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 Alarcõn, 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 Schänste 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.
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.