April 27, 2021

Relief print in 8 inks on Neenah Cotton, 10 x 12 inches. $50

Home Sewing

We’ve been thinking about the time when high school girls in our state were required to complete a year of home economics study—one semester of kitchen arts and another of sewing. I wouldn’t say we’ve been fixated on the crinkle of the tissue paper pattern pieces that home sewers used, but, as printers, we have more than a passing interest in the peculiarities of all sorts of paper. Once unfolded, it seemed those delicate pieces could never be easily restored to the envelopes they’d come in. 

For our tribute to that era of domesticity, we began by printing a grid of dotted lines. Since we had a surplus of Century Schoolbook 14-point punctuation, we accomplished the goal with rows of periods to suggest stitches. Next, we cut pieces of printable foam sheets with pinking shears to suggest fabric swatches, and we printed those in green and overlapping blue. Of course, we’d want a high-fashion sketch from the era, so we made a photopolymer plate and printed that in black—along with the image of a needle and thread that we had from our workshop, Pixels to Print, in which we offer methods of reducing photographs to high contrast images for letterpress printing.

The only other metal type we used is the 14-point Caslon printed in red.

Naturally, we were recalling the names of favorite pattern companies too, so we gave those a prominent corner—reminiscent of the envelope designs.

The resulting prints are in eight custom inks is on Neenah Cotton paper, 9 x 12 inches. They can be left that size or trimmed to smaller dimensions to fit readymade frames. 

May 18, 2020

Who Has Seen the Wind

Four-color, five-pass relief print
using handset metal type and photopolymer. 9 x 12 inches on Neenah Cotton. $40

Engineering the Print

We don’t know whether to say that printers sometimes complicate things for the sake of simplicity or that we simplify them to avoid complexity. Either way, the process of printing requires planning ahead.

The concept for the image here began with the tree—and thank you, Jac Cortes, for lending us the photograph you took while on a trip to the Oregon Coast. You looked over my shoulder as I teased out a high-contrast digital image while demonstrating the techniques we cover in our workshop, Pixels to Print.

Around the same time as that demo, I saw the documentary, Maiden, about the all-female crew entering the Whitbread race in 1989. In the film someone says of sailing, “No one can change the wind.” I guess we all know that instinctively, but the speaker’s matter-of-fact statement stayed with me.

Making the print didn’t begin with the tree or that line, though; it began with the title of Christina Rossetti’s historic poem, Who Has Seen the Wind? I printed that first, all caps in a neutral tint. Then came the tree in front of the title, in midnight blue. Next, I set the names of eight well-known winds in 30-point Caslon. I printed those as a list, in black. Also in black, but run in a separate pass, was an excerpt from the poem (12-point Bernhard Gothic Light). Those lines were printed in the same black, but in a separate pass, because placing them around the branches of the tree was going to be fussy, and I wanted the freedom of positioning them on the press without having to keep the eight wind names where they belonged. Finally, I mixed a peachy ink and lined up some 18-point Raleigh Cursive to create a vertical element to fit around the title.

Funny what we go through to get the print we want. Four colors; five passes on 9 x 12-inch Neenah Cotton. It crops nicely to an 8 x 10 frame.

April 23, 2020

A Field Trip

We were delighted when a member of the Kubota Garden Foundation approached us to see whether we might be willing to design and print a broadside to celebrate the publication of Spirited Stone, a book that celebrates a Seattle garden and its history.

Further delighted to be given an Elizabeth Austen poem to work with.

We began the project by visiting the garden. Conditions weren’t ideal on that gray December day, but we took a few photographs and hoped for the best. One promising shot of an assertive madrone branch reaching toward light got our attention.
Madrona branch at Kubota Gardens
Using the techniques we teach in our Pixels to Print workshops, we isolated the branch from its background and reduced the photograph to high contrast (black and white). We also flipped it.
High contrast cut of madrona branch at Kubota Gardens
From that, a polymer printing plate could be made and mounted for the press.

The broadside came together with that image, Ms Austen’s poem, a script typeface for the title, and a whole lot of affection for the project.

We delivered sixty copies. We also submitted one of the artist proofs to Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum’s juried show, New Impressions 2020.

Woo ha! The print was accepted. That’s a feather in the caps of everyone involved with this project. Sometimes things come together just right.

February 22, 2020

Washington Poetic Routes, Poems of Place

I was recently part of a project that involved teamwork at several levels—among arts agencies, our state's poet laureate, Seattle's fantastic School of Visual Concepts, and eight letterpress artists. I agreed to facilitate the whole shebang (lots of emails, a little guidance).

With funding in place and a facility for the project to call home, the team of us launched into action. Boxcar Press had agreed to donate photopolymer plates, and Neenah paper donated their yummiest paper. We also had submissions from poets across the state.

