Ever Rodriguez / La Feroz Press

September 22nd, 2020
Ever Rodriguez and Gabriela Valencia in the studio of La Feroz Press.
Ever Rodriguez and Gabriela Valencia in the studio of La Feroz Press.

Ever Rodriguez was born and raised in Mexico and has lived in California since the early 1990s. He writes prose and poetry on themes related to his experience, including immigration, biculturalism, music, language and nature. Ever is a pragmatic writer for whom the common becomes the special as a way to contrast the abject against the normal.  His education includes a B.A. in Spanish Literature and a M.A. in Library & Information Science from San José State University. He has worked for the Stanford University Libraries for the past 25 years. Ever’s letterpress studio, La Feroz Press, focuses on handmade editions with original texts and translations. His work often has the intention of amplifying the voices and concerns of his marginalized community.

Although we live a short bike ride apart, we conducted this interview via email while sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whirligig: What is the history of La Feroz Press?

Ever: La Feroz Press officially started with this name in January of 2019. We had been working under the name of Taller de Tinta y Texto since 2015, which was the time when our printing press project really took shape. It is wise to say here that when one has the intuition or the wish to do something, one has to follow up with at least one decisive action that would move further towards that direction to really get started. 

For me, the decisive action that put me on the printing track was taking a letterpress class. This allowed me not only to learn the basics of letterpress printing, but it also laid out the challenges I would need to overcome in terms of space and equipment, and it put me in touch with the printer and bookmaking culture and communities that would inspire me to fully embrace this activity.

Out of such initial inspiration I was able to create a space for myself at home where I could potentially house a printing press and other essential equipment. For years our one-car garage was filled with unused furniture, souvenirs and unwanted items, so one day I just decided to get rid of all of it and remodel the space to make room for a printing studio.  

Once I had the space, I started itching to find me a press. At first, I was looking for a hand press, but those are as rare as they are expensive, and I even started looking at the possibilities of making my own wooden hand press. I figured that if Gutenberg’s contemporaries were able to build those presses without the tools we have today, I should be able to build one press half as good. I found and bought a book entitled The Common Press, by Harris and Sisson, which has drawing plans and notes about the construction of the Franklin hand press, owned by the Smithsonian Institution. But I deviated from that adventure for a different alternative.

In January of 2015, I found a small press for sale online. The press was not ideal, and it was certainly nowhere near the Franklin hand press, but it was an inexpensive alternative that would get me started. So I bought it and the next day I drove to Los Angeles to pick up a midsize (14 x 24) Morgan Line-O-Scribe proofing press. This was the very first piece of equipment that I owned, and it came with a little bit of awful metal and wood type, but that satisfied the itching.

I experimented with that proofing press for about one year, and then Matt Kelsey—printer and owner of Camino Press, in Saratoga, California—told me about a Chandler & Price (C&P) 10×15 platen press that somebody was selling in Gilroy. I decided to buy that press, and a few printer friends helped me pick it up, bring it to my garage and install it. Mark Knudsen and Kim Hamilton made beautiful wooden feed boards and a treadle for it, and other printer friends gave me some tools and made me feel welcome to letterpress printing. 

The acquisition of this C&P press gave me added impetus to get more serious about letterpress. I acquired both new and used metal type and other essential tools and items through friends and referrals, and then I started to get more adventurous with printing and designing other things beyond postcards. All along, my wife—who I call Gaby—had been supportive about my new adventure, and I think that when she saw me purchasing that big, old C&P press and hauling it into our garage, she realized that my temporary craziness had turned into long-term seriousness. I think she was happy but surprised and concerned all at once. Once Gaby realized that these old devices and tools were here to stay, and she saw how excited I was about them, she got excited as well and started making lemonade with my lemons.

LFP_ZoombiesCard

A couple of years passed, and in 2017 our friends Linda Stinchfield and Kim Hamilton gave us a beautiful Griffin etching press, thus helping me to expand my horizons to allow for more and better relief printing, which now includes linocuts and occasional woodcuts. Finally in June of 2019, I was lucky to bid on and win a Vandercook SP15 press at a local auction and that is now part of La Feroz Press.

