May 15, 2017

Two-color relief print a poem by M. O. McCabe.

8 x 10.5 inches.


Birds!

When I first talked to M.O. McCabe about writing poetry, I had the feeling I’d find pleasure enough in his work that I’d want to make him a print. He let me choose from among a few dozen of his poems. In Vagabonds, the idea that four jays could be “up to no good” tickled me, and the imagery of the poem drew me in.

The prints are two-color but made with four impressions: buff for the roof detail, black for the poem, another black impression for the big F at the beginning of the poem, and a third black impression for the four birds. It’s often the case with letterpress that it’s easier to print an extra run than to fit everything together in one pass. Since three of the impressions for this print are in black, the press was inked only twice: once for the roof, and again for the three black elements.

The title type and the initial cap are in Newport. The poem is in Bembo.


February 12, 2017

Three-color relief print a poem by Barbara Curry
							 Mulcahy.

9 x 11.25 inches on Crane's Lettra letterpress paper. US$24,

A Virtual Visit to the Press

Barbara Curry Mulcahy, a Canadian poet for whom we recently printed a broadside, regretted not being able to watch her prints come together in person. We were sorry too, because we’d love to see her in Port Townsend. So we did the next best thing; we took pictures along the way, and tidied them up with iMovie. We tried to capture the smell of the ink in the resulting video but had to settle for only the visuals and a bit of the click and clank of our presses.

Call this two-minute home movie our fan letter to a fine poet. Our primary disclaimer is that the real-time process took longer than two minutes.

Making a Broadside at The North Press

November 8, 2016

Two-color relief print a poem by Carl Youngmann.

9.5 x 13.5 inches on Ingres Fabriano archival paper. $18


The Shoemaker’s Children Now Have Shoes

We have the fun of printing our own material from time to time. But remember the old saying that the cobbler’s children often go around barefoot? We had an example of that after I promised Carl I would design and print a poem he’d written. The promise was his birthday present. Then I got busy with other projects. I drafted some designs for “Iron and Light”, but it became too easy to push the project to the back of the stack. Out of sight, out of mind. Finally, one day I set the type, but again I put the project aside. The proofed type ended up in our galley rack for longer than I care to admit.

Carl gave me plenty of latitude on the design. I determined line breaks and which words to set in caps, unheard of freedom when it comes to setting up most people’s jobs. I got knee-deep into his poem. I’m nuts about the rhythm of it. Nuts about his imagery and the message he conveys. He worked one summer in a steel mill a long time before I knew him and has talked about the contrast of factory work with his college experience back then. His poem came from a writing prompt, Take the knife away. I think what he did with that prompt is masterful. But then, I’m biased.


November 2, 2016

Angel of History logo.


Four by Neruda

We were recently asked to contribute prints to a weekend-long celebration of poetry held in Port Townsend. With Copper Canyon Press’s cooperation, readers were scheduled from around the Puget Sound region to bring Anna Akhmatova’s and Pablo Neruda’s poetry to life. As a token of appreciation, each of the readers would be given one of my prints by the event coordinators.

When selecting the poem to be featured, I found it difficult to limit myself to only one. Call it greed, but there were four that I kept returning to. In the end I figured, why not ? and I dove in head first to a Neruda-rama and printed all four. (Or would that be a Neruda-fest? A Neruda-palooza? Whatever it’s called, they’re all terrific poems.)

The first of the four (Yellow Bird) made it to our gallery page before the three shown here. Go have a look!

Pablo Neruda, Poem 6 from <i>The Sea and the Bells</i> Pablo Neruda, Poem 4 from <i>The Sea and the Bells</i> Pablo Neruda, Poem 8 from <i>The Sea and the Bells</i>

September 8, 2016

Three-color relief print a poem by Frank Stanford.


Intern Visit

One of the pleasures of our ongoing relationship with Copper Canyon Press is the opportunity to host their interns a few times a year when I introduce them to the kind of printing that gave Copper Canyon its start in poetry publishing. Some of the interns arrive already knowing something about fine printing; others arrive wide-eyed. Others simply want to get the general idea and move on.

