People tend to see me as relentlessly cheerful, and my work as vibrant and colorful. Today I have the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” stuck in my head. Today I feel hurt, betrayed, shocked, fearful, bitter and white-hot with fury. Today I will quarantine myself from other humans to avoid lashing out and saying awful things. Today I will clean my messy studio and catch up on mindless tasks. Today I’m putting my proverbial house in order, because tomorrow I need to be ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. We all do. #imstillwithher
It’s that time again—we’re inking and printing up a storm right now, because we’re just about ready to introduce you to our newest Dead Feminist!
We hope you’ll like her as much as we do—after getting to know her history, we feel like she’s become something of a deer friend.
(Sorry, I can never resist a terrible pun.)
She’s already made her first (and second, and third) impression with us, and oh so soon she’ll do the same for you. Stay tuned!
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.
So I whipped up a little medallion design, and hand-carved it in linoleum.
Then I threw it onto my tiny tabletop press, and set to work.
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.
And then came the fun part: hiding them all over Tacoma.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Today I am surrounded by piles of bird illustrations and hot pink envelopes, because it’s time once again for my local Valentine craft fair! My newest goodies this year are these color-your-own love notes, inspired by those adult coloring books that have been all the rage lately. I did a trial run with a little Tacoma coloring card last fall, and then you people nearly cleaned me out of them in one fell swoop! So this time I’ve done something with a slightly wider appeal, in case you don’t happen to live in my lovely town (and if you don’t, you can find these cards online in the shop).
If you are local, stop by this Saturday and see them in person. Here are the details:
Tacoma is for Lovers Valentine craft fair
Saturday, February 6, 2016
11 am to 4 pm, free!
King’s Books, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA
See you there!
A lot of things had to fall by the wayside in the past few months (including this blog!), while some major projects ruled my life. The big deadlines still hold sway for now, but I’ve started to catch up in other ways. The holidays are done and dusted, the end-of-year to-do-lists are crossed off (mostly), and this huge stack of greetings is in the mail. Here’s to turning the page, and writing (and drawing!) the next chapter.
Happy New Year!
It’s hard to believe this much time has gone by already, but Tacoma Arts Month is here again, and that means that Studio Tour is this weekend! I’m all settled into my new space (don’t go to the old house by mistake!)—won’t you help me christen it? I’m planning on doing a big blog reveal of the new studio soon, but I thought I’d let local folks be the first to see it (and the first to meet my ORANGE CHAIR, about which I am ridiculously excited).
As usual, I’ll be open both days. You’ll be able to make your own die-cut greeting card, stamp your Studio Tour Passport (that’s a new feature this year, with prize drawings for folks who visit at least 8 studios!), and of course shop for original artwork and stationery. Our street is under construction at the moment, but don’t let that stop you—there’s plenty of parking just up the hill, and the sidewalk is wide open and pedestrian-friendly. Here’s the info:
14th Annual Tacoma Studio Tours
Saturday and Sunday, October 17 and 18, 2015
11 am to 5 pm, free!
(My studio is #12 on the tour)
More info, locations and maps available here
See you this weekend!
I tell you what, this has been the year of long-term projects coming to fruition. There have been so many things I’ve had to sit on for months, and it feels so good to finally be able to share them with you! And the one pictured above might just be my favorite of all.
Photo by Summer Hess Briggs
This is my friend Sonja Silver. She’s a dyed-in-the-wool Tacoman, and has owned a women’s clothing boutique here for nearly two decades. Over the years, she’s watched women of all shapes and sizes come through her shop, and has developed a keen eye for clothing that’s both well-made and well-designed. But she had a gap in her business: for years, her customers had been asking for coats and jackets, and Sonja had never been happy with what was available in the marketplace.
So she has spent the last year designing her own.
It turned out to be quite the challenge—Sonja was inspired by the classic swing coats and car coats of the 1950s, but wanted the hard-wearing functionality of an outdoorsy shell. Basically, her goal was to make something that was both a workhorse—and a thoroughbred. After all, we live in the Pacific Northwest—we wear jackets pretty much all the time here, in all weather.
Here’s where I come in. Sonja called me up one day last spring, and told me about her coat project. She said she wanted the coat to be lined with fabric that was as unique as the design of the coat itself, and asked me if I’d be interested in illustrating a pattern repeat for her.
Needless to say, I didn’t so much say yes as squeal it.
Sonja had the idea for a constellation pattern—something that could be both playful and sophisticated at the same time. We both wanted the pattern to be hand-painted, to help transform the coat into a piece of wearable art.
Here’s the finished pattern. There are 27 different constellations represented, including all 12 signs of the zodiac and some perennial favorites from the skies in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Photo by Summer Hess Briggs
What I love best, though, is seeing the pattern “in action,” doing its job as part of the garment. While I was painting fish and birds and Greek gods, Sonja was hard at work on creating a working prototype of the coat. She went through many different test fabrics and design changes, trying the fit on women of all shapes and sizes to make the design as universal and versatile as possible.
Photos by Kathy Chakerian
And now, at long last, it’s ready for production!
Sonja has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds to produce the coat, and it’s officially live and up and running. The campaign will run until June 16, and we’re already 1/4 of the way there!
This is the third Kickstarter campaign I’ve been a part of (you can read about the other two successful projects here and here)—for those of you who might not know how it works, a campaign is run like an NPR pledge drive, with tangible rewards offered in exchange for each funding level. So this is not a donation platform—it’s an exchange of goods for capital. We must make our funding goal by the time the clock runs out, or we don’t get any of the funding already pledged. It’s an all-or-nothing thing, and that ensures that the project will be done right, with enough capital to get the job done. And to make sure she doesn’t get overwhelmed by too many orders all at once, Sonja has limited this first production run to 200 coats.
