Tuesday, December 17, 2013

At Least I'll Have More Free Time...

So you may know that since moving to the Bay Area 15 months ago I have had a number of jobs. Some were temporary, some didn't pay enough and some just didn't work out.  I would love for postcard making to be my full-time job (only 790 more subscribers needed! more or less...) but I have been lucky to have a variety of print-related jobs.  I have also had one steady, there-when-I-need-it, restaurant job.  The hours were flexible, the pay was good and my co-workers are great.  Really really great.  Recently, as a seasonal job came to an end, I decided not to get another job but to stay at the restaurant a few days a week and focus on more printing and bookmaking.

Then a few days ago, on the morning of our holiday party, the owner of the restaurant decided to close it down.  In two weeks.  Since then, he has recanted and thinks maybe we'll stay open for awhile longer.  Not because he employs 20 amazing, talented individuals who are about to visit family or work extra hours so coworkers can do so, but because he was advised financially not to close. Not yet. I get that business is business, and this is how capitalism works. Our restaurant was losing money and there are definitely things that could be done to make it more efficient.  We all did our best with that but ultimately, those decisions aren't up to us.  We knew it might end but we didn't expect it mid-December, while adjusting to new changes.  Some co-workers wish he would've given us more notice, while I think that the incertainty and impending job loss has sunk morale, added stress and leaves us generally unmotivated. I still show up for my shifts and do my job but it would be foolish to not be looking for alternate employment.  Our job isn't changing much in the world but it is amazing to work in a place where people care about each other and consider each other friends.  It is pretty special as far as restaurant jobs go.

I've thought about what is going to happen to us all. None of us are financially secure and I'd bet few of us have savings. Four households have 2 folks employed here which means 2 people loosing income at the same time.  I am angry at the guy who thinks this is an acceptable way to treat people and then I realized it doesn't matter.  It sucks to be job hunting and it is stressful and unemployment won't even cover my rent, but we are a lucky group of folks, youngish, educated and experienced and creative.  So while I want to complain, to vent, I also want to check myself.  We are lucky to have support systems and no dependents. We can creative folk with varied talents who are sure to work out something and probably,  eventually, something better.  But I also want that guy to think about he is affecting our lives, how making business decisions on a whim will not win you loyalty nor love nor even decently motivated employees.  The owner was there the other day, after telling us we might have our jobs for a few more weeks or not, and I wanted to tell him that the reason we showed up for work that day was because we are loyal to each other and we all need one more paycheck.  But I chickened out. And I didn't think he'd get it.

Maybe I'll start an employment agency.   There is a great variety of skill and talent among my co-workers.  Or if you were thinking of starting a vegan sandwich shop but need a staff, let me know.  I think I have something for you.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ebb and Flow

Using a space heater to coax the ink across the rollers.
I won't complain about the cold because I am not that Californian yet, even if it is below freezing at night making our little space heater work its hardest.  Because in the middle of the day I spread mulch on hte garden which is getting along just fine.

Two days of printing and one cup of tea

We've been busy here, printing and printing and binding for the holiday season and already our sale season is over.  You can still but journals, blank books and post card subscriptions as gift on etsy.  If you order any blank books or datebooks for $10 or more, I will send you five randomly selsected postcards from the Keep Writing archives. This offer is good through the end of the year but you have to order by December 17th to get it in time for Christmas.
this could be yours!

Last weekend, we set up to table at Oakland's First Friday but packed up immediately as it began to rain. The light mist continued all night, enough to bum anyone out but luckily we went home.  It would have been our first tabling event with Gazelle and Goat but it seems it was not meant to be.  Instead, we went out for pizza and went to bed early in anticipation of the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest.  I was seated next to the sweetest, most excited pair I could hope for.  I went home with an armload of new reading, including a bunch of poetry.  I have barely dug in but the prose poems of Julian S. of Ash and Bone and the comic zine by Lacey both made a surprise afternoon off even much better.

basket of zines!

I am also taking some time to look ahead to the new year, to think about making paper like I have been talking about, writing more, finishing a new zine and hopefully so much more.  This morning I gathered these marigolds seeds to save for when the weather is a little more hospitable.  Until then, hunker down with a warm drink and take care.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanks for Five Years

so much thanks!
Five years ago I had just arrived in Baton Rouge from New Orleans.  I was eighty miles away and a 31 year year old freshman in college at a big ol'state university.  I missed my friends. I wanted to do well in school, and moreso, I wanted to use all the great stuff at my disposal.  But how would I find time to write to all the people I loved most?

the first moht of keep writing! and still one of my favorites
And so I started Keep Writing.  Maybe you know this story. I sent out a postcard to fifty friends, to see if anyone was interested.  The first months included a few creative ways of making postcards without letterpress or silkscreen--lots of sewing, color copies and handcarved stamps. Luckily I got a key to the letterpress studio soon after the 4th month.

keep writing number 56!