The group this summer were especially delightful, so I bent my own rule by inviting them to return to the studio for a real, live work session. Not just a demo, which is what I usually do with visitors. After all, printing isn’t exactly a team activity. But these interns were exceptional. I saw in them the right combination of curiosity and patience. I thought it might be rewarding for them and for me to dive into a real project.

Three young women arrived on a bright Sunday morning ready to roll up their sleeves. We already had the poem selected, and they had already seen my design for it. In fact, I’d already set the type and prepared the paper. We ran white ink on our small press first, since the blue could easily follow without a wash up. While the blue was going down, I set up black ink on our big press. Without having to worry about tight registration, we could print all three colors the same day.

In only a couple of hours my “helpers” were able to stand back and admire fifty finished copies of their work. (Immediacy is one of the pleasures of letterpress.) And I had the joy of sharing my enthusiasm for the peculiarities of printing by hand with an appreciative audience. I hope they enjoyed our time together as much as I did.



August 31, 2016

Quote by CD Wright interpreted by Ellie Mathews.


Taking the Reader For a Walk

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be impatient. My natural inclination is to rush things. Talk fast; eat fast; read fast. Fast, fast, fast. But I also recognize that some things are best understood at an easier pace. The old stop-and-smell-the-roses approach.

When I was given this quote by C.D. Wright to design and print, my immediate inclination was to guide people toward slowing down. So the concept became, “Let’s take the reader on a short walk.”  Wright has given us a dense message, which I think warrants the extra bit of time it takes to wind through her thoughts.



August 12, 2016

Strunk & White Rule No. 13 interpreted by Ellie Mathews.


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

It’s nice to have the option of printing something fun for the sheer joy of giving it away, and we’ve made a stack of Rule No. 13’s for exactly that purpose. We think its advice is that good!

From now until our supply is exhausted, anyone who orders work from our gallery will receive one of these 6 x 9 inch prints. The bold purple ink helps make the point. As for the second color, it may look as if it’s printed blind (meaning printed without any ink), it’s a very faint gray, which we think emphasizes the message.



June 23, 2016

Detail of four-color letterpress print by Ellie Mathews.

Click image to see detail.

In Celebration of the 2016 Port Townsend Writers Conference

Four-color print by Ellie Mathews for Centrum Port Townsend Writers
				Conference 2016.

Four-color broadside with a message between the lines to remind us that the elements of a story should lead to an inevitable conclusion and not be a haphazard series of events strung together as, “  . . . this happened . . . and then that happened.” A strong narrative builds with, “This happened because that had happened.”

Printed on Crane’s Lettra, a creamy paper so pillow-y that we couldn’t resist sinking a deep impression in transparent ink across the bottom of the sheet. It’s Fort Worden’s schoolhouse, where the conference workshops have been held for years.

Broadsides are 12 x 16 inches and are made to fit ready made frames.



May 19, 2016

Copper Canyon Press logo.

Look what Copper Canyon Press said about us!

  Local Port Townsend couple Ellie Mathews and Carl Youngmann own and operate The North Press, setting type the old-fashioned way, letter-by-letter. “It may seem like a painstaking process,” says Ellie, “but it’s not that hard to learn. There’s a rhythm to it.” Carl and Ellie make our broadsides.

  Historically, the word “broadside” is used to mean a single sheet of paper, printed on one side and intended to be posted or displayed. “As for poetry broadsides, I think of them as one-page books," says Ellie.  “As much art as literature.” Framed and on a wall, they offer continuing involvement with the message of a favorite poem.

  In this spirit, she designs with content and author in mind. For Jean Valentine’s “Great Grandmother” poem, for instance, she used a huge, lower-case “g” as a modern, here-and-now statement that’s in contrast to the script type she used for Pablo Neruda’s work. That script is taken from a Frenchman’s love letters written in the middle of the last century. Ellie used it to convey a sense of history.

