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The hardest hue to hold

Tacoma autumn photo by Chandler O'Leary

We’re all moved into our new house, and fully in the thick of unpacking and setting up our lives again. But despite a pile of work to do that stretches from here to next year, I didn’t want to miss my favorite season. So every chance I get, I’ve been sneaking out to take walks among the autumn colors. And all the while, a snippet of Robert Frost plays on repeat in my head:

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Tacoma autumn photo by Chandler O'Leary

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Home sweet home

House photo by Chandler O'Leary

In a season full of big events, tomorrow is the biggest day of all, because that’s when the Tailor and I move into our new home. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this—we’ve been saving for years and looking for months, and we finally found the house (and studio!) that is absolutely perfect for us, in every way.

House photo by Chandler O'Leary

It’s going to take a goodly bit of time, elbow grease and TLC to preserve our little piece of historic Tacoma just the way we want to, but we’ve had a lot of good omens to remind us that we’re headed down the right path.

House photo by Chandler O'Leary

For one thing, we found a poster I designed already hanging in the basement—

Tacoma photo by Chandler O'Leary

—and for another, we’ll get to come home to this every day.

I’ll be whipping my new studio into shape over the coming weeks and months, so I’m sure I’ll have photos and stories to share as I go along.

* * *

Thank you to everybody who came to my reception yesterday! We had a massive turnout—I think we gave the library staff a nice surprise by filling up that gallery. Many thanks for all your smiles, hugs and support, especially on the eve of the big move!

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Two shows, one night

Exhibits by Jessica Spring and Chandler O'Leary

Both Jessica and I have solo shows on display right now, and while they deal with different topics, our similar personalities and interests made for a surprising number of overlaps. While we were marveling at how much our shows had in common with each other (which was especially funny, considering that neither of us saw the other’s exhibit until both were installed!), it occurred to us that it might be fun to have our receptions on the same night.

Exhibits by Jessica Spring and Chandler O'Leary

So we joined this month’s Third Thursday Artwalk and created a mini gallery crawl of our own. Here’s how it works: stop by my reception at the Tacoma Public Library first and pick up a letterpress keepsake. Then take your keepsake down the hill to Jessica’s reception at the Old Post Office (which is exactly 5 blocks from the library), and print a phrase on it with her antique printing press. Both events are free and open to the public. We’ll also have a small pop-up shop at Jessica’s reception, stocked with goodies related to our shows and also featuring guest artist Mare Blocker.

Artwork by Jessica Spring and Chandler O'Leary

Here’s the skim milk:

Third Thursday Art Walk: Dual Exhibition Receptions

Stop 1: Drawn the Road Again
Solo exhibition by Chandler O’Leary
4 to 5:30 pm
Tacoma Public Library Handforth Gallery
1102 Tacoma Avenue South

Stop 2: reCollection
A Spaceworks installation by Jessica Spring
5 to 9 pm
Old Tacoma Post Office, north end of lobby
1102 A Street

Exhibits by Jessica Spring and Chandler O'Leary

Put on your walkin’ shoes, and we’ll fire up the press—see you on Thursday!

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Full house

Tacoma Studio Tour 2014 photo by Chandler O'Leary

This weekend was the biggest and best Studio Tour yet—and I even remembered to take pictures!

Tacoma Studio Tour 2014 photo by Chandler O'Leary

Well, sort of, anyway. I managed to document my space for the last time,

Tacoma Studio Tour 2014 photo by Chandler O'Leary

but then chaos took over. It’s a good thing I bought just about every last organic jellybean in the city of Tacoma, because we needed them!

Tacoma Studio Tour 2014 photo by Chandler O'Leary

This was the only “action shot” I managed to grab all day—most of the time it was so packed there wasn’t room to stand on anything to snap a quick photo. We blew last year’s record out of the water, with well over 200 visitors this year!

Tacoma Studio Tour 2014 photo by Chandler O'Leary

And then afterward the only photo I managed was the view from the floor, where I lay in a heap.

To everyone who came to bid the old house farewell, as well as the many new folks who stopped by for the first time, thank you so much for making the weekend an enormous success. It feels so good to be a part of such a supportive and enthusiastic community—I would not be able to do what I do without you.

And I’m already thinking up ideas for 2015. See you next year, at the new studio!

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Last hurrah

Moving boxes photo by Chandler O'Leary

I know I’ve been a little quiet online lately, but it’s certainly not quiet around my house. This is the state of things right now—at least in the back half of the house. The Tailor and I are moving to a new house/studio in just over a week (still in Tacoma! Just a couple of miles away is all…).

