Yay! Desert Wisdom Cards — Now Available

The Desert Wisdom Card sets are now available. Printed in a limited edition of 26, and numbered and signed by me, the Wisdom Cards are featured in my Etsy shop. See the shop for more photos and full details.

Desert Wisdom Cards

I created my first Desert Wisdom Card in March of this year. It was the PLAY card and featured happy, pottery jackrabbits playing an assortment of 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 on my blog. I added a quote, some musings on the benefits of play, and a few suggestions for adding play to one’s day.

In the next months I created a total of 24 cards, and I featured many of them on my blog from March through June. Then I worked on a template so that I could create a limited edition set of the Wisdom Cards. I wrote about the final piece of the puzzle falling into place when I shared about my letterpress discovery.

Once I printed the cards, I constructed a four flap portfolio to hold the set and tied the folio with a leather tie. There is also an attached milagro, or tiny miracle, charm. (These Mexican folk art charms feature natural symbols of the desert region.) The portfolio comes in a simple muslin bag for added protection.

Desert Wisdom Card - Delight

There are many ways to use the desert wisdom cards. A few suggestions include:

  • choose a daily card as a focus card during meditation
  • choose a card as a journal or art prompt
  • enrich your daily spiritual practice through contemplation of nature
  • inspire and nurture your creative muse

These cards are not only a wonderful addition to a practice of self-discovery and contemplation, they are also a work of art – modified book arts.

Please check out my Etsy store for more information or to order the Desert Wisdom Cards. Or contact me at bo(at)bomackison(dot)com with questions or comments.

Type is Set — Desert Wisdom on the Vandercook Letterpress

Title Page on Letterpress

Title Page on Vandercook Cylinder Letterpress © 2013 Bo Mackison

let-ter-press  noun ˈle-tər-ˌpres  “Letterpress printing is a term for the relief printing of text and image using a press with a “type-high bed” printing press and movable type, in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper to obtain a positive right-reading image.” from wikipedia


Letterpress Bed © 2013 Bo Mackison

I finished printing the Desert Wisdom Cards on the letterpress last week. This week I set and printed the title page. Can you read the title page from the type that is set on the letterpress bed?


Desert Wisdom Colophon ©2013 Bo Mackison


Once the title page was printed, I set the colophon. What is a colophon? 

colophon  col-o-phon  noun ˈkä-lə-fən, -ˌfän  “A brief description of publication or production notes relevant to the edition, in modern books usually located at the verso of the title-leaf, but also sometimes located at the end of the book…often included a good deal of additional information on the book, including statements of limitation, data on paper, ink, type and binding, and other technical details.” (from wikipedia)

The word colophon is from the Latin word kolophōn which means “summit” or “finishing touch”. I included a colophon in the Desert Wisdom Cards, and after printing a mere seven lines of type and my wisdom card logo, I truly felt like a had reached the summit of an incredibly high goal.

I have finished all of the printing for the Desert Wisdom Card set — the title page, twenty-two cards and the colophon. Next in the process is trimming the pages and then the assembly of the cards.

The Desert Wisdom Card set is getting closer to completion!






Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, naturalist, curator, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is learning the wonders of the cylinder letterpress, and adding words to her vocabulary, as she prints the Desert Wisdom Cards.


Watching Ink Dry

Drying Time on Drawers of Type Cabinets

Drying Time ©2013 Bo Mackison

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
~ John Quincy Adams

Another look at the letterpress room at Whispering Woodlands. Isn’t this an amazing sanctuary?

The cabinets, a half-dozen metal cabinets, aged, battered with hard use, and yet fully functional, even beautiful. Each cabinet holds dozens of trays of type — mostly lead type, but there is a bit of vintage wood type, too.  Type for 6 point to 60 point. Each tray in precise order, so the same motion that fetches a Capital T from one tray would find a Capital T of a different font in the same space in any other tray. It’s the tiny organizational things spread throughout the entire process that I find so appealing.

