A Letterpress Day


Letter Press circa 1930s ©2013 Bo Mackison

On March 17th of this year, I made my first Desert Wisdom Card. It was on the theme “PLAY” and I included a photo of a bunch of pottery jackrabbits playing musical instruments. The photo made me smile every time I looked at it, and I wanted to share that happiness, so I posted the photo and my thoughts about play on my blog.

On March 20th I posted the second Desert Wisdom Card. The second one was on QUEST. A few days later I did a third. ATTENTION. And so every few days, for the next few months I wrote another card. I posted the last one, SIMPLICITY, on June 23rd. When the card set was complete, I’d created 22 cards.

During the summer, I experimented with many ways to create an art edition of the Desert Cards. I studied templates from indie games manufacturers. I created cards with photos and ink and rubber stamped titles. I did several renditions using photo processing software. None of the prototypes were quite right.


…I went to a book structures workshop at Whispering Woodlands in Verona, Wisconsin. Owner, book artist, and instructor Jackie Hefty showed us the many books she’s created and collected over the years. I was especially drawn to her many books printed on the letterpress. Later we toured her studio, and there, in a small room in the back, was her letterpress — ah, love at first sight!


Imagination – Perseverance ©2013 Bo Mackison

And so the final piece of the puzzle fell into perfect place. I imagined printing the first edition of the Desert Wisdom Cards on the letterpress, and so Jackie and I made the necessary arrangements.

In the last weeks, I’ve learned how to set type on a composing stick, tie type, position type on the letterpress bed, and clean and work a letterpress. Currently, I’m printing the first set of cards. One page at a time, and a truly Zen experience — the simple yet precise machinery, the repetition, the rhythm.

When I took a few photos to document the process, I photographed two lines of type which I had tied together. (When I set the words on the press, I separate the words so I can print one piece of paper with two cards each time I crank the press.) I realized I had bundled the words “imagination” and “perseverance” together.

How appropriate, I thought, as I considered the journey of the Desert Wisdom Cards — from a vision in my imagination to their physical creation, a path which required lots of perseverance along the way.


Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, naturalist, poet, curator, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is learning the wonders of the cylinder letterpress as she prints the Desert Wisdom Cards, two at a time!

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Very Coooool!!!

    I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  2. I get absolutely giddy reading your blog these days, Bo. You are on one incredible journey – there’s no stopping you!

  3. Letterpress is GORGEOUS!! So very exciting…:-)

  4. WOW! So darn cool! So look forward to the results.

  5. What a cool way to print your cards! Very special!

  6. I’ve been following this on FB, and am so excited for you! What a super cool way to print your cards. 🙂

  7. Love the imagination/perseverance image. So much.

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