exhausted.  Sunday evening (when I also returned) brought an influx of one-week classes. The Penland event calendar, already vigorous, escalated over the top…there are events every single night this week, Friday will bring several at once, including our Edible Books, and that will be followed by another huge party on Saturday (which I predict I will totally need to skip).  Class prep continues to be intense (this week I need to repair equipment for next week), the weather is back to cold and rain and fog and even heavy snow that didn’t stick, which causes mealtimes to be a veritable maelstrom of echoing noise with everyone packed indoors at once. It doesn’t help that I haven’t had a weekend rest since I arrived (I had a guest the entire first weekend, and the symposium and a sweet long visit from old dear friends and hours and hours of plane-changing travel the second, and a steady stream of out-in-the-world things to deal with via the inbox as well…most very good).

It snowed Monday morning and was c-c-cold.  Papermakers are tough. Teams worked out here all day, and on the porch as well. We only have Shawn for 3 days.

In spite of how this all reads, I am still absolutely loving it here! I suspect I just needed to tell you why Penland will be like Ragdale and like my DCCA revelations: it’s all something I will need to write about after the fact, whenever there is time.

Again Awesome Austin

Austin was once again fabulous.  I got in late Thursday evening and had a great time visiting with Judy Taylor, Gallery Shoal Creek’s warm, wonderful and utterly gracious owner and director.  She told me that preparator Duane Sanford wouldn’t let her help install the 35* copies of (S)Edition.  The only instructions I’d sent pertaining to the installation as a whole were, “Don’t make them look like art!  Install randomly, as if they are growing in the space.  Have fun!” (Afterwards, he told Judy, “…Random is difficult!”)

Duane did a fantastic job. The books were installed on four walls, two on each side of the gallery’s entry room. It’s fronted by windows and is much larger than a foyer, with a wide entryway.  Because of the reflective quality of the windows, I couldn’t get a single shot of the entire installation, but it was most effective to experience; you were surrounded by sprouting books. I liked the rhythm, and seeing the books on the gallery’s grey/ olive/ tan walls – the depth and tonality of this color is also frustratingly elusive in photos.

I did do just a tiny bit of tweaking early Friday, tilting some of the books so that their covers were more visible. I documented, then had a lovely lunch upstairs with equally lovely Laura Harrison, who works with Judy.  More prep, Judy and I left to change clothes, and then: a massively packed reception. I had a great time reconnecting with Leonard Lehrer and meeting his lovely, funny spouse, Marilyn, and finally meeting Karen Kunc in person, as well as the other artists; seeing folks I’d met in 2008 again, and meeting many, many new people.  Best of all for me: our niece Jackie has just moved to Austin to begin working on her doctorate. She came to the opening too; it was her first ever.  I got to hang out with her in the back while resting my ears (which I usually do alone) between frequent schmooze forays into the huge, noisy crowd.  Excellent…the show got a thoughtful review, too.

Afterwards, a dinner party for 18 at Judy’s beautiful, comfortable home: two dinner tables elegantly prepared by designer Bonni Taylor, Judy’s niece (who once  did a floral re-interpretation of ‘Force and Duration’ for one of the gallery’s shows melding art and design). Delicious food, lovely wine, a fine flow of conversation and a lot of laughter as well: the word for the evening would be sumptuous. I happily collapsed at about 2 am, entirely satiated.

On Saturday, Jackie and I spent the entire day having a total blast. With a list of recommendations, we set out to explore a bit of Odd Austin.  This is not at all difficult to do in a city where you see the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird!” everywhere…do you wonder why I like it so much? We wandered all over South Congress (aka SoCo), with its huge assortment of weird and wonderful shops and congregations of food vans and airstream trailers in the vacant lots; then we went back towards the gallery and had a BBQ dinner at Ruby’s (mmmm), visited Toy Joy and Book People (where we ran into Judy), then took in the not-odd but lovely botanical gardens, and finished up with some fine gelato at Teo’s (my fave: salted caramel). So much fun…and so much more fun to be able to do this all with Jackie!

