This is my 7th year participating in the Seattle Children’s broadside project which pairs poems written by pediatric patients with letterpress printers who create limited edition broadsides of each poem that are then bound in portfolios. This project is been able to celebrate 10 years of amazing creative and loving partnerships thanks to Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program and the School of Visual Concepts.
We have great leaders who spearhead this project. Jenny Wilkson who runs the SVC Letterpress Studio helped forge the initial partnerships and conducts the project each year. WIT poets Sierra Nelson and Anne Teplick work with in-patients and help them put their experiences to words. The portfolios that house the collection of broadsides are organized and led each year by either Bonnie Thompson Norman or Jules Remedios Faye. This year, Bonnie was to lead the binding efforts but because of COVID, ended up taking on the entire binding project herself and powered through some 100 portfolio cases. A truly heroic and incredibly generous feat!
It was an honor to print a poem written by 16 year old Darren Lagbao, titled ‘My Mom And I’ and a serendipitous opportunity for me to collaborate on a piece that celebrates gifts that we receive from our moms. I chose to print Darren’s poem back in March of 2020 when this project kicked-off. A few months later, my mom passed away and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue to work on this piece. More months passed and I finally returned to Darren’s poem, happy to discover that I found comfort and relatability in the ways in which he talks about spending time with his mom.
Ann Teplick worked with Darren and I love how she describes how his poem came about. She said that Darren didn’t know what to write about at first. At some point, his mom left his room and this is when he started to compose these lines about her. I love this idea of a teenage boy deciding to make his mom the subject matter of his poem.
His words are incredibly descriptive, capturing specific moments that he and his mom spent together. Each memory pays homage to her strength and attentiveness as a mom, whether she is making adobo with pork sauce and boiled eggs or reading him to sleep. From an illustration stand point, there is so much rich imagery throughout the poem; an entire series of images could be made to go along with each stanza.
My mom who is patient when she’s teaching us
How to take care of our five dogs.
My illustration in the broadside was inspired by the lines above. I think because this is one definite overlap between Darren’s family and mine; between my siblings and myself, we also maintain a pack of 5 dogs. I wasn’t sure what kind of dogs belong to Darren and his family, so included here is Wiley the Australian shepherd, Bebe the Japanese chin, Maisy the corgy, Piper, the French bulldog, and Juda, the poodle who sits closest to the mom. My mom adopted Juda this past year. He now happily lives with my sister and Bebe.
Each year that I’ve participated in this project, I like to set a technical challenge for myself and try something that’s new for me, like setting metal type or printing with a bleed. This year I wanted to try a technique that I learned from UK based printmaker Laura Boswell who specializes in linocut and traditional Japanese woodblock printing. Laura prints incredible multi-layer reduction cut landscapes, so her work is right up my alley. During the COVID lockdown, she shared multiple series of videos documenting her process on actual prints. Her videos are a treasure trove of resources and and they’re available on her Instagram page.
Using a fat inky brush and watered-down ink or acrylic paint, you can paint directly onto the lino-block and then carve away the linoleum that’s surrounding the brush strokes to create dynamic solid backgrounds. If you use a color like red, rather than black, it contrasts more with the color of the lino-block and makes small, fine details easier to see. If you don’t like the look of what you painted, wipe that portion away with a damp cloth and try it again until you get the stroke that works.
I combined this technique with a three layer reduction cut to create the image of a mom training her 5 dogs. I hand set the title, byline, poem and colophon in metal type for an additional two print runs of black.
Another first for me was to compose the drawing using my iPad and stylus. I started with a rough sketch, then filled out the detail and added color using Adobe Fresco.
Of course it wouldn’t be printing without errors. When I was trimming sheets, I realized that my grippers alignment wasn’t square and this caused my margins to vary in size. This was a left over setting from a previous job. With excess space on the margins, this problem wasn’t revealed until it came time to cutting. These types of mistakes are frustrating, but always make for good learning opportunities.
My Mom And I
by Darren Lagbao (age 16)
My mom who used to read me to sleep.
My mom who cooks adobo with pork sauce and boiled eggs.
My mom who supports me by listening to me when I’m down.
My mom who endures any trouble we give.
My mom who is patient when she’s teaching us How to take care of our five dogs.
My mom who bakes chocolate chip cookies for me and with me.
My mom who is serious when the moment’s needed Like when I hurt someone’s feelings.
My mom who is funny when the time is right Like when my dad got the car stuck in a ditch.
My mom who is hard working, the way she stacks wood for winter.
My mom who is smart. She offers us guidance.
My mom who is comforting, like when I’m sad, She puts her arm around me, and I lay in her lap.
This broadside celebrates the partnership of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools Program and Seattle Children’s Hospital, empowering pediatric patients with guidance from poets Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick. It was produced at the School of Visual Concepts in April 2020 and letterpress printed by Sarah Kulfan in a limited edition of 110.