Words as Art

A year ago (almost to the day), I updated my outline for my forthcoming essay collection and posted it on the wall across from my desk. I wrote essay titles on sticky notes and moved them around as the collection took shape. I changed titles. I tossed out some essays and added new ones. And regardless of my doubts about the project, I used more sticky notes to remind me to “write anyway.”

Sure, my tools were just butcher paper and magic marker, but to me, I was making art.

But now that my Writer in a Life Vest manuscript is off to the printer for Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), it’s time to do a little housekeeping in my writing nook. The flip chart masterpiece is rolled up and secured with an orange rubber band. In its place, I’ve added new words, new works of word art.

One new acquisition is this poster by Karla Lillestol.

During the annual Lopez Island Studio Tour, I visited Karla’s letterpress studio, Press to Play. Karla explained that, in the past, printers created posters like this to advertise their collections of large, wood type. It was customary to print words that were relevant to the events of the day. As a nonfiction writer, I couldn’t resist Karla’s interpretation of words that hold power and meaning in these times.

Lissa Snapp of Ship Supply has a fondness for letterpress, too, and she posted some terrific photos of her visit to Karla’s studio. I’m adding here a picture of a couple of Karla’s limited edition books that I’ve added to my library. Karla’s humor shines in these interpretations of tweeting. 

For the Studio Tour, Karla showed her letterpress work at the home of another Lopez artist, Betsy Currie. I picked up a piece of Betsy’s letterpress art that day, too; its reminder about right speech found a home next to Karla’s poster. 

I don’t know what words I’ll write as art in the future. I hope they’ll hold as much power and beauty as these that Karla and Betsy set, letter-by-letter, covered with inked, and transferred to paper I can read every day.  

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