Sunday, Judy and I left for the airport early enough to thoroughly peruse an exhibition of Romare Bearden’s prints, which not only focused on the works themselves, but on his extensive experimentation within the various techniques, and he pretty much used them all: silkscreen, collagraph, lithography, etching, and offset.  Plates were hung along with the prints.  It was a fascinating show that I’d had to miss when it was here at the Cultural Center earlier this year, and it was great to see it with Judy, not only because I also met the curator and museum director who, of course, know her.

Just to top it all off, below was one of my last sights on the way to the plane. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be an artcar, but Austin does have an annual artcar parade.  Love the bumper, and I do love Austin. Many, many thanks to Judy, Jackie, Laura and everyone who made my visit so great.

* I was supposed to send 36.  I was sure I had but when I had two left over, I began to worry that somehow I had actually made 100, and not 99, and that I’d miscounted at the Morgan. Nope.  That was the only time I had counted correctly!  Right now there are 62 instead of 63 in Door County, 35 in Austin, one at North Branch projects, and one here at home (sigh).

we now resume our irregular broadcast

Photo: Peninsula School of Art

I’m back. The folks at Peninsula School of Art sent these photos of the current Book As Sculpture show and its opening. It’s nice to see it all finished and to see some works that were not yet installed when I left. The gallery put our artists’ statements and info onto open books attached to the walls and / or pedestals.

Shawn Sheehy’s pop-up book pages with corresponding prototypes. Photo: Peninsula School of Art

There’s not much I will say about what recently occurred in the personal realm, except that it was huge, and requires ongoing adjustment. Also, a great deal of good luck was involved and things are essentially quite well, in a “this-could-have-been-SO-much-worse” way. I thank all my friends who sent private messages: it helped during the worst of it, very much.

Dan Essig. Photo: Peninsula School of Art

So it’s a little like my own plans were a jar of sand that was picked up and shaken; it’s all still there, but its topography has been reconfigured.  I did not go to Ragdale as planned; instead, I’ll have my month-long residency in the late fall. I had to change the ending date of a show to be able to do that, but it all worked out well (thanks, Regin and Carey). I got the Texas show packed and shipped out at the very last minute; the good folks at Gallery Shoal Creek are installing around where the work will be till it arrives. They also made this nice page about the work and gave a lovely shout-out to the Morgan (thanks, Judy).

I love this image of appropriately dressed people with Mike Stilkey’s work. Photo: Peninsula School of Art

Before the new residency, I’ll have work in this show, which is work from the museum’s permanent collection (so all I need to do is attend the opening: lovely). I’ll be in another show to celebrate a new book arts studio in Chicago, in the upcoming benefit auction at the Morgan, and I will be doing an exciting site-specific installation which  I’ll wait to tell you about till it’s announced. Just before I head to Ragdale, the slightly re-scheduled solo show will open, and last but not least: I am offering a few fall workshops and a six-week class at Evanston Paper and Print.

Me, Dan Essig, Mike Stilkey. Photo: Peninsula School of Art

And that’s that.  With the bulk of the recent crisis over and all the rearranging taken care of, I’ve nearly three full weeks to go before I head down to Austin, then back to Door county. So today I’m finally finishing the unpacking (I’d left a lot packed in anticipation of the now re-scheduled residency; it was to begin last week) and getting ready to get back into my own studio…ahhhhh…

One of Brian Dettmer’s book excavations. Photo: Peninsula School of Art

Good, and Tired

One day of sizing, then

three days of traditional Japanese dyes:

I truly, truly enjoyed Tatiana Ginsberg’s class.  I am so glad I was in the morning session to be there when the dyes and mordants were prepared.  It was all so seductive, in color and in process, and Tatiana is the kind of excellent teacher who is fascinated with the processes herself, who passes that on.

PBI is half over now.  My class began this morning. I am, as always,  too-many-options Craig, and it was an incredibly productive day.  I took no photos (no time) and I am going to have to sit on the materials, we are already in danger of running out, even with the extra I have already added and am adding to the mix tomorrow from my own supplies. Total enthusiasm!  I’m lovin’ it.

This is a portion of what happened in the first session classes; so much that I couldn’t fit it into a single shot.

This is, again, only a portion of the attendance.  PBI is all rather amazing.

Yesterday was ‘excursion day’ and I slipped away with Nancy M (though the morning and evening were spent setting up the classroom, deciding how it could work best for all, and cramming in a wee bit of last-minute supply shopping).

