Posts tagged 57 Biscayne
Interview: Henrietta's Eye
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Henrietta's Eye is the wet plate collodion tintype photography of Seattle-based couple Libby Bulloff and Stephen Robinson.

Libby and Stephen are also our next-door studio neighbors at 57 Biscayne! We recently had our tintype photographs taken, and it was amazing. If only cameras could talk... but this Q&A with Libby & Stephen is the next best thing!

Q: How did you get into tintype photography?
Libby first saw wet plate photography demonstrated a couple of years ago by local ambrotypist Dan Carrillo, and immediately fell in love with the visceral nature of capturing an image in chemicals on a piece of metal or glass.

Ever since being captivated by the work of Mathew Brady, Alfred Stieglitz and Walker Evans, Stephen has been fascinated with old photographic processes and the craftsmanship involved. He loves both the surreal nature and the stark honesty conveyed by large format photography.

Last year, in one of those seemingly small events that ends up deeply life-affecting, our friend Magpie Killjoy, a traveling photographer, designer, and writer, came to Seattle and taught both of us how to make tintypes using his antique camera in exchange for studio time. We were both so immediately taken with the process, and more so with the results, we threw ourselves headlong into learning more. We then spent the next two months tracking down and repairing our 1908 Seneca Black Beauty 4x5 camera, named Henrietta, building a portable darkroom in a foot locker, researching techniques and materials, and taking lots and lots of photos. We constantly experiment and try to perfect a complicated process we full-well know cannot be perfected. We especially love using old gear, from the camera to lenses, to lighting.

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Q: What is attractive to you about the method?
We are both attracted by the hand-crafted nature of this process. From start to finish, your hands touch everything. It is very intimate. Each photo is unique. Even if you shoot the same model on the same day, with same lighting and the same exposure time, each plate is different. They’re like tiny chemical paintings in this respect, each with their own beauty, nuances and imperfections. While on the surface it may seem frustrating to not be able to duplicate a photograph, we find it exhilarating and inspiring. Another aspect of creating tintypes we find attractive is that no computers or electronic devices (aside from the lights) are involved. There’s an element of magic and alchemy to the process and the resulting photograph that cannot be duplicated by modern digital photography. We create heirlooms and lasting, honest-to-goodness artifacts. Tintypes from the Civil War era are still around (and valued by collectors) so we know they will last at least 150 years. Ultimately, for us, creating tintypes is art. There’s both an art to the process, and the process allows us to create beautiful art.

Q: In your words, how does the process work?
The basic method of making a tintype can be distilled down to a couple of key steps. We use a process that is very authentic to the one popularized in the mid-1800s. First, we take a piece of enameled aluminum and coat it in chemicals that allow it to become light sensitive. Then, we carefully load it into the camera and expose it, creating a negative image directly on the metal plate. After that, we develop and stop it under a safe light in our portable dark room, and then fix it in a tray, often right before our subject’s eyes. It’s very similar to watching a Polaroid develop. We finally seal the tintype with a traditional sanderac and lavender varnish that not only protects the photo from the elements, it also smells great.

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Sitting for a tintype portrait can be quite a dramatic and unique experience. Our subjects tend to have stoic expressions on their faces, like the Victorians, because the exposure time on the portrait runs 20-45 seconds, and it is difficult to try to hold anything except a neutral expression for that long.

Q: How can folks get ahold of you to schedule a portrait session?
The best way to get ahold of us is via email at henriettas.eye@gmail.com. We’re happy to answer questions, take on special projects, and set up private photoshoots for folks who’d like to get a portrait taken. You can see some of our images at http://www.seattletintype.com.

Q: What do you like best about having a studio at 57 Biscayne?
We love being so centrally located to the heart of the Seattle historical district. It really lends itself well to the oldee-timeyness of our creative process to be surrounded by bricks and mortar that are over a hundred years old. It’s also wonderful to see other passionate artists working on their respective projects when we come in to do a shoot.

Q: What's your favorite place to eat in Seattle (and why)?
Gastropod. It is an unassuming place in SODO with a tiny kitchen, run by two unpretentious blokes who marry unconventional flavors in their cuisine and handmade beer. It’s Northwest food in the best sense. We love to spend evenings there, after we’ve worked hard in the studio, chatting with the chef and brewer about food, music, and politics, and gorging ourselves on succulent Hama Hama oysters.

