Letterpress City Tour: Seattle Style

Over the years, we have often enjoyed taking note of the cities and states and even countries that our customers hail from. There used to be certain areas where letterpress printers were known to be located in large numbers, such as Brooklyn, Chicago, and San Francisco. Now, it’s safe to say that letterpress printers pop up everywhere and anywhere and sometimes, in places that seem to be at the end of no where.

Because we want to know about your turf and how your special place on earth supports your letterpress printing obsession, we’re starting a new Letterpress City Series. We’ll bring you an intimate view of a neighborhood written by a letterpress printer. We want to know what you printers love about your communities, and the must-see spots for other letterpress printers visiting your hometown.

Sara McNally of Constellation & Co. is starting us off with an introduction to Seattle, Washington, where the mountains are visible on the horizon, everyone jokes about the rain, and the place lots of Fortune 500 companies (including Amazon and Starbucks) call home. Sara loves it for many more reasons – today we’ll show you why.

Sara and Brad McNally of Contesellation Press share Seattle trip secrets.

JUST DRIVE My husband Brad and I moved to Seattle in the summer of 2009, two weeks after college graduation. We didn’€™t know anyone, we were totally broke and we were on the job hunt. We’€™d visited Seattle twice before, and didn’€™t have a plan but knew we loved the city. We drove our car from Florida to Seattle with all our earthly belongings. We didn’€™t own any furniture but we brought my first printing press, a 5×8 Kelsey tabletop I’€™d picked up for $100 (all the money I had) at an antique store in college. We’€™ve been in Seattle for 6 years now, and a lot has changed – but we’€™re still spending our money on cast iron and making decisions for love and not logic.

HOMEPORT We live and work in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle. It’s north of downtown, and one of the few neighborhoods that isn’€™t a pass-through to another place. It’€™s quiet, surrounded by the Puget Sound, and very beautiful. Magnolia is home to Discovery Park, a 534 acre natural area park. It is the largest city park in Seattle, and includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. (It’s the best place ever.) Magnolia also boasts the Fishermen’€™s Terminal, which is home to the Northwest fishing fleet – giant fishing vessels that spend fall through spring in Seattle and head to Alaska for the summer.

Walking through Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington with Sara McNally.Fisherman's Terminal and boat festival in Seattle, Washington.

Our letterpress shop is in the Fishermen’€™s Terminal, which means several things: I eat a lot of fresh fish. I sell letterpress cards to salty fishermen. When I’€™m having a rough day, I walk away from the shop and go visit the boats.

NOSTALGIC + FUNCTIONAL Seattle is all about supporting local businesses, handmade products, and organic materials. We’€™re also a city that romanticizes history. We cling to the days of the Seattle underground, the gold rush, go West young man. Cast iron fits in well here. There is a decent amount of letterpress here in Seattle, and we are gaining on Portland for being known as a place that embraces and supports letterpress. Seattle has an industrial soul.

Industrial soul of Seattle, Washington with printing presses.

LETTERPRESS SHINES AT THE SEATTLE WAYZGOOSE The letterpress event of the year in Seattle is always the Wayzgoose at the School of Visual Concepts. We’€™ve been involved since 2010, and it’€™s been fun no matter how we’€™ve participated. Steamroller printing, selling our wares in the letterpress marketplace, volunteering at the equipment swap — it’€™s all awesome.

Using a steamroller to print letterpress at Seattle Wayzgoose. Fun!

FAVORITE LOCAL COLLABORATION Located in a forest beside the Raging River in Issaquah, Washington, just outside of Seattle, is Treehouse Point, a rustic bed and breakfast, featuring six hand crafted treehouses that you can spend the night in. It’s a magical place. They contacted us a few years ago to inquire about producing a line of stationery products featuring their treehouses. I did original vector illustrations of each one, and then ordered a mountain of plates from Boxcar to print each of the 6 three color cards and 6 three color notebook covers!

Treehouse craftsman Pete Nelson and his wife, Judy, share a vision of connecting people through personal encounters with trees and nature. The Nelson family owns and operates Treehouse Point, as well as Nelson Treehouse and Supply, where they offer consulting, design, and building of custom treehouses. Their Animal Planet TV show, Treehouse Masters, has become quite popular!

Treehouse Point letterpress cards and treehouse inspiration.

SIGNATURE LOOKS IN SEATTLE Seattle is all about individuality and independence. Our letterpress printers are no exception! The work that comes out of Seattle is pretty diverse. Everyone gets to letterpress on a different path and focuses on different styles, methods, etc. when they get there. I love seeing how different printers infuse their personality into this historic craft.