This month marks five years of sending a monthly postcard to friends and strangers who have asked for it.  The past 2 1/2 years have included an interactive portion where you get to send something back to me.  Like the month I gave you a Venn Diagram to fill out and send back.  It's been super fun, a monthly challenge and full of surprises.  So, to thank you, you can renew your subscription (or sign up!) for the month of November for whatever you can afford from $5 to $30 (the regular price is $30 for a year). Email your payment through paypal to gutwrenchhope@gmail.com . Don't forget to include your mailing address!  Thanks y'all!  Now if I can get 800 more subscribers, I can quit my day jobs and spent all my time making mail!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Orleans Visit

My stand-by flight to New Orleans wasn't bad because I got bumped from a flight and was stuck in Denver overnight, it was bad because people were not kind, selfish and I felt like I was on a Greyhound bus trip.  Sure, it is gross to sit next to someone who has just regurgitated their Lorna Doone 100 calorie snack pack onto their sweater, but I cleaned up the best I could and you could've parted with just one of your handi-wipes.

I made it anyway.

Stuck on an airplane with a rolled up sweater feeling gross and dehydrated and anxious and not ready at all to be locked into the airplane again, I did not get off in Denver, I did not cause a scene and I made it.

Luckliy I have some of the best friends ever who made the whole trip worth it.
art show in a church, a bunch of people I have never seen before

I went under the pretense of selling things at the New Orleans Anarchist Bookfair, which I did, with my suitcase strapped to my borrowed bike (thanks, John) in a light rain.  I chose a table next to a friend from Maple Leaf Books who took turns with me buying each other coffee and beer (thanks, Matt).

I got to talk with a friends who have been living in the Bywater, who want out, who are frustrated and conflicted and want all the best for New Orleans and are pretty sure that the best for New Orleans doesn't come from San Fransisco or New York. I heard a little insight from urban planners (thanks, Jason) and mostly was on vacation, if by vacation you mean not working on projects (sorry, Scott), sitting with friends while they work (yay Bear!)  and taking a lot of time to listen.

carrying my wares on a borrowed bike
 So, last week in review:  the sky was amazing.  The bookfair was not the bookfair of years before, which is happening a few weeks later and it will be interesting to see if the two combine, split, work together or if one engulfs the other. There are people who will be there next month who I wished I could see (hi Sara).  A week of contradictory forces.  I went to a fancy photography show in a church near my first New Orleans apartment,    The church has a plaque outside denoting the dates it was built, burned, rebuilt.  I always liked that little monument to the struggle.  The church was still only partially rebuilt or perhaps partially falling apart.  The photos were staged but looked exactly like the deep south at night, humming with eerie light.  I was a little drunk.  It was surreal and made me sad and angry and so so happy all at the same time.  I had coffee with many friends despite swearing off coffee. I rode and rode and here are some photos.


PS.  I won't be at the East Bay Anarchist Bookfair after all.  No room.  But I will be at a table in the east bay near you soon.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Am Having Fun! I Am Doing It Right!

print by Cecilia Hedin

A few weeks ago, a friend emailed me forwarding a request to reprint a postcard-sized print.  I love printing postcards and I love helping someone make something silly and special they love.

drawing on film by Cecilia Hedin

Cecilia Hedin is a designer with drawing skills. She drew the image of the Chickenoseros directly onto film, which I then made into a plastic plate.  To draw onto film, you have to use something sharo to scrape away the emulsion.  And there is no erasing.  It is similar to etching but using a plastic film and then photosenstive material instead of metal, wax and acid.

preparing to print...that is tea not whiskey
printing on the Universal 1

With the plate made and the paper having arrived from the east coast, I set up the press.  I printed both her image and the text (in fluorescent red!) but you will have to wait until I deliver them to her tomorrow to see the final print.  Hopefully it looks close to her orginal.
this is the mess I make (registering the second color

