Celebration of printed arts will bring steamrollers to Tacoma

Staff writerApril 25, 2014 

A freshly made steamroller print is revealed at last year’s Wayzgoose, a letterpress and book arts extravaganza held at King’s Books in Tacoma.


If you see steamrollers while driving down St. Helens Avenue on Sunday, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a sign of the annual Wayzgoose, King’s Books’ annual celebration of printed arts.

“It’s a great chance to see what people are doing,” said sweet pea Flaherty, owner of King’s Books and co-organizer of Wayzgoose. “It gives people exposure to the different arts.”

This year’s Wayzgoose will have 30 tables set up inside the bookstore with displays by a variety of local artists, including book artists, paper makers and calligraphers, each with a hands-on activity. Out in the parking lot, artists will be steamrolling their prints.

“Wayzgoose” is an old-fashioned word for a festival where printers would come together and celebrate the summer harvest with prints and festivities, said co-organizer Jessica Spring, who is a resident artist at Pacific Lutheran University.

To make a print, the artist must first carve an image onto a large linoleum block, in reverse. They paint or ink the block, then press it onto a piece of paper to transfer the image over, like a stamp. Sometimes they employ the use of a press — or, in the case of Wayzgoose, a steamroller — to aid in the transferring process.

Craig Cornwall, resident assistant professor of art and design at PLU, said last year members of the Comic League of Absurd Washingtonians made a print. They forgot to carve their text backwards, so the final product said “WALC.”

Printmaking is an art form that goes back to the 1500s where prints were used to make playing cards and pictures of saints. It is an extremely time-consuming process. Spring estimated it takes about 50 hours to complete one print.

Because of how labor-intensive it is, printers sometimes form communities, whereas many other types of artists work alone. “Why in the world would you go to all that trouble to carve that great big thing?” said Cornwall.

Spring recalled one instance where one of her printing students was studying in London and sustained an injury. While she was in the hospital, she discovered her caretaker was also a print maker. The two immediately had a connection.

“That’s the kind of community that you have,” Spring said. “If you run into a fellow print maker in another country, you’re instantly best friends.”

“Other mediums aren’t like that,” added Cornwall.

Despite how much work it is, Cornwall described printmaking as “addicting.” “The marks that you get — you can’t do that any other way,” he said.

In addition to local print makers, this year’s Wayzgoose will feature more than 20 artists from Stadium High School, PLU, Charles Wright Academy and the University of Puget Sound.

Spring said participants made about 50 prints at last year’s Wayzgoose.

The Tacoma Wayzgoose started 10 years ago as a small press event, Spring said. The event has gotten bigger each year, and seven years ago they became the first Wayzgoose in the area to start steamrolling prints.

The first year had six tables and 100 people, who were entirely press printers. “Now it’s open to illustrators, engravers, book artists and calligraphers,” Flaherty said.

“A lot of these people are not innate print makers, but they take their drawing skills and transfer them to linoleum,” Cornwall said.

Flaherty estimated 900 people came to last year’s Wayzgoose, and he expects an even bigger crowd this year.

The Tacoma Arts Commission sponsors Wayzgoose each year, and it is free and open to the public. Registration is not necessary.


What: Letterpress and book arts extravaganza

Where: King’s Bookstore, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

More information: kingsbookstore.com/event/wayzgoose

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