Fog and Seattle skyline.    Letterpress cards featuring "boats are awesome" and shipyard of Seattle, Washington.

BUSINESS SUPPORT, SEATTLE STYLE I am grateful to have many boutiques in town that carry our cards and prints. I also have many people to call on if something goes wrong, or if I need to bounce ideas off someone, or if I need someone to tell me to just go ahead and buy that new press! My go-to is always Carl Montford. He’s my mentor, my wood engraving teacher, and truly a good friend to my family.

Mt. Rainer illustration via letterpress card by Constellation & Co.

OUT AND ABOUT IN SEATTLE Before moving to Magnolia and the Fishermen’s Terminal, our studio spent several years in Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. I loved being surrounded by so much history! Pioneer Square is a pretty unique place with it’s own challenges – but so many amazing small businesses have made it their home. I go back and visit often. I also love Ballard. It’s like Magnolia’s cool older brother. A night with friends in Ballard gave me my first tattoo, something I’ll always be glad I did.

Sara McNally and former Constellation & Co. studio in Pioneer Square.

SEATTLE VIBE Pioneer Square and Ballard are both neighborhoods with industrial pasts that have become very, dare I say, hipster. They are filled with young entrepreneur types who love a good boutique, a strong cocktail, and a flair for the historic.

LOCAL PLEASURES While I’d love to tell you I’m very fancy and know all the five star places, we pretty much just go out for burgers and pizza. Favorite burger places: Uneeda Burger in Fremont (Ballard and Magnolia’s hippy sister), Red Mill Burger in Magnolia, Giddy Up Burgers in Ballard. Favorite pizza places: Queen Margarita or Pagliacci Pizza in Magnolia, Ballard Pizza Co., etc. I also adore the rockfish taco at Little Chinook’s and the cold beer and french fries from the Highliner in the Fishermen’s Terminal.

SHOPPING ON MY STREET Constellation & Co. has great letterpress stationery and gifts! (Self promotion is always in style). I also really love the summer farmer’s market.

Beautiful letterpress shop of Constellation & Co. of Seattle, Washingtion.

NOT TO BE MISSED We love visiting the Science Fiction museum within the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle Center. It’s nerd paradise. We love getting craft cocktails for date night at E. Smith Mercantile. Picnicking in Discovery Park is perfection. Kerry Park in Queen Anne and Alki Beach have the best views of the city. For a quick getaway with a beautiful view, we hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton.

Shipping boat with anchor in Seattle, Washington.

INSIDER INSIGHTS  It doesn’t rain here as much as you think. Summertime in Seattle is the best thing ever. Everywhere you look you see mountains. Really! Seattle is our favorite big small city – we always run into people we know like it’s a small town.

We’re a super casual city, so you can leave your suits and high heels at home. It only snows here about once a year, and the whole city shuts down to enjoy it. We have too many steep hills to get around! And we really do have the best coffee.

Seattle, Washington letterpress cards and press shop.

LETTERPRESS STUDIOS IN SEATTLE
Pike Street Press – Seattle and Kirkland, WA
Evolution Press – Ballard, WA
Dahlia Press – Seattle, WA
The Windowpane Press – Seattle, WA
InkFancy Letterpress – Seattle, WA
Farewell Paperie – Seattle, WA
Bremolo Press – Seattle, WA
Myrtle Alley Press – West Seattle, WA
Paper Hammer Bindery and Letterpress – Tieton, WA
Ilee Paper Goods Letterpress – Seattle, WA
Arts and Crafts Press – Tacoma, WA
Hoban Press – http://hobanpress.com/ – Centralia, WA
Pope Press Olympia http://popepressolympia.com/ – Olympia, PA
Bremerton Letterpress Shop – Bremerton, WA
Expedition Press  – Kingston, WA
Goldfinch Press – Seattle, WA
The Sherwood Press – Olympia, WA

OTHER MUST-SEE STOPS
Letterpress Distilling – a letter-perfect distillery currently specializing in vodka and limoncello.
Paper Passionista – a paper boutique offering custom invitations and fine stationery.
Two Bells Bar and Grill – one of Seattle’s best burger places.
Cafe Flora – a great vegetarian option; featured in Food Network On the Road.
Bumbershoot – Labor Day Spectacular; voted one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 5 best festivals in the US.
Ballard Locks – enjoy a parade of boats and watch the salmon navigate the fish locks
Macrina Bakery – nationally recognized for their pastries with three locations in Seattle.

We hope you enjoyed our first letterpress city guide! Interested in shining the spotlight on your city? Contact us today! And if you’re planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the print trip map on Letterpress Commons!

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