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Get gussied up

Tuesday is the day! Our book will be released worldwide on October 11, and we’re celebrating with a costume party! This is where you can be the first to get your hands on the book—and extra worth the effort if you want to see Jessica and me wearing ridiculous wigs. We don’t want to be the only ones celebrating Halloween early, so come on down and join the party. We’ll have prizes for the best outfits, Dead Feminists cake and punch, and a printing press ready to make your own keepsake. We’d love to sign a book for you, too. If you’re looking for costume ideas, you might dress up as one of the ladies in our book…


…or you might choose another favorite historical heroine, or a beloved fictional character, or even an historic feminist dude! Anything goes, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with. Here’s the skinny on the event:

Official Book Release Costume Party
Tuesday, October 11, 7 pm
Hosted by King’s Books
218 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, WA
Event is free, all ages welcome; more info here
Come in costume, dressed as your favorite historical feminist!

Installing the Dead Feminists exhibition at the 23Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR

In addition to finally sharing the book with you next week, we also wanted the chance to share some of our original artwork. So for the past two years we’ve been planning a big retrospective exhibit with the 23Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR. Laura Russell, the owner and curator of the gallery, has been a major supporter of our series since the beginning—and this week it was no different, as she jumped right in and helped us install our artwork in her space!

Exhibit of the Dead Feminists series by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring at the 23Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR

The show features 10 original letterpress broadsides from our series, two mini-broadsides, original process materials, plus vintage ephemera from our book. This is the first time we’ve done a show like this, and 23Sandy is the only place you’ll still find some of our older, out-of-print broadsides available for sale.

Exhibit of the Dead Feminists series by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring at the 23Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR

The exhibit also includes our 24th and newest broadside, but since she comes out on October 11, alongside the book, we have her hidden under a black veil for now. But you can see her—and all the other artwork—unveiled at our reception and book signing later this month. Here are the details:

Make-Ready: Dead Feminists from Print to Page
A Dead Feminists retrospective exhibit
on display through October 29

Reception & book signing Saturday, October 22
4 to 6 pm, free!
23Sandy Gallery
623 NE 23rd Ave, Portland, OR

Exhibit of the Dead Feminists series by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring at the 23Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR

If you can’t make it to Portland, you can also learn more about the exhibit and view an online catalog on the 23Sandy website.

Make-Ready is just one of many different exhibits in the works this fall—we’ve got the Dead Feminists coming to galleries around the country for both solo and group shows. We’ll be sharing more info here on the blog soon, but as always, you can find all our events, shows, book signings and talks listed on the events page.

See you Tuesday—in costume!


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Book process photos for "Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica and I were so immersed in the process behind our book for so long that it still feels weird that the final product is almost here. Yet here we are, just under a month away from our release date! We have a metric ton of events planned in the next few months, with more being added all the time. And since releasing a book is a bit different than releasing a broadside, we’re already getting lots of questions about how this is all going to work. Here are the ones we’re hearing the most so far:

Where should I buy my copy? Should I wait until the release date?

You can preorder the book now from your favorite bookseller. Large or small, brick-and-mortar or virtual, indie or corporate, they can all get our book into your hands, and we have links to the book on both large and indie retailers over on our book page. Here’s the thing, though: preordering your copy really does help. Preorders can help retailers foresee how popular a book is going to be—the more preorders there are, the more they’ll stock when the book comes out. And more stock raises the book’s ranking, making the title more visible and searchable on retailer websites. It helps spread the word for us and introduces our book to a wider audience. So if you’re so inclined, preordering now will help ensure we get a good head start.

Would you rather I buy it from you and Jessica directly?

Thank you for thinking of us, and wanting to support us directly! In the end, though, we’ve decided that we will only be selling the book ourselves at certain local, in-person events. Events where we will sell the book ourselves include:

Tacoma Studio Tours, October 15-16
• Our exhibit opening at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts, October 29
• Our Portland Lit Crawl event, November 3
• Our artist talk at the University of Puget Sound Library, November 8
• Our library talks in University Place (December 14) and Lacey (December 15)
• And by request/appointment for Seattle/Tacoma-area folks (you can always contact us if you want to do this)

If you want your copy shipped somewhere, your best bet is to order from your favorite bookseller. And since many of our other events are being hosted by bookstores and galleries, those folks will handle sales at those events. Here’s where you can find an up-to-date list of all our events so far.

