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.
Ghost signs are still visible on the warehouse buildings that make up the UW Tacoma campus (composite photo; click to see detail).
I’d have loved to live in this apartment building … back in my apartment days.
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?
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.)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.
Steamroller printing was a popular spectator event in the parking lot.
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?
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.
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.)
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?
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.
Okay, break’s over. Back to our mattress and bedframe quandary!