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Georgia and the Wayzgoose

May 4, 2015

Last week, in the midst of our bed-and-mattress madness, Eric and I took a little art break in Tacoma.

I grew up on the fringes of Tacoma, Washington, when downtown was a sad, seedy, and failing prospect. Twenty-five years ago, a branch of the University of Washington moved in and began rehabilitating the derelict warehouse district into a satellite campus. The city transformed the magnificent but down-on-its-luck Beaux Arts Union Station into a U.S. courthouse, added the Washington State History Museum next door, then Dale Chihuly’s Museum of Glass, a new Tacoma Art Museum down the block, and ran a light rail line down the middle of Pacific Avenue. Now, I love coming to downtown Tacoma. This once-sketchy part of the city is now bright and vibrant, and full of people enjoying themselves.

Tacoma's Union Station dome

Ghost signs are still visible on the warehouse buildings that make up the UW Tacoma campus (composite photo; click to see detail).

panorama

 

I’d have loved to live in this apartment building … back in my apartment days.

100-year-old apartment building

Our first stop was Wayzgoose, a letterpress art fair at a bookstore. The word wayzgoose has Dutch roots, and refers to a traditional holiday for printers and bookbinders. Remarkably, Eric and I share an esoteric interest in letterpress printing and typography. Whodathunk? We both enjoyed some letterpress experience in college art classes, and I worked for a printer while I pursued a fine arts degree. (I fondly remember the little Addressograph-Multigraph 1250 press whose care and feeding I was tasked with. In my mind, I remember it as a Disney cartoon, bouncing and chugging and spitting out return-address envelopes for a pair of doctors, while its rhythm seemed to repeat their names: Pogue-and-Duffy-Pogue-and-Duffy-Pogue-and-Duffy.) Anyway …

Eric and I hadn’t even gotten inside the bookstore when we discovered a booth selling (squeal!) entire sets of old lead typefaces! And—OMG—California job case drawers! Hog heaven! A California job case is a layout for organizing individual characters of type. I am old enough to have actually used this system a few times in my youth, although press-on type was all the rage at the time. I’ve always wanted a California job case! How geeky is that? Can you tell where the e’s go?

California job case

California job case layout

I think my fascination with typefaces goes back to my Brownie troop’s field trip to the Milwaukee Journal, waaay back in the dark ages. All I recall of that tour is watching cigarette-smoking men and banging away at the keyboards of their enormous, clattering Linotype machines, casting slugs of type out of hot lead. I loved how the pieces all fit together like a backwards puzzle to make up a newspaper page. (Funny how a random event in childhood can stick with you for the rest of your life.)

Linotype operators

[Source unknown]

Eric bought three sets: elegant 48 pt. Retro script, 12 pt. Bodoni Modern, and 8 pt. Stymie Light—a total of 13.4 pounds of lead. What are we going to do with them? Dunno … keep them until we have enough studio space for our own letterpress, I suppose. Someday soon, an art studio is in our future.

Eric's name in Retro Script

D'Arcy's name in Retro Script

Steamroller printing was a popular spectator event in the parking lot.

large-format printing with a steam roller

Inside the bookstore, several letterpress artists brought their adorable tabletop presses. This is what Eric and I need to buy. Who wouldn’t want one of these little beauties?

tabletop letter press

One of our favorite artists, Yoshiko Yamamoto of The Arts and Crafts Press, was there. (Her gorgeous Colvos Passage—Late Summer hangs in our library.) We didn’t buy another print, but we did get a couple of coffee mugs. Guess which is mine and which is Eric’s.

berry and oak coffee mugs

Hint: The female mug has fruit … the male mug has nuts.

Then we were off to the Tacoma Art Museum to catch an exhibit of Art of the American West and Still Life Art of New Mexico, both featuring paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the galleries, but I stood just outside the entrance to sneak a pic of this one. (Actually, mine came out blurry. This is from TAG’s website.)

yellow cactus

Georgia O’Keeffe – Yellow Cactus

Eric’s photography is undeniably influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe. We watched a short film about how she left New York and took up residence in the desert to pursue painting the way she wanted to, which just made me want to retire even more.

Eric’s … or Georgia’s?

purple fowers

Georgia O’Keeffe – Flower of Life II … Eric Shellgren – Purple Clematis

Our next house will provide plenty of gallery space, which we don’t have in our bungalow. I’d really like a place to hang this 24×36 inch print, for instance.

white rose at sunset

Eric Shellgren – White Rose at Sunset

Okay, break’s over. Back to our mattress and bedframe quandary!

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18 Comments
  1. Barbara H. permalink

    Beautiful photos by Eric! Thanks for sharing them.

  2. What a perfect day! My Grandma worked as a typesetter for the Tri-City Herald and I used to love watching her set pages. It seemed like magic. ☺️

    • I knew we couldn’t be the only press geeks out there, Lisa! I was surprised when I did some research on Linotype that many were operated by “girls”! One of few professions that were open to women in the early days.

  3. Eric’s photographs are stunning. Does he sell them? Thank you for the tour of Tacoma. It is wonderful to see the old industrialized cities come back to life. I have one of those old Linotype case drawers that hung in my bedroom in high school. Somehow my sister ended up with it and recently gave it back to me. I need a to find a good place to hang it.

    • Eric says thanks … and yes, he does sell them on his website, eashellgren.com.

      I’m so proud of how Tacoma has turned itself around. It’s always fun to go there now!

  4. D’Arcy,
    You and Eric take the best field trips! This one looks like so much fun. When/if I retire, I’m going to take letter press up as a hobby.
    P.S. I like the acorn mug best, but I do see the beauty in the flower mug as well.
    xo,
    Karen

    • You know, Karen, those small presses aren’t ALL that expensive. I’m sure we’ll get one eventually, because we can’t use the type without one!

  5. Anita permalink

    Who else could keep my interest in printer presses?! And the last photo of Eric’s is spectacular. Wow…is all I can say!

  6. I now see Eric’s influence; that last picture is spectacular. I love all that lead and look forward to seeing them in whatever abode you live in – and that gorgeous job drawer – good thing I was doing something else 🙂 Great story, D’.

    • Thanks, Cath! You might see the results of the lead on this year’s Christmas cards … if we get some kind of press!

  7. So fun that you two share common interests. You’ve given us a great tour of Tacoma. I’ve never been to your neck of the woods but clearly must now include it on the bucket list. Thanks for a good read. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    • I should really write a post about Tacoma … we always have a good time there, since now there’s lots to do!

  8. So funny…was just talking with a friend about how fun we had laying out newspaper pages in high school 🙂 love the history about type…thank you so much!!

  9. Africadayz permalink

    Hi D’Arcy. I just loved this post and by total coincidence, on the morning I read it, I had just unwrapped my own, very old type tray (job drawer) that I had taken down to Cape Town with me. I was literally sitting looking at it when I opened your post. Unfortunately I don’t have any letters but over the years I’ve filled mine with sea shells. I took a photograph of it to show you but have never succeeded in posting a photo in a comment box. I’ll try again now. Nope. Don’t know how to do it. If I had an email address, I could send it to you.

    • I’m so surprised at how many people have a connection to printing! How cool–I think seashells would look lovely in a job case! Whatever we put in ours, it has to be cat-proof! My email address is paisleydog@comcast.net. I’d love to hear from you!

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