Archive for the ‘Dead Feminists’ Category

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If you earn your living by drawing pictures, you have to spend a lot of time with your head down and your eyes on your paper. Yet at this time of year, with spring coming along fast (at least in the Northwest…), life hurries by at a frantic pace. I hate the idea of missing any of it—so I’m always happy for any reminder to stop and really look around me. So for our newest Dead Feminist broadside, we’re heeding the words of one of America’s greatest photographers:

The seeing eye is the important thing.  — Imogen Cunningham

This piece is a major departure from what we’ve done in the past—as you can plainly see. For the first time ever we’ve printed the broadside on black paper—which helped us “pull the focus” (if you will) onto the quote. It also provided a beautiful backdrop for a tribute to someone who spent her life creating black-and-white images.

Surrounding the quote is an intricate metallic silver filigree of spring botanicals and portraiture, creating a pastiche of the subjects of some of Imogen Cunningham’s most iconic photographs—while the color choice references the traditional silver-gelatin photographic process. In the eye of the storm of imagery is the all-seeing camera lens, looking out onto the world.

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Jessica has her own secret-sauce recipe for gold ink, and while we’ve used it before in our series (like in Gun Shy), nothing makes it look so fabulous as a dark background. The gold ink looked amazing on press—we kind of wished we could just leave the ink on there permanently, because that’s some serious bling. (It almost made the Vandercook feel like some sort of super-cool Bond gadget.)

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As always, we donate a portion of the proceeds of the series to a nonprofit that aligns with the message of each piece. To help sharpen the seeing eyes of the artists of tomorrow, this time we’ve chosen Youth in Focus — a nonprofit that puts cameras in the hands of at-risk youth to “teach them how to develop negatives into positives.”

Focal Point: No. 19 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 164
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Imogen Cunningham (1883 - 1976) graduated from the University of Washington in 1907, earning a degree in chemistry with her thesis on chemical processes in photography. Shortly afterward she was hired by photographer Edward Curtis, who taught her platinum printing and portraiture. She opened her own successful studio in Seattle, and published an article entitled “Photography as a Profession for Women.” In 1917, Cunningham and her husband and son relocated to California, where she gave birth to twin boys. Her children and the plants in her garden then became key subjects of her work. Her experiments with double exposure throughout the 1920s and 30s contributed to a growing appreciation of photography as art. She was a founding member of Group f/64, a collective of influential west coast photographers including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The group mounted a 1932 exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, united by a manifesto declaring “photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation.” Cunningham’s vision came through in both her personal and commercial work: unvarnished celebrity portraits for Vanity Fair; documentary street photography; nudes and botanical images — a lifetime of work that continues to challenge and intrigue viewers.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, grateful for artists who remind us to focus.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

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Even though it’s nearly as late as it could possibly be, here I am thinking, “Already?!?” But it’s true—even if you don’t do Black Friday (as you can probably guess, I’m partial to Small Business Saturday myself), today’s the “official” opener of the holiday season. And for perhaps the first time ever, I’m actually ready for it! (Well, mostly.) This year I’ve got new stuff in three different online shops—in honor of the three arms of my little business (though of course, if you ever want to combine items into one order, just drop me a line and I’ll make it happen).

First up is my Anagram Press shop, where you’ll find two new holiday cards, inspired by mid-century vintage kitsch.

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(One has just a touch of Griswold-y goodness…)

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Also new this year are three sets of crazy-strong glass magnets by Seattle’s own iPop, featuring my bird designs! I’m so proud and excited to have these that I’m tempted to plaster every metal surface in my studio with them.

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Next up, a little holiday travel: I’m pleased to announce the Souvenir Shop is now open on Drawn the Road Again, my new travel blog! You’ll find a big array of prints available there—

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from the first installments of my new 50 States Series

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—to original illustrations inspired by travel destinations.

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And because enough people have asked for it, there are even prints of some of my sketchbook drawings—including a Pick-a-Sketch custom order option.

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Last but not least, the Dead Feminists shop has some new additions as well—starting with a small letterpress keepsake version of the Birth of Venus steamroller print Jessica and I did earlier this year.

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And we’ve finally restocked our supply of mini letterpress journals (you folks cleaned us out last time we had them in the shop, and it took quite awhile to make and photograph more!). We call ‘em “Lemonade Journals,” because we made them from the “lemons” that crop up during printing—misregistered prints and tiny flaws that otherwise would have ended up in the recycling bin. But with some cute stitching and fun colored paper on the inside, Jessica turned them into perfect little stocking stuffers.

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Whew! That’s the whole kit n’ kaboodle. Keep in mind that some of the travel and sketchbook prints require a lead time to produce, so be sure to get any made-to-order requests in early! I’ll be shipping holiday orders daily until 4 pm PST on Tuesday, December 17 (when the shops will close for the holiday break).

In the meantime, I’m raising a virtual glass of eggnog to you: happy holidays!

