One of the newcomers to our staff is Rachel. A cheery team-member who cuts our Flurry paper and ships our supply orders, she loves to send snail mail. Since she has joined us, she has her eye on letterpress cards that bring a laugh, Rachel shares with us her round-up of humor-filled prints to make anyone’s day. Let us know which one is tickling your funny bone in the comments below!
Bright pops of color, clean designs, and a hearty dose of whimsical humor can be seen in the letterpress works of Ryan Tempro (and team!) at M.C. Pressure. The Florida-based printer sat down with us to talk shop about Kelsey tabletop beginnings and expanding out with new presses & custom-printed works in tow. Read on to hear about the satisfying pride that goes into seeing the printed pieces being transformed into one-of-kind crafted pieces.
PRINTING IN THE SUNSHINE STATE M.C. Pressure is a print shop in St. Augustine, Florida specializing in letterpress, foil stamping, die-cutting and embossing. I started the company in 2014 after printing a couple years at a small stationery shop while I was in college. We have a lot of capabilities for a small shop. It’s been exciting to see the clients we’ve been able to work with and the creative things they come up with! We also design and create our own line of products that range from greeting cards to coasters to notepads and more.
INK IN THE BLOOD I first learned about letterpress and what it was while going through the graphic design department at Flagler College, here in St. Augustine, Florida. I was able to get a job at a local stationery shop operating their 8×12 Chandler and Price. I fell in love with the tactility of letterpress and being able to create something with my hands and away from the computer.
After I graduated from college I spent a summer in New York for an internship with an artist and was exposed to a lot of different print and production methods. When I returned I started a job at a screen printing shop that had an old Kluge for die-cutting decals. My boss saw my interest in the machine and introduced me to a friend of his who was an old timer in town who ran letterpresses for years.
He had a few small tabletop Kelsey presses that needed some work, but had all the parts! I bought them and cleaned them up and started a little shop on the side when I had time and clients. Over the next few years, I grew from a little tabletop press to several larger presses and a full time shop for myself and a couple of employees!
PRINTSHOP PARADISE Our shop is a modest 1300-ish sq/ft warehouse. We have a 30″ Challenge Paper cutter, an Orbital 8 Poly Plate Maker, 2 Heidelberg Windmills 10×15, 1 Heidelberg GTP 13×18, and 1 Heidelberg KSBA Cylinder Press. I love the capabilities we can accomplish with these machines. They are incredible workhorses. Some days they can be very temperamental, but overall they are wonderful and I’m very fortunate to have the machines I do. My favorite is probably the KSBA, it’s such an accurate press in all aspects of register and inking. I’d be lying to say as a printer that I didn’t love to print large, and that press allows us to really work on a larger format.
Our shop is located in St. Augustine, Florida which is the nation’s oldest city. It’s also a pretty small area so the community as a whole has been very accepting and welcoming of us and our small business. St. Augustine has a lot of rich history and a lot of great local makers and restaurants… a lot of which we’ve become friends with over the years. It’s truly a great community to be in support of and help others follow their passions.
CHILL NEIGHBORHOOD We have a city guide online for sale with a lot of our favorite places. The downtown area is where a lot of people visit when they come into town, though it’s also filled with the most touristy things in town. We are off of the West King Neighborhood and we love it! I’d say if you’re in town check out the Blue Hen Cafe for breakfast or SunDay. Dos and The Kookaburra for coffee. Juniper Market for a snack. Really there are so many great spots in town!
PRINTING MENTORS The print community as a whole has been very helpful. I’d say our biggest contacts are Dan over at Clove St. Press. He is probably one of the best I’ve seen, and I have to include Matt at Matte Gold in Australia. They also have GTP Foil Windmills and were a huge help in learning more about that machine specifically. I always love seeing the content and machines running from Studio on Fire and their capabilities are truly incredible. We have a shoutout to Letterpress Mechanic and Chris at FI Letterpress as well for troubleshooting. Really, there are folks all over we keep in touch with and love to see work from.
FULL TIME FUN I started M.C. Pressure in 2014 and worked on it part-time until the beginning of 2017 when I went full-time with it! I can say that I honestly love my job and love what I do.
THE CREATIVE ENERGIES I went to school for graphic design so some things are still designed by me. At the moment though most of my time is spent on press and business admin tasks. We have an employee, Lauren, who focuses the most on graphics for us. She graduated from Flagler College as well. We use a lot of digital processes in the work-flow. We use the Apple iPad and Pencil for a lot of the illustration work and typically finish up type in the computer through the Adobe suite.
