2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 2

Part two in this year’s inspiring blog feature of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides project explores the work of five more clever printers and their young poets as part of the collaborative effort between the Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program spearheaded by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick), long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the School of Visual Concepts. These five printers share with us how they brought to life the young poets’ colorful imagination in a cornucopia of color, text, texture, and fun imagery.

Jane Suchan While at Seattle Children’s Hospital, 14 year old Mary McCann learned to knit and wrote the two poems used for her broadside.  I was drawn to Mary’s poems because of their emotion and imagery.  I work at Seattle Children’s, so I had the good fortune to visit and get to know Mary a bit.

Jane Suchran letterpress prints for 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

As Mary and I were chatting she gave me some great design input: her favorite colors, the fun to be had with a ball of yarn, the sense of coziness and comfort she feels from sitting quietly and knitting.  Mary is creative, energetic and playful, so I sought to reflect those characteristics in my design.  Since we both have orange cats, and cats and knitting just naturally go together, I knew I wanted to include a cat somehow as our shared secret.  

Jane Suchran letterpress prints for 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides- knitting imagery.

The big, cushy arm chair and a playful cat ready to pounce on a ball of yarn tells a little story to go along with Mary’s poems.  This line in Mary’s poem “Fabric coming off the end of the needle” made me think of knitted sweaters with intarsia motifs, so that’s where I got the idea to create a stockinette pattern with Mary’s name.  I printed in yellow behind the stockinette to create a fifth, blended color as a nod to Mary’s love of color.  Mary’s vision is impaired, so I kept images simple, used easy to read fonts in a larger size and high contrast colors.  My goal was to honor Mary and her poetry, to produce a keepsake that she would love and her family and friends would cherish.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

These broadsides were printed on a Vandercook SP15 press at the School of Visual Concepts over three days.  In my first pass I used a large Boxcar base to print a block of soft yellow that would become the background for Mary’s name across the top of the broadside.  Printing the yellow behind the teal was an easy way to get a fifth color out of four passes on press.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

 I had photopolymer plates made for the rest of the design elements, and pass number two was a run of teal for the chair, Mary’s name and the colophon.  Pass three was the orange cat and ball of yarn, followed by a fourth pass in dark charcoal for the poems.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

The only tricky thing about my design was the tight registration of the orange cat and the back of the teal chair.  I had the photopolymer plate made with the cat and chair positioned together as they would be when printed even though I knew they would be in two different colors.  Before printing the chair I used an Exacto knife to carefully cut away the photopolymer plate for the cat and set it aside, along with the plate for the ball of yarn.  After printing the chair, I left the photopolymer plate adhered to the Boxcar base in the press bed.  I cleaned the teal ink off and added the photopolymer plate for the cat and yarn onto the base.  I pulled away the photopolymer plate used for the chair and other teal elements, re-inked the press with bright orange and was ready to roll in no time.   

2017 SVC Children's Broadsides meet-up.

Jenny Wilkson This year, Jules Remedios Faye and I collaborated on one poetry broadside. There were three letterpress processes we were excited to use: photopolymer for the text, because our chosen poem was the longest of the bunch; laser cut imagery, just because lasers are great, and collographs for detail in the illustration, which is Jules’ specialty.

Jenny Wilkson prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

First, we double-hit a solid with straight rubine red, to achieve a saturated dark pink background. After it dried, we overprinted purple laser cut butterflies, being careful to add cobalt drier to the ink so that it would dry on top of the pink pass.

Jenny Wilkson prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Jules created a collograph for the light purple detail in the butterfly wings by gluing lace and sealing it with acrylic gel medium on an identical laser cut block, making registration a cinch. Finally, the gold text was printed using Boxcar plates.

Laura Bentley The broadside is a three color design printed with handset metal type ornaments, metal type, and photopolymer plates.   Type was set and printed on a Vandercook SP-15 printing press from the 1960s. The ornaments were arranged dripping down the page with the spacing growing such that the ornaments were breaking apart in a nod to the poem’s title.

Laura Bentley printing on a Vandercook letterpress press.

Simple shapes in dramatic colors echo the everyday and extraordinary experiences mentioned in the poem. The poem text and colophon was printed in a fourth pass on the same press with photopolymer plates and a metal base from Boxcar Press. Laura Bentley prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I didn’t get a chance to talk with either of the young authors this time. Sometimes with all that’s going on it isn’t possible. But I enjoyed learning about their experiences through their words. Poet Ann Teplick works with patients in this classroom and helps the students express their experiences through poetry.

Laura Bentley prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

While I have a good variety of metal type ornaments to print with, and found a great font to use for the author’s names, my metal type collection came up short when it came to typesetting the poem text and colophon. Using a photopolymer plate opened up the possibility to print any typeface available on the computer, but for this design I chose a digital version of a typeface (Venus) from the age of printing with metal. While I have a couple of metal fonts of Venus, none were appropriate sizes. I like that Boxcar can fill in gaps in my metal type collection!

(Laura’s full blog article goes in-depth here on this year’s printing journey)

Leah Stevenson As I was thinking about my poem for this year’s Broadside project, I was instantly inspired by the recurring presence of red and yellow/gold. I was also struck by how much more space was devoted to the thorny devil desert lizard compared to anything else Ewan wrote about in his poem. Because of that, I really wanted to have that be a focal point of this piece.

