Steamroller Printing with Magnetic North

This past weekend was the 2017 Portland Letterpress Printers Fair! Artists from all over Portland gathered at the Redd building in southeast Portland to share their craft, support the arts, and have a good time!

One of the main draws to the event is the steamroller printing. Studios entered to create these massive linocut stencils, which are then printed on 4×4 pieces of paper using a real steamroller! These prints are then raffled off with proceed benefitting the Portland Printmakers Alliance. (I bought 12 tickets.)

Massive linocut by the artists at Magnetic North! (Photo courtesy of Walker Cahall)

All week I’d been stopping by Magnetic North, sometimes with planned meetings to see Walker, sometimes completely unannounced. Great people. So when I saw Walker’s picture of the final massive linocut, I knew this was going to be something special. This was sparking my creativity, how should I say, “bigly?”

This is Portland. We make art, rain or shine. For a little while at the beginning of Magnetic North’s printing session, the rain came down, so the canopies went up. It might have even hailed. But it was short lived, and in a matter of no time, we were back up and printing.

A little rain wasn’t going to stop the steamrolling!

The first color the team decided to use for their print was green. (Great choice in my opinion.) Everybody chipped in with a roller, making sure the ink is nice and even.

Green was the first color used.

Chances are, the paint may have been a little thick on the first one, but look at how pretty it was!

Make sure you don’t miss a spot!

Once the linocut was properly inked, you move it over and place it on the plywood guide. The blue tape is for the linocut, the yellow tape is for the paper. You put a cloth over the top so the paper doesn’t get dirty or damaged.

Laid down on the plywood guide to ensure the steamroller delivers an even press!

Look at all the detail, too! I love the succulents theme. It works great with the green, too!

Looks centered to me!

Once everything was lined up, it was time to bring in the steamroller. Sadly, I was not allowed to drive the steamroller, or even get remotely close to the driver’s seat. It was an absolute blast to watch, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet way to make large prints.

The steamroller!

Once the paper is peeled up, you’ve got a beautiful finished product! Thanks boys!

Successful round of printing!

The prints get put off to the side to dry, to be raffled off later!

Setting the print to dry!

After we did a couple rounds of printing with the green, it was time to switch to black.

After a few rounds of green ink, the team switched to black.

If there’s any extra paint on the guide or on the tape around the linocut, it could get on the paper and smudge. We had to take a quick break to scrub off some excess ink with acetone.

Touch ups!

All clear!

In order to keep the paper from slipping, we applied tape to the paper. Smart move!

How about a time-lapse?


Look at that pressure!

The best part about the whole steamrolling process is peeling up the print at the end. You never know what could go wrong (or right) under the press, so the final reveal is always a blast to watch.

Peeling up the print is so cool!

Here’s that beautiful finished product!

Beautiful final print!

As of the publishing of this post, I did not win the raffle and have yet to acquire my own print from the awesome linocut! Nevertheless, I was incredibly inspired by the creativity I saw from all the vendors at the fair and from all the prints being made and sold.

So much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year!


P.S. I want a steamroller! #bucketlist

Book Review: The Witch Death by… me?

I recently found a little story book I made as a kid, and I just read it again… it’s fucking great! So I’m gonna tell you the story, then let you read it yourself.

img_7839As I mentioned a few days ago, during my personal fire ecology, I rediscovered this cartoon book I (apparently) wrote as a child. It is called The Witch Death, and I have absolutely no idea when it was written. The front cover features a sticker of a scarecrow, but profiles a green-faced witch, her arm and finger extended at an unseen victim, with her cape dangling down a kitten at her feet…

That kitten, my friends, is the main character our story. Her name… is Cotton.

According to my story, Cotton was going for a walk, when she found a house just up the hill from her own house. More educated people would recognize this would be a neighbor’s house, but you need to remember that Cotton is a kitten and I was only a child.

Quite naturally, Cotton did something that we all do at our neighbor’s houses, she opened the door and walked right inside. Suddenly, the lights went out! There was a voice!