What if I want a signed copy? If I’m not local, can I still get one?

Absolutely! Our local bookstore, King’s Books, is offering signed copies, which you can preorder on their website. They can ship anywhere in the world—all you need to do is specify that you want a signed copy in the “order comments” box when you place your order. Also, please specify if you want your book simply signed, or if you want it personalized to a specific name.

I am local, and I want to celebrate! Are you having a book release party?

You betcha! We’re having our official release party at King’s Books in Tacoma, on Tuesday, October 11 at 7 pm. And it’s a costume party! Come dressed as your favorite dead feminist and celebrate with us.

I’m a retailer, and I want to carry your book in my store. Do I purchase copies from you?

Retailers can buy wholesale copies direct from Penguin Random House, who is distributing the book. You’ll need to set up a retail account with them first, but from there bulk orders are easy. To get started, call 800.733.3000 or email csorders [AT] penguinrandomhouse [DOT] com.

Since the book is coming out, does that mean the letterpress broadside series is ending?

Not at all. Actually, our 24th and newest broadside will appear both in person and in the book concurrently. So that means we’re keeping it under wraps until the book comes out, but we’ll have some sneak peeks to show you in the next few weeks. And if you’re local, you’ll be able to see the print in person at Studio Tour on October 15-16, or at our upcoming exhibits in Seattle and Portland.


A young writer at one of 826CHI, a writing center we supported with our Warning Signs broadside. Photo courtesy of 826CHI.

And that brings us to some other great news we wanted to share with you. As you might already know, previously when we have released letterpress broadsides, we have also made donations to nonprofits that align with the issues we highlight with each print. With the book and broadside #24 about to come out, we’re starting a new chapter by inaugurating the Dead Feminists Fund.

In honor of the power of women’s work, the Dead Feminists Fund supports nonprofits that empower girls and women to create change in their own communities. Like our book, funding is organized under a series of Action Verbs (“Make,” “Grow,” “Lead,” “Tell,” etc.), which translate to micro grant categories. Each year the Fund will support nonprofits with micro grants in one of our Action categories.

The Dead Feminists Fund is a component fund of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, which manages, administers and invests in over 400 charitable funds, right from our home community of Tacoma. Being under the auspices of the GTCF allows donations made directly to the Dead Feminists Fund to be tax-deductible, and provides the proper legal framework to protect both our donors and our grant recipients.


Artists typesetting at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, an organization we supported with our Paper Chase broadside. Photo by Caitlin Harris.

We seeded the Dead Feminists Fund with a large percentage of our book advance, and we will continue to donate a portion of our future broadside proceeds to supporting the Fund. Best of all, thanks to the generosity of Sasquatch Books, a portion of the sales of our book will also be contributed to the Fund. We’re especially grateful to Sasquatch because as an indie regional publisher, they understand the importance of giving back to one’s community, and how small gifts can make a big impact. And Sasquatch also knows the importance of supporting women and girls—after all, the team of editors, designers and marketing folks who have worked with us on our book with us are all women. If that’s not girl power, I don’t know what is.

If you’d like to support the Fund directly, you can make a tax-deductible donation directly through the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation website. (At that link, scroll down to find the Dead Feminists Fund in the alphabetical list.)

As always, thank you so much for your support of our series over the last eight years—we can’t wait to share the next chapter with you.



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Cover to cover (to cover)

Book cover process sketches for "Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

It’s hard to believe we’re only five weeks out from the release of our book! A few advance reader copies are making their way around to media outlets already, and several people have asked us how we came up with the cover design. Since getting to the finished cover was quite a process, we thought we’d show you a bit of the winding path that got us here.