That reminds me: a note about the prototype featured in the Kickstarter campaign. The fabric used for the lining was just a test fabric we had made in a small quantity when we were looking for manufacturers. We weren’t happy with the black background of that fabric, as it turned out a little on the light side. So while you’ll see it in the Kickstarter video, we ended up going with a different manufacturer for the final lining fabric.
Here’s the real thing—the actual lining fabric that will be used in the finished run of coats. As you can see, the black is a true black, and the pattern pops from the background the way it’s intended to.
The best part of Sonja’s vision here is that this project has been brought about almost entirely by local women. From apparel design to illustration to construction to marketing, it’s local women who have made this thing happen. In an age where the vast majority of all garments are made overseas, in sweatshop conditions, that’s really saying something. Sonja’s coat is made with fabric sourced and printed in the United States, and the garment itself is pieced and sewn right here in Tacoma. I love being able to say that—I love being able to put our beliefs into action in this way.
The Kickstarter campaign even has a fantastic video made by a local gal—the lovely Emilie Firn (shown here snapping photos of my process materials in my studio).
Photo by Summer Hess Briggs
And last but not least, one other local gal has had a “hand” in the project: Sonja’s grandmother Lena, who was the inspiration for the coat. Sonja says her goal was to make a coat that had the same attributes Lena had: she’s hardworking, she’s beautiful, and she’s got your back.
So if you’re looking for your next go-to jacket, or you have a woman in your life who is, visit our Kickstarter campaign and make a pledge! And if a coat isn’t your thing, there are many other pledge levels and reward goodies to choose from. Even a pledge of $1 helps move the project forward and gives us better exposure online (if all my social media followers and email newsletter subscribers pledged $1, we’d instantly reach the halfway point of our goal!)—and of course, helping spread the word through your social media platforms will also help us meet our goal. But most of all, we just can’t wait to see women wearing the coat, out there in the real world. So take a gander at the campaign and snag your coat here!
Thank you for your support!
Jessica and I are working on the next Dead Feminist broadside right now—our process begins with choosing a quote and hammering out a rough concept, and then I do a bunch of thumbnail sketches to puzzle out the design. Usually, by the time I start lettering in pencil, I have a really clear picture in my head of what the finished product should look like. Even so—even 22 broadsides later—I’m still intimidated by the proverbial blank page. That’s why all those thumbnail sketches come in handy: they help illuminate the next step, and the next, and the next. And if I’m really lucky, I’ll be so wrapped up in blocking out the composition that I’ll forget to worry about whether or not the design will be any good.
Fingers crossed…time to start in.
Thanks to all the prep and planning required for last week’s Wayzgoose, I’m all set up with a boatload of new inventory for spring. First on the list: something to send for Mother’s Day! If you’re looking for the perfect last-minute card for Mom, look no further than the shop.
Or if you’re local, there’s one more chance to stock up on Mother’s Day cards and gifts: tomorrow’s Tacoma is for Lovers craft fair.
Tacoma is for Lovers craft fair
Saturday, May 2, 2015
11 am to 4 pm
218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA
I’ll have more than just Mother’s Day cards at the craft fair, though—like these new greeting cards based on the 50 States series. Oregon and California are the newest, and they’re already flying off the shelf. West Coast represent!
Also, just so you know, I have an extremely high-tech setup for photographing my cards. Masking tape and a big ol’ sheet of paper: photo studio of champions.
I did go slightly fancier when it came to photographing my temporary tattoos, thanks to my fancy friends Mariesa and RJ. The tattoos are my favorite product to develop these days, and it’s fun to see how people react to them at craft fairs—turns out it’s just as fun to take pictures of them as it is to design them.
I forgot to tell RJ that I wanted him to wear plaid to complete the whole lumberjack look he generally has going on—but I needn’t have worried. The guy read my mind, and came through like a boss.
And Mariesa’s outfit and gorgeous poise made my illustrations look super classy.
By the end of the day they were both saying they wanted to get the Tacoma tatt for real—
—and I can’t think of a higher compliment than that.
See you tomorrow at the craft fair!
Already 2015 is shaping up to be a year of new projects and lots of changes—I have a barrage of new things to share with you, but rather than bombard you with everything all at once, I’ll stick to just a couple for now. For one thing, I’m excited to announce that a selection of my prints and stationery is part of the Shoppe collection at Scoutmob! So these days my normal stack of packages leaving the studio each week has gotten considerably taller.
Scoutmob is a curated online marketplace of goods by independent makers all over the country. Everything on Scoutmob is made by artist-entrepreneurs—small businesses run by makers like me. So when they invited me to be a part of the collection, I felt like I was in good company. I’m inspired by the diversity of goods being made by independent artists—Scoutmob has everything from cards to art to jewelry to housewares to food and drink—and the collection is constantly changing and being updated. So whether you’re new to Scoutmob, or you’re a seasoned shopper looking for new favorites, stop by my Shoppe!
In other news, I’ve been selected for a Tacoma Artist Initiative Program (TAIP) funding award from the Tacoma Arts Commission! This is the second time I’ve been funded by the Arts Commission (the first time was for my Local Conditions artist book)—and this time I’ll be creating a new body of work called Farm to Table.
As you can see above, I’ve been interested in agricultural imagery for some time, and the subject has been creeping into my work for years. This time, though, I’ll be focusing an entire series of illustrations on local, sustainable farming. I’ll be developing a collection of prints and cards in the next two years, and the project will culminate in a solo exhibition in October 2016. Look for more info and new images soon!