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This is a busy time of year—as the school year begins again and the pace of life quickens, the easy pace of summer has made way for a season of bustling, planning, and dreaming of times ahead. Yet worldwide, over and over again, the plans and dreams of so many women and girls are cut short by violence. In light of recent high-profile crimes halfway around the world, Jessica and I though it was high time we spoke up. This time we drew inspiration from the Nightingale of India:

What hope shall we gather, what dreams shall we sow?  — Sarojini Naidu

“Nightsong” honors the hopes and dreams of women and girls in every culture—in defiance of the world’s dangers. The illustration depicts a lush dream menagerie printed in bright, exotic hues. Tigers, peacocks, elephants and nightingales stand sentinel around our heroine, surrounded by detailed paisleys and florals drawn in the style of Indian mehndi designs.

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To make this print more dreamlike, we decided to throw a tricky technique called split-fountain printing into the mix—or “rainbow roll,” for short.

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A split fountain is extremely difficult to control (advanced Eagle Scout printing here, folks), but the results are so lovely that it’s absolutely worth the effort. As an added bonus, we were careful to keep our inks translucent—so when we registered the second color, that mixed the colors even further, giving us an entire rainbow spectrum with just two passes on press.

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I should add, though, that while we love printing with a rainbow roll, the process is completely unpredictable, and the finished prints are far from uniform. So rather than an edition of absolutely identical broadsides, we ended up with a beautiful range of yellows, oranges, pinks and even reds, that vary from print to print. So my scans here are representative of the edition in general, but no two prints are exactly alike (so if you order a print, please allow for some slight variations from what you see here).

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To help restore hope to victims and in honor of our dreams for the future, a portion of our proceeds will be donated to Take Back the Night. In order to create safe communities, Take Back the Night seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence.

Nightsong: No. 18 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 147
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Sarojini Chattopadhyay Naidu (1879 - 1949) — also known as “The Nightingale of India” — was born in Hyderabad, the eldest of eight children. She was a gifted student, proficient in five languages, and by age 16 left the country to attend King’s College to pursue her interest in poetry. Inspired by the suffragist movement in England, she joined the struggle for Indian independence, traveling the country to lecture on social welfare, women’s rights and nationalism. Naidu played a leading role during the Civil Disobedience Movement and was jailed along with Gandhi. Naidu wrote beautiful lyrical poetry, focused on Indian themes, to inspire the nation. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Indian National Congress, and the first woman to become the Governor of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Though Naidu humbly claimed, “I am only a woman, only a poet,” her birthday is celebrated as Women’s Day throughout India.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, calling for an end to violence against women all over the world.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

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This has not been an easy post to write—and yet in a way it’s been writing itself over and over again, for years now. To be honest, Jessica and I designed this broadside months ago, and planned to release it shortly after last year’s theater shooting in Aurora, CO. Other projects got in the way, and then the 2012 election persuaded us to table the piece for the time being.

We should have known: until there’s serious change in our society, this subject will always be hatefully relevant.

So here we are again, on the heels of yet another rash of terrible violence. But this time feels different—not only because of the sheer horror of the Newtown tragedy, but because at last, our country is having the conversation it needs to have.

At the center of the debate is the precarious balance of right and responsibility—and here’s where I need to keep from shooting my mouth off. I’ve written and deleted a hundred sentences about Jessica’s and my personal thoughts on the subject—but I have a feeling you can already guess what they are. And we also recognize that our beliefs represent just one side of our divided culture. So the thought of pontificating just wearies and saddens us; we’d much rather focus on how we might move forward, together.

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For us, that meant starting with an attempt to comprehend the other side of the debate. So in hoping to understand the love of guns many in our country share, we looked to legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley, whose words pierce the heart of the matter:

Aim at a high mark, work for the future.

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This piece is a stark, steely contrast to the bright colors and detailed embellishments of the rest of the series. Annie stands her ground beside a blazing metallic bullseye, representing the golden target of sanity amid the scatter-shot opinions and half-cocked sniping of those on the extremist fringes. And let me tell you: there’s real gold in that ink. Jessica mixes her own formula—maybe it’ll shine all the brighter, and help steady our collective aim.

Gun Shy: No. 17 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 151
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

The edition number we choose for each print in our series is always significant in some way—whether we call attention to it or not. In the case of Gun Shy, we’ve created an edition of 151 prints to represent each person injured or killed in a shooting rampage in 2012. In light of that sobering number, we’ve chosen to donate a portion of our proceeds to Demand A Plan. A campaign of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Demand a Plan is a national, bipartisan coalition working to make America’s communities safer by keeping illegal guns out of dangerous hands.