We usually think up a funny idea and work on visualizing it. Or we have an image we want to create and work to create a use for it. Sometimes we get feedback from customers on looking for a type of product or more of a certain type of thing and can work to make them. For example, more birthday cards, or something to say I like you, but maybe don’t love you quite yet.
PRINTING FEATS Hmm, I’m always really proud of the packaging projects we work on here. Seeing the printed pieces being cut down and transformed into a three-dimensional object is always so satisfying. Most recently we printed a pretty complex and accurate carton for Hellcats USA for their Devilish Scent. A black outer sleeve with matte red foil and a red tonal letterpress printed on red for the inner carton. It had a cutout that needed to line-up perfectly with the print inside, and assemble to be snug enough to hold itself together. Clark Orr worked on the dieline and he truly nailed it with this project!
PRESS HISTORY Our very first press was a 5×8 Kelsey Table Top. It was a great start, but thank goodness we don’t have to work on such a manual press anymore!
BOXCAR’S ROLE In the early days of us starting out, we used Boxcar Press for all things! We got a set of inks, letterpress base, printing plates, and would use their resources to help figure out how to use the machines we acquired over the years. Though we don’t use Boxcar Press much these days, they were a huge help in getting us started on projects and understanding the things we use.
LETTERPRESS TIPS It isn’t always possible, but I almost always print with crop marks. I know it makes for a larger plate and paper size AND requires trimming. However, It really saves so much time, I think, on press to be able to utilize the grid on the Boxcar Base. It also allows for what I think is easier spotting if things start to bounce or get out of register.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT Over the last couple of years we’ve acquired various pieces of machines. This year we hope to not do that as much and really focus on the things we have to be as streamlined and efficient as possible! We don’t have a dedicated retail space, but we are working on some ideas to change that and hopefully get things out there more in our community!
A double round of applause & thanks out to Ryan Tempro at M.C. Pressure for letting us take a sneak peek at his wonderful plus fun printing realm!
Nancy Hill of Hazel & Violet Letterpress, is a fine press printer who calls Phoenix, Arizona home. The colorful and inviting letterpress studio (which matches Nancy’s personality to a T) is also a teaching facility and commercial print shop with roots in the community. She was kind enough to give us a shop tour of her printing paradise.
AROUND THE SHOP Lighting…[we have] a bunch of LED flood high up on a 20′ wooden ceiling. The overall lighting is good, however, specific lighting (like to take photos) sucks. The floor plan changes annually but I think we have it right now. Production presses (Windmill, C&P) are in the back and the proof presses are in the front… type is everywhere. Decorating style: posters and prints on every square inch of wall space in no particular order. Floors are concrete.
PRIZED PRINTING POSSESSIONS Oh hell, I love it all. I love all my presses and most of my type… I also dearly love my big-ass working table… where I can spread out projects, work in progress, and new ideas.
SHOP SIZE The whole space is about 1500 sq. feet, but I sublet about 600 of it to an art collective for their gallery.
AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD The building is everything! It used to be Braggs Pie Factory (yes, they made pie exactly where we now print). It now houses a coffee shop, restaurant, beauty salon, head shop, art studio, a puppet shop…. and ME. Our neighborhood (downtown Phoenix-adjacent) is called Historic Grand Avenue…just an incredible neighborhood. The owner of my building is an artist and has completely decorated everything in front of the building and the entire street is amazing.
TYPE OF SHOP We are an open-to-the-public retail space, workshop space, and printing studio. We are open almost every day. We also have events on First and Third Friday nights for an art walk. We have a poster set up on one or two of the proof presses and anyone can come and print a free poster. The last First Friday we had a bit more than 200 people.
Repress #1 Proof Press
Potter #2 proof Press
Long-master Showcard Press
MOST VALUABLE TOOL Probably the Windmill. We do wedding invites on this one. But the C&P is what we print all of our cards, stationery, and coasters on.
FAVORITE INK I use a variety of inks. If I need a specific PMS color I sometimes go with Southern Inks (good guys). But these days, my pressman mixes ink colors – which certainly saves money. My stay-open black ink (forms black )that I use ALL THE TIME I get locally at Quality Inks.
CLEANING SOLVENT OF CHOICE Speedy Wash from Kelly Paper. To clean up I use white random rags by the pound from Ace Hardware.
BASE SYSTEM & PLATE OF CHOICE Boxcar. Boxcar. Boxcar. Love you…Never use anyone else. I do occasionally use Owosso when the client wants a cut. I also went to an Industrial supply house to get an 11×17 tool plate aluminum base. (sorry)
BEST CLEAN-UP RAGS Rags by the pound from Ace Hardware. Best deal.
