Wayzgoose and Tacoma’s Printmaking Delirium

15 Jun

Freshly pressed: a Ric Matthies print. Photo: Aaron Locke

The Puget Sound region is frequently cited as one of the most reading-obsessed corners of the country (with moss-friendly weather and a high incidence of depression reputed to be factors). Luckily for local literati, there is King’s Books in the Stadium District, an indie gem of a bookstore and a clearinghouse for approximately 100,000 rare, out-of-print, secondhand and newly released books, according to proprietor sweet pea Flaherty.

King’s has everything we love in a neighborhood bookshop – a pithy and knowledgeable staff, the “old book smell” (take that, Kindle!), resident cats roaming the stacks – and enough volumes to keep one busy through a lifetime of soggy weather. On top of that, the 11-year old store supports artists through events such as the renegade craft fair, Tacoma is for Lovers, and highbrow hijinx such as the Banned Book Club. One of the city’s most popular art festivals, a printmaking and book arts showcase called Wayzgoose (after a medieval guild celebration) is an annual event (co-founded by award-winning local artist, Jessica Spring) held at King’s.

Flaherty takes the wheel at Wayzgoose. Photo: Aaron Locke

Spaceworks is celebrating seven years of Wayzgoose with an exhibition opening at the Woolworth Building, July 15. On view will be a gonzo selection of eye-popping, black-and-white prints produced by steamroller printing (you read that right) – a feat that is the coup de grâce of each year’s festival. The artworks, originally cut on 4′-long slabs of linoleum, are by some of Tacoma’s finest. And an artist riding a steamroller like a bucking bronco – we can’t think of an image that better encapsulates the gritty T-town spirit. We caught up with sweet pea Flaherty to talk about Wayzgooses (Wayzgeese?) past, present and future.

Spaceworks: Hi sweet pea, Wayzgoose turned seven this year! What has been your most memorable experience of the event thus far?
sweet pea Flaherty: The most amazing thing has been the [raised] public awareness of what letterpress printers and book artists do. When we started the Wayzgoose, only a select few knew what their craft entailed. We’ve played a role in giving these arts a wider exposure in Tacoma. The support of the public, the City, universities and art organizations….has been astounding.

Native son: a portrait of the late, local crooner, Bing Crosby, by Beautiful Angle.

SW:What is the most marked difference between Tacoma’s Wayzgoose and that of the medieval hamlets from whence it originated?

spF: Less mead, certainly. Which is a good thing, as we play with steamrollers! Also, the older festival was more insular, [intended] for printers and their families. While information and equipment swapping is definitely a part of our event, it’s more for the general public. We try to provide hands-on activities so people can get their hands dirty and make pretty.

SW: Approximately how many people showed up for this year’s event?
spF: According to our highly scientific methods, about 900 people came through this year….We had beautiful weather thanks to a pre-event sacrifice. The festival couldn’t have gone better.

Lance Kagey of Beautiful Angle inks up his plate. Photo: Aaron Locke

SW: Why is Wayzgoose important to T-town and the art community?
spF:
It’s the annual visual showcase for what printers and book artists do. While a lot of the individual artists participate in other public events, you get to see [a comprehensive representation] of work being done in Tacoma and the region. With Tacoma being a working class town, there is something about the tactility of printing, binding, etc., that seems to appeal to people. So many of the artists at Wayzgoose are doing innovative work and expanding the definition of what a book is, that it’s hard to not be inspired to new creative heights, whatever your chosen medium.

SW: Any thoughts as to expanding or changing the event? Was there anything different this year?
spF:
We’re always trying to expand the scope. We now have screen printers and comic artists that play with us. We always add new players each year. New this year was letterpress magnetic poetry (words letterpress printed and backed with magnetic strip). In partnership with Arts Leadership Lab, we also did a panel this year about the future of letterpress and book arts in Tacoma. It would definitely be great to have a range of events – talks, workshops, etc. – around Wayzgoose time. We’d like to work with organizations that are interested in doing that.

SW: Whose steamroller is it?
spF: The steamroller actually belongs to our store cat, Miko. He has a range of heavy equipment he uses for different activities, illicit or otherwise. That, or we rent it from the CAT Rental Store in Fife with funds from the Tacoma Arts Commission.

SW: sweet pea, how many Wayzgooses can dance on the head of a pin?
spF: In the start, despite our small size, we couldn’t fit the Wayzgoose on the head of a pin. This year, due to our precise organizational skills (and a little witchery) we were able to have the entire Wayzgoose dance on the head of a pin for seven seconds. It was a tight fit, though. So the answer is definitely one.

Wayzgoose, the Woolworth Building, July 15 – Oct. 31, 2011.

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