When Sasquatch Books first signed us as authors, they offered us the chance to design, illustrate and hand-letter the cover. Needless to say we jumped at it. But designing a book cover can be very different than designing other things—the stakes are higher, for one thing. In some ways, it’s more of a science than an art: a good cover can have a lot of sway in terms of book sales, so it has to be as eye-catching, informative and readable as possible. So to make sure we got it right, it was a hugely collaborative process—not just between Jessica and me, but also with the publisher, the art director, our editors, the sales team, and lots of other people we never even met in person.

Jessica and I started brainstorming and sketching cover ideas way back in November of last year; above are a few of the concepts we sent along. We had a lot of feedback that large, legible type was key, so that was a good starting point. We also had to be really careful about the hierarchy of type. We had to make sure “Feminists” caught the eye first, followed by “Dead,” then the subhead, then the byline, etc. Later, when we got the happy news that Jill Lepore would be writing the foreword to our book, that added another level to our type hierarchy. In addition to all of this, we wanted to give the Sasquatch team plenty of options, so we tried to make each concept distinct from the others. Right away the clear favorite was the one in the lower right corner, so that was the concept we took to the next level.

Book cover process sketches for "Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Then came a long parade of versions in color. We worked closely with Sasquatch’s art director and lead designer, Anna Goldstein, to try to catch that elusive unicorn that is a cover that works. I’d mock something up and send it to Anna; she’d mock something else up and send it back to us; rinse and repeat. Each time it felt like we were getting closer, but every time it felt like something subtle was missing. So we made a million little tweaks, to color, to lettering, to texture, to contrast, to composition, to kerning, etc. Each time one of us would have what seemed like a great idea, and each time the result was lacking somehow. I don’t even remember how long we stayed in this holding pattern. (Normally I keep all the iterations of a design carefully numbered in chronological order, but at some point I just lost track. I gave up and labeled that file “VERSION WHATEVER.” It makes me laugh every time I see it.) Everybody was frustrated: the elusive unicorn had transformed into the Holy Grail.

And then I think we all finally conceded that small tweaks were never going to get us there. We needed something to change in a big way, and we needed to scrap much of the work we’d done thus far. This is a really hard thing to admit to oneself—that maybe one’s brilliant idea wasn’t so brilliant after all. But the finished product is more important than anybody’s ego, and no matter how good a kernal of an idea might be, it’s not worth bringing down the whole design over it.

Book cover and process sketches for "Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

So we quite literally went back to the drawing board. I knocked together a few more pencil sketches, and we asked the whole team again what elements they thought were essential. A lot of people responded to the little cameo portraits of the various historical figures, so we came up with the idea to use them as more of an overall pattern (that’s the green cover on the left, above). Then our editors gave us the feedback that maybe the cover should be more like the style of our broadsides, with bold lettering in many different styles. Anna added the suggestion of making those cameo portraits more of a faint pattern than a major focal point, and then the lightbulb seemed to go on at last. That peach version in the center, I think, was what I put together next. Jessica and I could see that the most recent advice was on the right track, but we were still worried it wouldn’t stand out when seen on a display shelf with a hundred other books. Our editor asked us if we had any ideas for how to make it pop, and in wild desperation I fished out one of our earliest pencil sketches (above), the one with the face in silhouette, and gave it another look. What didn’t seem to work in sketch form suddenly felt like the missing ingredient when paired with the cameo pattern and the bold lettering. We sent a version back to Anna, and she gave it that antique texture and the gold-grey-and-teal color scheme you see here. And that was it—it was like she’d flipped a switch, and voilà: finished cover.

Over the course of eight years of printing our broadsides, Jessica and I had grown accustomed to just doing whatever we want in terms of design and content. With small editions to print, and nobody to please but ourselves, the stakes were low—and there was always plenty of room for experimentation. This book has been an entirely different animal, and I think designing the cover has been a perfect metaphor for the whole process. Writing a 40,000-word manuscript about history and feminism was never something we thought we could do, but with the incredible help of our editors, we got there. Likewise, designing the container for that content was a massive group effort—so major props and big thanks to Anna for sticking with us. Getting to the finish line required stepping way beyond our comfort zone—and more importantly, it took the whole team. We couldn’t have done it alone, and that’s a good thing, because both book and cover are the better for it.