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Tour and Working Together

While this tour is happening farther east,leaving the house a little quiet,  there is plenty going on this coast. 
Astropress and Gutwrench Press are friends, and tabling near you. We will be hauling our prints, postcards, handbound journals, datebooks and a tiny spiky plant around the Bay and beyond.
After our superfun SF Zine Fest weekend two weeks ago, we needed a little time to rest and make more stuff for the following dates:
September 29th SFCB Roadworks, 16th and Rhode Island, San Francisco, 11 am- 4 pm.  Even if you don;t care about seeing us, come see a giant steamroller make prints, including a new linocut from Dutchdoor Press's Anna Braning.
October 19, 20th New Orleans Anarchist Bookfair Zeitgeist, New Orleans.  Come say hi while I am in town for a few days, with just our prints to keep me company as Astropress will have to remain on the west coast.
October 26th East Bay Anarchist Bookfair Oakland.  I'll be home in time for this. Don't sleep through it! Come by!

Also, I have finally posted more postcards on my etsy site, including this collaboration wtih my friend and hero of awesomeness, Jeremy Sedita of Sea Monster Workshop.  He is a fantastic illustrator and worker of magic, so when I saw this illustration, I wanted to print it.  He wanted me to print it too! Now you can buy these collaborative postcards and encourage us to make more together.

Thank you friends, and we will see you soon.

PS, if you followed the link to the Thou Tour Video, know that you have been impressed by Mitch Well's filmmaking.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Living the Dream

on the bay bridge bike path--a spot to sit and contemplate the water treatement plant

A year ago we arrived in Oakland, tired, excited, willing to bike 7 miles for vegan treats.  All that is still true.  Six part-time jobs later, I may be working a little less, for a little more money with more time for mornings like this: riding across the new Bay Bridge Bike Path to nowhere.  I met up with Eric and Cecilia two days ago to ride with 1,000 other cyclists on opening day.  It was Cecilia's second trip because she was so excited, she couldn't wait for the group ride.  It was so lovely, I went back this morning, without breakfast, just water and a camera.  The ride is 8 miles total, a long walk but  a perfect slow uphill, slow downhill trip past the dismantled end of the old Bay bridge, up and up, almost to Yerba Buena Island.  Yes, it ends without making it to the Island, and it may take 2 years before you can get there. For now you can ride up, near traffic, between the old and new. The path starts in Emeryville or West Oakland and you have to ride through shipping yards and service roads.  They made the path acessable and palnted some flowers to make it pretty but the industrial roots can't be ignored.  It is a great contrast.  I'd be a fool to complain.  I ride my bike up a bridge into a beautiful Bay, eat delicious food, make some prints, visit a friend. Hey Oakland, thanks for having me for the past year.  Here's to the next.
the end of the old bridge
up and up
it looks like I took this while riding a pelican

Monday, September 2, 2013

SF Zine Fest!

About ten years ago, I was hobbling towards the greyhound bus terminal in Gainesville, FL lugging everything I thought I might need for a year (read: acoustic guitar and chess set and not enough clean socks).  My patient and recent acquaintance told me about a guy who bragged he could pack everything he needed in a bag weighing 2 pounds.  Maybe  it was 11 pounds.  My new friend told me that what he aspired to as he strode easily down the street as I lumbered behind him with a large pack, a bag of food and no dignity.   Fittingly, he is now traveling the world by bicycle and my I hauling boxes of sellable wares on a very wobbly dolly through the streets of San Francisco to the SF Zine Fest.

pre-show planning

Highlights: sharing a table with the ever-inspiring Beck Levy of Astropress.  Recently relocated from DC to Oakland, she brings the hating, the witchcraft and the audible voice.  Also, she is relentless in the print shop and knows to bring chocolate covered espresso beans.

treats! includind a parking ticket!

Also, I finally met Jennie Hinchcliff of Red Letter Day, the SF Correspodence Co-op and a hundred good things.  And she helped organize the zine fair, so though she tabled next to us, we didn't get to talk too much. It was good to fianlly meet her and her mail art love energy.  We also made friends with Brian Herrick, who traded with us for copies of his comic, Ebb and Flood,  and checked out Tiny Splendor (always a lovely treat).   I also treated myself to a tiny comic drawm by Lindsay Watson called Spirits.  Her drawings are so sweet and delicate monsters.  Check her stuff out!

After two days and two amazing meals in the city, we hauled the badly packed boxes back to the car, drove acroos the Golden Gate Bridge .  It is the long way around becuase of the Bay Bridge being closed, but at least we saw this sunset.

not the end

That's not even the end of the story! Astropress and Gutwrench Press are co-conspirators, not just tabling events around the Bay, but workign together under the name Manic Impression Collective.  More about that later, but come visit us at SFCB Roadworks Sept 29th (where they make relief prints with a steamroller!), at the East Bay Anarchist BookFair October 26th, and I will be repensenting us both October 19th and 20th at the New Orleans Anarchist Book Fair. See you there!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'm ON vaCAtion!