PIED TYPE? Nope. I have a few old tied-up forms that people have given me over the years. Weird stuff from the 40s and 50s. Eventually, I’ll dump them in the hell box (can) and run them upstate to Sky for credit on some new type.
ORGANIZATION TIPS No secret…constant vigilance for stuff not in the right place. Also, I am the queen of spreadsheets… so, there is always a plan.
Nothing makes us more proud and excited when we learn about young printers and poets in the schools getting a chance to put their hand to a press. The sixth grade students of Mount Desert Elementary School (Mount Desert Island, Maine) experienced the joys and challenges while printing their own poetry this past year. The project was led by writing teachers Ms. Mariah Baker and Ms. Maria Simpson combined with artists/printers Nikki Moser and Katherine Emery. Read on to hear all about the group’s instruction in hand-set type, printing with photopolymer plates, bookbinding, and the fun that went into the Call of the Robin letterpress printed book project.
KATHERINE EMERY: I had met my daughter’s writing teacher, and she told me about a month-long poetry project the 6th graders were working on, and how it had transformed their attention and energy. It was a positive place to put their worries about the world. She was trying to do something special for them as an end-of-the-year project.
On impulse, I offered to help them print their poems. I got Nikki to agree to use her press and then persuaded the teachers to agree to bring the class for printing. I volunteered to help layout the poems for photopolymer plates, and then helped the students sew the books together.What a day when the kids walked to Nikki Moser’s artist studio and pulled prints on a tabletop press. After the students bound their final books, they signed their poems in the editions.
Teacher MS. MARIA SIMPSON: After the “Call of the Robin” poetry book was completed, we read the poems to the 2nd graders and it was so moving – each kid read their poem with feeling and passed a printed book hand to hand.
Then the kids gave the second graders advice about writing their own poems. One student, Kohl, had this advice,“Sometimes, when I got stuck, I would take a little walk. Then I would come back and write from my heart.”
It was an inspiring project that the students and I will remember for a long time. I look forward to doing it again!
STUDENTS’ REACTIONS AND REFLECTIONS
PIERCE HOLLEY:This experience was super fun and I loved that we got to be writing and doing art at the same time! It was really cool to be doing the printing instead of just using our computer like we always do. This would be an amazing activity for others.
LANAIA McDANIELS:I really enjoyed the printing project. It was super fun to do, and I got to learn new and interesting things. The best part about it was learning how to use the printingpress. It was fun to see and use it because I never knew about a printing press and the history behind it.
Kemy: I got to learn from Nikki and Katherine the basic skills behind printing and making my own book. It was very fun and I got to be with my friends trying new things.
HELAYNA SAVAGE:I loved writing poetry with Ms. Baker and Ms. Simpson. We did a lot of different types of poetry and close to the end we went to a place where we used a printing press. Best thanks to Katherine Emery and her work partner.
CORINNA JOHNSTON: I learned how printing is made and I really liked getting to print my own poem.
PHOENIX SWEET: With Katherine and Nikki, I had fun learning to bind a book, I also enjoyed putting ink on, learning to use, and printing my poem on the printing press.
We’re proud to share their story and hear how printing enriched these students and inspired fellow printers to reach out to their community. Huge round of applause out to Katherine, Nikki, and both teachers for getting their students invigorated about being on press and creating a lasting project. As Katherine beautifully stated about the project: “the 6th graders [were] over the moon to be out in the sunshine, celebrating words, and using beautiful old machinery to honor their inner voices.”
Next up in our Letterpress Friend chat series is AJ Masthay. We are bowled over by the mesmerizing details in his concert poster series and his bright + bold color combinations. AJ is a Connecticut-based printer who always makes us wonder “What is he up to this time?!” We sat down for a quick minute to see what’s on his Vandercook (and beyond!) via Masthay Studios.
Boxcar Press: So good to catch up with you! We’ve all got the printing bug and we’re just curious about when you got “bitten”!
AJ: That happened back in my sophomore year of art school when I was first introduced to old-school stone lithography. Literally drawing on pieces of limestone, using leather rollers and gum arabic to reproduce beautiful full tonal drawings. It felt like the world of magic and alchemy to me, I was hooked.
Boxcar Press: Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use.
AJ: That’s my first Vandercook Universal I for sure. I found it through the help of one of my college professors, Jim Lee, a few years after I graduated. I was hoping to get an etching press as I figured that was the most versatile. Jim mentioned he knew of a Vandercook in a guy’s garage he was looking to sell. The only problem was it was completely disassembled and in pieces.
