As the proprietor of Springtide Press in Tacoma, Jessica Spring creates a variety work that is featured in collections around the country and world. Springtide Press was founded in 1999, and here, Jessica designs, prints, and binds artist books, broadsides, and ephemera. A great deal of Jessica’s work includes collaborations with other artists, including Tacoma artist Chandler O’Leary, previously featured in our Tacoma Artist Spotlight.
So what’s it like to be an artist in Tacoma? Read what Jessica Spring has to say:
Why have you decided to make Tacoma your home?
Jessica: I’d describe our decision to stay here as motivated by “lucky anchors,” a series of apparent chance meetings that are possible in a small and vibrant community. We came here from Chicago when my husband was offered a job 14 years ago. We figured we’d better go while my son was young enough, plus the company moved us *and* all my printing equipment. Not long after moving I met Tacoma’s Arts Administrator Amy McBride who immediately threw me into various collaborative arts projects. She’s an amazing emulsifier, constantly pulling together folks with big ideas. I also started teaching at Pacific Lutheran University, connected by meeting alum and artist Debbie Commodore, because our sons were in first grade together.
Around the same time I also met sweet pea, current owner of King’s Books
, and my partner in hosting the Tacoma Wayzgoose. It’s now a two-day book arts festival celebrating our 13th year this April. I also met another co-conspirator, Chandler O’Leary, and we’ve been making Dead Feminists
prints together for eight years. These are only a fraction of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and collaborate with—there is an incredible energy here where it’s possible to make good things happen.
Tacoma has been great to my family, too. My husband now works for the city managing employee’s retirement funds and my son went to college with support from some great teachers at Stadium High School.
Do you have a favorite place in Tacoma to create?
Jessica: Some of my biggest inspiration comes from treasures unearthed on antique row downtown. I have found objects that inspire my work, or become incorporated into it somehow. I’ve also been fortunate to gather some of Tacoma’s printing history in the form of vintage printer’s blocks and type which can be used with my presses.
The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation of Art Award recognizes the essential role art plays in our community and honors professional artists in the region. The winning artist receives an award to create a commissioned art piece representing their interpretation of the Pierce County community. Ingrained was commissioned for the 2011 Foundation of Art award, and compares the strength of community to a forest of trees. Original text was handset with ornaments, metal and wood type then letterpress printed on handmade Western red cedar and abaca paper. The prints were bound into a vintage cedar shake sales display found on Tacoma’s antique row.
My shop is in the garage behind my house, and it’s a fantastic place to work. We renovated about ten years ago—an overwhelming project at the time, but abosolutely worth it. I spent years in Chicago in sketchy workspaces, so to have a big, warm, (sometimes) sunny space I can reach in a few footsteps is amazing. I am also fortunate to have a crew of visiting printers that warm up the space too—some folks from Seattle, former students, and (now) old friends who help with projects or create their own work.
Our house itself, built in 1890, has been a provider of content as well. During renovations we discovered glass negatives from around that same time which show Tacoma at a crossroads, before the war but just beginning to be more than a rough and tumble frontier. I used the negatives to make an editioned artist book called Parts Unknown, a name used to describe the area above California in early maps. Other treasures we’ve found include prohibition era liquor bottles, an early color photo of the house which inspired us to repaint, and vintage valentines—something I already collected. It definitely feels like the house wanted us here!
A collaboration between Jessica Spring and photographers who lived in her home over a century ago, Parts Unknown explores the mystery of a box of glass negatives discovered in the artist’s attic. These photographs document a new leisure class in a city moving beyond its frontier origins.
What advice do you have for a new artist in Tacoma?
There are so many amazing things happening in the 14 years since we moved here, and the quality and diversity of work happening is very inspiring. I would tell anyone new in town to jump right in—meet some of the folks at local festivals, on the Arts Commission, Metro Parks, or Spaceworks. Take advantage of the events at library branches, local universities and museums including speakers, exhibitions and musical events. There is nearly always something happening for free, and Tacoma’s Arts Listserv
is a great resource, as well as the TNT.
People here are very open to collaboration and innovation. While we don’t have a lot of galleries, we do have unique spaces for showing work. Lisa Kinoshita has curated some fascinating shows in collaboration with Metro Parks, Dr. Jamie Brooks exhibits work in her dental office, and Spaceworks has provided artists with empty storefronts for installations. Director of the University of Puget Sound’s Library Jane Carlin brings national artists and book arts shows, for which I’m particularly grateful.
There are ongoing opportunities to be involved either as a maker or appreciator of public art that makes the most of Tacoma’s open spaces. My husband goes crazy hunting for Monkeyshines every February, finding handmade glass balls in celebration of the Chinese New Year—another example of the quirky and awesome flavor of the city’s art scene.
How does Tacoma inspire your artwork?
Jessica: I’m very taken with Tacoma’s history as a second-comer and also-ran. There are so many compelling stories here, and every one just makes me like the city more. We have local heroines like Thea Foss, who launched a company with a $5 rowboat, and writer Fay Fuller, who was the first woman to climb Mt. Rainier. I’m inspired by the city’s history (including the corny slogans), bad choices (sorry, Andy Warhol) and beauty. Coming from the midwest I can’t get enough of the waterfront, the mountain, and the opportunity to be outdoors for much of the year.
Where can we see your art in Tacoma?
I have work on display and in the collection at the University of Puget Sound, for sale at King’s Books, and through my website
. Chandler and I are very excited about the release of our book Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color
and we’ll be celebrating—in costume—at King’s Books on October 11
I will also be part of Tacoma’s studio tours October 15-16
which I haven’t done for several years. Most of the printing presses will be fired up for folks to print their own keepsakes. Please come visit!