September 1st, 2014
For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you’ve probably noticed the change of decor around here. Well, more than that, really—this website has been completely overhauled from stem to stern (big thanks to Erik and Kevin for making that happen!). And it’s not just because I needed a change of pace—I did it to mark an occasion.
Anagram Press, my little business and studio moniker, is now ten years old. Ten! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a decade already—it still feels like I’ve only just started. (It definitely feels like I’m still figuring things out!) 2004 doesn’t seem so long ago to me, but I didn’t even have a website then—nor even a studio space to call my own. I spent the first few years balancing my work with a day job, and only went full-time with my business after a cross-country move to start over in a place where I didn’t know anybody. (Pro tip: that is the absolute hardest way to start a business.) Yet somehow, it worked out, and here I am, happily drawing and painting and printing away, as ever.
No matter how much time has gone by, or how much experience I’ve gained, my business would be nothing if not for you. Some of you have been along for the ride since the very beginning—others have happened here just recently (welcome!). As a little thank-you for your support, I’ve set up a coupon code for my new online shop: 10% off all letterpress prints and cards,* through the end of September. To use the coupon, add your item(s) to your card, then simply enter the code “tenyears” on the Shopping Cart page and hit the “Apply Coupon” button.
Thank you so much for joining me on this little journey of mine—I can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring.
* The fine print: coupon is only good on items in the “letterpress prints” and “cards & stationery” categories. Does not apply to tax or shipping. Expires on September 30, 2014.
August 26th, 2014
At long last, Jessica and I are ready to unveil our newest Dead Feminist broadside—a piece that has been weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. Our journey began in April, when over 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. Since then the media has been filled with accusations leveled at Islam—a culture we know to have a long history of valuing education, innovation and knowledge. We also know that the danger of extremism knows no cultural boundary—and that it would benefit us all to build a world where every girl has the opportunity and security to obtain an education.
So after months of exhaustive research, we decided to go back in time to some of the earliest days of higher education, and to the life and work of Fatima al-Fihri—the woman who founded Al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest university still in operation today. Because Fatima lived in the 9th century, no direct quotes have made it to the present era. Instead, the piece highlights Fatima’s honorific title: Oum al Banine, or “Mother of the Children.”
The phrase weaves through the piece like the mortar between stones, repeating again and again like a mantra. The design mirrors the Arabesque decorative style, as well as the common practice of decorating Muslim houses of worship with text (often phrases from the Qur’an). Because it is forbidden to depict the Prophet in Islam, architecture is usually adorned with text and geometric patterns instead.
I spent a long, long time creating this illustration—not only because of all the ornate patterning, or the carefully-researched Arabic script. Not just the time I spent trying to find images of Al-Qarawiyyin, or information about Fatima’s life. Somehow, the act of creating this illustration became something of a mantra in itself. All the time required to draft these patterns and compose the page became a form of meditation—and I needed that with this piece. Because much more than that, this became an exercise in trying to understand.
I was trying to understand why we had so much trouble finding a voice for this piece. Why we had to go back 1200 years to find a woman like Fatima, who had made a lasting contribution and who was remembered. Why we could not find a relevant, direct quote at all, despite months of research and consulting scholars on this topic. Why it is so difficult and dangerous for a girl to obtain an education in so many parts of the world. Why there is so much violence and hatred and fear surrounding a belief system with so much beauty inherent within it. Why we are still asking these basic questions after so many centuries have passed.
The answers did not come with the completion of the drawing. They did not come off the press with the finished prints. They will not come through my fingers as I type this. If they cannot come as a result of war, or negotiation between heads of state, or elected office, or royal birthright, or the swell of the mob—they won’t come from me.
But I do know this: every human life is worth the same, and deserves the same chance in life. And more than anything else, I know that education, even at its most basic, is the best chance anyone can have to make a good life—for themselves, and for the rest of us. Education is the best defence we know against extremism, poverty, and violence. So this is where we begin. Where we should always begin.
Our 20th Dead Feminist broadside, The Veil of Knowledge, is an ornate tribute to Fatima’s world and the institution she founded. The composition, structured like a Persian manuscript page, features an illustration based on the architecture of Al-Qarawiyyin, with its angular rooflines and sweeping curved arches. Interspersed thoughout the piece is a hand-drawn geometric pattern that mirrors the tilework throughout the university and mosque. Wrapping around the “walls” behind a pair of columns is the Basmala (the phrase that begins every sura or chapter of the Qur’an), lettered in Arabic script.