$500 later…. it was mine and I spent the next couple of months studying the presses at my former art school to figure out how to reassemble the Uni I in my basement. That’s the press that started my entire art career but I wound up trading it for my current “go to” press which is a Universal III. The hand cranking on thousands of print passes became a bit much. The larger format and motorized aspect of the Uni III just made it way more realistic for my shop. I’m also in the process of possibly adding a large Vandercook 32-28 to my shop which is very, very exciting.
Boxcar Press: What is something people might not know about you?
AJ: People that follow me might know this already but I have a deep fascination with bones and osteology and have been collecting skulls since I was a little kid. I now have a pretty extensive collection at the studio with well over 200 skulls of various species.
Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower? Every printer has one….
AJ: This one is easy, my printing superpower is my coworker Kait Lennon (@longlegslennon on IG) who handles almost all of the printing in my shop these days. There is no way I could crank out the amount of work I do for clients without having someone else working the press and there’s no one I trust more with my work than Kait.
Boxcar Press: Anything you want to give us a sneak peak about or a current project you have in the works? Maybe one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done? (We all have one!)
AJ: I’m currently working on a series of new art prints that I’m calling my “Pet Projects” that I plan on releasing at my November 12th open studio event. Summers tend to be very very busy for us with client work (summer tours, festivals, etc.) Once we got through all that this year I thought it would be nice to take some time to work on a few pieces that I’ve been meaning to do but always seem to get pushed off.
LOL […] I have many many projects that seem to just never get done. Hopefully, I can check a few off with this upcoming show though.
Boxcar Press: Last quick question & just for fun(!) – Do you like to listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create?
AJ: Both really, depends on my mood and what’s going on that day. I find music, usually very loud music, helps me get in the creative zone when coming up with overall concepts or working out compositions/layout. Podcasts seem better when I’m diving into detail work and fleshing out/completing drawings. Neither is written in stone though.
That was a delightful time, AJ. We’re grateful for the friendly chat! Visit his website link to delve more into the hue-filled world of masthaystudios.com.
I think we can all agree letterpress fits the dictionary definition of niche (a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service), but when we gather as a community as we love to do, we feel dynamic, vibrant, and that we are at the peak of the printing heap.
To start, our presses are beautiful and have stood the test of time, our printing papers are luxurious and rainbow gorgeous, and our type options number in the thousands. We can carve a lino block or make a polymer plate or handset some letters and in relatively little time, make a beautiful print or a thought-provoking broadside. Is it any wonder we feel a little heady when we can print?
Now, put one or more of us together in the same place and we can get giddy. Boxcar Press was a vendor at the Lancaster .918 Club Printer’s Fair in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this past weekend. We brought our wares to showcase and sell, however, we really love the conversations, the demonstrations, and finding a tool and printed piece we need in our own collection. We joke as we leave that we may be going home with more than we brought. And we are happy about it.
This is the way of “our kind” at our Conferences, our Wayzgoose’s, print demonstrations and field trips. I personally enjoy the people interactions and hearing their stories. Just a sampling form this weekend:
The Amish printer who works for a group that prints Russian books that go to the Ukraine. There are 11 million ethnic Russians who live in the Ukraine. His group is still shipping books despite the war and, as you can imagine, those books are moving about the country as the people are moving around.
A long time customer from North Carolina, Brian closed his shop and moved up to Philly in 2019. Cue the pandemic and he laid low. Now he is helping a community print shop with letterpress and press instruction.
Some beginner printers looking for the supplies for their new love of letterpress. They pick up a few items and tips and leave us with their enthusiasm. Always get revved up for the new printers.
Putting a face to customers who were names and voices for over a decade. It is so good to really meet them and connect.
Visiting with other vendors with their new wares and new projects – yes, we will buy that calendar and that print and those cards, thank you very much.
Marveling over the long rows of printing presses like soldiers and the type drawers and impressive equipment at the Ken Kulakowsky Center for Letterpress and Book Arts. And talking with Ken himself.
Being pleasantly surprised by visitors who aren’t printers and may have a vague connection to print (publishing, marketing, artists) but thought this Fair sounded intriguing. We hope we passed on some of our passion and introduced them to a new artisan craft. Thanks for letting us talk on and on.
Welcoming fellow Boxcar employees who drove the 8 hour round trip to surprise and support us and get their own firsthand taste of the letterpress printing fair experience. What a blast!
Chatting with everyone’s favorite supplier, John Barrett of Letterpress Things . What an impressive array of table top presses. If you are looking, check with John.