  The design process includes paper selection. Whether highly calendared or soft and pillowy, the paper Ellie and Carl print on is sometimes handmade, usually 100% cotton, and always invites the indent that’s treasured as part of the letterpress process. “You want only a slight bruise,” says Carl, “just enough pressure for a juicy three-dimensional result.”

  Whether serif or sans-serif type, red, black or blue ink, with or without graphic elements in second or third colors — we look forward to seeing what might be next in our continuing collaboration with The North Press.

We look forward too! To see examples of what we’ve printed for the nice people at Copper Canyon, click on our Projects page (and then, take a look at our Gallery ).



April 13, 2016

Kim Murton, <i>Cat Interference</i>
Kim Murton, <i>Pie for Breakfast</i>

Playing Well With Others

We’ve been delighted to begin working with Kim Murton, ceramic artist, animator and illustrator from Vancouver, Washington. Kim draws a “Worry of the Day” M-F (and on weekends!) and posts them to her blog. A while back we noticed that some of her Worries might be right for the letterpress process, so we approached her with the idea of getting her drawings onto fine paper, ready for framing.

At The North Press, our work is often the result of a collaboration. With Kim especially so, since we are committed to preserving the integrity of her art through the printing process, even when that means the intentional appearance of colors out of register. That’s her style and part of the appeal of her work. In the next few weeks we’ll be adding to the series with four more images, so watch this spot for updates.

Kim’s work can be found on Etsy and in galleries around the Northwest. For a peek into her world, go to kimmurton.blogspot.com. For close-ups of the first two of our collaborative series, click on our gallery page.



March 16, 2016

Metal backed polymer plate and print.

High-contrast NASA photograph of the moon in metal-backed polymer. Printed in yellow ink on a small poetry broadside.

WORKSHOP Photopolymer Plates for Relief Printing

Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, 151 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island, Washington
Saturday, April 2 from 1:00 – 4:00
Cost: $90, BAC Members: $80, students $70.

Learn the process of making your own plates in a half-day workshop. Carl Youngmann and Ellie Mathews, letterpress printers, will demonstrate do-it-yourself, U-V exposure, water-wash methods for producing raised images in your own studio or kitchen.

We will start by making an inkjet negative of a high-contrast, digital image. We'll then expose a light-sensitive emulsion with a black light. We'll develop the plate in tap water, and make proof copies. Specific products, exposure times and details will be outlined so participants will be prepared to make plates themselves in their own workspaces to use in conjunction with letterpress or other printmaking processes. The focus will be on using photographs and drawings as material for relief printing.

Register for the workshop at the BAC front desk or call 206.842.3132


February 10, 2016

Pablo Neruda Poetry Broadside Series

The Neruda series is the biggest project we've taken on at The North Press. Two-hundred copies each of three, three-color broadsides intended to be enjoyed as a trio or individually. Like the first of our Neruda broadsides, these were to be bi-lingual. I stayed with the Marcel Script for the Spanish and with handset, 14-point Caslon for the English. We made a polymer plate for Neruda's scrawl-y signature that was then used for all three members of the series. I was fascinated with Neruda's long, skinny poems so chose the two shown here, with their short, often one-word, lines. In consultation with my contact at Copper Canyon, I selected the third poem — actually, an excerpt from a much longer poem — this time with very wide lines in contract to the other two.

The broadsides are each 8 x 13 inches. They are printed on Crane's Lettra paper, designed specifically for letterpress printing. The paper is soft enough to yield a satisfying bite from the pressure of the press. Technically, that's called a deboss and shouldn't be overdone, but a little bit can be yummy. All the type is black, printed on a graduated tone that is overprinted with a slightly deeper tint of that same color.

The book, Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems includes twenty of Neruda's works in both Spanish and English. Learn more about the publication of the lost poems of Pablo Neruda. Go to Copper Canyon Press for availability of the broadside series.

