John Dancy-Jones was born John Jones in Raleigh, NC in 1953, the first son of J. S. Jones, restaurateur and Mary Rose, a homemaker and insurance secretary. After graduating from Enloe High School in 1971, where he founded an Ecology Club, he attended UNC in Chapel Hill and received a B.A. in English literature in 1976. Under the tutelage of Professors Robert Kirkpatrick and Anne Hall in English poetry, Richard Smyth in philosophy, Robert Hollow in linguistics, Fritz Hafer in anthropology, and Reul Tyson in religious studies, he developed a perspective as a generalist transcendentalist, a humanist critical theorist, and a doubting, neurotic creative writer!
He had also become a huge fan of William Blake, and was continuing to develop his large book collection. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Nora Kuper, for less than three years during this period, moving to Greensboro after graduation in order for her to attend UNC-G. During his employment at UNC-G’s Jackson Library, he read the entire William Blake canon in facsimile editions in the Special Collections department, and developed a friendship with Charles Adams, Librarian Emeritus. Dr. Adams taught Jones the use of the library’s Washington hand press, and stimulated his interest in hand-laid paper. Jones first made paper and printed on it in 1977 as a backyard art project with Nora. His initial (and yet to be completed) book arts project involved William Blake – a screenprint facsimile on 18th century style paper, of Blake’s America , using (with permission) a high contrast facsimile published by the University of New Mexico.
With much encouragement from UNC-G printmaking artists such as Elain Christensen and Guillermo Velasco, he developed a process for the production of utilitarian hand-laid recycled paper, using high quality scrap and commercial cotton fibers. He also began experimenting with performance art and participating in dance and performance art events in interaction with Clyde Smith, with whom he already shared and collaborated in writing and publishing. He returned to Raleigh in 1980 and became manager of the Bookmark bookstore on Fayetteville Street Mall. In 1982 he founded The Paper Plant, a used and new bookstore featuring local art and hand-laid paper. In 1983, he began publication of broadsides and chapbooks, mostly publishing local writers emerging from the open mike series he emceed for over seven years.
In 1985, John married Cara Dancy and they became the Dancy-Jones. The Paper Plant, with Cara’s support, moved from its Salisbury Street location to Martin Street, and became the physical home of the reading series which had formerly taken at the Berkeley cafe and other downtown Raleigh venues. John published over a dozen small press titles, winning the Southern Book Awards for alternative publishing in 1985. He gave papermaking workshops in a wide variety of venues, including universities, art groups and NCSU Pulp and Paper Science students, as well as hundreds of private studio workshops. He also produced several series of visual artworks through his papermaking and printmaking, winning a purchase award from Burroughs Wellcome through a show at Artspace in 1987. John was a featured reader in various local venues as well at The School of the Arts in Winston Salem, and was a featured performer and performance artist at Artsplosure from 1982-85.
The Paper Plant itself became the nucleus for an alternative arts community in Raleigh, with monthly art shows, the open readings, and other activities, winning the NC independent’s award for small business support of the Arts in 1989. John emceed the weekly open mike series, curated and promoted the monthly art shows, and published FARCE!, a quarterly newsletter for The Paper Plant, which documented and explored the alternative arts scene of Raleigh. When his two children Lily and Dorian were born, Dancy-Jones began teaching art at Women’s Prison and making plans to adapt or close the bookstore. Artist studio rentals and other strategies only forestalled the inevitable: The Paper Plant closed in December of 1990.
After closing the store, Dancy-Jones developed alternate venues for many of The Paper Plant’s activities, even while moving toward a long term career in education. He “curated” a poetry series for City Gallery for two years, and printed hand-laid paper broadsides for that series in his residential letterpress shop. He and Cara continued to make paper in the basement of their Oakwood home, which they purchased with the soon-to-be-homeless studios in mind. John published several postponed Paper Plant titles over the next few years, participated in the Poetry Slams at Forum+Function, as well as many featured performances at Stammer in downtown Raleigh. He continues to make paper, print, and do book arts workshops, but has retired from community service publishing.
After two years teaching art at the NC Women’s Correctional Institution, John Dancy-Jones took a teaching position at The Achievement School, a private remedial school for students with LD and ADHD. He earned a Master’s of Education at NCSU, specializing in the instruction of students with learning disabilities, and became a certified teacher. As his school grew, he shifted to science instruction and taught science to first through eighth grade, as well as Environmental Education at The Fletcher Academy for a total of 21 years. A highlight of that career was his presentation of a paper entitled Semantic Mapping: metacognitive strategies in content reading at the state conference of the Learning Disabilities Association.
After appearing in typical school publications at Enloe and in UNC-CH’s Cellar Door, as well as several of the zines distributed at The Paper Plant, John Dancy-Jones had a novella entitled The Suicide of Hooker Van Dusen published by Peloria Press of Raleigh in 1985. The book was begun in Greensboro and dedicated to Fred Chappell and to the memory of Randall Jarrell, whose presence seemed strong to John while he was in Greensboro. That same year the Paper Plant published Performance Poems, a collection of poems written specifically for the Thursday Night Open Readings at The Paper Plant. The first edition sold out and it was reprinted in 1988. Snapper: My Life with Snapping Turtles, came out in fall of 2001. A limited edition book physically produced by the author, Snapper featured hand-laid paper in six pulps, and 11 block prints to go with the thousand word essay. Snapper sold out in January of 2008, partly as the result of a wonderful profile in the N & O.
Currently John Dancy-Jones is tutoring, gardening and cooking with Cara, transitioning to a new home in Asheville, and and blogging when the time can be found! Raleigh Nature has evolved into a book manuscript, and Raleigh Rambles focuses on Black Mountain College these days. Yet the online life is endless and bottomless. Selling books on Amazon, reviewing and just reading can be overwhelming. And here you are! Cheers to open access and the global village!