Point Reyes in the morning

 Actually, I'm not on vacation at all, but I have been super busy: new jobs, six weeks of awesome houseguests and weekend excusions.  Plus all the postcard printing to send mail to you!  It seems important lately, with the crazy schedule of switching jobs and juggling 2 or three at a time, to take one day off every week to see what California has to offer in the summer.  Mostly: beautiful cloudy coastlines and warm rivers.

Once again, Andy G. consented to birthday on the beach! Though the beaches are too cold for swimming, we had a beautiful hike around Point Reyes. Even the most touristy spots are beautiful and not too crowded.  We saw deer and smart-mouthed 12 year olds.

California State Bird! 

the lighthouse at Point Reyes

 A friend visiting from Norway gave us a good excuse to drive to the Avenue of the Giants, a stretch of road just off highway 101 that goes through and near many redwood groves.  It took us all day to get there but it was worth it to walk around these trees in fading light.  ANd we had detoured through Russian River to have lunch and a little swim.  We got back to Berkeley in time for "dinner" at Saturn and were home by midnight, but barely.   Now it is back to work.  Until next weekend, maybe!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Longest Days

Phew!  June has been packed with an art show at our place, apertivo every Friday and out-of-town guest-adventures.  We forgot to take photos of the art show but I still have one of my prints to share.
seven postcards based on printmaking and prince 
The Prince/Prints art show was June 7th.  We raised over $150 dollars for the Beagle Freedom Project, Ben gave letterpress demos and Andy and Brooks served drinks.  A few people went home with prints and I napped with a rescued beagle on my couch.

practice practice. and measuring.
I also took a class at the SF Center for The Book in handlettering.  Unfortunately, I was ill for a few classes but I have been using my new pen nib trying out a little handlettering.  I am far from doing well but it is fun.   I practice once or twice a week, which is not nearly enough, but I experimented a little with some new postcard backs and next month's Keep Writing postcard.

a peek at next month's Keep Writing postcard

I am excited to try out printing next month's card on Crane's Lettra, the wonderfully ubiquitous paper made for letterpress printing.  I use it at work for almost everything we do but this is the first time I will use it for my own project.  We'll try it out next week.

While it is still never really hot here, I am sometimes warm enough and the garden seems very happy.  We harvested our first round of potatoes the other day and have eaten them all.  Here they are, washed and drying.  No complaints here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ride the "Lightning"


When I was young, I loved Little House on the Prairie books.  I still love to read the same thing over and over. Unfortunately I lacked the understanding or guidance to question everyone's attitudes towards Native Americans or Pa dancing in blackface.  But I also remember a much less controversial scene.  Laura convinces her parents to let her get her own name card printed.  It was fashionable to do so, and you could trade with your friends.  How I would like to bring back that trend! (That and buckwheat pancakes are the only things I may want to bring back from those books).  Since Andy Gibbs is such a great guy, and he helped me brainstorm for another business card, I printed these for him.  Silver on black calling cards.  The quotation marks were at his insistence (and Ben broke the tie vote) but I am happy to have printed them.  I have a business card for gutwrench press but I like these personal cards, totally tradeable, and, in this case, with no contact information.  Purely for style.

these are the best ideas we had
Andy's card came out of this list.  For Christmas, I offered to print my dad new business cards as he has recently relocated to Tennessee.  He sent me this letter of instruction and one night, we got to work.  My dad is a "motorcycle safety instructor" which sounds so square we thought we would help him out a little.  But my dad, though he is supportive in many ways, does not share my brilliant sense of humor and probably did not want "ride the lightning" or "turbulence manager" on his business card. My dad also sent his old card, and noted he "did not like the skull much".  Beck asked if my dad was a juggalo. Since he is not, I redesigned his card in a much cleaner, simpler, to-the-point card in classic gold on brown.  If you see something on the list you want printed, I will do it for cheap.  Because who doesn't want a pig saying "legit" in the corner of their business cards? My lawyer friends I am talking to you.