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In good company

Autostraddle's fall 2016 list of new feminist books, featuring Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color

Jessica and I just found out that Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color has been included in Autostraddle’s roundup of feminist books coming out this fall, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Also…we’re a bit intimidated, because it’s a bit mind-boggling to appear on a list that also includes Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, Zadie Smith and others. Most of all, though, it’s incredibly inspiring to be in the company of so many talented women writers.

Speaking of hanging out with women writers, in November we get to team up with another feminist duo (who are also included on Autostraddle’s list) for a joint author event at Powell’s Books in Portland! Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl, the respective author and illustrator of Rad American Women from A to Z, have a new book coming out on September 27, entitled Rad Women Worldwide. Kate was kind enough to say some super nice things about our book:

Dead Feminists offers well-researched and meticulously illustrated insight into some of America’s inspiring historic heroines—but it also goes way beyond that. This book is a profound and super-smart look at feminist craft, creation, and collaboration, and reminds us that what goes on behind the scenes can be just as powerful as the finished product. I am so grateful to Chandler and Jessica for allowing us into their radical world.”

We’re excited to read and pore over Kate and Miriam’s new book when it comes out, and even more excited to meet them in person for the Powell’s event. Here are the details:

Special joint Dead Feminists & Rad Women author event
Thursday, November 3, 2016, 7:30 pm
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR

And as always, you can find all our book-related signings, talks and shows on the events page.

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Time and type wait for no one

Jessica Spring setting type at the Thorniley Collection. Photo by Chandler O'Leary.

I shot this photo of Jessica typesetting at the Thorniley Collection of Type last year, where she and I were asked to help inventory and appraise the collection (a dream-job moment that I promise to tell you about sometime!).

And then today I came across this short documentary, about the very last edition of the New York Times that was printed from linotype. The year was 1978, and the newspaper was mothballing all its hot-type equipment in order to adopt the brand new, cutting-edge, cold-type technology of phototypesetting. (Phototypesetting was in turn mothballed about 15 years later, when desktop publishing—design software, computer fonts, etc.—hit the mainstream.) If you’re at all interested in printing and have a half hour, I highly recommend the film, as it’s fascinating.

I loved seeing my professional ancestors at work in the film, but I had to laugh, because it struck me that my own career has been a bit, well, backwards.

I got my BFA in the early aughts; much of my design coursework focused on current print technology: design software, digital typography, etc. (Though of course, I was ornery and insisted on including hand-lettering, which was deeply unpopular at the time, in almost everything I did.)

My first industry job, however, was a throwback: I was a production designer doing paste-up at an offset printer that still did phototypesetting. This wasn’t all that long ago: by then that technology was a total dinosaur. At the time they were one of the last presses in the whole country still relying on those processes. The video above demonstrates the paste-up process, but basically the job description is what it sounds like. We took little bits of printed text and photos and, using razor blades and hot wax, pasted them onto a collaged layout that was then photographed and turned into a printing plate. I got to spend my days in a quiet room lit only by light tables, with three other girls who were as introverted as I. I can still smell the wax whenever I think of it—I loved that job, and I loved that smell.

A year or so later I got a job as a graphic designer at a firm, so I guess in that sense I went “forward” in time. But that same month I also got into letterpress printing—proof that my personal tastes were still decidedly cattywampus. I basically did what the printers at the New York Times did in reverse order, trading my cold-type skills in for hand-set hot metal.

And now, while I still keep a finger in both the letterpress (thanks to my collaboration with Jessica) and digital pies, overall I’ve kind of moved backwards in time again. Now I mostly spend my days with the really old-school equipment of paintbrushes and pencils.

And that’s just fine with me. Who says progress has to go only in one direction?

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Let’s go sketching together

In-progress photo of Craneway Pavilion sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you’re looking to bring a little sketching into your life, or you attended last month’s sketch outing and want a little training, you can learn the basics with me in July!