Leah-Stevenson letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

Toward the beginning of my process I received an email with some scans of drawings Ewan had done. They represented what he saw in his mind as he wrote and read his poem so I really wanted to find a way to incorporate them. While beautiful, I was a little stuck on how to use the drawings I had received from Ewan while remaining true to my own style. I ended up just starting to draw a desert lizard to see where it would take me. Eventually, I realized I could use Ewan’s drawings as little ‘tattoos’ on the lizard.

Leah-Stevenson uses a Vandercook to print.

One of my favorite things about doing letterpress printing is combining my experience in digital design with the analog system of printing by hand. I was able to design the broadside digitally and used those designs to get photopolymer plates made. I printed the whole piece on a Vandercook SP15 press in SVC’s letterpress studio.

Leah-Stevenson uses a Vandercook to print.

I ended up with four passes through the press. I had actually planned a fifth pass (a blue for the baseball cap to bring in the Cubs in stanza three), but was on the fence about how much it really added. Once I pulled a proof of it, I decided it wasn’t necessary and left it out, giving me some extra time for paper cutting and sorting.

Leah-Stevenson letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with my author this year but I did get a little insight into his mind when I received the drawings he had made for the poem. I really loved having that extra bit of my poet’s creativity and imagination that I could incorporate into the broadside. It was fun to get a glimpse into his mind and see what he had envisioned when he was writing the poem and use that as another place to take my design.

Carol Clifford For this annual project I usually work with the assumption that the young poet will see the finished piece I created for them, and in the past my hope has been to create an image for them to grow up with. This year’s piece was different though because I learned during the poem pick meeting that sadly Julissa had passed away. Knowing this influenced the feeling I wanted to convey. I didn’t want to make something too frivolous or silly. I usually don’t, but felt particularly aware of that this time. Plus, Julissa’s poem was serious and reflective, so I wanted to honor that as well as create a piece that felt more reverent.

Carol Clifford letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Initially, I had planned to combine several techniques: pressure printing, hand-set type, collagraphs, and linoleum cuts. However, I decided I didn’t want the “chatter” from pressure printing which is often a result. Nor did I want the heavier lines from linoleum cuts. I chose instead to use all polymer plates. In part for simplicity, but moreover for the clearer lines and shapes that I felt suited this poem.  

My hope for Julissa’s family is that I created a piece that is quiet yet witnesses her questions. I, too, would like to believe that birds walk on the clouds.

Carol Clifford letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Immense round of applause and thanks to all of the wonderful printers who donated their time and efforts to this truly beautiful project!

2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 1

For its seventh year running, Boxcar Press has the immense pleasure of supporting the magical outcome created by this year’s 2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. Guided by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, an inspiring group of young poets and artist/printers collaborated together to produce 21 broadsides in a limited run of 110 broadsides. WITS worked with big-hearted printers as well as long term patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in this exceptional opportunity for fun, creativity, and stirring works of art. This first installment of a two part blog showcases four printers who share their creative printing process and capture the wonder of the children’s writing.Boxcar Press donated photopolymer plates for the 2017 Seattle Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides, a project by WITS + the School of Visual Concepts.

Sarah Kulfan I was very excited to print Merrick’s poem for this year’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, his colorful descriptions of the natural world resonated with me and provided a rich trove of inspiring imagery that would pair well with his words. I printed a total of 6 passes on a Universal I, combining a linoleum block, metal type, and a Boxcar plate.

Sarah-Kulfan-letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.  Multicolor letterpress printing from Sarah Kulfan.

This was my fifth year printing for this lovely project which brings together so many talented and generous folk. I was immediately drawn to Merrick’s poem. His words remind me of all the many blessings that nature provides, discoveries that I have found in my own wanderings outside. I haven’t met Merrick yet, but I hope to get a chance so that we can compare our adventures in nature.

Sarah-Kulfan-letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

This year, I wanted to try my hand at a reduction cut that would combine split fountain layers. Using high-drama imagery of a hurricane worked really well for this process as it provided a big-sky, full frame backdrop. The poem speaks to the cycles of nature and the process of destruction and darkness followed by light and new life. The gradients capture the weather transition from light to dark and the reduction cut allowed me to build up the dark layers of the passing storm clouds. There were four total passes on the reduction cut and these included two split fountains. I printed a fifth layer of metal type for the poem. The final pass was the colophon text, printed from a Boxcar photopolymer plate, which saved a lot of time hand setting and proofing tiny type.

Chris Copley Each year, I find myself wanting to push my artistic envelope in the Children’s Hospital Poetry Broadside Project — exploring a technique or concept while still making a piece of art that might appeal to people who know nothing of me or the poet or the project. I also try to reflect the feeling or personality of my poet.

Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Nandi, my poet this year, was not quite 5 when she wrote her piece about a huge stuffed animal that fell on her while she was in her hospital bed. The poem features strong emotions, and moves from upset and angry (at the big bunny) to loving and heartfelt (toward her mom). I tried to bring that out in the frame around the poem.

Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides. Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I also embedded folk-art-style drawings of animals and a few “easter eggs” in the frame, just for fun. I drew the original art on black paper, then cut it out with an Xacto knife. I scanned the cut-paper art and ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar; this was my third (and fourth) pass. The first two passes involved the technique I wanted to explore — perpendicular split fountain printing. I printed a red-to-mustard-yellow pass (the color blocks behind the text blocks), and then turned the paper 90 degrees to print a blue-to-olive-green pass (the highlight colors in the frame).