Pablo Neruda, Poem 6 from <i>Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems</i> Pablo Neruda, Poem 4 from <i>Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems</i> Pablo Neruda, Poem 8 from <i>Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems</i>

February 7, 2016

Poetry Broadside of Pablo Neruda Lost Poems No. 4.

Pablo Neruda Poetry Broadside

Our friends at Copper Canyon Press stirred up a whole lot of excitement a while back when they announced their intent to publish a new collection of Pablo Neruda poetry. And when I say new I mean never before seen in English. Carl and I were delighted when we were asked to print broadsides, beginning with the one shown here.

Going bi-lingual has its own challenges. For example, I realized I'd need Spanish accents, a complication when it comes to metal type. So I hunted down a digital font that would play well with photopolymer, the material we use when handset type won't do, and I landed on the P22 Foundry's font family called Marcel. Marcel is based on the handwriting of a Frenchman who was conscripted into labor during World War II and who wrote letters to his beloved wife. Carolyn Porter's resulting script font captures the look of ink on paper, which was exactly what I wanted to convey the era in which Neruda wrote. After that, the design came together. We printed 200 copies on Crane's Lettra in two shades of sepia and an extravagant third color, deep teal, for the initial cap on the English translation. Finished size is 10 x 13 inches.

The book, Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems includes twenty of Neruda's works in both Spanish and English. Learn more about the publication of the lost poems of Pablo Neruda. Go to Copper Canyon Press for ordering information.

February 6, 2016

Pablo Neruda Poem 6 DIY Valentine.

DIY Broadsides

When Copper Canyon Press wanted to offer a quick-turnaround Valentine gift for its donors, they came to The North Press.

Taking a diversion from the usual constraints of letterpress printing, we designed a .pdf to be sent password-protected to contributors via an email that includes folding instructions. The results are a low-cost, high-impact, instantly gratifying, stand-up, stand-alone poetry broadside with zero shipping and handling costs that recipients print themselves and that doesn’t need framing to be displayed and enjoyed.

Did I mention that it features an excerpt from one of the Neruda poems included in Then Came Back: The Lost Neruda? Go to lostnerudapoems.org/valentine for ordering information. Learn more about the publication of the lost poems of Pablo Neruda.

January 6, 2016

Bainbridge Arts & Crafts—Pressing West letterpress print show

Pressing West

We were thrilled to be invited to participate in Pressing West, a letterpress exhibit at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts — especially when we saw the list of other printers who had been asked to contribute work. Wow. The North Press is in good company.

The show’s promotional graphic, reproduced here, is an etched linocut with metal type by Myrna Keliher of Expedition Press in Kingston, Washington.

The gallery is at 151 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island. Hours are 10:00 until 6:00 Monday through Saturday and 11:00 until 5:00 on Sundays. The show will be up through January.

Associated with the show are free letterpress demos all month. The gallery says, “Join us for an up-close look at the ancient art of letterpress. Each Saturday, a different artist will bring his or her own creative inspiration and interpretation to the press. Come for one or come for all! No registration is necessary — just stop in.”

The North Press demo is scheduled for Saturday, January 16. It is billed as Kitchen Sink Graphics. Going from a cut potato to a rubber stamp to metal type to photopolymer, we will offer perspective on the basics of relief printing. We’ll pass around examples of the materials specific to our work so people can touch and feel, and we’ll follow with a demonstration of making simple impressions with a spoon and/or a modified tortilla press.



November 29, 2015

Two-color letterpress print by Ellie Mathews with poem by Terry Martin.

Sunday Afternoons

Two-color relief print with poem by Terry Martin. 9 x 12 inches on archival paper. $20

Letterpress Illustration

When I heard Terry Martin read at Port Townsend's Northwind Arts Center last Spring, I felt immediately inspired to print her poem, Sunday Afternoons, as a broadside. I wanted to pair her words with the image of a measuring cup. Her poem is about the wonders of making cake (and more).