To help ensure the safety and quality of girls’ education worldwide, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to Girl Up — a nonprofit campaign of the United Nations Foundation that assists some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.
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The Veil of Knowledge: No. 20 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 125.4***
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.
Fatima Al-Fihri (c. 800 – 880) grew up in Fez, Morocco with her sister Miriam, daughters of a wealthy Tunisian merchant. The daughters were well-educated and devoted to their community. After the death of their father, Fatima vowed to spend all her inheritance in building a mosque, both a place for worship and a center of learning. In 859, she founded Al-Qarawiyyin, which offered courses in grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music — drawing scholars and students from all over the world. (Gerbert of Auverge — later Pope Sylvester II — studied there, and was credited with the introduction of Arabic numbers and the concept of zero to Europe.) This important spiritual and educational center of the Islamic world, one of the largest mosques in Africa, is considered the oldest university still in operation. As a woman with such generosity and vision, Fatima is remembered and honored as Oum al Banine, “the mother of the children.”
Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, with the knowledge that all women must have the right to an education.
Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!
*** The edition size needs a little explanation—every broadside has a symbolic edition number, but this piece is extra special. This number is the solution to an equation we devised out of numbers that are highly symbolic in Islam. Arabic culture is credited with the invention of algebra—a term derived from an Arabic word meaning “the reunion of broken parts.” We arrived at our edition number by multiplying 66 (the number that represents Allah in Islamic numerology) by 19 (considered by some mystics to be the “Key to the Q’uran”), and then dividing the result by 10 (ten-pointed stars are common elements in Arabesque patterning, as well as our broadside design). The “.4” in our edition number represents four artist proofs that exist outside the numbered edition, and set aside as gifts for four important women in our lives. These four women mirror the four “Women of the First Rank in Islam” (Khadijah, first wife of the Prophet; Fatimah, the fourth daughter of Khadijah and the Prophet, and the wife of the Fourth Caliph; the Virgin Mary; and Asiya, wife of the pharaoh and stepmother to Moses).
August 18th, 2014
Life around here is pretty frantic this week, while I finish up a bunch of projects and get ready for new ones appearing over the horizon. Since the thought of telling you about them in coherent paragraph format gives me hives (as I can’t even wrap my own brain around them all yet!), here’s what’s going on this week, in a simple, handy-dandy list:
1. Jessica and I have (finally) finished printing the new Dead Feminist broadside! All the prints are signed, numbered, bagged and ready to go. All I have to do is finish writing all the things that go with it (shop copy, blog post, email newsletter, etc.)—so look for it here in the next couple of days.
2. If you’re local, this Thursday I’ll be doing a little demo of my Local Conditions artist book at the Tacoma Art Museum. The book is currently in the Ink This! exhibit at TAM, but as it’s in a glass case, it’s not possible to actually interact with the book. So as part of the free Third Thursday activities, I’ll have my prototype copy of the book to demonstrate with, as well as a sampling of my process materials. I’ll be there from 5 to 8 on Thursday (though I’d suggest getting there closer to 5 so you don’t miss stuff!); TAM is located at 1701 Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma.
3. The lovely guys over at The Artist Rolls have featured me in a podcast! Jamie and Sean have a little different way of doing things for their interviews—they have each guest roll dice before each question, like you might in a role-playing game, and the results determine the course of the interview. We had a great conversation about process, the roles artists play (get it?), and the Whale of Preparedness—and they even let me draw pictures all over my data sheet. I hope you’ll have as much fun listening as we did chatting—you can stream it here, or you can download it for free from the iTunes Store. Thanks, Sean and Jamie!
4. I’ve got a new solo exhibit opening in mid-September, at the Tacoma Public Library’s Handforth Gallery. It’s a show of my sketchbook drawings from Drawn the Road Again, with a special emphasis on roadside attractions (can you hear me cackling already?!). Look for more info here soon, but for now you can get your feet wet by reading a new series of features on the travel site Atlas Obscura. They started with an interview about Drawn the Road, and last Friday began a series of weekly features on my roadside attractions posts. Each post will go into more depth about each attraction, using my sketch(es) as a starting point. It’ll be the perfect companion to my exhibit—and a great alternative for everyone who can’t see the show in person.