We can’t encourage you enough to attend a printers fair or a Letterpress Conference (shout out to the Ladies of Letterpress this week for their conference). There is so much to catch your eye and to marvel over if your heart is in letterpress printing. Look for a chapter of the American Printing History Association near you and join and go to their events. Visit the various printing museums around the country and the world or a Book Arts Center. Take or teach a workshop so the teaching and learning go on. And thanks for bringing Boxcar Press along on your letterpress journey.
Next up in our Letterpress Friend chat is Ben Sargent. A Texas native and avid Chandler & Price printer, Ben is an inspiration for the pursuit of printing knowledge, and offers some good chuckles, and stories. As the conductor of Sargent Brothers Printers & Typographers, he adds abit of charismatic style that comes only with letterpress.
Boxcar Press: So wonderful to catch up with you and delightful to have you. Speaking of delights… is there one defining moment or point that you just fell hard for printing?
Ben: It was last Christmas. I realized that was the date 60 years prior that my brother and I received our first press and type–a 5×8 Kelsey Excelsior, seven fonts of type, and the whole outfit. While we knew our Dad had been a printer in boyhood and we had grown up around the hot-type composing room of the Amarillo Globe-News, it was the first experience as “real printers” ourselves, and I never looked back.
Boxcar Press: Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use?
Ben: Three years after I began on the Excelsior mentioned above, Dad brought home the C&P 10×15 Old Series he and his brother had bought as teenagers in 1928. That is the press I use to this day. She is a graceful and hardy specimen from the long-ago era of well-built iron-and-steel machinery. “I love her well and she must love me….”
Boxcar Press: What is something people might not know about you that would surprise them?
Ben: Maybe they don’t know that when I’m not printing, I can often be found swinging on and off moving equipment as a fully licensed but volunteer brakeman and conductor on our local excursion railroad. Can’t keep me away from ancient technology.
Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower? You definitely have one!
Ben: I usually think there are always people who can do better than I in just about every facet of this trade, but if I had to choose a superpower, maybe it would be the delight I have in continuing to learn things about every aspect of the work, even 60 years into it. Sometimes new techniques, skills, and understandings come from my dear colleagues both young and old. Sometimes there are things I just figure out on my own, but it is always a pleasure to learn one more of the apparently infinite things there are to learn about this craft.
Boxcar Press: Anything you want to reveal about a current project you are working on – even a hint or clue?
Ben: Recently, I had one of the most curious and interesting wedding invitations in the course of printing many, many such projects. The invitation itself is a thin 5 x 4 box. It was a challenge finding people who could do the tasks beyond my capacity such as the necessary die-cutting, duplexing, scoring, and laser-cutting of some tiny holes. Really the only part I had left was doing some letterpress on the inside of the box. But the finished box contains a computer chip the recipient plugs in and then touches the laser-cut openings to play various sound recordings from the happy couple. (The wedding involved a graphic designer and a computer engineer, so there you go.)
Boxcar Press: Given these current “strange” times, what is that one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done?
Ben: If I had to pick one, might be the 3rd edition of our handset-type specimen book, last published in 2010, and in need of an update. But the deck seems to stay crowded with job work even in strange times, so it does keep getting put off.
Boxcar Press: One last question before you finish your drink, an IPA from Texas-local Pinthouse Brewing called “Electric Jellyfish”, – Do you listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create?
Ben: I always have my Pandora channels on, which beggar the word “eclectic.” I’ve seen a young typesetter friend’s eyebrows rise when hearing Brubeck–Mercedes Sosa–Gregorian chant–Booker T and the MGs–Tommy Dorsey–Handel–Brazilian bossa nova etc. all in a row.
Printing on press is as much a personal creative time as it is an experience you just can’t wait to share with others. This is an observation from Thom Caraway of the Spokane Print & Publishing Center. The full-time teacher and Center organizer has enjoyed creating a space where all interested in the craft could roll-up their sleeves and get inky. We spent time with Thom to talk shop, and to see how the printing world in Spokane is being discovered by others at their printing paradise.
GEARING UP FOR PRINTING ADVENTURES I’m a university English professor in Spokane, Washington via Whitworth University. I write poetry and teach classes in editing, book design, and print culture.
In 2015, I inherited a C&P from a printmaking professor who didn’t want it in the school art studio anymore. I was excited about it but had no idea what to do with it (or even how it worked). Shortly after, I met Bethany Taylor, who was getting her shop off the ground, and we decided to make a place where neophytes could come learn. She’d been to the Independent Publishers Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland, and we modeled ourselves off of their space and got going.