School of Visual Concepts photo by Chandler O'Leary

I’ll be teaching my one-day urban sketching workshop again at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts on July 16—I only teach this workshop at most once a year, so if you’ve been wanting to get some drawing skills under your belt, this is your chance!

Materials for urban sketching workshop with Chandler O'Leary

In the class you’ll get a crash course in everything you need to get you on your feet and sketching. We’ll cover travel-friendly materials, tricks for setting the scene, finding inspiration on-the-go, and all kinds of drawing, watercolor, perspective and composition techniques.

In-progress photo of Chambers Bay Golf Course sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And of course, you’ll get plenty of hands-on experience with the chance to get out there and draw in the wild.

Students sketching in Seattle during urban sketching workshop with Chandler O'Leary

My favorite thing about teaching sketching workshops is seeing my students learn from each other. We’re all basically drawing the same thing, but since everyone has a different style, point of view and level of experience, the finished results are wildly varied.

Students sketching in Seattle during urban sketching workshop with Chandler O'Leary

Last year we all walked to South Lake Union Park, and I loved seeing what everyone chose to focus on in their sketchbooks.

Student sketching in Seattle during urban sketching workshop with Chandler O'Leary

We had both beginners and veterans among us that day, and everyone completed at least one full-color sketch (several went to town and came back with a whole handful of drawings!).

Student sketchbook drawings from urban sketching workshop with Chandler O'Leary

The really fun part is the end of class, where we all got together and shared our drawings. No two were even remotely alike, but all were completely gorgeous!

In-progress photo of San Francisco sketch by Chandler O'Leary

So if you want a fun kickstart to your new life as an urban sketcher, join us! Here are the details:

Urban Sketching: Learning on Foot
Saturday, July 16, 2016
School of Visual Concepts
2300 7th Avenue, Suite B, Seattle, WA
BYO sketching materials (a list of suggested materials will be sent when you sign up)
More info and registration here!
(Use the code GIVE_SMALL at checkout for a $25 discount!)

Note: unless it’s pouring rain, we’ll be sketching outdoors. Please dress accordingly, and plan to be on your feet! Bring lots of drinking water (and snacks if you need them), layered clothing, sunscreen, a protective hat, and good walking shoes. Last year it was 100°F outside, but thanks to everyone being prepared and smart about the heat, we still had a great time!


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Monkey business

Monkeyshines medallions illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

Well, now that it’s been a whole year since I first showed you these, and the secret no longer needs keeping, I can tell you about what I did today. Today is the start of the lunar new year, and here in Tacoma we have a tradition that proves how wonderful this town is, year after year. The tradition is called “Monkeyshines,” a public treasure hunt through the city that falls on (or around) the first day of Chinese new year each year. The name comes from the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese zodiac cycle, exactly twelve years ago, when an anonymous artist going by the name “Ms. Monkey” created a few hundred colorful hand-blown glass floats, each one stamped with a monkey design, and hid them all over the city. Anyone who found one could take it home with them, and since only Ms. Monkey’s inner circle knew about it, it came as a complete surprise to those lucky few who found treasure that year. Over the years the tradition has grown and the secret has spread like wildfire, with more and more beautiful pieces of glass art being hidden around Tacoma with each cycle of the zodiac. Since the only rule is “take only one,” many people have taken to rehiding the ones they find, or contributing their own handmade treasures to the hunt. Not that it’s easy to find multiple Monkeyshines—or even one! Even now that there are thousands of treasures hidden each year, it’s still like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. I’d never been lucky myself, coming up empty-handed year after year.

2015, the Year of the Ram, completed the 12-year zodiac cycle that started with that first treasure hunt. Ms. Monkey approached me (no, I won’t tell you who she is!) and asked if I would contribute some “Monkeyshines” of my own to the cause. I jumped at the chance: even though I’d never found a glass float myself, I loved the hunt, and by then I’d amassed a mental database of potential hidey-holes. By then I was more excited about the prospect of hiding treasure than of finding it. Besides, even though my work has been moving away from letterpress printing in recent years, it was fun to do a printing project again.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

So I whipped up a little medallion design, and hand-carved it in linoleum.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

Then I threw it onto my tiny tabletop press, and set to work.