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Colophon reads:
Annie Oakley (1860 – 1926) was born Phoebe Ann Mosey (or Moses) near Greenville, Ohio. Her Quaker parents raised seven children on their farm until Annie’s father was caught in a blizzard and succumbed to pneumonia. By age ten, Annie was sent to the poor farm, then to live with an abusive family for several years. She escaped back to her mother’s home, taught herself to shoot a rifle, and quickly paid off their mortgage by selling game. In 1875 Annie defeated well-known marksman Frank Butler in a shooting contest — and married him shortly afterward. Annie became Butler’s assistant in his sharp shooting show, but as audiences clearly preferred Annie, the two soon switched roles. Annie was a curiosity, dressed in a homemade costume that modestly covered her petite frame but also allowed her to shoot with athletic grace. The couple joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, where Annie performed for 17 years, traveling to New York, Paris and London. Upon seeing her shoot the wick off a burning candle, the famous Chief Sitting Bull adopted Annie, bestowing the nickname “Watanya Cicilla” (Little Sure-Shot). In 1894 Thomas Edison captured her performance on film at his studio in New Jersey, making her the first cowgirl to appear in a motion picture.

Despite not being from the West, Annie defined our notion of a cowgirl as a self-reliant, strong woman. She advocated for equal pay, and went to great lengths to defend her reputation. She challenged William Randolph Hearst in a series of libel lawsuits over a false newspaper story, winning 54 of 55 cases at great personal expense. After her retirement in 1913, Annie continued to tour the country, teaching over 15,000 women how to use firearms responsibly.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, demanding that our federal government enact strict controls to end gun violence.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop.

The next Dead Feminist broadside will be released in May 2013.

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If you have any sort of link to the outside world (television, radio, internet access, newspaper, mailbox), chances are you’ve been unable to escape this year’s deluge of advertising, chatter and glossy-printed recycling fodder—all centered around this coming Tuesday. It’s enough to have even four-year-olds throwing up their hands in frustration. Jessica and I, however, have spent many hours sifting through election material—1972 election material, I mean. To remind us of what’s really important this year (and every year), we turned to the woman who help paved the way for our current President.

The one thing you’ve got going: your one vote.  —Shirley Chisholm

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Shirley Chisholm was one of fifteen Presidential candidates in 1972. It was a volatile time—the Vietnam War was the center of public discord; movements for civil rights and gender equality were major issues around the western world; and the race came on the heels of one of the bloodiest election years in American history.

Shirley knew she was a long shot; she even referred to herself as “literally and figuratively the dark horse.” Yet she also knew that to run for President, all that was required was to be a natural-born U.S. citizen of at least 35 years of age. There was nothing in there about being male or Caucasian—and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, she was at least as qualified as her fellow candidates. So she ran, because it was her right, and because she knew that if she played it smart and started winning delegates, she’d have some power to leverage.

Shirley sought to create a truly representative government. Rather than a cookie-cutter set of interchangeable politicians running the country, she envisioned an America where each region, economic sector and ethnic group elected one of its own to office. She wanted to see a woman heading the Department of Education & Welfare; a Native American in charge of the Department of the Interior. And as a freshman Congresswoman she was assigned to the House Forestry Committee but refused to serve—how would forest stewardship or agricultural bills represent New York’s 12th Congressional District?

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She also saw her office as an opportunity to encourage women—especially women of color—to get involved in politics. Every member of her staff was a woman, half of them African-American. To say the least, her very presence made her fellow legislators nervous—and on top of everything else, she was probably the only woman of color in the whole country who made the exact same salary as her white male colleagues. (Heck, for people like Yvette Clarke or Barbara Lee, that’s probably still true for the most part. How depressing is that?)

On the national political stage, however, her race and gender were two strikes against her. She gathered support from the National Organization for Women, but when the time came for NOW to officially endorse a candidate, their squeamishness over the possibility of a black nominee overcame their lip service. And the Black Congressional Caucus, of which Shirley was a founding member, threw her under a bus because they couldn’t bring themselves to support a female candidate. To me, that’s the most interesting thing—Shirley Chisholm always said she faced far more discrimination over her gender than the color of her skin.

Still, though she had to battle opposition and prejudice from all sides, she worked to bring people of all stripes together. When her opponent George Wallace (yes, that George Wallace—Mr. “Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever”) was wounded in an assassination attempt, Shirley visited him in the hospital. They were the ultimate Odd Couple: years later Wallace used his clout among Southern congressmen to help Shirley pass a bill giving domestic workers the right to a minimum wage.

In the end, though she gathered 152 delegates, she knew she’d never snag the Democratic nomination. So she conceded to George McGovern—who went on to win just one state (Massachusetts) in the 1972 Presidential election. Take a look at the electoral college map for that year:

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That’s a whole lotta red.

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And since this election season marks the fourth anniversary of our series, that map was the starting point for Keep the Change, our new Dead Feminist broadside. I redrew the map in blue, and from there we crafted a period homage to Shirley’s impeccable style and substance.

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The 12th Congressional District was one of the areas hardest hit last week by Hurricane Sandy. While the immediate recovery efforts in the city are crucial, we also recognize the importance of serving a community long after the disaster relief efforts have ended. So to help continue Shirley’s long-term service to her home city, we’ll be donating a portion of our proceeds  to Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, the nation’s first non-profit community development corporation. Restoration partners with residents and businesses to improve the quality of life of Central Brooklyn by fostering economic self sufficiency, enhancing family stability, promoting the arts and culture and transforming the neighborhood into a safe, vibrant place to live and work.