The cup I used had been a birthday present to Carl at the Hancock Shaker Village a decade ago, a souvenir of a wonderful blue-sky November day when we'd felt a tremendous sense of exploration and discovery. In the museum gift shop, the cup felt like a silly purchase, since we already had other measuring cups, but we both liked its chubby matter-of-factness. By now it has seen plenty of flour and sugar in our kitchen.

For the broadside, I photographed the cup with a digital camera, reduced the image to line art in PhotoShop, and printed a film negative from which Carl made a polymer plate.

This picture shows the type ready to be printed in black. The polymer plate and the poem’s initial ‘H’ were printed in warm red.

Two-color letterpress print by Ellie Mathews with poem by Terry Martin.

November 8, 2015

A Visit to the Ink Factory.

We generally print with old-fashioned, oil-based ink at The North Press, so, a year ago, when Carl and I were invited to tour Gamblin in Portland, Oregon, we jumped at the chance to see how artists’ colors and printmakers’ inks are made. The details of the operation there were rich and engaging, and I kicked myself for not carrying a real camera with me. In spite of the second-rate shots I managed to capture with my iPod Touch, I was inspired to string them together into a short video. With apologizes for lack of technical excellence, I offer it here for a peek into the world of color.

Coincidentally, out of all possible pigments, on the day we visited, they were producing black, white, and gray. Maybe that’s just as well; when shown a carton of ultramarine powder, I almost felt my eyeballs buzz with the intensity of color, the bluest blueness of blue.

A Visit to the Ink Factory

October 4, 2015

$15

Jazz Pianist Wayne Horvitz brings his Richard Hugo-inspired music to Port Townsend, Washington.

To celebrate the conjunction of music and poetry coming to the stage, The North Press was asked to print the eleven Richard Hugo lines that inspired Wayne Horvitz to compose a suite of music. The resulting broadsides, printed with handset metal type on fine Italian paper, features a sketch of Richard Hugo made by local artist, Kathy Francis. Proceeds from the sale of these broadsides will support (and thank!) Centrum and Copper Canyon Press, producers of the concert.

Richard Hugo was born in White Center, Washington, and lived around the Northwest before settling in Missoula, Montana. There he taught at the University of Montana, inspiring young poets who continue his legacy today. During the 1960s and 70s, Hugo drove his beloved Buick convertible through the back roads of Washington and Montana, visiting small towns and then writing about them. For Hugo, these places became springboards for poetry.

Wayne Horvitz is a composer, pianist and electronic musician who has performed around the globe, composed for groups as diverse as Kronos String Quartet and Seattle Symphony, and performed and collaborated with musicians as varied as Bill Frissell and John Zorn. Having been moved by Hugo's poetry, the summer of 2014, Horvitz took a road trip with his daughter and visited some of Hugo's triggering towns, letting these places and Hugo's poetry inhabit his imagination. The result was Some Places Are Forever Afternoon: 11 Places for Richard Hugo, a musical suite. In early October 2015, the Forever Afternoon ensemble will be traveling the Northwest, presenting nine performances in Montana, Washington and Oregon. At every stop, local readers will read each poem as part of the performance.

Hugo died in 1982. A writers's center in Seattle is named in his memory.

September 22, 2015

NBAG

Problem Solving: The Practical Aspects of Getting the Job Done

Northwind Book Arts Group
Port Townsend Library Learning Center
1257 Lawrence Street, Port Townsend, Washington
September 22, 2015, 4-6:00 PM

The Northwind Book Arts Group will hold a panel discussion: Problem Solving: The Practical Aspects of Getting the Job Done, Tuesday, September 22, at the Port Townsend Library Learning Center (The Pink House), 1257 Lawrence Street, Port Townsend, from 4:00 until 6:00 PM. Three experienced practitioners will discuss some of their recent challenges. The panel will include Viktor Grabner from Watermark Bindery, Carolina Veenstra, a book binder and conservator, and Carl Youngmann, a letterpress printer. Anyone with an interest in printing, binding, and/or artists' books is welcome.