Friday, May 17, 2013


I will skip the parts about how I have been busy and sick (again!) and move right onto what else.

ephemra hoarder turns book binder

First, I used my first Patchwork show as an excuse to try out a bunch of things I have been thinking about for years.  Years!  Though the show ended up being a little slow and the projects are still in-progress, I was happy to have tangible attempts.  For example, I made blank books using train tickets and scraps I carried home from Europe last year but the bindings still need a little work.

datebook detail

I also made a few more datebooks after  letting the covers sit around for a few weeks.  I know, it is way past the first of the year, but these datebooks only have the days of the week listed. Use it now, for 5 weeks, forget about it for a while, pick it up again.  It is the datebook of my dreams, except mine is filled with lists and lists and, once in a while, nothing, when I ride my bike around the city instead,

stacking rings and necklace by april marie hale of tiny  magpie studios

A friend I met at Penland a few years ago offered a trade for a postcard subscription and I was happy to.  Years ago, she traded me a ring for a print.  The ring had a secret message for me on the inside "I love bacon grease," a tribute to our 2 weeks of dish washing together to pay for our classes.  She has an etsy shop--tiny magpie studios, where you can see her recycled jewelry collection.

all vegan, of course, and ready to eat

Every week is busy and every Friday is a rush to work on prints, call my parents, send out the mail and then prepare apertivo for out friends.  It is totally worth it.  By 5:45, everything is ready, our table is covered with food, Andy makes me a drink and I water the garden.  I may create so many things for myself to do but this one is relaxing.  We open the garage door of our room and get to talk with friends and meet our neighbors.
How can I complain?

PS Etsy sale at my shop www.gutwrench.etsy.com new stuff and 15% off selected items now through Monday May 20.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring Indeed!

Spring IS for making plans but let's take a little break, even with a billion things to do, and take a walk outside.  This week we rode to the Oakland Rose Garden and tomorrow we will maybe go to the beach.  And once a day or so, I walk around the garden to see what's happening.
Here is my report.

the choir

one of only three that sprouted the first round
I love watching beans sprout

california poppies in a sea of overgrowth

Friday, April 26, 2013

All You Need is Magic

Andy captured the magic
 All I need is magic.  And maybe antibiotics, sleep and coffee.  Last weekend, Andy and I celebrated a day off by taking a little walk in the woods.  Around here, that means, amazing redwoods twenty minutes from your house.  Sure we maybe took an unexpected turn and I was already feeling a little under the weather and a five hour hike was beautiful and so much fun but I woke up Sunday with the nastiest sick in my face. I have been sick a lot, sniffly allergies that make me tired but I have run out of tv series I want to watch.  So, it is movies and bookbinding, naps and trying to get enough sleep while realizing I maybe agreed to do too much this month.  But, like an accidently-five-hour hike, it is totally worth it.

Finally in the mail today went cards I printed for Janna.  I have started to offer custom printing specials through my mailing list .  I like the creative challenge and it is fun to offer letterpress cards to someone who might otherwise afford them.  Last month I offered these bright cards and envelopes and my penpal Janna took me up on it right away.  I will post a picture of all three color combinations though I used the same ink on all the cards.

 Perhaps not incidentally, I dreamt the other night about wearing a sweatshirt that was 2 tone blue, not unlike the card above.  It was fun to work with Janna. There is no special this month as I get ready for the Patchwork Handmade Show in Oakland May 12 but there will be more specials soon.  Send me an email at gutwrenchpress@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list!

choose any 3 tiny blank books for ten dollars

 I also added a bunch of new things on etsy, including these tiny blank books.   Handbound, containing 12 pages of quality drawing or writing paper and covered with a colorful photograph from my travels.  Many episodes of Twin Peaks were watched while making these.

thanks jeff for the photo!

 I was listening to a designer complain about blind deboss (no ink) printing with type.  Just as I had printed this.  I didn't justify my choice because I know it makes it like a whisper or a secret.  Also, this is one of my favorite things I have printed in a while.  Handset type from the San Fransisco Center for the book, on Lettra Duplex paper (scrap from a Heidelburg job gone horribly wrong), printed on my best friend, the C&P.  Oh, and coppery edge painting done foolishly by hand. What is this fanciness for?

During our travels, Andy and I have been talking about bringing the Italian idea of apertivo to wherever we moved.  Fancy drinks, light snacks, all before dinner.  Though I never made it to dinner after I went out for apertivo.  Now we have a great backyard and a bunch of friends and aquaintances with whom it is hard to make plans.  So we are inviting them to our backyard every Friday night all summer.  I've already started making liquors for it.  If you're in the Bay Area, stop by!  Starting next week.  If you stop by this week there will be Twin Peaks and bookbinding.  Life is pretty good.  If only my sinuses would agree.

bay leaves in vodka, an experiment for apertivo