In the meantime, let’s do what Shirley did best—cast our vote, and keep fighting the good fight.

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Keep the Change: No. 16 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 152
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924–2005) was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York — though she spent her early years growing up in Barbados with her grandmother and younger sisters. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and moved on to teach, becoming an authority on early education. After working as a consultant to the Bureau of Child Welfare, Chisholm won a seat in the New York State Assembly in 1964. She ran for the House of Representatives in 1968 under the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” and was the first African-American woman elected to Congress. As a junior member, she was assigned to the House Forestry Committee but demanded reassignment on the grounds that she couldn’t effectively represent her inner-city constituency. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she served seven terms in Congress.

In 1972 Chisholm ran for U.S. President, the first woman and African American on a major party ticket. She fiercely supported the rights of women and people of color, and opposed the Vietnam War. She was “literally and figuratively the dark horse”— women voters limited their support based on race, and the Congressional Black Caucus backed off because of her gender. Though she didn’t win a single primary, she proved “a catalyst for change,” gathering 152 delegates and demonstrating that women could compete nationally. Chisholm ended her campaign at the Convention, releasing her delegates to George McGovern — who lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring. Please vote to keep women moving forward.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

The next Dead Feminist broadside will be released at the CODEX Bookfair in Richmond, CA, in February 2013.

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If you happen to live in Washington state, you can’t help but notice that love is in the air. It’s not quite what you think, though—rather than turtledoves and cupids flying around, the breeze is carrying ballot petitions and angry voices.

Though Washington became the seventh U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage earlier this year, opponents forced a voter referendum to decide the issue this November. So while we’d rather just toast our friends and their families, we’ve got to put up our dukes first.

Already tempers are running high, and everyone seems to be up in arms—it’s total anarchy out there. So we thought, who better to talk to than an anarchist?

The most vital right is the right to love and be loved.  —Emma Goldman

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Huh. Pretty down-to-earth for an anarchist, actually. Especially if you consider some of the other things Emma’s said in the past.

I think that if we could somehow put all the ladies we’ve featured previously into a room together, they might end up killing each other (good thing they’re already dead, eh?). They all had such different ideologies and passions that I can’t imagine all fourteen of them agreeing on any one thing. But I’m fairly sure they’d be united over Emma—in thinking she was a complete weirdo, that is. (Sorry, Emma.)

Yet for all her outlandish creeds and fierce opinions, her thoughts on families, love and motherhood cut straight to the heart of the matter. And that’s what drew us to her.

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To pay homage to Emma’s folksy words, we turned to folk art for inspiration. (Get out your grandma’s Pyrex and raise a glass!) Love Nest is dominated by a lively brood of nesting matryoshka dolls. Each individual is different, but together they complete the picture of a nurtured, multicolor family. Roosters, hens and chicks complete the flock waiting for the next generation to hatch as Emma’s words stitch the family together.

To support the diversity nested within every family, we’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds to both the Rainbow Center and Oasis Youth Center, right here in T-town. The Rainbow Center is dedicated to eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. Oasis is a drop-in support center dedicated to the needs of GLBTQ youth ages 14-24.

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Speaking of chickens, if you look closely, you’ll spot another tribute—to the very first matryoshka doll ever made.

This might well be the most difficult piece we’ve tackled yet. Beyond the challenges of marrying (no pun intended) the views of a 19th-century fringe activist to modern-day social issues, we also had some seriously precarious business on the technical side. Those of you who are into the nitty gritty details of letterpress may know that each print color requires a separate plate, a separate pass on press. We’ve got four colors in the final result, but because of the tricky magic of translucent inks, there’s actually only three plates/three passes here. The red and teal mix to make brown—which means that the registration (alignment) of each plate had to match up just right.

I was expecting Jessica to throttle me when I showed her the color separations, but as usual, she barely even batted an eye: “Yeah, we can do that.”

Or maybe she just knows me so well now that she’s expecting the crazy.

Love Nest: No. 15 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 126
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940) was born in Kovno, part of the Russian Empire (now Lithuania). She moved to New York in 1885 to live with relatives, supporting herself with factory work. In the following year, news of the Chicago Haymarket riot changed Goldman’s life. In honor of the riot victims and the labor movement, she determined to “dedicate myself to the memory of my martyred comrades, to make their cause my own.” She joined Alexander Berkman—another Russian immigrant—in spreading her vision of an ideal society, based on the anarchist principle of absolute freedom. Goldman founded the political and literary journal “Mother Earth,” and toured the country speaking about anarchism, birth control and economic freedom for women. She was arrested numerous times over her unconventional opinions, accused of disseminating illegal information and inciting to riot.