Unfortunately, in trimming the paper to permit it to fit on the press, I unthinkingly cut off my gripper edge. So when I went to print the polymer frame, I couldn’t. I quickly went through a list or three or four options for solving my disaster, and decided the least bad solution was to cut the polymer plate in half. The problem was compounded when printing the second half of the plate, when my favorite press inexplicably fish-tailed my paper a different direction on every pass, making close registration virtually impossible. I cried almost the entire run, convinced the broadside was ruined. But I finished the project, hand-setting the poem and colophon in Bodoni and printing it without a hiccup. And it didn’t look too bad, in the final analysis. Five passes through the press.

I never met Nandi, but I met her mom, Adele. Nandi was camping with Dad the week we met. We chatted for nearly an hour about Nandi’s poems and how her health crisis brought out Nandi’s strong spirit. I saw the connection between Adele and Nandi, and saw photos of the little girl and the big bunny. I wanted to bring out in my design Nandi’s playful, vibrant personality, and her love for her mother.

I used two other techniques: hand-set metal type; and pressure printing. I wanted soft edges to the color blocks behind the stanzas of Nandi’s poem, so I used the back side of a Boxcar Press base (with the swirly pattern of the grinder as a design element) and a paper pressure “plate.” I did the same thing with the color highlights in the frame. I like the contrast between the crisp polymer printing and the softer pressure-printed colors. And I like the way the metal type echoes the sharp edges of the polymer plate. This is another of those projects that turns out better than expected, with different parts contributing to a unified whole.

Heidi Hespelt As always, it was a privilege to illustrate one of these wonderful poems by these talented children. My poet was Nick Gerdin, age 9 and he wrote 2 poems, titled Orange and Red. His plan is to continue the series by writing poems about other colors of the rainbow. I love the word pictures that Nick painted. He is obviously an insightful guy.

Heidi Hespelt letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I used several different methods to bring my illustration to life.  The titles, Red and Orange, are done in large antique wood type, the rest of the type is polymer from Boxcar Press (thanks, Boxcar, for your support!), and I carved the tiger, the cheetah on lino blocks using photographs as inspiration.

Heidi Hespelt prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

The setting suns and the bottom border are also carved from lino blocks. All of the printing was done on a Vandercook press at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.

Heidi Hespelt prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.Heidi Hespelt letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Much of the joy of participating in the Children’s Hospital Broadside project each year (this is my fourth year!) is the camaraderie between the printers and the creative way each printer (artist) interprets the poem that they are given. I like to think that our efforts will live long lives on the walls and in the portfolios of the poets and their families, and that our artistic visions will add a dimension to the poems that brings out a deeper meaning.

Sukhie Patel I love carving linoleum and engraving wood, so I knew I wanted to draw and then hand-carve the poem’s illustrations. Carving is, for me, a form of meditation, and it was a beautiful way to contemplate this young poet’s life and honor her through that process. It was hard to narrow down what to illustrate, as the poem had so many vibrant images to choose from. I wanted the broadside to capture as much of the visual levity and sweetness of the poem as possible, so I chose to carve this metallic gold ice cream cone of whimsical pastel cotton-candy-esque clouds, with Mount Rainier popping out amidst them. It ended up being 6 separate blocks, and including text, 8 passes.

Sukhie Patel letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

I found out two days after receiving the poem that the lovely young poet, London Marshall, had passed away at age 9. My approach thus shifted from designing a broadside to delight a 9-year-old audience, to designing a commemorative broadside for her family. I wanted to create something the family would want to return to at different stages in their grieving, that did not preclude a path of healing, and could bring them a smile. I hoped the illustrations would capture the levity of being nine years old, the vivacity of being a young girl, the earnestness of feeling in love with the world around her. It was an honor to print London’s poem, and spend time with her words.

Sukhie Patel letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

My print consisted of 6 hand carved linoleum blocks and two photopolymer plates. I don’t know how I would have pulled this off without the help of Boxcar. I had never printed with photopolymer before, but with the structure of this poem (each line began with “I am”), I didn’t have any cases of metal type with enough capital I’s! Incorporating photopolymer also allowed me to select a more contemporary and youthful typeface. It was such a pleasure working with Boxcar on this project, and (despite being a sucker for handset type) I can’t wait to incorporate photopolymer in more of my designs. It really did open up my eyes to a whole new set of techniques and approaches.

Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The ever-inspiring work of both poets and printers and the brilliant results are why Boxcar has a big soft spot for such an amazing tradition year after year.

2016 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 2

Part two in our blog feature of the 2016 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project features six more artistic printers and young poets as part of the collaboration between Writers in the Schools program, long-term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington. These six printers share with us how they brought each writer’s words to vivid life in the 2016 edition.

Nicole Cronin 2016 marked my fourth year participating in the Children’s Broadside Project. Each time, I am excited to create art for a good cause alongside my fellow printers!