By then I had taken several letterpress printing classes and I even earned core letterpress diplomas from the San Francisco Center for the Book on both the platen and the cylinder press. So far that is the story of La Feroz Press, which is still in the making.

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Judith Selby Lang

November 16th, 2019

Judith Selby Lang

Judith Selby Lang’s website states that she “is an artist committed to the creation of positive symbols and life-affirming images to help energize the conversation about social, political and environmental issues.” This is a perfect description of the uplifting and transformative nature of her multi-dimensional art practice as well as a reflection of her demeanor and personality—creative, positive, life-affirming, energetic, and openly communicative about critical concerns that affect us all.

Lang’s work includes artist’s books, mixed media objects, and a wide range of projects using plastic debris collected from 1000 yards of one beach on the Northern California coast. Lang has an extensive exhibition history. She currently has a large scale beach plastic installation in The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (And possibly really Angry!) at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland; and will be showing in The Great Wave: Contemporary Art about the Ocean at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, California in early 2020. Her current project is creating a wedding dress made from recovered plastic bags for exhibition in Castaways: Art from the Material World at The Bateman Foundation in Victoria, British Columbia, which opens in Spring of 2020.

Lang has a BA from Pitzer College and an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University. She spent many years teaching art in a variety of North Bay (California) venues before turning her focus to the studio full time. With a barn full of beach plastic—washed, sorted and boxed—collected over the years, Lang has an immense body of work, both independent and collaborative, which reflects our times while engaging viewers from all walks of life in conversations regarding possibilities for improving our environment.

We visited on a bright fall afternoon in her rural Forest Knolls studio, just a short drive to Kehoe Beach.

Whirligig: How did you come to art?

Judith: Defining myself as an artist was a long time in coming. I thought I would never have the patience to be an artist. People have this preconception that art is a wild and spontaneous activity but don’t know that after the flash of inspiration sometimes a long and tedious effort is required to realize the vision.

I grew up in a family that was art friendly. My dad and mom both painted. We went regularly to the art museum. In 1962 my parents took me to the Dallas Museum of Art where I saw Andrew Wyeth’s painting That Gentleman.

The painting drew many to the museum—there were long lines with stanchions and velvet ropes to control the crowds. Was it because curious onlookers wanted a glimpse of a painting of a black man? Mind you it was a simple scene of a black man seated, in dusky light, in a moment of repose. It’s of Wyeth’s neighbor Tom Clark. To me it seemed a radical move for the museum to exhibit a painting of a black man especially at a time when segregation still existed in the South. I remember water fountains with signs for whites only, for blacks only. This was 1962, years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Perhaps it was the shock to the public that the museum had purchased the painting or maybe, it was, as I would like to think, that there was tremendous interest in seeing a masterwork by a great American artist. Either way there were people, lots of people waiting for their turn to view the painting.

The line moved slowly in a kind of reverential prayer and when it was my turn I stepped up in front of the painting to gaze with wonder not only at the power of the image but also the incredible finesse of the brush work. Something in my young heart was deeply moved. At that moment I made a commitment to art. I made my pledge to become an artist. That an image could have such an incredible impact on me and the people who had come to the museum was something that I too wanted to accomplish. On that day, at age twelve, I knew that I wanted to do something that would make a difference—to make art that would shine a light on injustice in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Felicia Rice

January 19th, 2018

Felicia Rice, well known for her fine press work and collaborative books, celebrated 40 years of Moving Parts Press in December with a solo show at Felix Kulpa Gallery in Santa Cruz, California. Rice has worked with notable Californian artists and writers including: Francisco Alarcón, Elba Rosaria Sánchez, Juan Felipe Herrera, Enrique Chagoya and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. As Moving Parts Press, Rice has received the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship, Elliston Book Award, Stiftung Buchkunst Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt Ehrendiplom, and grants from the NEA, CAC and the French Ministry of Culture. With Perseverance furthers: Moving Parts Press 1977-2017. Rice celebrates her history as printer, publisher, artist and collaborator. We visited the gallery to experience the work, talk about making books and working with other creatives.

Felicia Rice portrait

Whirligig: You started Moving Parts Press in 1977 as a printshop in downtown Santa Cruz. How did you come to letterpress?