At a time when even her fellow anarchists questioned her support of homosexuality, Goldman spoke out: “It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding … and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender.” She openly opposed U.S. entry into WWI, was jailed once more for obstruction of the draft, and finally deported back to Russia under the 1918 Alien Act. She spent the rest of her life in exile, supporting anarchist causes abroad. After her death, Goldman’s body was repatriated and buried in Chicago—near the Haymarket anarchists that had so inspired her.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, who with Goldman “demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.”

Price: $40

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

To offset rising supply costs, we’ve had to raise our price a bit. But through the month of June, you can still purchase Signed, Sealed, Soapbox at the old price. Starting on July 1, all Dead Feminist posters, including those available from resellers, will be $40, so complete your collection before the price goes up! The next Dead Feminist broadside will be released at Penland in August, and online in September.

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Sorry about that. Deadlines. Lots of them. I just had to put the blinkers on, shut off the computer entirely, screen all calls, and get down to business. For a solid month.

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Actually, I’m still going on that—this is proving to be a crazy (but productive!) summer. So I just can’t keep up with the trip posts right now. Instead, I’m going to take a hiatus on those, and just work on finishing them behind the scenes until they’re all ready to post here. In the meantime, I’ll be checking in with updates on the stuff that’s got me hiding from the Internets lately.

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Like (what feels like) a million tiny cut-out Space Needles, for example.

Which reminds me! The kind folks at Stanford University put together a little video demonstrating how my artist book Local Conditions works. So now, instead of having to explain it step-by-step, and hope for the best, I can actually show you in real time. Take a gander:

And if you happen to be in the Bay Area, you can see the book for yourself at the San Francisco Center for the Book. From now through August 31, Local Conditions is on display as part of the exhibition Exploding the Codex. The show highlights unusual and unexpected structures by over forty artists—pieces that blow the lid off of the standard definition of what a book can be. I’m sad not to be able to get there myself before the show closes, but if you’re in the area, stop by on June 15 for the opening reception—and tell ‘em hello from me.

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Speaking of exhibitions, my little Spaceworks installation is shaping up nicely.

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The scene will keep growing and shifting all this month, before the exhibit ends on June 30. Swing by the Woolworth Windows at 11th and Broadway in Tacoma, and catch it while you can. (Hint: it’s especially fun during the Farmers Market on Thursdays!)

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Once I’m done drawing Tacoma, I’ll be gearing up to draw North Carolina. As of right now, there are only three spots left in the letterpress class I’m teaching with Jessica at Penland! So hurry and make those travel plans, because you won’t want to miss out.

And finally, look for more surprises here next week. First up will be the next Dead Feminist broadside. It’s a tad late, I know, but we wanted to make sure we did it right. As you’ll soon see, this is proving to be a tricky widget. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I will give you a little taste:

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Any guesses?

One last thing: I’m helping some friends of mine cook up a big ol’ basket of hometown pride. That’s all I’ll say for now, but we’ll be ready to spill the beans next week.

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It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

See you soon!

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When Jessica and I were in North Carolina last summer, we had just enough sightseeing time to squeeze in a short trip along the aptly-named Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Between the dappled sunlight,

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the lush Southern greenery,

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and the unexpected splashes of color,

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we were enchanted in an instant.

(I, for one, was tempted to do a little Katniss Everdeen impression—just run away from it all and head for the hills.)

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It wasn’t hard to imagine sitting down and breaking out the paper and paints, with all that blue haze as inspiration.

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Photo from Wikipedia

The folks at the nearby Penland School of Craft certainly agree. Since Lucy Morgan founded it in 1929, Penland has become a national center for craft education. Widely respected for its preservation of handcraft traditions, Penland is centered on total-immersion study and both traditional and experimental techniques. Settled in a quiet pocket of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s an inspiring setting for focused work. Thanks to its reputation and location, the school attracts some of the country’s best artists and fine craftspeople to study and teach in the Penland studios.

So you can imagine how thrilled and honored Jessica and I were when they asked us to come and teach a letterpress workshop there this summer.

We’ll be teaching a one-week printing intensive, and doing our very best to turn the printshop upside down. This ain’t your grandpa’s letterpress. Here are the details:

Letterpress: Old Dog, New Tricks

A printmaking intensive with Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring
Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC

Summer Session 7: Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, 2012 (scroll down the listings to find our class)

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In the class, we’ll work with both hand-set type (don’t worry, we won’t monkey with any linotype machines…) and photopolymer plates to produce editioned prints that combine the two techniques.

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We’re going to get pretty technical, pretty fast, but don’t worry—the workshop is open to all levels of experience. That way we can bring letterpress newbies up to speed quickly, and give more experienced printers the chance to go nuts and geek out with us.

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Unnatural Light by Jessica Spring

You’ll be doing some death-defying typesetting by hand, using Jessica’s acrobatic techniques,

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On a Mission Dead Feminist print

and I’ll teach you the ropes of designing for photopolymer, so you can throw a three-ring hand-drawn circus into the mix.

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So get thee to the mountains and join us! Registration is open now, but don’t wait too long—the class is capped at 12 students.

See you in North Carolina! Save me some grits, will you?