This wide, long perfect quarter-moon slice of a ‘beach’ is made mostly of jasper, smooth, tumbled, beautifully variegated colorful stones thrown up and stacked by the tide, in big hills that were tricky to walk, like piles of ball bearings.  It’s the end of a rocky pine-clad cove opening wide, out into the Atlantic, and supposedly one of only two such beaches on the planet.

We filled our pockets, and once again I breathed along with the thrum of the sea, my heartbeat aligned with its pull.  Thick cool delicious fog rolled in, lifted, and was followed by more, blanketing us in its not-quite-liquid.

I am, I hope, done with my extra evening work now, and won’t be so continually exhausted after today (at least while I’m here).  I hope  for news tomorrow or the next day that might let me stay for a few days, even while knowing that it’s improbable.  Just in case, I also ate ‘the best blueberry pie in Maine’, delicious, not sweet.  I will stay over at least one day, and get me a lobster, too, and at least another whole day of ocean love.

We doubled back around and drove out to the point to see what this gathering of vessels was about; lobster being unloaded.  Below: just majestic, that fog waiting to come in.  It’s delicious and cool on the skin when it rolls in slow and gentle, and speaks to me of Scotland on the other side.

a quick blahg break…

I remember writing last summer about how great it would be to stay home and enjoy my gardens during a growing season.  Even though I austerely have only one residency this year, that ain’t gonna happen. The growing season sure is, though.

I now have two assistants who are ready to begin next week, and others waiting in the wings. (Just now, I can’t thank anyone by name, but I most emphatically do thank them!)  Then yesterday, I heard from Women’s Studio Workshop. The waiting list for this class was full, so we added a second, earlier duplicate; it will run from June 28 – July 2nd.  Best of all: the same thing happened with Abby Uhteg’s class (scroll down to #3), so she’ll have a second class at the same time. An extra week at WSW plus a reunion: excellent!  (Tip: if you’d like to join us, sign up fast!) I’m also teaching a shorter version of the class at the Morgan Conservatory, July 31- August 1st. (Not online yet, but you can register.)

It does means a week less on a lot of production and prep that needs to be finished before I hit the summer road, and that time will also be interrupted for a quick trip to install a fast-upcoming show that my co-exhibitor and I hammered out together over the weekend.  Between June 25 and September 25, I will only be home for a total of 15 days; the longest single stretch will be 6 days.  Whew!  I added a group show to the mix (two pieces, do-able) and then today, a curator contacted me and… I added on another. But this one is winter – through-spring, sounds great, and is in a state I’ve not exhibited in.  I’m not sure what’s causing this sudden deluge of good things, but I’m feeling mightily grateful.

Actually, I do know partially what is happening; I’ve finally segued into being a full-time artist again after having the bulk of my time absorbed by academe in one form or another for twenty years.  It’s a very different world out here now; cyberspace has changed everything.  In spite of a significant increase in admin (somehow, while I was immersed in institutions, dealing with piles of it daily, I didn’t realize how much the art portion had grown), I absolutely think it’s for the better. (Apropos of that observation, I finally managed to re-vamp my artist’s statement while curators waited, and got it onto the site. Though I still much prefer this).

Closer to Almost

The studio doesn’t look quite so large with the drying rack up, does it?  I have just enough room to move around it on all sides, to lay out the delicate wet sheets to air-dry.  I ran out of pulp tonight with only 34 more ‘text’ sheets to go, put more fiber to soak and will have a reprieve from production tomorrow during the five hour beat. Then, it’s binding in the upstairs studio while making the sheets for and casting stems downstairs, for the next two weeks or longer (with a few breaks here and there for things like estimating taxes). I want to have (S)Edition finished by the end of the month. The best part will be seeing all 99 copies installed at once, at long last (watch this space)!  The other best part: I can then go back to making new work that’s asking to be made.

While I’ve been working this week, a strange desire has come over me.  I want to take a vacation; to travel somewhere with no agenda, simply for pleasure, for my own curiosity.  With my upcoming show and teaching schedule, it probably can’t happen anytime soon, but I’m going to keep thinking about it.