Q: What's your favorite place to shop in Seattle (and why)?
We don’t have a favorite place, per se, but we love digging through antique malls, junk shops, and finding the odd treasure on Craigslist. We collect taxidermy, old medical and dental paraphernalia, Victoriana, vintage shoes, and old things built to last.

To see Henrietta in action, come see her in December!
57 BISCAYNE HOLIDAY SALE
Where? 57 Biscayne, 110 Cherry St., 2nd Floor, Seattle
When? Thursday, December 5th from 6:00 – 9:00 pm AND Saturday, December 7th from 12:00 – 5:00 pm

We're in the Seattle Times!
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We were so excited to zip down to our local bookstore and pick up Sunday's paper - because look, it's us!

(Well, it's our logo, Josephine the printing machine, and Sara...sweeping.) The Seattle Times has been in touch with us and our studio mates since before the big move, and it's great to see the story finally come out. If you missed the ink and newsprint version, you can read the article online here. There are also several more photos and an audio clip here.

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We weren't sure exactly what the article would be about, but were pleasantly surprised by the content when we finally got to read it. A few quotes and thoughts:

"Despite or maybe because of its shabby condition, the 619 offered affordable work space for artists both starving and successful in the bustling center of town, cheap parking and a loading dock for art projects."

619 was exactly what we needed when starting our business. For us (and for so many artists), 619 was the only option we could afford starting out. Sure, it scared our friends and family (which everyone admitted after we moved), but it was our little slice of Seattle. It was a foothold that allowed us to grow our business. We scrubbed and painted and decorated and made it ours. It was special.

It was a lot of work and a leap of faith to find a new place, make moving arrangements, get things moved, settled, and reestablished. We lost months of client work in the shuffle, which could have been devastating without the help of the DOT. But we did have their help, and they have our gratitude.

"(Jane) Richlovsky used her (reestablishment) check to set up shop in a historic building nearby at First Avenue and Cherry Street. She renovated an entire floor's worth of commercial spaces in a project known as the '57 Biscayne artist studios. About a dozen of her former neighbors from 619 Western have since followed.

Have I told you lately that Jane is awesome? Our new space in '57 Biscayne is amazing, and she's the one to blame. It's really wonderful to see Jane's hard work and selfless service to our little community shown to city at large. Nothing about the '57 Biscayne project was easy - but Jane tackled each challenge with skill and poise. We are very thankful for her, and for the opportunity to be a part of the community at '57 Biscayne.

"In Seattle, artists have to be developers, landlords and mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, marrying a right-brain sense of creative possibility with a left-brain business savvy that's more common in an MBA."...It might seem nuts to think that an artist, the very definition of unconventional living, may want what bankers, engineers, teachers and corner grocers do, that they might measure their success with benchmarks embraced by the 9-to-5 cubicle crowd. But it's not such a stretch. Serious artists struggle to find a place to work, earn a living from what they do and manage their money like everybody else. In fact, they are small businesspeople, and many, like Richlovsky, believe it's crucial for artists to establish themselves in the same way that other professionals do."

This idea of small business in the arts was on our minds a lot when it came time to move. "Where do we fit?" was a question often asked. We didn't want a storefront, were too messy for an office building, and considered "too much of a business" for certain arts buildings. At '57 Biscayne, we fit right in. We're all "small business artists," making a living doing what we love. It's a great place to be.

Our craft is archaic and often inefficient, but we've chosen to build our business around letterpress. It's not just another job, but an art form that allows us to work closely with the people of our city at integral parts of their life. We're part of weddings, announcing new babies, and branding new businesses. We're in local shops, sharing the visual arts via ephemeral cards and gifts. We chose Seattle. We live here, work here, and aren't going anywhere. We've only been in Seattle for 3 years, but this city is our home. We'll raise our kids here. And our business couldn't exist anywhere else - it's so inspired and supported by Seattle, I wouldn't dare try to move it. (Plus, we physically weigh a lot in cast iron.)

Okay, okay. Time to wrap up. But first, some sappiness: it's really exciting to be in the paper in the city we love. Once upon a time I stared at a glossy poster of the Seattle skyline, hoping for a chance to live here. A picture in the paper may not be a big deal (but come on, i'm a Newsies girl...King of New York, anyone?), but today I just feel honored to be an artist and business owner here in this city. It's an honor, Seattle. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

(Oh, and just in case anyone had the impression that what we do is glamorous, that photo seals the deal. It's a dirty job. See Sara sweep! Sweep, Sara, sweep!)