Thank you, Amy Redmond, Carl Youngmann, Annabelle Larner, Heidi Hespelt, Chris Copley, Marie Kuch-Stanofsky, Jenny Wilkson, and Sukhie Patel, for giving your time, skills, patience, and passion. Each printer selected a poem and began exploring type options and preliminary designs. Midway through the process, we gathered for a critique session during which everyone shared their concepts. Working in concert with these artists was both inspiring and humbling. Community. An atmosphere of learning from each other.

Handset type, linocuts, reduction cuts, custom textures, custom inking, pressure printing, wood block printing: Go! ­Presses clicked and whirred. Two weeks later we collated the finished results into stunning folios constructed by Windowpane Press, stood back, and admired a job well done.


September 18, 2019

For the Love of Letterform

We recently enjoyed the loan of a big, fat R from a fellow typophile, and, because I need to loosen up once in a while, I let myself go exploring. I printed the R in a khaki tint and instinctively spun it around for a second impression with the same ink. My attention kept returning to the “found” rectangle that resulted.

I took that to mean the overprint needed some roughing up, so I rummaged among our collection of rules, found a few oddball dashes, bundled them up with spacing between and ran those in rhodamine red.

And the blue dots. What can I say?

I also experimented with paper: Rives BFK tan, where the R is slightly offset. On Mohawk Superfine, the R is aligned. Both prints are available in our shop.

June 1, 2019

12 x 18 inches on Mohawk Superfine. $35

Centrum 2019

Our big, annual Port Townsend Writers Conference is right around the corner, and we have been focusing on Good Advice.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, “The writer writes his book to explain to himself what cannot be explained.” Leonard Cohen said, “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash,” And Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

This year we celebrate Stephen King again. And William Strunk Jr., and Muriel Rukeyser, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, James Robertson, Elmore Leonard, Red Smith, Lewis Carroll, and others—all in one big, bold print. It seems one can’t go wrong repeating the words of those who’ve achieved success. We like to imagine an emerging writer following all the advice on our new Centrum poster; we like to imagine the solid work that would result.

We used vintage Gothic, Bernhard Tango, and Caslon metal type on Mohawk Superfine paper. The posters are 12 x 18 inches and will be available at the conference bookstore July 14-21, or—for those not able to enjoy the pleasures of Port Townsend at the height of summer—directly from our shop.

Click on the image to read the fine print.

Visit our shop to see posters from past years (some still available—and as inspiring as the day the ink was wet).

May 9, 2019

8 x 10 inches on Mohawk Superfine. $20

Sometimes Many Cooks Elevate the Quality of the Broth

When our friends at Copper Canyon Press approached us about designing a broadside to celebrate the publication of their anthology, Here: Poems for the Planet, I asked whether I might work with a variety of excerpts instead of the more usual, single poem from the book. I imagined taking a loose, creative approach for representing the theme of the book. Either I didn’t make myself clear, or something got lost in translation, because, by the time the request for excerpts reached the book’s editor, she envisioned something entirely different, and what came back to me was an amazing found poem—excerpts from five poems in the book that themselves comprise a new poem. Thank you, Elizabeth Coleman for combining the voices of Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Catherine Pierce, Pattiann Rogers, Kwame Dawes, and Mark Doty into one powerful song.

We printed three hundred copies on Mohawk Superfine in three ink colors—or, actually, two-and-a-half colors, since the light blue is a tint of the darker blue, and we were able to migrate the ink, running one color after the other without cleaning the press in between. That said, those blues plus the black required 900 passes altogether.

Listen how this planet hums with so much wing, fur, and fin.
so loud with itself—
not a voice, not a message,
but something like a lingering
a reggae bassline, finding its melody
in the mellow of the soft earth’s breath
What did you think, that joy
was some slight thing?

February 8, 2019

Post Card

Inspired by an antique cut and the postal embellishments in the family of Marcel type fonts, we indulged in a bit of mail art. The stamp image is from the US Postal Service. “Post Card” is from an antique letterpress cut. We ran 100 of these as simple black ink on ivory paper, but a few of them got gussied up with a quick swipe of a brayer that we ran over a blend of inks.

The Marcel fonts are based on a Frenchman’s letters home from Germany during World War II. We felt it had the right look and feel to convey a loving communique from the past.

February 2, 2019

9 x 12 inches acid-free paper. $48


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

Production Printing

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 occasion.

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.

July 10, 2018

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 Hand.

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 together.

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.

November 3, 2017

Three-color relief print.

8.5 x 11 inches archival paper. $30

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 silhouette.

And we set the type letter-by-letter, to give our friend full credit. Thanks, Phil!

September 3, 2017

Three-color relief print of a popular lyric.

9 x 9 inches archival paper. $24

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.

June 1, 2017

Three-color relief print by Ellie Mathews of a quote from
								  John Delaney.

7 x 9 inches archival paper. $24

In Conversation

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 easier.

May 15, 2017

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

8 x 10.5 inches. $18


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

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.

8 x 9.25 inches on Rives BFK paper. $24

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.

6 x 9 inches on archival paper. $12


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, 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


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


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.