PRINTING CENTER COMMUNITY We closed Iteration one in 2018 when our lease ran out, and moved into the new space as Spokane Print & Publishing Center in 2019. With the bigger space, we were able to add more presses and expand from letterpress and screenprint into relief and etching as well. Later, we added book arts and digital design and printing. My favorite thing is when there are members spread out across the shop all working on different awesome things, especially if several presses are going at once.
ALL IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD We’re a 5-minute drive from the Kendall Yards neighborhood and the Spokane River. Downtown is just across the river, so we are close to food and shopping.
PART-TIME PRINTER, FULL-TIME FUN This is a side hustle from my day job teaching. I would love to get to a point where I could print full time though.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS I’m becoming more of a planner, but mostly I’m a seat-of-my-pants designer. I like seeing what happens with different applications of color, and big messy press beds full of wood type. From there, I might layer in a quote or phrase, or play around with the letterforms of larger wood type to see what happens.
PRINTING FEATS Making a more formal turn from writing to printing in the last four years has been a lot of fun, if a little nerve-wracking at times. But mostly I’m proud of our little shop. We’ve weathered COVID well, and offer classes pretty much every week now. I feel like we’re really developing Spokane’s appetite for the print and book arts, and training up a bunch of new printers!
PRESS HISTORY I have that first press – a C&P Old Style with a broken flywheel axle. Have still never gotten that thing fully functional.
BOXCAR’S ROLE We’ve gotten a bunch of ink from Boxcar, and had some plates made. And we’ve been meaning to order some logo plates, too!
PRINTING TIPS & TECHNIQUES I print mostly now on a Vandercook 14, which is really basic, so no ink rollers. Everything is applied by hand. My advice for letterpress printers is don’t be afraid to mess it up a bit. I love a nice clean print as much as anyone, but I’m also really interested in the accidents and goofs. Those are usually my favorites.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT I’ve got a full slate of letterpress classes spread through the year. I am hoping to grow our membership base once things open back up, and continue developing our Print Town USA events, which get the public into the shop for sales and demos, and are just a lot of (socially-distanced) fun.
A double round of applause & thanks out to Thom of Spokane Print & Publishing Center for letting us take a sneak peak at the wonderful community-driven printing center!
In our second installment on the 2020 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside / Words of Courage, we shine a spotlight on another trio of printers who breathed life into a family story, brought to life great word pictures, and more.
Their inspiration is the poetry written by children who are patients at the hospital and with the team of Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of Seattle’s Writers in the Schools program (WITS).
I illustrated and printed “The Rat” by Lucy Watters, Age 7, for the Children’s Hospital Broadside poetry project. I think the poem is so fun and I found out after I designed the artwork that it was a family story that was told often in their household.
Lucy, like me, loves animals and has written other poems featuring a variety of species. I wanted this broadside to be something that the family would want to hang on a wall, so the rat became part of the rose bush rather than a grotesque figure. Lucy was in my thoughts the entire time I worked on this piece. I hope that she felt that her poem came to life.
This year was special to me for printing because I set up my own printing shop in January 2020 and the broadside was my first big letterpress project in my own space, using my own machines and newly acquired type. Then Covid hit and put things on hold for so many printers. I felt lucky. I could do the entire project except for cutting the paper. And then, serendipitously, in mid-May a beautiful old paper cutter showed up for sale in Aurora, Oregon. Road trip and the cutter was mine! A couple of days after that, I was able to complete “The Rat” and send early copies to Lucy and her family.
Here is a description of my process:
Here is the mock-up, including hand-set type proof.
Linocut, reduction-style, for the background. I also used pressure printing for the first time ever, to make the rat’s features and roses pink. It felt like an arts and crafts project and I needed some long-distance coaching from my letterpress mentors, Jenny Wilkson and Amy Redmond.
Here I cut away the white parts of the rat and roses, and printed the green background.
More arts and crafts pressure printing to add dimension to the rose bush.
Last pass before printing the type! More of the lino block was cut away so that
the features of the rat and the outlines of the leaves and roses would pop with a darker green.
Here is the final product, before cutting to size.
And one last photo of my new shop, my printer’s helper Sheraton, and of the paper cutter that finished the job so Lucy and her family could receive the prints early.
I was immediately drawn to Peyton Bartz’s poem titled Something New because of the beautiful words about a mermaid tree. I loved Peyton’s descriptions – lumpy, flowing, green, honey-dew melon, rough, scratchy, hard as glass, soft. These words made me think of coral and its magical properties. Everything was hand done but the type was a polymer plate from Boxcar. I found a lovely font, Josefin Slab, to create the poem, which felt contemporary and clean. I knew I wanted to do layers and textures to match the poet’s descriptions, so I forged ahead.