Whew! That’s it for the moment…back with more soon.
August 14th, 2014
For months now I’ve been busy drafting ideas, scribbling sketches and painting—painting and painting and painting!—icons for a new project I’m working on with my friend Sonja. We’re still keeping a pretty tight lid on things for now, but we’ll be launching soon, so she gave me the green light to show you these little snippets.
August 11th, 2014
Friday was the perfect day to get outside and invade South Lake Union with a bunch of crazy letterpress shenanigans.
For the first time, the SVC Wayzgoose was wrapped up within the South Lake Union Block Party—so some changes were in order this year. For one thing, it meant a bigger crowd and a wider audience—all good things, if you ask me.
Also, there were provisions nearby!
Thanks to the Block Party folks, I also got to expand my operations from a small table into a full ten-foot booth—which felt positively luxurious!
So yeah. Between the perfect summer weather and the friendly, enthusiastic crowd…
…I think we have a winner.
August 7th, 2014
I’m spending today packaging goodies and bagging prints, because tomorrow I’ll be hanging out at the annual SVC Wayzgoose in Seattle. Since SVC is in the process of moving into new digs, this year we’re doing things a little differently: for the first time, the Wayzgoose is wrapped up into the South Lake Union Block Party. We’ll be taking over a hunk of pavement near 9th and John, where SVC will be hosting artist booths, printing demos, and their annual Steamroller Smackdown. Here are the details:
SVC Wayzgoose (South Lake Union Block Party)
Friday, August 8, 2014
12-6 pm, free!
Near the corner of 9th and John (on the edge of Denny Park)
Find me at the Anagram Press booth (#71, in the Wayzgoose section)
More details and map here
See you tomorrow!
August 5th, 2014
I’m a little late to the party, because I was out of town when the “Best of Tacoma” issue of the Weekly Volcano came out. I finally managed to pick one up, and was shocked to find my name inside!
So I whipped up this little village illustration in tribute to my village—and the people in it. Tomorrow is my sixth anniversary of living here in T-town, so being picked by you folks has even more meaning for me. I’m so glad to call Tacoma and the Northwest home—thank you for adopting me, as well.
July 28th, 2014
Jessica has our new broadside on press as I type this, lining up the colors and doing one last check for typos. But this week also holds another kind of “typo” for us, the kind we actually encourage: typophiles.
While our schedules prevent us from actually being there in person, I’m happy to announce that many of our Dead Feminist broadsides will be exhibited this week as part of TypeCon 2014 in Washington, DC. Since it began in 1998, TypeCon has been a major gathering point for designers, typographers and letterers—as well as a nexus for typography as an art form. So we’re incredibly excited and honored to have our work featured among so many talented artists. So if you happen to be attending TypeCon this week, stop by the gallery and take a gander—and tell everyone hi for us!
July 22nd, 2014
I have no idea where the time has gone, but today marks the first anniversary of my illustrated travel blog, Drawn the Road Again! In the past year, I’ve jumped around in both time and place to share as many different travel sketches as I could. But what I might just love the most is sketching the road itself—so in honor of the occasion, I put together a little collage of road sketches posted in the last year.
Sharing my travel sketches has truly been a labor of love—thank you so much for coming along with me for the ride! I can’t tell you what it means to have the encouragement of your comments, social media posts, online sharing, travel recommendations, emails, and even actual mail (you know who you are!). I never dreamed of the response my sketches would have, and I am awed and humbled by your support. Thanks to you, I can’t wait to see what lies just beyond the horizon. You can bet I’ll be ready, sketchbook in hand.
July 21st, 2014
It’s that time again—Jessica and I are hard at work on the next Dead Feminist broadside. Actually, we’ve been hard at work on this piece for months already. I think it’s safe to say that this piece has the most research and labor behind it than any we’ve done so far.
There’s a lot at stake this time, and we want to get things right. And besides—as you can see, the piece is chock full of teeny tiny bits, and the registration is going to be tight. So we’re doubling down on the proofreading skills and triple-checking every detail.
Now the design is done, I just sent out the finished files for the plates, and we’ll be on press starting this week. More soon!