“Go away!” the voice said. (Totally legitimate request in my opinion.)

Then the lights turned back on, and that’s when Cotton saw a witch, standing in the middle of the house! The witch pointed (see cover art) and said, “You must die!”

So Cotton ran for her life! But you’ll never guess what happened next…

There was a werewolf. Yep. A motherfucking werewolf.

Cotton didn’t know what to do. There was a werewolf ahead of her, a witch behind her. What other option do you have? So Cotton grabbed some dynomite [sic] and put it in the werewolf’s pants! It went “Boom!” and off Cotton ran.

BAM! Are you kidding me?! I did not see that coming! Not only did the dynamite come out of nowhere, but who knew that werewolves wore pants? This is outside-of-the-box thinking here, people! I would say “you can’t make this shit up,” but I guess I did.

Sorry for the digression. So, to recap here: Cotton’s running away from a witch that wants to kill her and a werewolf she just exploded by putting “dynomite” in it’s pants. Okay… turning the page…

The werewolf came back together (naturally) and that’s when Cotton found a Jeep nearby. That’s right, a Jeep. I didn’t know how to drive when I wrote this, which is probably why Cotton, the kitten, apparently didn’t know how to drive either. Both Cotton and I were equally capable of driving one day, we just needed to study and practice.

“This is my driver’s test.” Cotton said. To whom? Who cares.

So Cotton got into the Jeep and “pushed go,” but it went backwards! (That’s probably because Cotton, as a kitten, didn’t know that “Drive” means “Go.”) The Jeep, flying in reverse, got the werewolf (again)!

Cotton – 2, Werewolf – 0.

Turning the page…


Are you kidding me? I was a little M. Night Shyamalan in the second grade (or whenever I wrote this masterpiece)! Who ends a kitten/witch/werewolf story with the flare of the Sopranos finale? The drama is killing me!

Okay, first of all… The Witch Death? The witch didn’t actually die. Nobody died in fact, not even the werewolf with the dynamite in his pants! Cotton, the kitten, is telling us her story, but what happened after she hit the werewolf? If the werewolf could survive dynamite in it’s pants, I’m sure getting run over by a Jeep isn’t even a scratch. I guess I’m still impressed a kitten can drive a jeep, I had enough trouble as a 16 year-old human! All in all, I would say this story is slightly entertaining, but utter garbage.

It’s really interesting to see that I have been creating weird, dramatic stories for a really long time. It’s also really fun that I found this, to remind me about the times when storytelling was just storytelling. It’s not all about likes, retweets, and unique visitors. There’s something fun and pure about storytelling for the sake of storytelling. That’s the thing I’ve always loved most.

Here’s the complete story, as it was written…

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This was so much fun. Do you have anything like this? Take this opportunity to go dig up treasure from your childhood. It’ll make you feel great.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.







Go Camping in the Rain

There’s nothing quite like camping the rain…

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It was raining before we even left Portland. We’d been planning this camping trip for a while now, having been postponed a handful of times this summer. Time was running out to go camping. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us from getting our “nature time.”

We pulled into the campsite and immediately go to work setting up the tent and canopy. The ground was wet and there was a trickle of smoke from the remains of the last campers. We decided it was best to put the canopy over the fire pit to start drying it out for a fire later. I wandered off to collect wood for the fire. I had a feeling we were going to need a lot of them. The best way to find firewood at these kinds of camping sites is not to go into the woods, just go next door. I found a trash can full of nearly dry wood for the fire.

Once everything was set up, the weather lightened up to a slight drizzle, so we went for a walk in the direction of the pools. We didn’t know how far away they were exactly, but we knew we were walking in the general direction and they would be hard to miss. At one point, we veered off the path and headed down the water. We walked by a family campsite, where they yelled “ya’ll want some liquid sunshine?”

We walked over to the campsite, seeking refuge under their canopy.

“Do you know how far are we from Opal Creek?” We asked them.