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Well, I just had me a little epiphany: taking a blog hiatus for this long means that coming back becomes just about the hardest thing ever. It seems like I’ve been tackling both everything and nothing in the last couple of months. So where do I start? How do I transition into the barrage of yummy posts I have planned? Just the thought of recounting recent events in coherent order wearies me. Note to self: let’s try not to do this again, okay?

Instead, I’m going to follow the example of Pirate Queen Havi’s weekly “Chicken” series—which is where she checks in (get it? Chicken?) with a list of the previous days’ struggles and triumphs. So here we go: the past couple of months (really this whole year), in shorthand.

The hard stuff.

Still injured.
Definitely on the mend, but not back to 100% yet after my accident. The tough part is that I’m no longer obviously injured, so nobody (including myself) is automatically cutting me any slack anymore—even though I still need some. And I’m not very good at asking for it.

Unanswered questions.
A visit to the dentist uncovered some other accident-related injury, but nobody seems to agree on precisely what it is, or how to deal with it. I’m not in any pain, though, and was totally unaware that anything was wrong in the first place, so I’m happy to be patient on that one.

Red tape.
Arrrrrrgh! Hard, hard, hard, hard, hard. And time-sucking in astronomical proportions. Hulk smash. That’s all there is to say about that.

Deadlines. And resistance.
See above with the slack-cutting. Most of my deadlines are self-foisted (is that a word? I hope so, because I like it). So a lot of the stress is internal. I really needed to impose structure, though, to allow myself to get past all the projects I’m desperately trying to finish, and move on to new ideas that have me all excited (see below). And, of course, I’m resisting my own rules like crazy. Lots of things to work through there.

Well-intentioned but infernal inquiries.
I’m practicing my international-spy evasion skills and smiling-sage non-answers to requests for progress reports and offers of unsolicited advice.

Interruptions.
Especially when the interruption comes in the form of noise. And when I just want cozy time alone with my brain. Interesting side note: I seem to be growing more agitated by this sort of thing (ringing phones, leaf-blowing neighbors, door-to-door-ers, etc.) as the years go by, rather than less. Hmm.

My inbox is a looney bin.
I get a lot of emails anyway (who doesn’t?), but now I’m buried in them. There used to be hundreds in want of a reply, but now I’m down to dozens, so that’s an improvement. But if I owe you an email, I apologize. I’ll get there. Someday.

Tantalizing, off-limits brainwaves.
I always seem to get my best ideas when I’m mired in something else, and can’t devote time to whatever fledgling project is flapping its imaginary wings just out of reach. Maybe it’s the gimpy-time I’ve had this year, or all those hours of focused Xacto knifing, but there seems to be a high volume of new ideas lately. Thinking on ways I can satisfy just a little of the impulse toward the new-n-shiny, while sticking to my guns on the old.

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The good stuff.

Holy cow, but I live in a beautiful place.
I mean, seriously. Just look at that business up there.

My friends. Especially those of the Tacoman persuasion.
You people are the best. Thank you for the hugs, and surprise treats, and movie references, and snail-mail pretties, and rides when I couldn’t drive, and all that glorious Northwest coffee. I owe y’all big.

Rubber mats and bouncy balls.
My physical therapist, E., is all kinds of adorable and fabulous. She’s helping me kick this injury’s heiney, standing on one foot and with one hand behind my back. Literally!

Opportunities.
Lots of ‘em. I have to stay silent on the specifics right now, but there’s some pretty big stuff on the horizon. Hello, résumé gold!

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Photo courtesy of Shawn Sheehy

Three-dee pop-up kindred spirits.
Pop-up book artist rockstar Shawn Sheehy came to town this month, and not only did I get to be his student for two classes, but I also got piles of seriously fun hang-out time with him. If he ever comes to your hometown, don’t miss his classes. They’re like a brilliant cross between M.I.T. Engineering and Kindergarten for Grown-Ups. Also, he’s good at making gravy for dinner parties.

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Yum.
Speaking of food, the winter veggies at my house are just about eaten up. Time for spring and farmers markets! In the meantime, the Tailor has been baking up a storm to use up the last of the pumpkins and apples. I love tiny pie tarts.

Deep in the heart of Texas.
That’s where the Tailor and I are going to be next month. I have never been to Texas. Road trip!

Stuff that’s happening right now.

Okay, now I can be more specific. Before I return with some semblance of regularly-scheduled blog content, a list of things happening either right this minute or in the very near future:

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Dead Feminists at Powell’s!
Seeing our stuff for sale at my all-time favorite bookstore makes me happier than a bird with a French fry. If you’re in Portland, or you’re going to be, you can now find Dead Feminists postcards, Lemonade Journals and mini-prints at Powell’s! Last time I was there I found them in the Red Room.

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Rumor has it they’re also in the Orange Room, but Powell’s is crazy-huge and charmingly labyrinthine, so I never did come across them there. Never fear, though: the myriad Info Desk staff are smart and lovely. They’ll point you in the right direction.

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P.S. How cool is the description on that sign? I love those people.

