Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Dee Clements
Dee Clements is the founder and director of The Paper Crane. She is a painter, book maker and art writer. Dee received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago a long time ago but still looks like she is 20. Sometimes her work can be seen here. Dee formed an acappella glee club once with her best pals and she loves the Midwest the most. She lives in Chicago with her boyfriend, dog and their two cats.
TLN: As an artist with a background in painting and sewing, can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for launching the Paper Crane? Do you consider writing part of your art practice too?
DC: Yes, writing has always been part of my painting practice. Although with painting it has always been a way for me to articulate ideas to myself so that I can talk about my own work later. The Paper Crane started as a personal blog that I began in order to chronicle my studio practice on a regular basis. In 2009 I was laid off from my full time job at The Joffrey Ballet, at first I was worried and scared but then I saw it as an opportunity to stop doing something I didn’t care about just to make money and start doing something that was meaningful and important to me. So I started working in my studio every day, kind of treating it like I would a day job. Soon I started curating shows in my studio, then the writing I was doing on my blog evolved from writing about my own work to writing about other people’s work and the shows I was curating. I decided to start working toward making The Paper Crane legitimate. I got a domain name, asked my friend Eric Gallegos to help me design a better website for The Paper Crane, I rented a bigger studio and asked a long time friend Leslie Carlson to join up with me and start the space and started taking steps to become 501c3. The Paper Crane is now an artist books and works on paper studio and exhibition space. Presently, I am working on preparing for the first big exhibition of the year meanwhile developing an artist books pop-up library that will be permanently housed in the space.
TLN: I find it really interesting and exciting that your electronic, internet based blog in some ways birthed the real life, hard copy artists book and works on paper space. Can you talk a little bit about navigating the divide between digital and print? How does that enhance or inhibit your ability to communicate with others?
DC: The blog and the brick and mortar space kind of keep each other informed. The blog is a quick and easy way for people who are sitting in their office on a Wednesday at 2pm to check out what we are doing and thinking about over at the space. For me, I tend to use the blog to write exhibition reviews or post about an event or class we are hosting at the space. The internet can be such a wonderful tool that it has really enhanced our projects at The Paper Crane. I am curating a show that will be opening in March that features artist books by 26 artists. I put up a call for artists for this show and the amount of emails I received was overwhelming. In that sense it is great for getting the word out about what we’re doing. I work really hard at keep our posts constructive and positive and I think because of that we really have not experienced anything inhibiting as a result. I’m really fascinated by the internet and how accessible everything is because of it’s existence. Starting the Paper Crane would have been so much more difficult and slow going with out the help of having a website and social networking tools.
TLN: I know you gauge interest and enthusiasm of the Paper Crane gallery by the crowds at your openings and the students filling up your classes– how do you evaluate engagement with your blog? The comments section? Google analytics? And do you feel like one (real life) impacts the other (virtual reality) at all?
DC: I get a lot of emails from people telling me how much they like the site. This is really encouraging. We are starting an artist books library and I have gotten a lot of snail mail lately from people who read the blog and wanted to submit their work to the library. It never ceases to shock and humble me that people outside of my group of friends read the blog and are interested in what is happening at the space. The blog has a built in analytics that I track daily. It interests me to see what posts people are interested in reading. However I do not tailor the posts around this. I would like for the blog and the space to by synonymous however right now, they are still separate. The blog is obviously a lot more accessible and I hope it encourages people to come to our exhibitions and visit the space. It is a process integrating the two and it’s not easy. But the slow evolution of it is worth the time, effort and wait.
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer.