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Song of Aloha

"Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

When we wrote and illustrated our new book, Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color, it was important both to us and the publisher that we fill the pages with new content, rather than simply rehash the story of our previous broadsides. So it came to us that one great way to do that would be to have a new broadside appear in the book and in the world simultaneously. One of the biggest challenges of doing this (other than having to print the broadside ahead of publication and then keep the secret for months) was choosing who to feature, considering the fact that we’d be introducing the broadside to a brand new and much larger audience. We wanted to feature a woman who touched the world, and who reflected the world we had become.

We live in a global society, with different cultures mingling—and at times clashing—with a regularity we now take for granted. It is easy to forget the imperialist origins of globalization, where Western cultures sought to dominate and even extinguish the societies they encountered. Colonization of the Indigenous world has had far-reaching effects on both people and the environment, the consequences of which we are only beginning to understand. And who better to understand the ripple effects of colonialism than the queen of a colonized nation?

“E onipai’a . . . i ka ‘imi na’auao.” (“Be steadfast in the seeking of knowledge.”)
— Queen Lili’uokalani

Queen Lili’uokalani was the last monarch—and only queen regnant—of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Raised by traditional Hawaiian custom and a resident of a post-colonial country, she was fluent in the ways of both Hawaiian and Western cultures. Her reign was sadly brief—thanks to powerful foreign interests who refused to share the nation they had claimed for their own. Yet she devoted much of her life to preserving traditional art forms and recording them for others to study. Hers was the middle road—the road of survival.

For Indigenous women like Queen Lili’uokalani, there is no going back to life before Euro-American contact. Yet Lili’uokalani led a life that included and celebrated both the culture of her birth and the one imposed upon her later in life. Her example of sharing both traditions with future generations helps us all create a path forward. We are especially thankful to Alison Milham, a Hawaiian book artist who has extensively researched the Queen and who helped us fine tune our message.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica and I have our own paths to walk when it comes to creating each new broadside in our series. In my case, I’m always eager to explore different historical eras and design styles. And Jessica is constantly looking to push the envelope of what’s possible with letterpress printing—she loves to experiment with different techniques, like the split-fountain inking on our Nightsong broadside, or the crazy metallics of Focal Point, or the large floods and knocked-out shapes of Title Nine Iron. This time we wanted to create a tropical rainbow, but rather than printing every letter in ROYGBIV separately, we puzzled out how to create an illusion of a full-color design with translucent, overlapping colors, which Jessica would print in just four passes on press.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica’s job was extra tricky, since the different plates had to line up perfectly to make the illusion work. But my end of the process was confusing, too: since I do the original drawing in black and separate the colors by hand, I had to keep checking and re-checking to make sure I didn’t assign some blob of color on the design to the wrong plate.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Generally speaking, we usually print our colors from lightest to darkest. So this time we started with a deep saffron yellow—the color of royalty in the Kingdom of Hawai’i, and one symbolic of Queen Lili’uokalani’s reign.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Then we overlaid a hot-hot pink on top of the yellow, one that stood in both for tropical flowers and the blazing color of the sun setting on Hawai’i’s Indigenous rulers. Wherever the pink overlapped the gold, the ink mixed to create a fiery orange.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Next came a pass of cerulean blue. This part might seem confusing, because you can’t actually see any blue in the finished piece (though you can see it on press on the photo of Jessica above), but it’s an essential ingredient of our color scheme. Wherever the blue overlaid yellow, we got green. Where it hit that hot pink, a royal purple resulted. And where it touched any orange areas that resulted from the previous pass, a russet brown appeared.

Finally, we were ready for our last color, a rich black (actually, Jessica ran that last pass twice—the double hit of black made the ink nice and opaque) that brought everything together into harmony:

Detail of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Our 24th broadside, Song of Aloha, depicts the lush flora and unique fauna of Hawai’i.  Plumeria and hibiscus bloom, while leaves and fronds stand in silhouette in homage to traditional Hawaiian quilt motifs. At the center of the design is Queen Lili’uokalani herself, wearing a sash in royal colors, her signature brooch, a necklace of shells (from the extinct species Carelia dolei) and a Kamehameha butterfly in her hair. As a symbol of the vanished Hawaiian monarchy, every bird pictured is an extinct Hawaiian species—including the greater koa finch, the Hawai’i mamo, the Lana’i hookbill, the Hawaiian crow, and several species of endemic honeycreeper that now only exist as museum specimens.

Detail of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Oh, and hidden in the design are ‘Iolani Palace and a line of music from Lili’uokalani’s famous composition, “Aloha ‘Oe.”

This piece marks the inauguration of the Dead Feminists Fund, to which a portion of our proceeds (and those of our new book!) will be donated. In honor of the power of women’s work, the Fund supports nonprofits that empower girls and women to create change in their own communities.

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

Song of Aloha: No. 24 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 192 prints
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:
Lili’uokalani (1838 – 1917) was the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Born into the royal family, she ascended the throne in 1891 via traditional election after the death of her brother. She reigned for less than two years, until Sanford B. Dole—backed by American business interests and the Marines—deposed her and dismantled the monarchy. Dole placed Lili’uokalani under house arrest and despite her formal letters of protest, Hawai’i was annexed by the United States in 1898 without due constitutional process.

Queen Lili’uokalani lived with one foot planted in each culture, embracing Victorian dress and Western mannerisms while working tirelessly to preserve traditional Hawaiian art forms. A prolific singer, musician and composer, her best known song was “Aloha ‘Oe” (“Farewell to Thee”), written in both Hawaiian and English.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, knowing that the spirit of aloha can honor what we’ve lost and save what remains.

Now available in the shop! Or for local folks, you’ll find it at Studio Tour this weekend!





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From print to page

Hand-lettered illustration from the book "Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Earlier we shared some sneak peeks of the chapter spreads, but now that our book is out we can tell you a bit more about how the book is structured.

Page detail from the book "Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Of course, we go into detail about the process and stories behind each of our broadsides, including a “director’s cut” of each print.

Page detail from the book "Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

The great thing about the book format, though, is the ability to expand beyond the short colophons we include on each broadside. So each chapter goes in-depth about the women we featured and the social issues we highlighted with each broadside. Each story is anchored with archival photos and vintage ephemera to paint a more complete picture of these 27 women and their lives.

Page detail from the book "Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

To tie everything together and reinforce our letterpress roots, the pages are peppered with vintage hand-set metal and wood cuts from Jessica’s incredible collection. Each one appears like an easter egg, linking our content to our process and bringing the past to life in the present.

Major thanks to our amazing editorial and marketing team at Sasquatch Books—every member of which is a fellow woman—for getting us to this point, and for continuing to support the Dead Feminists Fund through a portion of every book sale. And last but not least, thank you for supporting our series and our book. We hope that reading the book will be as rewarding for you as it was for us to write it.

See you tomorrow with more information about our 24th broadside!

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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.