I was immediately drawn to Jasmine’s poem because of her detailed imagery and playfulness in her writing. It felt whimsical and fancy and hopeful… so I wanted my broadside to depict her words so the reader felt like they were right there, watching acrobats performing and climbing ribbons! One of my favorite things in designing for letterpress is linoleum carving, so I decided to carve a hand drawn wreath and the pink ribbon. The most time consuming and also enjoyable part of the process was carving and printing the wreath. It was challenging to line up the acrobat between the ribbon and the wreath (which in hindsight sounds crazy, but so true).

Nicole Cronin creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I printed the poem, acrobat and gold dots using Boxcar Plates which produced the most consistent passes on press.

Nicole Cronin creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

This project is personally fulfilling, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to design and print Jasmine’s poem. With great leadership by Jenny Wilkson at SVC, we have a strong team that provides time, paper, plates, etc. and I am so grateful to have contributed a small part.

Carol Clifford This will be my 7th year of working on the Children’s Hospital Poetry Broadside Project. Each year we are presented with poems from the children to read over and consider. Then we all meet as a group and each chooses a final poem to interpret and print for the young poets. I usually sit down with a cup of coffee and take time to read each child’s poem. Then I reread.

Many of these kids are heartbreakingly wise beyond their years.

Carol Clifford creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I will connect with some of the poems more than others. A few suggest ideas and images fairly quickly. I usually draw thumbnails right away in the margins, percolating on others until we meet to get our final assignment.

I chose Two Constellation Poems by Matthew Whitesel because I liked that this was one of his first attempts at a poem, and it turned out so visually rich and funny. I liked the challenge of creating a dark field of color with letterpress printing. As a bonus, I just happened to have a unicorn image I had recently used for another project.

Because of the line “Why he has a pet unicorn, I have no idea,” I knew I wanted the unicorn to be front and center and gold (Right?! I used MS-1151 Rich Gold Paste from Hanco Ink Co) Printing gold as the featured color directed building up the background. With experimentation and suggestions from other printers, I learned that highlighting the shine quality of the gold ink is more successful when printed over another color, especially a darker color.  To form the dark background, I was inspired to use two colors that overlap and create another color with a lot of depth.

Carol Clifford creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I try to work out all the steps of a broadside before going on press, but inevitably, once I am in the studio, I tend to combine techniques to accomplish my ideas. This method of working can be maddening, but also allows for a lot spontaneity and, fingers crossed, happy surprises. The image was created with a combination of linoleum blocks and polymer plates.

I had planned for a four color run. It turned out to be nine!  Two runs of red to get the saturation and color I wanted, 4 runs of gold to solve registration woes and for clarity on the colophon and then black and blue runs with linoleum blocks.  I am really pleased with the final result.

When I come up with ideas for the broadsides I keep in mind the age of the poet. Ultimately though, my hope is that the piece will not be too “childish” and that the broadside will give both the poet and his family moments to enjoy for years to come. I haven’t met Matthew but I was told that his younger brother thought it was really cool to have something he wrote printed. This experience has inspired both of them to write more.

Leah Stevenson The Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project was a fantastic and challenging experience. I was equally excited and nervous to be a part of the collaboration. It was my first time and I wanted to ‘get it right’. These kids go through so much and being able to create a piece of art with them felt special and so important, even more so because we knew some of the kids wouldn’t and didn’t make it to the end of the project . I unfortunately never got the chance to interact directly with the kids but just hearing their stories through the poetry was extremely powerful. This was not just a piece of artwork that we were creating but also a piece that represented these kids in a way that a lot of people don’t get to see.

Leah Stevenson creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I selected poetry by a young student of 6 years who had four short poems together, each in English and Spanish for a total of 8 pieces of text to work with. Having grown up in South America, I felt an instant connection to the poet through her use of Spanish & English in her writing.

It was a challenge to figure out how to piece all these separate poems into one cohesive broadside. I had recently visited L’Opéra de Paris (the Paris Opera House) and was inspired by the mural on the ceiling for this piece as it depicted various scenes from different operas all together. I decided to take that concept and separate the poems into four sections surrounding the sun in the middle. This gave each poem it’s own stage, so to speak, while still tying them together.

Leah Stevenson creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I used a combination of pressure printing and photopolymer plates on this broadside. I used pressure printing for some of the background colors, as I wanted a little more fuzziness around the edges – not so clean and precise. To contrast, I used photopolymer for its clean lines for the more details work as well as the text. I actually hand wrote the poet’s name, age and title of the piece and digitized that to create a photopolymer plate. It felt like it gave a different emphasis on the poet that paired nicely with the illustrations around it.

Leah Stevenson creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I had a lot of registration going on in this piece, which proved challenging to control with the larger run. I had at least 8 passes and getting everything to line up was tough (and in some cases impossible) but it was definitely a learning and enriching experience and worth every minute I spent on it.

Jill Labieniec  This year I worked on the group poem which combined words and ideas from different children. It was challenging to include all the imagery from the poem so I opted to add my own idea into the mix.

Jill Labieniec creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

The overall theme was kissed by the rain so I figured a mermaid who lived in a puddle would be very appreciative of a little rain.

Amy Redmond I am a Seattle-based visual designer, a letterpress instructor at the School of Visual Concepts and letterpress printer since 1998.  

I work with photopolymer but absolutely fell in love with handset type.  For personal work and special projects like the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project I work only in handset type. The focus it requires, and the time, is my way of paying my respects to both the poet and the poem. I become fully immersed in the words and the process, and the extra time it takes is worth it. The poems the children write represent a huge amount of energy and heart on their part; it’s only fair that I attempt to meet them on equal ground.

