With This Printing Press, I Thee Wed

Elspeth Pope's "wedding ring"
Elspeth Pope’s “wedding ring”

To say Dr. Elspeth Pope was a lover of letterpress would be an understatement. She was a book artist, a maker of printed cards, and a printer of broadsides, and used letterpress freely in all of these media. She named all of her dogs and cats after typefaces. When her future husband proposed to her, he gave her the option of an engagement ring, or a printing press. Ever the enthusiastic printmaker, Elspeth chose the press.

After meeting Dr. Melissa Hardie, who had founded an artistic residency in Great Britain, Elspeth created an American chapter. Elspeth’s Hypatia-in-the-Woods, located in Shelton, WA was a residency for women in the arts, that recognized women’s need to separate their artistic selves from the special and intense demands of their home lives, and gave them a space to focus on their work.

I think of her as the Florence Griswold of the West. Like Florence Griswold’s house in Old Lyme, CT, Elspeth’s residency attracted some famous names. One is Nikki McClure, who generously donated a lithographic plate from her residency to use in a recent event sponsored by Artist Trust. I was lucky enough to pull a print from Nikki’s plate on Elspeth’s “wedding ring” press.

Pulling prints is always exciting -that surprise of never quite knowing what you’re going to get – but it was extra exciting to be a part of this community, to feel on a tangible level the sensation of women, makers, and doers paying it forward for others. Even just for one night.

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