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Picture Pages
I’m exhibiting in the Woolworth Windows again, as part of Tacoma’s Spaceworks program. Like last time, I’m creating an installation that comes together in real time. This time, though, I’m not painting in a glass box—I’m doing one huge drawing of a Tacoma hillside that’s made up of hundreds of tiny watercolor sketches. The sketches are done on different days, in all weather conditions and through changing seasons, and are tacked up in the window as they’re finished. The scene grows and takes shape like a puzzle being put together piece-by-piece. So go take a look—and come back often. Tacomans: can you figure out which viewpoint I’m drawing from?

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I’ll be posting more photos here as the installation comes together. In the meantime, check out the post about the project on the Spaceworks blog.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Spring

Circus Libris
Jessica’s new solo exhibit opens this Thursday! Using an array of old-fangled technologies from papermaking to letterpress printing, Circus Libris tames words and images to delight the reader with new-fashioned books. If you’re local, check out the opening reception this Thursday, at the University of Puget Sound Collins Memorial Library (click for event details).

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Where there’s a will, there’s a Wayz.
It’s that time of year again: the Wayzgoose is almost here. This year, though, Tacoma’s wackiest institution is facing a funding gap. To help make up the difference, King’s Books is hosting the first-ever Wayz & Means Letterpress Film Festival. You read that right. There are films (plural!) about letterpress. And we’ve got ‘em. Come for the nerdy street cred, the raffle prizes, or the snacks—and come as you are. Extra rounds of applause for successful Orville-Redenbacher popcorn tosses.

Wayz & Means Letterpress Film Festival
Sunday, April 1 • 6 to 8 pm • Tickets $20
King’s Books • 218 St. Helens Ave. • Tacoma, WA

Once you’ve satisfied your inner letterpress film buff, come back to King’s for the main event. This year’s Wayzgoose is going to be better than ever—and you can bet I’ll be there with bells on. Jessica and I are sitting out the steamroller printing to make room for a new crop of artists, but we’ll have a table at the marketplace, and lots of goodies to share.

Eighth Annual Wayzgoose
Sunday, April 22 • 11 am to 4 pm • Free!
King’s Books • 218 St. Helens Ave. • Tacoma, WA

Whew! Are we caught up now? I think so. Thanks for sticking with me here—see you real soon. I promise.

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It’s hard to ignore the news of protests, ahem, occupying the attention of cities around the world—of the many and diverse thousands of people unified under one simple, yet infinitely faceted mantra. As members of the, well, vast majority of folks without any real political or financial clout in the world, Jessica and I can get behind their message—but that’s not so much the point. What really amazes us is that with a little tenacity and strength in numbers, the powerless can suddenly become very powerful, indeed.

It made us think of a woman who, despite having a famous sibling, would have disappeared into obscurity but for the simple act of picking up a pen.

My power was allways small tho my will is good.  —Jane Mecom

Jane’s eminent brother, on the other hand, had a little more faith:

Energy and persistence conquer all things.  —Benjamin Franklin

Jane had both energy and persistence in spades, although we marvel at how she managed it, with twelve kids, a family business and a house perpetually full of boarders to occupy her attention. Yet of Benjamin’s sixteen siblings, Jane is the only one whose story has survived the 200+ years since her death—all because she committed her thoughts to paper. So in honor of Ben and Jane’s relationship, and in solidarity with those who find the strength to speak up, we present our first dual Dead Feminist broadside, Signed, Sealed, Soapbox.

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Since this is also our first print that features a male Dead Feminist (nope, you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist), we thought it deserved a little something extra. So we set it up like a conversation—or in this case, a written correspondence. Besides, there was just so much historical ground to cover—even condensing the information to a blog post is a challenge, let alone plucking two sentences from a lifetime of dialogue. (If you haven’t already guessed, this post is a long one. Grab a cuppa if you dare to settle in!)

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Buried in the stacks of our excellent public library, I uncovered an obscure tome: The Letters of Benjamin Franklin and Jane Mecom, by Carl van Doren. The book chronicles their entire surviving correspondence—98 letters in all, printed in full. I was a little worried that the writing style of the day would make even skimming for quotes a chore—but in truth, I couldn’t put it down. It was like peering into the lives of any two ordinary people who happened to care for each other very much. There’s humor, and worried advice, and gossip, and gentle sarcasm, and the occasional scolding (usually on Jane’s part) when one or the other let too much time pass between letters. Most of all, there’s love—it’s there on every page. After all of that, we couldn’t just limit the broadside to a couple of one-liners. So the quotes are accompanied by excerpts from their actual letters, each calligraphed as closely as possible to Ben and Jane’s actual handwriting. Even the spelling errors and colonial-era grammar are intact; we figured it was better not to mess with history.

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Jane’s excerpted letter:

I have wrote & spelt this very badly but as it is to Won who I am sure will make all Reasonable allowances for me and will not let any won Els see it I shall venter to send it & subscrib my Self yr Ever affectionat Sister, Jane Mecom.