This is my 6th time as a contributor. I do it for several reasons: to bring the poems into light, to be a part of a larger community project, to challenge myself, to learn from my mentors, to work side by side with the Seattle letterpress community. It is a very closely connected group and this Broadside project is one of the ways we maintain that association. The artistic work on this project gets better each year. We all work hard to out-do ourselves, and put to use new tricks we’ve learned throughout the year. We learn from each other to push the traditional boundaries of broadside design.

My poet, Zack Edge, incorporated a lot of imagery into his poem. I used large wood type (front and back) to help create a landscape in which his words would live. On the left the orange words form a wide tree trunk; on the right a sky and a field are formed. I used pressure printing techniques to create the white cloud when printing the blue sky, and it was serendipity that the wood type I chose happened to have a few stars carved out of from its backside.

For the smaller type, I handset everything in metal type – Spartan – on a 1903 Colt’s Armory Press. With all the various weights I was able to play with the cadence of the type, and pushed — as far as I felt comfortable — the composition of the poem itself. By placing the last line of the poem to the far right in the cloud and having it stand alone, I hope to give it emphasis so that others also take note of its gravity.

Laura Bentley I received a reflective and powerful poem by a 16-year old named Mackenzie who worked with poet Ann Teplick. I was struck by the earthquake imagery in the poem. It made me think I could do something with shifting plates of earth or seismographs. After weighing several options I was excited about the thought of using metal type ornaments that look a bit like layers of earth and thought I could put something together that imitated seismic faults, albeit in an abstract way.  The bars of ornaments can also reflect just the abrupt ups and downs that life can take.  Thank you Mackenzie, it was an honor to print your words.

For colors and typeface I was leaning towards both “earthy” and “mid-century modern, particularly, a typeface from the age of printing with metal, even if I would be printing it with photopolymer.  

The metal type ornaments were set to the correct lengths, and arranged in position in the press bed. Each color is printed in a separate pass through the press. For an edition of 110, I started with 120 pieces of paper. For those of you counting that meant that 120 pieces of paper through the press four times meant feeding paper through the press 480 times!

Laure’s full blog article covering her printing adventure can be found here.

A huge round of applause and thanks out to all of the printers who donated their time and efforts to this amazing project!

2015 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides

Boxcar Press has a heart for projects that combine letterpress printing with children, and none is more dear to us than the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This collaboration with 22 artists and pediatric patients always yields beautiful art and prose. The children’s ages range from 5 to 20, and through the Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program spearheaded by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick) the children create amazing imagery with words. The printers at the School of Visual Concepts then give their interpretation of the words. Each year we support this project by donating photopolymer plates for the limited run of 106 broadsides. We reached out to some of the printers involved this year to hear more about their experiences and how they created artwork to showcase each poem – take a look.

Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsidesSeattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsidesSeattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides

Ana Sofia Mariz I was fortunate to find a perfect fit in terms of the poem. My little poet was five and I also have a son of the same age. So I immediately felt engaged and connected as I felt I could hear the boy’s voice in my head. I decided to involve my own son in the project. I told him about this boy who was sick and had written this poem and that we’ll make him a beautiful “drawing” so he’ll be happy and recover faster. My poet wrote about Spiderman, so I brought that idea into the layout within a kid’s visual repertory:  drawing, coloring, and crayons.

AnaSofia-IMG1AnaSofia-IMG2

As the boy would be the Spiderman, I decided to trace my son’s hands and color them as within a Spiderman suit. They are climbing the text wall and the title would be hand drawn like a web between the hands. All the elements would reflect the imperfections of a hand drawing.

I never got to meet the boy. I guess I didn’t realize that was possible at that time, but I wish to meet him and his family some day. I can easily say that this was one of the top five most enjoyable projects I’ve ever done.

AnaSofia-IMG3

Sarah Kulfan This year was my third participating on the Seattle Children’s broadside project. I chose to print my poem using Boxcar plates because of a tight schedule and I have produced great prints with Boxcar plates previously. The poem I printed is called ‘May I’ and was written by eleven year old Kira Hoffman. I was very excited to work on this poem because the first stanza immediately made me think of my brother’s dog Roofus, who passed away this year.

Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Initially, I was planning on asking Kira about her dog but I realized my interpretation of Kira’s poetry was part of the collaborative process that makes this project so rich. I helped raise Roofus as a pup and over the years, have created various Roofus inspired drawings and artwork. I dug up some old photos of Roofus and developed a sketch. Through Kira’s words, this would be an opportunity to commemorate the pup that I helped raise.

Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Jenny Wilkson who heads up the SVC letterpress shop and leads the Seattle Children’s broadside project once said that this project is one of the most sustainable efforts she’s experienced.  It’s easy to see this as many of the same printers return to donate their time and energy each year, which is one reason why I love this project. I am so honored to have printed Kira’s poem and create a keepsake for her and her family to share; and my brother got a nice birthday present this year, a last memento of his best pal, the yellow dog, Roofus.

Heidi Hespelt This was my second year participating in the Childrens’ Hospital Broadside project.  It is such a joy to be part of it. My poet is a 16 year old girl who, I hear, is now doing well and living in Portland. Her poem was strong and happy, so I chose bright colors and the Gerbera daisy image to illustrate that. I used polymer plates for the text and did a lino block reduction for the flowers.

