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 1

In its sixth year of running, we’ve teamed up with amazing young poets, and inspired printers to share with you 2016’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project in a two-part blog feature. The collaboration of 22 artists and pediatric patients is helmed by poets Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. WITS works with long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, out of which printers & artists create beautiful letterpress broadside prints. Boxcar Press supports this project with photopolymer plates for the limited run of broadsides. Participating printers share their experiences bringing each poet’s words to life in this year’s edition.

This first installment features six printers who share their printing process and experiences with the youth writers of the program.

2016 Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides project
Letterpress broadside posters from the 2016 Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides project

Bonnie Thompson Norman Every year, I feel a strong connection to the young person whose poem I print. I know each person who works on these broadsides feels the same way. We don’t always have (or choose to have) the opportunity and/or privilege of meeting our poets, but the bond is a strong one. As the project comes to an end, we all gather for a potluck dinner. All of the completed broadsides for that year’s project are displayed. Each of us reads “our” poem and talks about the process of creating the image, designing the text, printing, etc. The sharing that takes place as we read and talk about our connection to the young person who wrote the poem and our experience in interpreting it for others to see, is a meaningful bond for all of us and each of us…to the writers, the poets who work with them, and one another. It is what keeps us looking forward to coming back year after year. It isn’t just a legacy for the poets and their families. It is our legacy, too.

Here is a video of the creative process for a few of us:

(video courtesy of www.seattlechannel.org

One last comment on the bond between printer and poet… last year, I wrote a blog post about my young poet who I was able to meet on his 17th birthday. He teared up when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. We met at the Children’s Hospital where he was (again) a patient when I gave him his copy of his poem that I designed and printed. We were both emotional when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. It was so gratifying to see how he appreciated what I felt was our collaboration though we had not met before.

Chris Copley 2016 was my second experience with the Seattle Children’s Hospital poetry broadside project. My 2015 project was both artistically challenging (still a rookie to letterpress, I carved three 10-inch-by-13-inch linoleum blocks to illustrate the poem’s text and images) and emotionally poignant (the poet I worked with, 13-year-old Ahmie Njie, died about a month after I printed her poem). Exchanging a few Facebook IMs with her before she passed away remains one of the highlights of my life.

I liked the idea of incorporating the text of the poem itself in the illustration of the poem, so I planned to do that again in 2016. I worked with a poem by 12-year-old Kayli Jones, a Chinese-born adoptee living with her American parents and three brothers in Idaho. I exchanged a few email questions with the poet’s mom to learn a little more about the poet.

Chris Copley creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

The primary design concept for me revolved around Kayli’s Chinese origins. So I decided to use the poem’s text to represent branches of a Chinese-style cherry tree in bloom. Cherry blossoms are considered a symbol of good luck in Asia, and Kayli’s poem ends on a note of hope and determination to beat her cancer.

I hand-drew the letters of the poem, then ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar. This was my first polymer plate print run, and it worked SO WELL. I couldn’t have been happier. All of my text was printed in black. I then hand-set a tall, thin column of text for the colophon; the form was intended to evoke the look of a column of characters on a Chinese-style painting.

I decided to print the second color, red, using a different technique — pressure printing. I used a print from the first color run to cut out the cherry blossoms, and then glued them onto another print to create the pressure-print “plate.” I used the print with the blossom “holes” as a frisket to mask the speckling you get with pressure printing. Printing the blossoms also went pretty smoothly, although I had to recut the frisket twice to try to get the blossoms the way I wanted.

(An added disaster-turned-blessing: I forgot to bring a linoleum block as required for pressure printing, so I used the backside of a Boxcar base, and the swirly pattern on the base’s bottom side left an absolutely beautiful effect on the cherry blossoms.)

Finally, I added another element, at least to some of the prints: several hand-drawn Chinese-style chops, also in red ink. Two of the chops spelled Kayli’s name in characters reminiscent of ancient Chinese text. I printed them freehand on only a few prints, using an ink-stamp pad because I worried they would distract from Kayli’s poem.

I was really happy with the broadside design and printing, and I felt it represented Kayli well. As much as I enjoy the artistic and technical challenges of portraying a poem, it’s important to me to represent the person whose work I’m illustrating.

Darcie Kantor It was an honor to be part of the Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This was my second year participating.

Darcie Kantor creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

For my process I combined Boxcar plates for the poem and did a linoleum block reduction for the fire/flames. It was a fun project to work on.

Darcie Kantor creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Juliet Shen The boy who wrote this poem was a registered member of the Swinomish tribe whose lands are north of Seattle on Puget Sound. I had designed a font for the Lushootseed language (indigenous to this area) and asked my contacts in the Tulalip Lushootseed Department to have his poem translated so it could be typeset in both languages.

Juliet Chen's beautiful broadside as featured in the 2016 Seattle Children's Broadsides.

When it comes to making art work, I am against the appropriation of traditional Native American art styles by outsiders because my research for making the Lushootseed font revealed that the iconic imagery used by Northwest tribes has deep cultural significance. I decided to design to my particular strengths, which are typographic, not illustrative, so I typeset the poem in a shape that I hope looks like an elk to readers. I rely on polymer plates because my primary focus is on typographic design and I need the control that using polymer affords me.

Heidi Hespelt I do want to say that our printing community is amazing!  I had a terrible back injury at the end of last year and was pretty much out of printing commission. Amy Redmond offered to do the actual printing for me if I wanted to be involved in the design. She made it possible for me to participate by giving of her time and printing expertise.

Heidi Hespelt creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Project supervisor, Jenny Wilkson, selected a younger poet for me, not knowing that she chose what was secretly the one I wanted. Serendipity.  My poet was Alex Enderle, and the poem was “I Am Me”.  Alex was 7 when he wrote the poem.

Heidi Hespelt creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I think of it as the cupcake poem.  I wanted a younger poet because I have a now 5 year old grandson that is a big part of my life and felt like I could probably tune in to what a little guy might find interesting. Bright colors and yumminess that you can see seemed important and I loved what I was able to accomplish with Boxcar plates.

Annabelle Larner I’ve participated as a printer in the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project since its inception about 6 years ago.

Most of my work is all hand done. This year’s project, from April 2016, was printed using a hand-cut wood block as the printing base, with a lightning bolt used as a pressure print. It was printed with a split fountain ink in dark blue, then the final polymer type was printed in red.

Annabelle Larner creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Working on this project is extremely rewarding, and also hard. I want to really get into the words of the printer and try to convey their feelings in a way that is not too literal or childish, as I know kids can appreciate darkness, and what they are going through is pretty dark. Sometimes I get to meet the kids and it’s always special. Their parents are often very grateful, and seeing the kids talk about their poems is amazing.

Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The creativity and intensity of both poets and printers and the dazzling results are why Boxcar is proud to have a part in this project every year.

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!