Monkeyshines medallions illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

I printed close to 500 medallions (until I ran out of paper and the block started to break down!), and then hand-assembled them in the style of my other letterpress ornaments.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

And then came the fun part: hiding them all over Tacoma.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

Since there were so many medallions, and I had to go out of town over Chinese new year, I enlisted friends to help, and staggered my own distribution over several weeks. Together we managed to canvass almost the entire city map, hitting both well-traveled areas and less-visited neighborhoods.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

The hiding was, indeed, the best part. I loved walking inconspicuously at weird hours, my hands stuffed in my pockets and posing as a searcher, waiting until the coast was clear to pop another medallion into one of Tacoma’s nooks and crannies. Sometimes I’d hang around and wait nearby until someone came by and discovered what I’d left behind. It was a thrill every time.

Monkeyshines medallion illustrated and printed by Chandler O'Leary

I saved this pictured for last because it echoes this year’s odyssey, when my chance finally came. Fast forward to this morning, and it’s the Year of the Monkey all over again. Since it’s now become a tradition as ingrained as Christmas, there was no question that I’d resume the hunt. A friend came to pick me up at 4:30 am, and after a quick swig of coffee, we set out.

Monkeyshines photo by Chandler O'Leary

And in less than an hour, in my eighth year of searching, I finally found my first glass Monkeyshine! Just like the previous picture, it was in the mouth of a fish sculpture—this one in the middle of a fountain downtown. Luckily for me, there was only about an inch of water in the fountain, so all I had to do was climb in and step right up. And yes, if the fountain had been full of water, I would have gone in anyway, 35-degree weather be darned. I wouldn’t have been the only one—tales of people braving murky koi ponds and polar-plunging into the Bay have become the stuff of legend around here. For some things it’s worth getting soaked and dirty!

My friend is still searching for his Monkeyshine—we spent the rest of the morning hunting on his behalf, but even if he doesn’t find one this year, we made sure to pay it forward by hiding a few small monkey-themed treasures ourselves.

Monkeyshines photo by Chandler O'Leary

So now I’m back home, refreshed after a nap and a hot cuppa tea, admiring the Monkeyshine that’s serendipitously in my favorite color. SO many thanks to Ms. Monkey, all her fellow ‘Shiners, all the friends and friendly strangers I hunted with this morning, and my art-loving city. Thank you for making this happen year after year, for making my year so far, and for bringing us all together for a chance to play explorer in our own hometown. Gung hay fat choy!

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I think his spaceship knows which way to go

David Bowie records photo by Chandler O'Leary

It’s a tradition in my family that when a beloved musician dies, we play their entire back catalog of records in chronological order. I grew up on David Bowie as a kid, and then started feverishly collecting albums almost 20 years ago. By the time I’d amassed pretty much everything he’d ever done, I started joking that when his day came, it’d take me a month to play it all. I’m sorry that that day is already here.

I don’t usually write or post these days about the music I love, because taste is so personal and so subjective. But music is a huge part of my life, and I’ve loved Bowie’s music better and longer than anything else.

RISD Mixed Media newspaper featuring David Bowie comic by Chandler O'Leary

And more than that, Bowie has had an enormous influence on me as a visual artist—and I’m not talking about the fan-girl comic-book concert reviews I used to draw for the RISD newspaper, circa 2002 (and I think they only let me do that because my friends were the editors).

What I mean is that Bowie was a huge cultural force, a tastemaker—and I delved into his work at the time when I was forming my own tastes and just beginning to make my own responses to my culture.

Tribute posters by Chandler O'Leary

I hesitate to show you these, because most of my student work makes me cringe, but these were part of a series of fake concert posters (of real, historical concerts) I did when I was just starting to do formal lettering work. The lettering is neither her nor there, but it was Bowie’s ever-changing alter egos that inspired me to use different historical periods as the inspiration for each poster. Bowie himself was heavily influenced by history and different cultural traditions—much of it of the non-musical variety—from Kabuki theatre to current events to French mimes to dystopian novelists to Picasso paintings to couture apparel designers, and everything in between. I remember this fact blowing my mind at the time, and it encouraged me to seek inspiration for my work away from my own field and contemporaries. That’s still the primary way I work, and I owe that to him.