Heidi-Hespelt-IMG6Heidi Hespelt carves out a lineoleum block for the first ink pass for her contribution to the 2015 Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides Project.Beautiful reduction cuts for Heidi Hespelt for the Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides project.

I am a bit smitten with the reduction process (to me it can be a brain twister!) where the block is carved between each pass and the parts that are carved away stay the color you just printed. Sound easy? Yep! Easy to get confused! It was a very satisfying project for me this year to master this. ​

Beautiful second color run on the Vandercook for Heidi Hespelt for the Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides project.Heidi-Hespelt-IMG5

Darcie Kantor Printed in black and what she calls “Darcie Yellow” because her 15 year old poet specifically titled her poem “Black and Yellow”.

Boxcar letterpress plates in action for Darcie Kantor's Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Many thanks to all of the printers who donated their time and efforts to this amazing project!

The Second Annual Letterpress Broadsides Project

For the second year in a row, we are thrilled to share with you photographs of an incredible collaboration between the folks at the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington. For the last two years, WITS has worked with terminally ill patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, out of which artists create beautiful letterpress broadsides. At Boxcar Press, we were privileged to be included yet again, and gladly offered up free photopolymer plates for the project. Below are photos of the process, as well as few shots of the incredibly inspiring poetry written by these kids and young adults.


The second annual portfolio includes 16 hand-set artist-made letterpress broadsides. WITS Writers-in-residence  Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplich worked with patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to write the poems, then 16 artists from the Seattle area took the poems and translated them into works of art. The poems were printed as letterpress broadsides and included in a striking red portfolio.

At the end of the project, each patient received a portfolio, as well as ten copies of their poem to give to their family and friends. Some patients were given the opportunity to read their poem in front of a live audience.

So many people worked to make this project a success, including letterpress printers volunteering their time, and Mohawk Papers donating paper. It is truly inspiring to see letterpress used in such a positive way!

Do you have any “Doing Good” projects you’ve worked on that you want to share? Let us know! We’d love to hear about them!

The Boxcar Press Holiday Gift Guide: 22 Gifts for a Letterpress Printer

(looking for our favorite letterpress cards for valentine’s day? Check that out here!)

Need holiday gift ideas for the letterpress fanatic in your life? We’ve put together a list of our favorite gifts for this holiday season—we found some amazing letterpress pieces online, along with some great books and handy supplies that any printer would love to receive.

A holiday gift shopping guide for letterpress lovers, created by Boxcar Press

1. Boxcar Press apron: A heavy duty printing apron with deep roomy pockets, made right here in Syracuse, New York. $16

2. 9SpotMonk letterpress placemats: 10 by 15 inch placemats, letterpress printed on 100% Recycled Kraft Paper, and packaged in a sealed, clear cello bag with 3 non-toxic crayons. $14 for a set of 24.

3. Studio on Fire calendar: Positive Apocalypse Edition. $30

4. Gutenberg Printing Press: A miniature Gutenberg Printing Press. $37.39

5. Wood type: The bold Preissig design is offered as a woodtype font – prices range from $22 – $470.25

6. Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press: This book focuses on Johann Gutenberg as an innovator who developed a way of casting metal type, a linseed-based ink, and a press to allow the transfer of inked letters to paper. Great for ages 5 & up. $16

7. Pantone iPhone case: Available in 9 colors. $36

8. Rubber based ink: Rubber-based inks are our ink of choice for general letterpress printing. Choose from a variety of colors (prices vary). Oil-based inks, acrylic inks, metallic inks and other supplies also available. $31.20

9. Glow in the dark posters: Goodmorning, goodnight glow in the dark prints by Dolce Press. $45

10. Vandercook Press book: A new, essential Vandercook reference book by Paul Moxon based on his “Vandercook Maintenance” workshop with notes on significant models and competing presses. $55

11. The Cloudy Collection: Monster Parade:A four-color, 8″x10″ letterpress print created exclusively for the Cloudy Collection. The print comes in a custom folder that features metallic silver printing on black paper. $75

12. Boxcar Press t-shirts: Choose from the Vandercook Universal III; the Chandler & Price Craftsman 12 x 18; the Heidelberg Platen 13 x 18; and the baby Sigwalt 5 x 8. Made in the USA! View them all here. $16

13. Letterpress Woodland Creature clocks: This bird clock was letterpress printed by the Sesame Letterpress Shop. $30

14. LetterMPress App: Experience the craft of letterpress on your iPad or Mac. $9.99

15. Roller setting gauge: This handy tool will help you accurately measure the height of your rollers so your press can produce the crispest printing. $22

16. Mark Twain’s Book of Animals: Twenty-five impressions of each of the thirty-one prints Barry Moser designed, drew, and engraved for Mark Twain’s Book of Animals have been printed on an archival sheet from the Zerkall Paper Mill in Hurtgenwald-Zerkall, Germany. $3,500

17. Letterpress holiday coasters: Printed by Paisley Tree Press. $10 for a set of 8

18. The History of Printmaking: A highly interactive tour of the history of printmaking covers Sumerian cuneiform, the innovations of typographer Frederic Goudy, the works of Rembrandt and Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, and comic books. $13.77

