Posts tagged Studio
Interview: Henrietta's Eye

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.


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.


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 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

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!
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

Constellation Collections: Miniatures

Slowly but surely over the last year, we've been collecting miniatures. It wasn't our intention to collect miniatures, but every time we see one, we kind of can't resist.

This old Pepsi crate is the perfect curio cabinet for our army of smalls! And now that there's a designated place in the studio for them, there's an excuse to pick up more when we see them! I don't know what it is... they just make me giggle!


A tiny mailbox, an itty bitty oil can... a duo of bitsy typewriters...


A shrimpy rubber chicken, a 'lil boot, impossibly small dice, diminutive bottles, a teeny dog...


A pint-sized ball of twine, a minuscule bible...


They're all just two darn cute.

Studio Before & After

As I was organizing files this week (a long overdue task), I stumbled upon the photos we took of our studio at 110 Cherry before we moved in.

I love a good before and after, and it doesn't get much worse than the mustard walls, black ceilings, and blue accents of this "before."

Constellation Collections: Typewriters

Having a studio separate from our home has given us an excuse to collect all kinds of random things. In this new blog segment, I will show you photos of these collections, and tell you where they came from. Deal?

Shortly after we got married (when we were unemployed and broke), I was at Space Oddity (one of our favorite Seattle vintage shops) and fell in love with this low-profile typing beauty. And (because we were newlyweds and I was totally clueless) I splurged and brought her home. When Brad saw her, he was definitely confused. We were seriously broke, and I bought a typewriter. Good thing he loves me!


This sweetheart was a gift from a friend of ours. He brought her to our old studio when he helped us move our press the first time. Come to think of it, we should have given him a gift, not the other way around! That was a long night for everyone. Andy, we owe you one. She's a beauty, and weighs almost as much as the press! (Give or take a few hundred pounds.)


As much as I love typewriters, they take up a ton of space. So, when someone finds one (and inevitably tells me about it), I always say: "I'd love another, but I don't have the room." This Christmas (after hearing this several times) my mom, dad, and sister gave me this tiny typewriter. Their thinking? "There's room!" Good thing, because this little lady is a gem. Bonus? She sharpens pencils.

A Funny Story & Unexpected Gift

Last week, we were given a type cabinet.

Now, I've been looking for a type cabinet to purchase for some time - and they don't come up particularly often. When they do, they tend to be one of two things: 1) in terrible shape - filthy, broken, missing parts, etc. or 2) ungodly expensive. Until last week, we'd pretty much resigned ourselves to a shop without a type cabinet and a workflow of setting type in an unorthodox and inconvenient manner.


But last week, a gentleman who had attended our 57 Biscayne grand opening gave Jane (our lovely landlady) a call. He'd been driving that day and spotted a lady wheeling a type cabinet out to the curb. He remembered us, and called Jane. The lady had this type cabinet in her home (it had been there for several owners, apparently), and was concerned about being around an object that had once contained lead. She was convinced that being in the same room with the type cabinet made her feel ill. Her solution? Wheel it out to the curb. I'd love to see the garbage men try to throw that hunk of steel in the back of their truck. (NO WAIT, I wouldn't love to see that!)

Sidebar: Lead isn't good for you. I concede that fact. But unless she was licking the interior of the case or using it to store food, there's no chance it could have affected her. However, I'm okay with it, because now this lovely type cabinet lives with us and holds type again! But seriously, don't eat lead. Because it will make you go crazy/kill you.


This wonderful gentleman loaded up the type cabinet into his truck and delivered it to us. We all lugged it up the stairs (darn you stairs!), and later rearranged the studio to give it a place. Since then, I've been enjoying organizing our type in the traditional California Job Case system, and i've been inspired to start setting type again. It just blows my mind that the "letterpress fates" had this great gift for us. It was a really tough week (feeling very overwhelmed, getting behind, and spilling things on my desk), and I really appreciated this unexpected gift.


Jenny came in last week (her last day!) to take these photos of another new configuration of our space. Jenny and her husband Mike headed out on Saturday to live in Portugal for a few months. It's a bittersweet goodbye for sure. Jenny has been such a huge help to us, and will be sorely missed! I am so thankful to call her my friend. Jenny will be writing and sharing photos of her time in Portugal on her personal blog. You should definitely check it out. And also take a look at an adorable photo shoot Jenny & Mike did with Karen K. Wang Photography. They are too cute. Good luck friends, and come back soon!

Constellation & Beth

In an exciting turn of events, my parents and sister moved from Florida to Washington State a little over a month ago. They've been coming to help out in the studio about once a week since they arrived, and it's been so much fun to share our space and our life with them.

This past week, my sister spent the night with Brad and I, and came in to work with me the next day. Jenny was in the studio taking product photos that day as well, and captured some pretty wonderful "Beth moments."

We brainstormed and made lists of new card ideas...

We brainstormed and made lists of new card ideas...

She explored our collection of printer's blocks (many of which she's helped find and purchase - she's a great picker!)...

She explored our collection of printer's blocks (many of which she's helped find and purchase - she's a great picker!)...

Picked out her favorite Pantone colors...

Picked out her favorite Pantone colors...

Learned about the basics of printing (by locking up and producing cards that she'd help think up)...

Learned about the basics of printing (by locking up and producing cards that she'd help think up)...


All the while, distributing high fives and having a print shop dance party!

We've never had a more fun day here in the shop. I think it's really awesome having an 11 year old sister. Everyone else should be jealous!

New Furniture, New Config

We recently picked up a (very heavy) new piece of studio furniture on Craigslist. We'd been looking for an additional storage solution (flat files, type cases, etc.), but our budget wasn't lining up with what was available. But then (ta da!) this beautiful galley rack came up, and we snatched it up and brought it to its new home.