“Probably 15 miles.” One of them responded. “You want a beer?”

Sure. Why not.

This was a beautiful moment. It took us wandering around in a forest in the rain to encounter to be reminded that we’re all in this together. Walking around in the rain sucks. It sucks a little less if you’ve got a slight buzz on. Seek shelter and share a moment with us. We talked about the weather, getting into camp late, what we studied in school, and when we’re heading home. Chances are, in any other place than that moment, I would have said nothing to these people. I’ve grown a little bit. Thanks, nature! We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes and good lucks.

We headed back to camp, jumped in the car, and found a closer trail head to the Opal Creek Pool on the other side of the river. We’d do it tomorrow. It was time to head home and build a fire. Building a fire in the rain, with wet wood and sticks, is a challenge. It’s absolutely doable, but it’s a feat worth putting yourself through. Enjoy the struggle, because the satisfaction of sitting around a warm campfire when it’s raining is a beautiful thing. You created the fire that’s giving off warmth. You’ve contributed. You succeeded. Be proud and char that weenie.

The rain didn’t give up all night, beating ceaselessly against our tent as we cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Who knows how much sleep we actually got. But when we peaked our heads out of the tent in the morning, the rain had stopped. Again, I got to making the fire and again, it was a struggle. Finally, it caught and we agreed to burn all the wood I collected. Pure satisfaction. And sure enough, the rain picked up again, but we didn’t care. After lunch we packed up the campsite and drove to the trail head. Even in the rain, the hike to the Opal Creek Pool is beautiful. It’s just over 3 miles to the pools, with a walk through the Jawbone Flats creek near the end. It’s a great hike. Beautiful.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes. Short hikes. Extended day trips. Sunny hikes and rainy hikes. Growing up in Southern California during a drought, I always had an odd perspective on rain. I know the Earth needed it, but when it finally did rain, we stayed indoors out of it’s reach. Is that a negative connection? Maybe. But hiking in the rain makes you more cognizant of the little things. You’re thankful for shelter. You’re thankful for the reliability of your car. You’re thankful for the food you eat. Even the air tastes and feels better when you breathe it in. This is a slice of an inglorious life in the middle of mother nature, far away from the comforts of your everyday life. Camping inspires you to grow through appreciation.

It’s only when things are not ideal, when you’re camping in the rain, do you realize how truly fortunate you are to just “be.” Get outside. Go into nature. Go get wet.



Photo Set: Surviving Elk Mountain

Our friend Jamie came to visit us in Portland over Labor Day weekend, so we hit up all her favorite spots in Portland. Powell’s Books. Sizzle Pie. Por Que No. It was our first playing the “host” in the city we just moved to.

On Labor Day, we decided to travel over to Tillamook, to go hiking in the Tillamook National Forest and stop by the Cheese Factory. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know Tillamook was an actual place, let alone an entire county in Oregon. Furthermore, I was always under the impression that Tillamook was boutique cheese company… boy was I wrong.

Our was supposed to be a short, fun one. Elk Mountain Trail. A loop of only a few miles, something to build up our appetite before heading over the factory to fill up on Colby Jack. As we hiked up the mountain, it was gorgeous, but we kept going higher and higher. Once we felt we got “to the top,” there were a few signs to send us back down to camp. What happened from there turned into a full blown assault on our bodies, and one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever gone on (everybody else seems to share the same opinion). There were sections of cliff drop offs, overgrown trees, narrow precipices to tiptoe across, sections of full blown climbing and equal sections of “bottom scooting” down the steep declines. We thought we were headed home, when we came upon the summit of Elk Mountain. It was truly majestic.

My knees hurt on the way down the mountain, but the views were absolutely breathtaking. These pictures, although there are many and beautiful at that, will never do justice to the expansive mountain views we saw around many of the corners and when we finally reached the summit. We wrote our names in the book along with the many travelers that had made it to the same spot, most likely intentionally.

I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a long hike on a beautiful day followed by an evening of sore muscles, painful joints, and fond memories.

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