19. Dead Feminists Broadside: On a Mission: A 10×18 broadside, printed by hand on an antique Vandercook Universal One press. Each piece is printed on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper, and individually signed and numbered by both artists. $35

20. Gutenberg Printing Press pencil sharpener: A detailed, cast metal miniature model of the Gutenberg Printing Press, complete with moving parts, is also a pencil sharpener! $6.95

21. Letter from Santa: We love great type and letterpress, but man, seeing real live amazing gorgeous calligraphy gives us the chills. This is a hand-calligraphed, personalized letter from Santa (if Santa was a really talented calligrapher) $15

22. Hamilton Wood Type: A History in Headlines: A 65 page book outlining the history of the Hamilton Wood Type Company and the importance of wood type to the growth of printing world-wide. $20

Born in the Sky- Letterpress Poems by Pediatric Patients

Here at Boxcar Press we love hearing stories of letterpress doing good! We were honored when asked to donate our photopolymer plates to a letterpress printing project headed by the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. The School of Visual Concepts teamed up with Seattle Arts and Lectures through their Writers in the School’s program. Working with a local children’s hospital they planned to create poetry broadsides with children who are terminally ill. We were privileged to be included and gladly donated our photopolymer plates. It’s an amazingly moving project (try reading over the poetry and keeping your eyes dry), and it reminds us of how cool the letterpress community is, and what great things we can all accomplish together.

The children wrote poems as part of a legacy project. The poems were printed as letterpress broadsides and included in a portfolio. Everyone pitched in on this project, from 12 letterpress printers volunteering their time, Mohawk Papers donated the paper, and a book cloth company (Ecological Fibers) donated materials for creating the actual portfolio.

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Each child’s family will receive several copies and the others will be distributed to local children’s groups and hospitals to be auctioned off as a fundraiser. There is a limited edition of 75 on each.

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Many thanks to all who were involved: Seattle Arts & Lectures,  Seattle Children’s Hospital, School of Visual Concepts, Mohawk Fine Papers, Puget Bindery, Ecological Fibers, Boxcar Press.

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Boxcar Talk with Dead Feminists

What do you get when you mix Chandler O’Leary from Anagram Press and Jessica Spring from Springtide Press? Beautiful, detailed, thoughtful and bold broadsides letterpress printed under the series name Dead Feminists. With a new print impressing numerous eyes every three months since 2008, the Dead Feminist series strive to feature “a quote by a historical feminist, tied in with current political and social issues, and letterpress printed from hand-drawn lettering and illustrations.” We could simply just let the images do the talking, however the pair have shared with us more details about their work and efforts.

How did each of you first get into letterpress?
Chandler: For me, letterpress was at the end of a winding path and a long story. The short version is that I have an art school degree in illustration, a professional background in graphic design and print production, and a long line of first jobs that included things like hot wax paste-up and tractor decals. Add to that a long-standing interest in typography and storytelling, and a stubborn streak that leads me to insist upon doing everything by hand, the old fashioned way, and letterpress turned out to be the perfect fit.

Jessica: I worked as a typesetter at Macalester College, managing services for various publications on campus. I sat at a huge console in front of a green screen and coded fonts and output to RC paper which would be waxed and keylined. Not having the benefit of WYSIWYG really forced me to understand picas and points. After college I typeset road atlases for Rand McNally with these huge confusing charts with symbols and numbers, so when the Macintosh came along it was brilliant. I spent 10 years as a partner in a graphic design firm and we had the chance to get a Vandercook 3 – no frills, no motor, but it was a sweet machine. The more I printed the less I was interested in the computer – twenty-one years and several presses later, it’s even more true.

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What was your very first press?
Chandler: I’m always telling people that investing in letterpress equipment is a lot like getting married – you can certainly get out of it, but not without a lot of pain and expense. So until I become a homeowner and won’t have to move again, the only press I actually own is a Kelsey 3 x 5″ platen press, which I use for studio demos and tiny projects, but I do the majority of my printing at various local letterpress studios with whom I have an arrangement – like Jessica’s studio, for instance. The first press I ever printed on, however, was a Vandercook No. 4 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Since then I’ve printed on well over a dozen different cylinder and platen press models, a benefit of not having a permanent shop is being forced to become proficient with whatever is available. My favorite presses are still Vandercooks No. 219 and Universal One.

Jessica: See above. My second press was a Vandercook 4 that suffered horribly, overturned in a Chicago alley at the hands of incompetent movers. The third was another 4 (with extra parts from the deceased 4), then a Universal I and a C&P. I also have the pleasure of using a Universal 3 where I teach – it’s huge, completely motorized, and awesome.

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What medium do you usually print?
Jessica: While photopolymer is fast and delicious, I prefer to use handset type. After collecting for years, I have enough type, ornaments and other goodies there’s no excuse not to use them, other than time or client work. I’m especially interested in daredevil printing, whether it’s handsetting curved type and complex registration of colors or using found objects that can be made type high. I’d put Chandler’s illustrations in that category too!
I also have to thank membership in the Amalgamated Printers’ Association to help me really hone my typesetting skills. It’s a group of both amateur and pro printers who are constantly inspiring through a monthly bundle of ephemera. Members must print 150 copies to exchange four times a year, and there’s nothing like printing for people who realize how hard you worked.