Anagram Press studio at the Tacoma Studio Tours

To give my studio of the past six years a proper send-off, I’m doing one last Studio Tour at the old house, this weekend. (Don’t worry, this isn’t my last Studio Tour—next year it’ll be at the new house.) Since the event is a month earlier from now on, we’re all crossing our fingers for better weather! I’ll have my fancy hand-crank die cutter set up for folks to make a take-home keepsake, and there’ll be new artwork and goodies for sale, as always. Here are the details:

13th Annual Tacoma Studio Tours
Saturday and Sunday, October 11 and 12, 2014
11 am to 5 pm, free!
(Anagram Press studio is #18 on the tour)
More info and maps available here

See you this weekend!

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Art is in the air

Tacoma Old Post Office building photo by Chandler O'Leary

Tonight was the kick-off party for the annual Tacoma Arts Month (formerly known as Art at Work Month). Everything is a little different this year. For one thing, Arts Month is now a month earlier. (The folks in charge figured that October would be better than November, since there aren’t any major travel holidays, and since National Arts Month is the same month.) For another, this year’s party was held at the newly revamped historic Old Post Office Building downtown. The huge turn-of-the-century space was transformed by contemporary pop-up gallery shows, performances, installations, and this fabulous light display. It was the perfect illustration of the mix of old and new that’s everywhere in this city—which makes Tacoma such a great place to live and work as an artist.

If you’re local, I hope you’ll join us for the many arts events coming up this month—starting with Studio Tour, coming up on October 11 and 12. See you soon!

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Fiberglass and frames

Installation photo of "Drawn the Road Again" exhibition by Chandler O'Leary

‘Scuse the bad photos—all I had on me was a mobile phone and a shaky hand. But that’s okay, because if you’re local, you can see the real thing. I just finished installing my newest solo show, featuring sketchbook drawings of roadside attractions!

Installation photo of "Drawn the Road Again" exhibition by Chandler O'Leary

I went for a wide variety of favorite fiberglass and concrete monuments—not just here in Washington, but all over the U.S. (and even in Canada). The result is 30 drawings of roadside kitsch, from giant food to warring twine balls to bovine behemoths. Here are the details:

Drawn the Road Again: Roadside Attractions sketched by Chandler O’Leary
On display through October 25, 2014
Handforth Gallery, Tacoma Public Library
1102 Tacoma Ave. South, Tacoma, WA
Reception: Thursday, October 16, 4 to 5:30 pm

For the reception on October 16, I’m trying something a little different: instead of an opening reception, it’s more of a closing one. And that’s because I’m teaming up with my buddy Jessica Spring to do double receptions that night, with a joint keepsake! Here’s how it works: stop by my show first and pick up a commemorative illustrated postcard. Then head down to Jessica’s reception at the Old Post Office (which is just a few blocks down the hill at 1102 A Street), and print a saying on your postcard with Jessica’s antique platen press. More details on her show can be found here (scroll down).

Installation photo of "Drawn the Road Again" exhibition by Chandler O'Leary

Many thanks to David Domkoski and the Tacoma Public Library for hosting me and providing such a great and visible space, and to Mary-Alice for helping me hang the show and stay sane! (Also for wearing the best Chuck Taylors I’ve seen in years.)

Sharky's Souvenir Shop sketch by Chandler O'Leary

One more thing—if you can’t be there in the flesh, you can find all the fiberglass on the Drawn the Road Again blog! I’ll be featuring roadside attractions from now through the end of the show (new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday)—many that are in the exhibit, and some extra goodies that are just online.

See you there—in the meantime, watch out for sharks!

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Messing about in boats

Seattle photo by Chandler O'Leary

At this time of year, the rainy season looms just ahead, waiting to drop like the proverbial other shoe. So any extra warm sunny days we’re given feel like a huge, magnanimous gift. And since this little slice of Indian Summer fell on a weekend, it felt like I just had to get out on the water, while I still had the chance.

Seattle photo by Chandler O'Leary

Clearly, I wasn’t the only one.

Seattle photo by Chandler O'Leary

In fact, it seemed like everyone and their dog had the same idea I had—but that’s fine with me. It seemed appropriate to share Lake Union with half of Seattle—after all, at this time of year, we’re all in the same boat.

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Illustration by Chandler O'Leary

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.

Collage of illustrations by Chandler O'Leary

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.

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The Veil of Knowledge

"The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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.”

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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.

Process drawings for "Veil of Knowledge" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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.

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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.

Colophon reads:
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!

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

*** 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).