The other thing Bowie taught me was not to be afraid to reinvent myself, to change direction and explore something new or totally different. He taught me that it’s possible to create many different types of things, in a wide range of styles that might bear little resemblance to one another, and still come away with a cohesive body of work. As a cultural omnivore who learned from the best of them, that makes perfect sense to me. Yet we still live in a world that largely expects artists to pick one medium, one genre, one style, one “signature” thing and stick with it forever and ever, amen. To reject that notion and follow one’s own path, wherever it might lead, takes a lot of bravery and faith in oneself (and one’s audience!). Bowie’s instincts were unparalleled. He knew how to be broad and deep all at once—he could change a thousand times and never come across as a flake. Instead, he added a new and exotic ingredient to every concoction, until he became one hell of a master chef. If even the smallest fraction of that bravery and instinct might rub off on me, I’ll count myself luckier than I can say.

Tribute poster by Chandler O'Leary

The things we love are a part of who we are and what we contribute to the world ourselves. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, our influences come full circle and bring the things we make in contact with that which inspires us. I got to have a short conversation with David Bowie once, over a decade ago, because of one of those fake posters I designed. I brought this one, printed at a huge size, to a show where I had a front-row seat. During a lull I held it up, and he said nice things to me and asked if I had a request. I told him, and he launched into a 20-minute rendition of “Station to Station.” When it was over, he asked if the rendition was to my liking—I responded with a curtsy, and he laughed and said, “Good curtsy! Nobody curtsies anymore!”

All my friends and family know I’m a huge Bowie fan, and have been emailing and texting me all day about him. My brother sent me the setlist of a mix tape of favorite Bowie songs I made him as a teenager. The sequence of songs still holds up well today, I think, and suddenly it seems like the perfect sendoff. Here they are, with just one small change:

1. Sorrow
2. Fantastic Voyage
3. Rock n’ Roll with Me
4. Panic in Detroit
5. It’s No Game
6. Time
7. The Man Who Sold the World
8. DJ
9. Queen Bitch
10. All the Madmen
11. Beauty & The Beast
12. Sound & Vision
13. Andy Warhol
14. Moonage Daydream
15. Boys Keep Swinging
16. Ashes to Ashes
17. After All
18. Drive-in Saturday

Raising a glass to Major Tom, to Ziggy, to Aladdin Sane, to Halloween Jack, to the Thin White Duke, to the Blackstar, wherever you are now. You were, are, and will forever be my favorite—and my first influence. Cheers.

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…and to all a good night

Christmas photo by Chandler O'Leary

Tacoma photo by Chandler O'LearyChristmas photo by Chandler O'LearyTacoma photo by Chandler O'LearyChristmas photo by Chandler O'LearyChristmas photo by Chandler O'LearyChristmas photo by Chandler O'Leary

Shooting grainy on-the-fly night photos doesn’t always yield the best results, but it’s done a great job of documenting this year’s Season of Light. I hope yours is as warm and bright as ours has been, and that you are surrounded by joy while the sun makes its way back to us.

Good Yule, and Merry Christmas.

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We did it!

Constellation pattern illustrated by Chandler O'Leary

Holy cow—we made our Kickstarter goal three days early! I can’t tell you how much it means that you helped us reach our goal, and so quickly. This project has truly been a labor of love, and it feels so good to know that you support local and women-owned businesses like us.

Production is going to begin shortly and the coat will start being shipped in early fall, so I’m sure I will have updates to give you in the near future. In the meantime, there are still three days left of the campaign if you’re looking to get in on the coat and other rewards. And the Tacoma News Tribune did a great article about the women involved in the project in today’s paper—you can read about it here.

Thank you so much again for all your support and help spreading the word. We truly could not have done this without you, and we are so looking forward to the day when we can all wear our coats! Many, many thanks.