The broadside was created with five separate printing steps on the press:
First pass: I used a piece of wood to create a subtle textured background, and printed it in a warm yellow. Second pass: I drew and cut out the coral-like tree on chipboard, glued it to wood, sealed it with acrylic medium, then printed it in a mossy green. Third pass: I created a mermaid with coral-like qualities to blend in with the tree (and used the same cutout/glued process as the tree), then printed her in blue.
I wanted to give the mermaid more features, so I carved linoleum for her face and tail, and did this fourth pass in light green to match Peyton’s descriptions.
And finally, the fifth and final pass was the poem itself, laying on top of the entire picture so it would stand out. I felt the colors and layers of the elements looked nice and hopefully reflected Peyton’s words!
This is my seventh year participating in the Seattle Children’s broadside project. I was so happy to join in on its 10th year anniversary! This year, I printed a poem that was written by 16 year old Darren Lagbao, titled ‘My Mom And I’. This poem is a loving tribute to his mom and his words honor her strength, patience and attentiveness, whether she is making adobo with pork sauce and boiled eggs or reading him to sleep.
From an imagery stand point, there is so much in Darren’s poem to inspire. I chose to illustrate the lines where he talks about his mom’s patience in teaching him to care for the family’s 5 dogs. This is something that I have in common as my extended family includes 5 dogs as well.
The image is printed from a reduction cut, or a lino-block that is carved away in between each color layer. I started with a thick paintbrush to paint directly onto the lino-block and then carved around all the little detailed edges to get the dynamic brush strokes in the blue background layer. Then I carved and printed two more layers of brown ink for the mom and the group of dogs.
There is so much in this project to be grateful for, especially this year which was fraught with challenges. I’m grateful to have been able to print Darrens’ words; to work alongside a group of amazingly talented printers; to have so much support in this project from WITS, the School of Visual Concepts (now Partners in Print) and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Our leadership team is 100% behind this project every year as they guide our team of printers and our sponsor partners encourage us. For more behind-the-scenes, check out Sarah’s blog article about the project here.
Did you miss Part 1 of the 2020 Children’s Broadsides project? Read more and visit Partners in Print to see previous years efforts and news on the 2021 Project. A thousand heartfelt thanks go out to all the printers, young poets & their families, and organizers who continue to make this Broadside collection special every year.
It is always a treat to share the joy and delight of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside collection. The colorful stories and broadside prints are a testament to the hearty spirits of the participants. They include: the folks at the Writers in the Schools program working with the children at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the letterpress printers of Partners in Print (formerly part of the letterpress family at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts – SVC). Together, this collaboration crafts memorable letterpress broadsides of poetry.
At Boxcar Press, we are honored every year to be a part of this project. This first installment of a two-part blog covers the 2020 edition of the Portfolio, titled I Know What It Means to Be Brave. Read on about three printers who share the love through wood and metal type, aligning the stars (literally) while on press, and more.
Bonnie Thompson Norman
We usually know very little about the poets whose poems we have chosen to print. We go by the feeling or inspiration we take from reading and re-reading the poems. I was drawn to Darian Parker’s poem because it felt like a benediction. The young man was 16 when he wrote his poem. I wanted to create something that felt a little more ‘grown-up’ by using a palette that seemed rather more sophisticated than child-like.
In the poem, he thanks someone for giving him a second chance. One infers from the text that Darian is the recipient of a transplant. I placed circular shapes at the top and bottom of the broadside, one in a grey, the other in a golden color to give the feeling that he had gone from a dark place to one that was much lighter. Darian’s poem recites how he is thankful for the gift he has received. I tried to convey the feeling of that second chance by having a large golden shape seem to be rising from the bottom of the broadside as in a sunrise. I find his poem to be a beautiful expression of gratitude and it moves me each time I read it.
The type for this broadside is all handset using both metal and wood types. The metal types are 18 point Albertus and 8 point Bernhard Gothic Light. The wood type is 8 line. I used both linoleum and ⅛” plastic for the circular shapes and printed the broadside on both a Vandercook SP 15 and a 10 x 15 Chandler & Price. The text for the poem went on the Vandercook as well as the title because these were large forms. The shapes, poet’s name and age, and the colophon were printed on the C&P. Using two presses makes it easier to move along in the production of the piece. While printing, I slip-sheeted each broadside so that the ink would not offset from the front of one sheet to the back of the next because there was so much ink coverage. I left the slip sheets in until after I had done the final trim.