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In your own words, how do you describe a broadside?
Chandler: The great-grandaddy of the poster, the broadside was one of the earliest forms of mass communication, usually containing important information and distributed by someone in a position of authority. Nowadays, the broadside has become a favorite of the letterpress world, and converted into an art form that combines both images and text.

Your work is so intricate. What’s your process from sketch to press?

Chandler: Jessica and I are both printers, and we each do our own work, most of the time. When we collaborate on the Dead Feminists series, though, our jobs on the technical side of things are pretty segregated: I’m the illustrator, she’s the printer. On my end, the design/illustration always starts with a lot of historical research. Then I complete a pencil drawing of the design at full size—and at the same time make decisions about color choices and how the design will work logistically for letterpress. Then I lay a sheet of translucent vellum over the pencil art and ink everything in black, separating the colors by hand (each color is a separate vellum layer) and cleaning up the inconsistencies in the pencil as I go. Then I scan each vellum sheet at a super-high resolution, set a colophon in digital type, convert each color separation to a bitmap file in Photoshop, and turn the files over to Jessica. Jessica then has film negatives made from my files, and makes her own photopolymer plates with the negatives. She then prints the broadside on a Vandercook Universal One, using my ideas about ink colors as a starting point, then making her own decisions on the fly, as needed.

Jessica: Chandler is being a little modest about her mad skills making all these separations convert to photopolymer—even though she shows me sketches and even color separations I’m always surprised and delighted when the printing is underway.

Who or what inspires you the most when deciding your next broadside?
Jessica: We have a lot of discussion back and forth. Often it’s triggered by an event – like the Gulf Coast oil spill or the passage of Prop 8 in California – though Rachel Carson had been on our list for awhile. We make a real effort to connect current events to these historical figures because their words are still so relevant and can provide inspiration, even guidance. Our country has been through some real turbulence since we started these broadsides, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of challenging topics to address (or women deserving recognition for their contributions).

How do you choose which organization to benefit?
Jessica: With the success of the series we’ve been able to direct some funds, and hopefully attention, to non-profits that support causes we believe in, and that connect to each broadside. We tend to focus on smaller, local groups that might not be as well known. In some cases, like Just Desserts, the state library in Olympia where we did broadside research had suffered massive budget cuts, so it was an obvious choice to give our support.

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How has your response been to these series?
Chandler: We’ve been completely floored by the response these prints have had. We never even planned to print more beyond the very first broadside, let alone a whole series, but people have spread the word about the Dead Feminists, mostly thanks to the internet. Between etsy.com (a marketplace site devoted to handmade items), blogs and old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing, the series has kind of taken on a life of its own. We’re now working on our tenth print in the series, and the broadsides have been collected by people in nearly every state in the country, as well as countries all over the world.

What are you looking forward to?
Chandler: I have a solo exhibition coming up in November, for a new editioned artist book I’ve been working on for the past two years. So that’s at the front of my mind right now, but the Dead Feminists are a nice current to have running in the background, something I can look forward to whenever I need to switch gears or give myself a break from a huge project. Jessica and I will both be exhibitors at the biennial Codex Symposium and Book Fair in Berkeley, CA, this February—we’re looking forward to taking the Dead Feminists on the road. The Dead Feminists will also be included in the upcoming anthology of design using handmade elements, Fingerprint 2, to be published by HOW Books next year.

Phew! Talk about a couple of busy ladies! Thanks, Chandler and Jessica, for your time and sharing insight into the Dead Feminists series. Don’t forget to check out the Anagram Press shop and Springtide Press shop, too.

Fine Press Broadside: When Poetry and Letterpress Meet

One of the coolest collaborations Boxcar is proud to be a part of is our sweet partnership with the YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center here in Syracuse. In 2002, the Downtown Writer’s Center launched a broadside series as fundraiser for their reading series. Two poets are selected annually and Boxcar’s own Harold Kyle takes the lead on designing and printing the broadsides in support of the series.

This recent broadside is for Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “Critique of Pure Reason” and Phil Memmer of the Downtown Writer’s Center calls it one of his favorites from the series. As Phil notes, “The detail in both the border and background is marvelous, and serves to echo the subject of the poem…and the careful way in which the poem itself is presented is simply perfect.” Phil also shares that the best commentary on the broadside might be from Jane herself, who gasped aloud when she first saw it – we love that!

You can check out other broadsides in the series in our letterpress portfolio. The Jane Hirshfield broadside, $25, and others in the series are available through the Downtown Writer’s Center by emailing phil@ymcaarts.org

Vote right now!

Letterpress sure makes beautiful wedding invitations — but we love when letterpress uses its cast iron muscle for the political realm too. We fell in love with this broadside when browsing on Springtide Press’s web site, and we were super excited to learn that our Boxcar Base and Boxcar plates helped out in the printing. It features a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, champion of women’s voting and civil rights. Here is what Jessica from Springtide Press had to say about the letterpress printing:
“Boxcar base and plates and platemaker and adhesive all done here! Chandler O’Leary is the talent portion of the project–she did all the handlettering then it was scanned and printed. We used 94FL plates on the largest base in my Vandercook Universal 1. The file was output as one plate and we used the “puzzle piece” technique to print in two colors. The paper is a fairly new recycled sheet made from 100% cotton rag.”

If you need more reasons to vote, check out Good Magazine’s 1,565 reasons to vote in their latest issue.