We took the new addition as an opportunity to re-think the work flow in our studio, and reconfigure the way everything fit together. I'm glad we did, because the new configuration is a big improvement! I trip on things less, and have more space to lay out in-progress work.


We also took the opportunity to organize, categorize and catalog of our collection of type and printer's blocks. We've taken a proof of each item, and will soon have a full catalog of vintage imagery to share with our clients!


The lovely and talented Jenny took these photos of the galley rack/studio config today, and captured some studio still life's as well.


I love seeing the way other people look at the studio. Some of the still life's to be found here are intentional (I like to organize things until they are the most pleasing to my eye), but many of them are the product of the work. Jenny always does a great job at finding the unintentional kind. For example: tools left in the place I last used them...


New-to-us items left out until we find a place to put them or a use for them...


There's something really comforting about all the repetition in the shop. Furniture, reglet, galleys... they are organized and in line. Tried and true. Always in their place. Well...most of the time.

Grand Opening!

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).


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.


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.


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:


...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.

Let There Be Shelves!

We've been hard at work these past few weeks, doing projects to make our new studio home. And we've finally got some photos for you!

This is the wall between the office and the print shop in our new space. We decided to take advantage of the divided wall space, and build these two shelving units. We really wanted something that would be a "statement piece," and fit in with all the cast iron and wood that come with the territory of a print shop. We'd previously searched for pre-made shelves or storage solutions, but nothing seemed to fit.


We found a tutorial for a similar shelving piece, and loved the vintage/industrial feel. And so, we launched an epic DIY weekend (that became a week), and forged through blood, sweat, and tears to build these lovelies. We're by no means experts when it comes to carpentry type projects - and this was a big stretch for us. But we're really happy with how they came out.


The initial intention for the shelves was "all storage all the time," but we've been having fun with them instead - lovingly arranging and displaying our favorite things. Their purpose may morph over time (as we have more things to store), but that's the great thing about shelves - they can be whatever you need.


We built our shelving units based on a tutorial by The Brick House. Ours are quite different in size and configuration, so they took some improvisation along the way. The biggest difference is in how the boards are attached. The tutorial suggested drilling holes in the boards for the pipes to go through. The boards that were available to us weren't quite deep enough for that to take place. Instead, we flipped the "spigot" part of the pipes downward, placed the boards on top, and used pipe straps to connect the pipes to the underside of the boards. (You can see this in the photo above.)


All supplies  for the project were purchased from our local Home Depot store (which we visited approx. 100,000 times during this project). Wood: Pine boards stained with Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut (For more info about the staining process, check out Jenny's blog post.) Pipes: Galvanized plumbing pipes spray painted flat black

Photos by our wonderful Fall intern, Jenny Linquist. Visit her internship blog and her photography facebook for more photo magic.

Working Hard or Hardly Working

In many ways we've been working much much harder than usual (late nights, long days, lots of manual labor): hence, the working hard. But in the midst of that, we haven't been doing the work we typically do: hence, the hardly working.

Soon the new studio will be in order and we'll be back to printing - but for now, here's an update on what we've been doing in the meantime.

We picked up two new-to-us desks for the studio. The first desk, for me, is a lovely warm desk with lots of drawers and just enough of a decorative feel. The second desk (for Brad/interns/friends/freelancers, etc.) is a Singer sewing table that's been turned into a desk. It's got cast iron legs, 3 drawers, and a whole lot of character. We found both desks Antique Liquidators in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. Antique Liquidators has 3 floors of amazing antique furniture - and their prices are insane. We found two desks we LOVE for about the same prices as we've been seeing on Craigslist, at estate sales, etc. And they're in pristine condition. I really love this store. They even deliver. It's definitely worth a trip.


We've also been working on several DIY projects this week to get the studio ready to roll.

One of our biggest needs in the new studio (and any studio, really) is storage. We've searched and searched, and most of the available options (in our price range) are unattractive or just not appropriate for a print shop. We need something sturdy, unfussy, and something that goes well with the feeling of our equipment and work. Brad stumbled upon this blog post & tutorial by The Brick House, and fell in love with their DIY plumbing pipe shelf. It's industrial and structural, yet vintage-y and poetic. So, we've embarked on our own shelving project. All the materials have been purchased, the wood stained, and we're nearly ready to build it. More photos and info to come.

The black trim in our new studio (windows, baseboards, doors, etc.) is so lovely and classic - we noticed right away that several of our light colored pieces looked pale and dull next to it. A few cans of spray paint later, some of our least attractive furniture pieces (estate sale finds, etc.) are now bold and black and lovely as well.

For more on what we've got planned and what's the come for our new studio, check out our Studio Inspiration board on Pinterest.

New Studio Inspiration

With all the 619 hullabaloo, we've been excited to put it behind us and start planning for the new studio.

We've found the space (details coming soon, I promise!), and we'll be moving sometime before October 1st (as soon as the new space is ready). We've got a plan brewing for the new studio that takes into account the style of the building, the additional space (Yes, it's going to be bigger!), and our aesthetic desires. We love our current studio and had so much fun designing the space, painting, decorating, etc. - but we're even more excited to take what we learned on that "project" and improve upon it. Here's some of the photos we've been gathering on Pinterest for inspiration.

[DIY Built-in Shelving from The Brick House, Metal Truss Work Table from West Elm, Architect's Boom Sconce from Restoration Hardware]

Henry Ford’s Design Studio for the Model T  - This is such a gorgeous space!

Henry Ford’s Design Studio for the Model T - This is such a gorgeous space!

Mechanic's Beacon Light from  Anthropologie , Bookshelf Made From Antique Apple Crates found on  Pinterest

Mechanic's Beacon Light from Anthropologie, Bookshelf Made From Antique Apple Crates found on Pinterest