Aren’t we all a little bit fascinated with the idea
of preparing for an adventure? In 1918 Rockwell Kent, an
American illustrator, painter, print-maker, and writer, did
exactly that when he packed for six months in the north. In
his book, Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure
in Alaska, he itemizes what he took. It’s a list
that says as much about the man as it does about the era.
A hundred years have passed since then. Alaska became a
state. Travel became easier. Food preservation methods
advanced. But still we have that list of his.
The print began with a faint background yellow to convey the
passage of time. The compass rose reminds us of the leap
taken when heading to the far north in those days. Type for
the list is handset Caslon, 14-point, printed in brown ink
with a bit of rhodamine red mixed in. The paper is
acid-free, 9 x 12 inches.
August 2, 2018
We do not operate anywhere near the production level of a commercial
press. We don’t want to. Most of our print runs are in the
range of twelve to thirty copies with occasional leaps toward a
hundred or even twice that. Until now, our record has been three
hundred copies of something, and that was for an extra-special
For a hundred copies of a simple two-color broadside, each print has
to travel through the press once for each color, resulting in two
hundred turns of the crank total. It’s great exercise.
That said, how could we turn down a request for four hundred copies
of an Ursula Le Guin poem to help celebrate her collection, So
Far So Good, to be published by our friends at Copper Canyon
Press? It’s a terrific poem. It’s Le Guin!
And we’ll get to indulge in the yellowness of our yellow ink.
Sun-colored. It’s that kind of poem. Because we’ve
chosen to overprint the transparent yellow to emphasize the summery
feeling, that’ll be like adding a color. Twelve hundred turns
of the press in all. We can’t wait.
A Series of Madness: Figure 2, Example 3, Lesson 4
We’re not sure where this series is headed or whether there
will ever be a fourth member, but we’re open to possibilities.
We were thrilled to have jurors select Figure 2 for
inclusion in Hamilton Wood Type’s New Impression 2018
and thrilled again to have Example 3 juried into Port
Townsend’s own Northwind Gallery show, The Printmakers
Where will Lesson 4 go? Too soon to tell.
Its ink is barely dry.
All three prints are 10 x 13 inches on Crane’s Lettra in a
combination of vintage cuts, handset metal type, and
photopolymer plates. Example 3
includes actual postage stamps, so each one is unique.
April 24, 2018
When the Sum is Greater than the Parts
If compromise is the reduction of excellence for the sake of getting
along, collaboration must be the opposite.
Poet Holly Hughes sent us three poems for consideration—all of
them good—but when she let on that, actually, there was a fourth
she liked but she was concerned it might be too long for a broadside,
we said, please send it. We’re glad she did. Shishi
Odoshi is a poem we expect to read over and over, and I think all
involved can say that the results are strong for the fact of working
The poem was originally set flush left. Hughes confessed to adding
small indents as a sudden inspiration right before sending. We
confessed to her that we’d like to slide the whole thing
across the page and indent like mad, if she wouldn’t mind. She
didn’t. Then came the illustration, which we both agreed
belonged in the lower left. Then came her selection of type for the
title, and we were ready. Or so we thought. Turns out the typography
we all liked was not simple! We wouldn’t say it maxed out our
spacing material, but we did spend a fair amount of time counting
quads and making calculations.
We think it was time well spent.
We Don’t Want to Imagine Life Without Friends
What’s more pleasant than reconnecting with someone from your
past and finding out that a kid you sat next to in algebra class
turned out to be a substantial and funny human being. Also a great
cook. Also a terrific photographer. When we saw Phil Millam’s
shot of a heron along the shore of Orcas Island, we asked permission
to print it.
Many (and we mean many) pixels later, Phil’s digital
photograph was ready for the letterpress process. We hoped. It took
the madness … um, we mean willingness…required to
enhance and simplify at the microscopic level. We checked with him
before final printing to make sure he didn’t feel we’d
stepped all over his fine work. He approved.
To put color back into the process, we ran a block of graduated inks
behind what would necessarily be a black and white version of the
picture. Yellow to blue. Then we printed the heron in black, a
And we set the type letter-by-letter, to give our friend full credit.
Lyrics we can believe in
Color on color! Tinted ink on yummy, soft Rives BFK
paper that we dampened to achieve a juicy deboss
that wouldn’t punch through to the back. How
can you go wrong with a declaration as clear as what
Mick and Keith & the gang have been singing
about for more than four decades?
Carl chose the lyric and got us started.
We refined the type together to
make a photopolymer (you could never make those overlaps and underlaps
in metal type), after which we handset Bernhard Gothic and Margery
Greeting, which is a Kelsey version of Monotype’s Greeting
Monotone—with a wee touch of Franklin Gothic for the date. The
prints are 9 x 9 inches.
I remember commenting on a small pile of smooth,
gray stones on John Delaney’s kitchen counter
while we drank our tea. I can’t say with
certainty what his exact wording was when he made
the point about stones becoming well-rounded, but I
liked his metaphor, and the thought stayed with me.
A few people have asked about the illustration.
It’s from a digital photograph. That
doesn’t mean it came together automatically.
We tend to think that, once computers are involved,
everything snaps together with the press of a few
buttons. I selected stones from my own stash, turned
them all to their best sides under studio lights,
snapped once, twice, maybe forty times until I was
satisfied with the composition. I then manipulated
the results to reduce the image to high-contrast
black-and-white and touched it up, pixel by pixel.
After that we made a negative and exposed that to a
photopolymer plate. Not alchemy by any definition.
More like a combination of practice and patience
(with a touch of obsession thrown in). If I were an
illustrator, pen and ink would probably have been
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.
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
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
November 2, 2016
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
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!
September 8, 2016
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Click image to see detail.
In Celebration of the 2016 Port Townsend Writers Conference
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
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
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
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
We look forward too! To see examples of what we’ve printed
for the nice people at Copper Canyon, click on our
page (and then, take a look at our
April 13, 2016
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
For close-ups of the first two of
our collaborative series, click on our
March 16, 2016
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
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
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.
Copper Canyon Press for availability
of the broadside series.
February 7, 2016
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.
Copper Canyon Press for ordering information.
February 6, 2016
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
for ordering information.
Learn more about the publication of the
lost poems of Pablo Neruda.
January 6, 2016
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.
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
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.
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.
October 4, 2015
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
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
September 22, 2015
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.