Felicia: When I was a kid a friend’s mother had a letterpress in the family room. It was a little table top pilot press. I can remember standing in the room and seeing it, and maybe touching it.

My folks were artists and teachers: my mother was a sculptor and kid’s art teacher. I grew up in her art classes and was exposed to all types of fine arts. My parents were founding members of the Mendocino Art Center. My father was a mosaic artist in the Art and Architecture movement in San Francisco working with Lawrence Halprin. He did pool bottoms and walls. Later he made independent fine art animated films.

The critical point came after I had left home. I was living in Berkeley around the corner from David Lance Goines’ studio and letterpress shop. My mom accidentally sent me one of those San Francisco Chronicle Weekend Edition articles on “Letterpress Printers of the Bay Area.” Adrian Wilson, Jack Stauffacher–there were about five of them. She accidentally sent it to me instead of my older sister. So I’m reading this thing and looking in the window at what’s going on around the corner. I started thinking this might be something I could get into. It didn’t necessarily mean I had to stay with it. I was 18 or 19 and thought maybe I could learn more. I went to Laney College which had a print and graphics program. The instructor said, “If you want to be a printer you need to get into computers.”

It was a time when there was a lot of support for crafts. A lot of my peers who grew up in California were carpenters or in the trades, which were highly respected. And the newspapers listed a lot of jobs for printers; so I thought I could be a printer. I could get work. At Laney there was some old letterpress stuff, but there was mostly this idea that one would go on to computers. It was interesting. I had also taken a printmaking class in Oregon around this time. I thought I could go to school for this but if it was just a fluke I could change my mind and do something else. I started looking around for print programs. There wasn’t really anything going on in the Bay Area. I came down to Santa Cruz with a friend to visit the school, and a friend of my friend said there was a press in the basement of Cowell College dining hall. So we went down there and there was this beautiful letterpress studio with a Vandercook, type and floor to ceiling windows with a gorgeous view of the bay. That’s how I got started. Jack Stauffacher was teaching.

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Jan Rindfleisch

September 19th, 2017

Jan Rindfleisch

Jan Rindfleisch is an artist, educator, writer, curator and cultural worker. She was the executive director of the Euphrat Museum at De Anza College in Cupertino for 32 years. During that time Rindfleisch laid the groundwork for an engaged and inclusive museum environment by continuously tapping the diverse local voices of Silicon Valley. Rindfleisch continues her work as a community builder with Roots and Offshoots: Silicon Valley’s Arts Community, a history of the art of the greater South Bay area from the post-Mission era artifacts of our First Nation peoples to the artists and activists that have made the western/southern half of the Bay Area the rich and vibrant scene it is today.

Rindfleisch has a BA in Physics from Purdue University and an MFA from San José State University. Her awards include: Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence (2014); San José City Hall Exhibits Committee (2006–2013); The ABBY Awards (2010); Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards; Arts Leadership Award; Santa Clara County Woman of Achievement, (1989); Leadership Vision Award in the Arts, Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce (1993); Civic Service Award, City of Cupertino, Cultural Arts, and the Asian Heritage Council Arts Award (1988).

Whirligig: What was the impetus for you to write this book?

Roots and Offshoots cover image

Jan: I am one of those people that love to question boundaries. I started thinking: How did we get past the exclusion in the art world in the monochromatic 1970s, which didn’t reflect the breakthroughs of the 1960s, such as women’s rights and civil rights? How did we take that early cultural landscape, break new ground, and build new forms for the future? After decades as an arts museum director and a lifetime career as an artist, author, community advocate, and educator with an earlier background in the sciences, I decided to put some of the explorations and findings together.

My book and project Roots and Offshoots: Silicon Valley’s Arts Community begins with an essay entitled The Blossoming of Silicon Valley’s Arts Community and a profile of artist/activist Ruth Tunstall Grant. A Spiral Through Time follows threads between the ancestral Muwekma Ohlone, Juana Briones in the 1800s, Marjorie Eaton and her arts colony in the 1900s, and artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood today. Over a period of years of research and writing, the book grew to about twenty profiles and two additional guest essays; one by Maribel Alvarez about MACLA, Doing that Latino Art Thing, and the other by Raj Jayadev about Silicon Valley De-Bug, The Anatomy of an ‘Un- Organization.