Ben’s reply:

Is there not a little Affectation in your Apology for the Incorrectness of your Writing? Perhaps it is rather fishing for Commendation. You write better, in my Opinion, than most American Women. Believe me ever Your loving Brother, B. Franklin.

There are few Founding Fathers more famous than Ben Franklin, but Jane was somewhat of a mystery. What we do know is that she had a very different life than her illustrious brother. Thanks to the simple fact of having been born female, her youth was spent having babies rather than obtaining an education. Her life was marked with misfortune, poverty and the deaths of nearly everyone she loved. Yet through it all she craved knowledge, and read everything she could get her hands on. She was a skilled craftsperson, making the famed Franklin Crown Soap and teaching the trade to others. And she followed her brother’s career with pride—and he supported her in return, both financially and emotionally.

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On my epic road trip with the Tailor this summer, our path took us through both Boston and Philadelphia—ye olde stomping grounds for Doctor Franklin. I had the library book of letters with me on the trip, so their words lent an interesting depth to my wanderings.

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But Boston is a hometown of sorts, so it was there that I did the most digging. And it turned out that digging was necessary. Ben’s presence is everywhere in Philly, but in Boston, with so many Revolutionary War heroes to honor there, the Franklin family’s presence is far more subtle. And Jane? Well, she’s almost nowhere to be found.

Almost.

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This plaque is all that’s left of the house where Jane spent all her life. It was knocked down to make room for a memorial to Paul Revere. The plaque does mention her briefly, but not by name. Another hazard of being female in the eighteenth century, I suppose.

But Jane did live through the Revolutionary war—in fact, as a resident of the North End, her home was right in the thick of it. In 1775 she fled the British-occupied city and took refuge with friends near Providence, Rhode Island. There, Ben came to rescue her. He took her to Philadelphia, where she spent a year with him before returning to a liberated Boston. While that year was full of turmoil and uncertainty for the citizens of the newly declared United States, 1776 was quite possibly the best year of Jane’s life. For the first time in ages, she could bask in her beloved brother’s company—and he made time for her despite being busy with other things (you know, like founding our country)—and as the honored guest she was largely free from work and family duty.

As far as I can tell, it was also the last time she ever laid eyes on him. And even that was a rare treat—between Ben’s high-profile career and the then-formidable distance between Boston and Philadelphia, it was impossible for them to visit one another more than a handful of times in their entire lives. And since it would have taken weeks for a letter to cross five states, and months to traverse the ocean to reach Ben in France, it’s a wonder they remained as close as they did all their lives. Lends a whole new meaning to “snail mail,” doesn’t it?

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Signed, Sealed, Soapbox is illustrated with the sweeping curves of ornate penmanship and the detailed linework of colonial engravings. A faux-bois forest of branches and flowers resembles the printed toile fabrics of the day. The swoops and swirls of the calligraphy rest in stately Wedgwood blue (complimented by a telltale vase at the bottom!), while Ben and Jane’s correspondence occupies a buttery yellow letter edged like a vintage postage stamp.

And though there is no surviving likeness of Jane Mecom, she deserves so much more than the portrait of a Jane Doe. Instead, she is made in the image of The Comtesse d’Haussonville by French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

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Ben was the best big brother Jane could have asked for. So in honor of his positive influence, we’ll be donating a portion of our proceeds to the Puget Sound chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters—an organization dedicated to providing children facing adversity with mentor relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Signed, Sealed, Soapbox: No. 14 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 176
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Jane (Franklin) Mecom (1712 – 1794) was born in Boston’s North End, the youngest daughter of a soap maker. Married at fifteen, she had no formal education but was a voracious reader of books supplied by her brother. She ran a boarding house and made soap to support her ailing husband, her elderly parents and her twelve children. She outlived all but one of them. Her “Book of Ages” chronicles the deaths of these loved ones, but what little we know of Jane herself can be traced to a lifetime of correspondence with her beloved brother.

Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) attended school for just two years before becoming a printer’s apprentice at age twelve, but was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford. He founded the first lending library in America, reformed the colonial postal system and became the first U.S. Postmaster General. He espoused the values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit and tolerance, and opposed authoritarianism in both religion and politics.

Despite the differences in their education and circumstances, Benjamin largely treated his sister as an equal, and penned more letters to her than any other person in his life. He sent his writings and political essays to get Jane’s opinion, and notable figures of the day visited her to pay their respects out of deference to the famous Franklin. Benjamin provided decades of financial support for Jane and her children, and upon his death bequeathed her a comfortable living — as well as public trusts to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia to fund mortgages, school scholarships and eventually establish the Franklin Institute of Technology.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, 100% occupied with Benjamin’s wise words — and deeds — as he signed the Declaration of Independence: “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Price: $35

Available now in our new Dead Feminists shop!

We’re hiding a whole bunch of new things up our sleeves—to be revealed as soon as we can. But we’re going to take a little bit of time to make sure we do them right. So we’re taking February off—the next Dead Feminist broadside will be released in May 2012. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for other surprises!