Updates: New Stores! Upcoming Events! Etcetera!
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We have been busy bees over here at Constellation & Co. (Hence the blog silence. "Update blog" is on my Teux Deux every day, but it tends to get neglected for other tasks.) But here I am, and here are some highlights.

Visit our new stores! Our card & gift items are available for purchase in several new stores! It's been a great month since we launched our wholesale catalog, and we've enjoyed seeing orders coming in from lovely shops in fun cities.

[McNally Jackson Books, NYC]

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The Curiosity Shoppe, San Francisco

Our friends in Seattle have shopping options in new neighborhoods, and we're excited to make new friends in NYC, San Fran, LA, and Des Moines! (Hooray for friends!) We are honored to be a part of so many great shops. For our full list of options, check out our stores page.

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Attend an event! The Spring & Summer are shaping up to be busy and fun! We love Seattle (and have have some things planned for our local friends this summer - stay tuned), but we're also hitting the road!

Want to shop, chat us up, and get some high fives? Come out to one of the following events near you:

Tacoma! Wayzgoose!: Letterpress and Book Arts Extravaganza King’s Books opens it's doors to the local letterpress and book arts crazies for a day of creative activities, shopping, and steamroller printing! When? Sunday, April 22, 11 am – 4 pm

Portland! Crafty Wonderland: Super Colossal Spring Sale The Oregon Convention Center transforms to become home to over 200 handmade vendors! The event sports free admission, and welcomes all ages. This is our first Crafty Wonderland - we're super excited to be a vendor and we hope to see you there! When? Saturday, May 12th, 11 am – 6 pm

Seattle! Pioneer Square First Thursday Artwalk See us on our home turf! 57 Biscayne (our studio's fabulous home) throws open all it's studio doors to the public! Our studio will be open, presses running, cards & gifts for sale, and refreshments served! Come see where we do what we do, and ask us a hundred million questions! (We'll tell you everything we know.) When? Thursday, June 7th, 5-9 pm

Grand Opening!
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Today I'm excited to bring you photos and info about the Grand Opening we had a few weeks ago! Our amazing intern Jenny took all of the photos and wrote the following post. Enjoy!

Jenny the intern here. A few weeks ago the '57 Biscayne residents opened their doors to the public for the first time. It was quite the party, with lots of wine, cheese, friends, and Carmelita (our landlady and fellow studio-mate's dog).

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While guests were checking out the studio, Sara was multitasking like a boss, answering everyone's questions about Constellation & Co. and printing special keepsakes for them to take home. She had multiple presses running, printing two different colors on each chipboard keepsake.

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We were also selling some limited edition posters, which were reprints of our Northwest-themed posters on vintage maps of Washington. They're incredibly beautiful and we still have a few left if you're interested.

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Since I'm only in the studio once or twice a week, it's rare for me to run into the other '57 Biscayne artists. The Open House was a real treat for me to get to meet and talk to our studio neighbors. There are painters, jewelry makers, print makers, photographers, videographers, and book designers. If you're ever in the neighborhood, drop in and have yourself a little look-see. For now, more photos from the Open House:

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...and last but not least, Sara "perched atop her old favorite girl." (in reference to this photo, taken at the old studio.)

If you want to hear more from me (Jenny), you can check out the blog I've been updating throughout my internship here.

And if you missed the Grand Opening, don't despair! '57 Biscayne will be open to the public tonight (December 1st) and Sunday (December 4th) for a Holiday Open House! For more information, visit '57 Biscayne online.

Join us for a grand opening!
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We're moved in, getting settled, and soon we'll both open AND grand!

Join us in celebrating the grand opening of our new home in Pioneer Square! You don’t miss out on this special night of open studios, demonstrations (we'll be printing keepsakes to take home!), refreshments, and art for your viewing pleasure (and for sale!) Bring your friends!

Come see our new digs at: 110 Cherry Street, 2nd Floor, Seattle

On: November 12, 2012 From: Six to Ten p.m.

Visit '57 Biscayne online at: 57biscayne.com

We'll also be printing letterpress postcard invitations - if you'd like one to arrive in your mailbox, e-mail your address to: hello[at]constellationco.com.