DIY: testing, testing

Today we have *SUN* – so this will be a quick post. Must…get…outdoors. But I am continuing on with the web site, and am about a quarter of the way there. Most of the galleries, though they’ll be consolidated into a single source page from which you can open each, will continue to look like this (but wider). I feel that some works, particularly the books, need a different presentation.  So I’m experimenting with this.  What do you think?* I’ve tested it with Safari and Firefox on my Mac and Internet Explorer on Paul’s PC (which screws up my new temporary home page mightily, but thankfully only that page.  I think I know how to fix it). In any case, I now know why having sites made costs so much.

If you’ve noticed the stack of empty wine boxes on out front porch in the Amaryllis photos, they are for these great things that Paul builds from recycled materials:

The second one has temporary strings at the moment; adding an empty three-dram bottle of Springbank Old Malt Cask as a support made the entire thing too long for regular guitar strings.  Somehow that reminds me of working on the site. I’m pleased that we are a D.I.Y. nation at this address; nothing goes to waste, as amply evidenced below.

In keeping with that, I found an on-sale shredder a few days ago, and brought it home to begin processing fifteen years worth of teaching materials into a new piece, after scanning the things worth keeping. Shredding is curiously satisfying.

* I’m soliciting all kinds of feedback these days.  Not only did I also post the web page test to both my Facebook pages, tomorrow, I’m excited about meeting with some trusted friends to pick their very fine brains about possible situations involving the bronze beater.  Which I am not even ready to pick up until the weather settles down in the east.  Stay warm, everyone.

Been Too Busy To Blahg


” I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” – Molly Ivins


Make that select parts of Texas: San Antonio was as great this year as Austin was last year.  The class went stupendously well. People were working like mad things all over the studios (so true that I never got everyone into one photo) and the Sparks were flying! The class (and the, well, rave anonymous course evaluations – thanks, folks!) left me with a great deal to contemplate regarding the differences between short, intense teaching experiences as opposed to long involved mentorships.  (Well, I will when things slow down to a contemplative pace.)


I stayed with folks whose company I truly find a great deal of pleasure in, and it was wonderful to hang out again: easy and enjoyable.  Another friend drove down from Austin on Sunday night, and in a short space of time, amid laughter, fine Tex-Mex and storytelling, we hatched some stirring plans. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while will soon become a reality, with a brilliant twist, thanks to Judy’s idea. I’m excited!


They were full, busy days and I was happily tired each night. I didn’t have the time or inclination to cram in tourist-y stuff on top of it, but I did have an hour or two here and there just to observe all the amazingly odd things that grow in that part of Texas, which I love to do.  And every day, I got to pick and eat fresh Satsuma oranges from Beck’s laden front yard tree: sublime.  Monday, between packing up at the school studio and getting on the plane, I had a wee while to wander the San Antonio Riverwalk, which also felt like visiting an old friend. It’s one of the finest features of any city I’ve ever visited, and Beck helped clarify its appeal for me when she said, “It’s on such a human scale”.



Up in the air, heading east, I popped for internet access just for the hell of it, and discovered that an odd new class I’d proposed was accepted (similar in book-ness to the San Antonio class’s paper-ness). Home, and Paul was off teaching, but had laid in some of my favorite food; I unpacked and tackled massive paperwork for the morning.  Yesterday, bright and early, and for hours, I was instructed by a pleasant, friendly woman in the draconian processes of how and when I can collect unemployment while free-lancing (She said, “Oh, I understand.  I was married to two artists. Not at the same time, mind you.”). And then, back home, a nice new solo show came in, booked for a year from now.


This weekend, the Respite reception at Vespine, and a talk at Evanston Print and Paper, both of which promise to have a healthy attendance.

I have to say, I am liking the New Life so far, and I have every indication that it’s going to continue.  I’m just as busy as I ever was, but…no…stress. It’s  charged, positive energy all the way.


Speaking of which, here is a lovely interview with Aimee Lee, and another, and I also thank her for the shout-out.

I also want to shout out about this great class with Alicia Bailey out at Hook Pottery Paper, and, if you are in Chicago, this sale; Andrea and Jon make marvelous things, and I love the way the New Life is working for them, as well.

More evidence that positive energy multiplies; it creates its own abundance.


Delicious abundance!