There are people in Silicon Valley connected with incredible history, but their story isn’t being told. Their experiences tell a different story of who we are. Origins of organizations are often forgotten or rewritten, and the originators erased. How can one or a few names stand for an organization/period/idea and the rest be forgotten? How does this erasure affect our view of ourselves as creators and as being worthy of judging or promoting art, or taking a larger role in our community? I wanted to add some of these missing pieces that contribute to a richer story of Silicon Valley’s art scene. Frustration with systems can be a motivating force. Another big personal motivation was gratitude. This book is a way to thank so many people who paved the way and with whom I worked.

Whirligig: The Bay Area is deeply rich in terms of cultural diversity and creative output. How did you determine which groups to represent, likely knowing that you could not include them all? Who was left out? Will there be a second volume?

Jan: The book is not a survey of the South Bay Area scene. I wanted to tell the story of the trailblazers who truly made a difference in Silicon Valley, and to provide broader historical context for their experience. A major/shared motivator was to share with the reader how the artists/activists in this book enrich us personally. The artists/activists open us to the art of daily life, and to the artist within each of us. They get us to examine ourselves, to question our lives, and to think freely. They inspire us to dream and imagine and effectuate change—to build connections (not walls!) and enliven our communities.

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Michelle Wilson

May 25th, 2017

Michelle Wilson is a papermaker in an extremely complex sense. Her work with paper is both conceptual and concrete as it extends from the making of sheets for artist’s books and printmaking to social practice, sculpture and installation. As a somewhat recent transplant to the Bay Area, Wilson has quickly embedded herself and her work into the consciousness of the local art scene with a residency at the School of Visual Philosophy, a Small Plates commission from San Francisco Center for the Book, teaching at both San José State and Stanford, engagement with a handful of arts organizations, and many exhibitions.

This summer, Wilson’s collaboration with Anne Beck, The Rhinoceros Project, travels to the Salina Art Center (Salina, Kansas), Shotwell Paper Mill (San Francisco, California), the Healdsburg Center for the Arts (Healdsburg, California), and later this fall to the Janet Turner Print Museum in Chico, California. Her work is included in The Power of the Page: Artist Books as Agents for Change at the New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU in Los Gatos, California), and Pulp as Portal, Socially Engaged Hand Papermaking at the Salina Art Center in Salina, KS. Wilson has a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design, and an MFA from the University of the Arts, both in Philadelphia.

We got together on a lovely spring afternoon towards the end of the semester to talk about art and teaching.

Whirligig: I first became acquainted with your work in 2010 at an SGCI Conference in Philadelphia, occurring at the same time as Philagrafika, where I came upon a Book Bomb intervention in a public park. How did this collaboration with Mary Tasillo come about?

Michelle: Book Bombs began as a question I posed on Facebook. I was reading about yarn bombing, the tradition of knitting or crocheting something that is then bombed — left in a public space — a form of craft meets street art. I’m not a knitter or a crocheter; I’m a book artist, and so I posted a status update, “What would it mean to book bomb?” Mary took me seriously, and through our conversation, we discussed where people read in public space, who owns public space, and it led us to the idea of park benches. In Philly, every park bench has this center bar installed that is called the “arm rest,” but is designed to prevent a homeless person from sleeping comfortably on a bench. This seemed like an ideal place to install a book. Our project grew from this initial idea. And thus, Book Bombs was born.

Whirligig: What were you envisioning regarding the scope and effects of Book Bombs?

Michelle: We originally saw Book Bombs as just a project for Philagrafika 2010. However, we’ve had so much fun, we’ve continued. It’s been tricky to keep it up transcontinentally, but we manage. Most recently, we did a sort of intervention-workshop at the Center for Book Arts in New York called Keeping the Fire Alive. This was designed as a workshop for activists who were interested in using papermaking in their work, as well using it as a form of self-care against fatigue and for continued resistance. We’d originally proposed the workshop during the summer of 2016, before the election, thinking it would be a very different conversation.

Whirligig: How is papermaking used for self-care?

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