Due to COVID-19, we were not able to gather together as a group to create the portfolios. I bound all of them in my home studio on my own. Gathering to bind the portfolios is a wonderful process for all of the printers. It is an enjoyable chance to visit with one another, talk about our work on our broadsides,and catch up on everything else as well. It wasn’t difficult for me to bind the portfolios by myself as I have been a commercial hand binder for a number of years but I did miss our camaraderie.
My co-leader in the binding of the Children’s Hospital broadside project over the years has been Jules Remedios Faye. Jules chose the color scheme for this year’s portfolio and created the beautiful letterpress printed label for the front cover. After all of the portfolio covers were completed, I used the entire table surface of my studio to collate the broadsides. It is always a wonderful opportunity to see all of them together and marvel at the originality and creativity that each designer/printer brings to the text of their poet. Instead of our usual wrap-up for this project when we have gotten together to read the poems out loud and talk about our design process, I was able to hand off each printer’s portfolio individually as they came to my house (safely!) to collect their copy. It was both a celebration to deliver a complete portfolio and an affirmation that we can continue to do good and meaningful work despite the challenges we faced.
My poem is “Powerful Things” by Jazee Holloway (her first name is pronounced JUH-zay and rhymes with sauté).
This poem has many images, and as usual for me, I really dithered over how to illustrate them. In the end, I went with my love of wood type and decided to highlight the words as image.
Because of the pandemic, our options for printing on a Vandercook at SVC or other printers’ studios became very limited. So I decided to print this broadside at home, hand-inking the edition of 110 on my 14” x 24” sign press. I’m retired, and all my usual activities had been cancelled, so what the heck – I had plenty of time!
(I use Caligo Safe Wash ink, which I thicken with magnesium carbonate)
I used my limited but beloved collection of wood and metal type for the background, and inked it in two colors. Some of the prints have a graduated or ombre look, but I abandoned that after a while. I printed the backgrounds over the course of 3 days – this is a VERY variable edition!
The text, title, and colophon are photopolymer from Boxcar. I was afraid I wouldn’t get a crisp print for the black text, but it worked out fine. I think I also spent 3 days printing the black run.
This was a satisfying experience in “making do” with what is at hand. I’m lucky to have a couple small presses and a bit of type at home. As always, it’s an honor to participate in the Children’s Hospital Broadside project. We had our final celebration via Zoom in September – it was wonderful to see all the prints and share our printing trials and triumphs.
I have worked with constellation imagery in two previous broadsides for Children Hospital poems. I enjoy the challenge and the depth of color you can get when creating a nighttime sky. Plus, I am a fan of using gold metallic ink and it works nicely when printed on top of a dark color. In “Constellations” I appreciated the imagery Dylan was conjuring up with the many constellations.
I thought about how best to present the poem to this young poet. I had the good fortune this summer to camp under the stars for 6 nights and I thought of how I could convey this experience to Dylan. When I go camping I love the fact that the sky doesn’t have the light pollution we have in the city. I wanted to capture that awesomeness we rarely get to experience. I wanted Dylan to feel the expanse of a clear, pollution-free starry night. I added the dark silhouette of a figure with binoculars at the bottom to not only provide a sense of perspective but to also show a curiosity to see more than what you can see with the naked eye.
I began working on the ideas for this piece shortly after picking the poem in March. However, when the pandemic began, I found myself constantly distracted and struggling to find the headspace to focus. I was relieved when a new deadline was set for August because it allowed me to get my head back in the game and provided a pleasant diversion from the big picture.
I had budgeted just the minimum amount of time to order plates (3), have them arrive in 2 days (I still find that turnaround time a miracle), print, wait for the broadsides to dry, trim, and deliver. Every day counted. I did not allow any time for mishaps and so when there was a shipping glitch, just like that I was behind schedule. A hearty thank you shout out to Boxcar who helped me in my 12th hour. They offered to resend at least the first plate (they sent the first two!) to help me stay on schedule and I was able to because of their thoughtfulness! It takes a village.
Once I was on course to print, the process, thankfully, went smoothly. This wasn’t so much a happy accident as it was just a huge relief. It doesn’t always go as smoothly. The stars must have aligned for me this year (pun intended).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the 2020 Children’s Broadsides project! We would like to thank all of the young writers & their families, printers, and organizers who help make the 2020 Broadsides project one of enchantment and spirit. You can view all of the prints from all the years at the Partners In Print website here.