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Thoughtful questions and comments about my artwork, teaching, and commissions are welcome. Thank you for your interest. 


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Portland, Me

Crystal Cawley is an artist who works with paper, textiles, collected objects, and re-purposed materials. 


Worth Noting

The Hundred Dresses Project Summer Exhibition

Crystal Cawley


This summer’s exhibition of The Hundred Dresses Project: We are all in this Together is at The Gallery at Penn College in Williamsport, PA, from June 4 to July 23. The image on the announcement card is by Pilar Nadal, one of the 158 dresses in the exhibit. The opening reception will be on Thursday, June 6, from 4:30 to 6:30, where I’ll give a gallery talk at 5:30. On Friday, June 7, I’ll teach an all-day art workshop at the college. 

I’m pleased to show all the dresses again (158 to date), and am excited about related activities organized by Penny Lutz, the gallery director. Penny received a grant to purchase copies of Eleanor Estes’ book, The Hundred Dresses, and art supplies for 11 art teachers at 16 schools in her area. 1350 third- to fifth-graders read the book and made 5 x 7-inch dress prints, which will be shown in a space at the college near the gallery. Also, the gallery is partnering with Studio 570, a Williamsport-based theater company, to present a new theatrical adaptation of The Hundred Dresses. Studio 570 uses the concept of creating theater in ‘found spaces,’ like public schools, to achieve their mission of engaging the public and building the local arts community. There will be performances of the play in the gallery, amidst the 158 dresses on the walls.  

I also made a new interactive piece — a big purple felt dress with flannel-backed paper circles and diamonds for creating patterns. The circles and diamonds have words related to the story printed on them, like kindness, compassion, empathy, and such. Gallery visitors will be able to arrange the circles and diamonds however they like, so the dress will change throughout the run of the show. Big thanks to Elizabeth Berkana, Karen Hinchliffe, and Marie Noelle for help with cutting out 140 or so flannel circles. 

Flannel board dress for the exhibition with details (about 70 inches tall)

In Praise of PrintCraft

Crystal Cawley

PrintCraft is the combined studio of printmaker Lisa Pixley, and letterpress printer and bookbinder Martha Kearsley. Lisa and Martha have a sweet retail area where they sell their own and other artists’ printed work, and have done a wonderful job outfitting the studio space and making the retail area inviting. They have been showing and selling my prints and print-adjacent work since last summer. You can always see something I made there, from letterpress cards and broadsides to frame-able, sometimes stitched, prints of various sorts. PrintCraft is at 246 Danforth Street in Portland’s west end; winter hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5. 

Artist’s Books at the Fair

Crystal Cawley

If you’re anywhere near or in NYC on Saturday, March 9, you can see some of my artist books at the Wolfe Editions table at the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair. Wolfe Editions, owned and operated by my partner, David Wolfe, is one of my printing home bases here in Portland. This year, Wolfe Editions is publishing a fine art press edition of Androscoggin, a book of poems by Marsden Hartley, with 22 original etchings by artist Charlie Hewitt. At the MFPB fair, Wolfe Editions will debut Androscoggin, and feature a selection of books printed by and at Wolfe Editions over the last decade or so, including my edition of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-paper, and a few others. 

The Yellow Wall-paper, story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, artist book edition by Crystal Cawley. Photos by Jay York.

Here's the press release: 

The Fine Press Book Association in collaboration with the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Show is pleased to announce the sixth annual Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

This is an addition to the Vintage Book Fair, known colloquially as the "Shadow Fair." It is a less-formal, less-expensive fair held during the same weekend as the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. This year, as it was last year, it will be located right around the corner from the main fair at the Park Avenue Armory. However, it will take place only one day: Saturday, March 9.

Legacy (only), letterpress, watercolor stencils on paper. Photos by Jay York.

Continuing Studies Classes at the Maine College of Art

Crystal Cawley

I started teaching in the Continuing Studies (CS) program at the Maine College of Art in 2017. CS classes are inspiring and satisfying because students are all ages, and bring different life and work experiences to share and put into what they make. I’m offering a new class this spring called Letterpress Adventures, in which we’ll explore the creative possibilities of using letters and numbers to make rich, layered patterns — details below.

Lead type set for printing

Lead type set for printing

Filter  , letterpress and linoleum cut on paper. The pink letters in the background were printed from the metal type shown above.

Filter, letterpress and linoleum cut on paper. The pink letters in the background were printed from the metal type shown above.

Letterpress Adventures: Printing Type for Pattern and Image

Saturday and Sunday, March 23 & 24, 9 am to 4 pm, $260

Letters — they're not just for pages of readable text. Now that letterpress printing is (mostly) obsolete as a commercial printing venture, artists have been acquiring the type and presses and adapting them for their purposes. One of the exciting ways to use type is in creating pattern, texture, and images. We will play with wood and lead type and transparent ink colors to print patterned papers and images composed from letters, numbers, and other typographic elements. 

If you're interested in the Letterpress Adventures class, click here to go to MECA’s Continuing Studies page for more information and to register. 

Detail of   Lamellar Apron  , letterpress on shirt board, yarn lacing, and rickrack

Detail of Lamellar Apron, letterpress on shirt board, yarn lacing, and rickrack

The Hundred Dresses Project

Crystal Cawley

The Hundred Dresses Project is inspired by Eleanor Estes’ children’s book, The Hundred Dresses. First published in 1944, and still in print, the story has a timeless theme of acceptance and finding the courage to stand up for what’s right.

I printed 200 copies of a simple dress shape (a trapeze dress for you fashion geeks out there) with a letterpress border and title. So far I’ve distributed about 160 of them to artists and other interested folks of all ages, genders, and walks of life. I’ve asked people to read the story, embellish the dress in some way (collage, printing, drawing, painting, sewing), and send the finished piece back to me. I am looking for exhibition venues, and considering other kinds of public events, for when I've gotten back all the ones that people wish to return.  

Letterpress dress print, 14 1/2 x 11 inches

Letterpress dress print, 14 1/2 x 11 inches

Portland Show at Greenhut Gallery

Crystal Cawley

Crystal Cawley,  Portland Hat , 2016, detail. Photo by Jay York.

Crystal Cawley, Portland Hat, 2016, detail. Photo by Jay York.

Crystal Cawley,  Portland Hat , 2016. Photo by Jay York.

Crystal Cawley, Portland Hat, 2016. Photo by Jay York.

Greenhut Gallery’s 8th Biennial Portland Show runs through Saturday, April 30, at 146 Middle Street in downtown Portland. The Portland Show is an invitational exhibition for which artists create work specifically about Portland. 

I made an oversized top hat embellished with paper feathers, leaves, flowers, and covered buttons. I used several large Army Corps of Engineers maps of Portland from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s to make all the parts of the hat. Thank you to the Osher Map Library at USM for their free pile of discarded maps. 

For more information about the exhibition, use this link to contact Greenhut Gallery