And yes, in a letterpress room filled with a cylinder press, and a wall full of cabinets and other necessities, the most convenient drying spaces for the just printed papers are on pulled out trays. The rubber based inks are slow drying, and dry by actual absorption into the paper instead of drying upon it. A full day process. They are lovely inks to work with – smooth, slightly opaque, and forgiving of a beginner’s practices.


Instructive Papers © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.” ~ Pico Iyer

Truly, I do feel rather as if I am creating in a sanctuary – private, quiet. Just me and the letterpress, just the power from my arms and my body to turn the crank and “walk” the paper through the press. Then the process in reverse — walk back and crank in the opposite direction.

On this run, I did the words “SANCTUARY” and “LETTING GO” together, more because of the length of the words than the meanings. But I like the idea of working in my little printing room, repeating the same practice for each sheet of paper, while letting go of outside distractions, old conversations, difficult encounters, stinging words embedded in the subconsciousness. WOW! What a healing experience — running a letterpress.

Interesting that there is personal healing in the process, as I create this first edition of the Desert Wisdom Cards — cards which I hope will inspire self-discovery and inner healing in the people who work with them.


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, and also experiencing personal healing in the process, as she prints the Desert Wisdom Cards.

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!

Reclaiming Innocence

In my last post I introduced and shared the origins of my book, the first November’s Child edition, a book I created with the Moleskine + MILK book editor.

In this post, I share the second edition of the book. I hand crafted this book after taking several book structure workshops. The original book has 18 photographs. Because of my book-making inexperience, I decreased the number of photographs in the second book to seven, including the cover photo. (I was working on a tight deadline in order to enter the book in the PaperWorks exhibit at the Tucson Festival of Books. I plan to create the book again and in the next edition I will include all of the photos.)

The first three pages of November’s Child tell the story in words. In this post, I present the words in their entirety. The remainder of the book is only photographs. They tell the rest of the story.

Novembers Child - Cover

November’s Child – Cover ©2013 Bo Mackison

I held tightly to my secrets for decades.

Then, when I was in my early thirties, I had a spirit breakdown. Most people refer to this kind of experience as a mental breakdown. But really, it was not my mind that could no longer function while carrying the burden of my secrets. It was my spirit.

I had a broken spirit.

After that initial break, I spent two decades of my middle-life, my prime-time years, in and out of doctors’ and therapists’ offices, in-patient psychiatric units, survivor’s groups, dialectical behavior training sessions, and art therapy groups. Occasionally, my spirit would become critically ill, and I would retreat inside myself for self-healing. These dissociative disappearances were met with great resistance by my treatment team, but they were a last-resort survival technique.

And survive I did, as best I could.

Eventually, I immersed myself in many kinds of art as part of my therapy, including drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, pottery, and weaving. I wrote daily in journals and spent hours walking in the natural world. For years I worked with a creativity/life coach. I added naturopathy, body-mind work, qi-gong, exercise, and meditation to my routine. Gradually I regained better control of my life.

My mind, body, and spirit were patched together.

November's Child - Inside Cover

November’s Child – Inside Cover ©2013 Bo Mackison

Still, the lost innocence of childhood haunted me, walked with me and my shadow. I carried evidence of my scars – post traumatic stress syndrome, diminished self-esteem, poor coping skills, non-existent boundaries, extreme introversion, and a highly sensitive personality.

It was then that I re-discovered photography, a hobby I’d enjoyed in my twenties. I began a daily practice of making a photograph and posting it to my blog. The photo-blog led to requests for fine art prints and offers for publication in printed media.

Eventually I shared my photography in person, doing juried art fairs and festivals in the Midwest and Southwest. Some of my photographs were accepted in group exhibits in art centers, galleries, and museums. I found meaningful work, meaningful connections, and meaning-making through my photography and my art.

In October 2012, I attended a week-long photography conference in Chicago. I participated in a workshop on artist books presented by photographer Lauren Henkin. I was mesmerized. I loved the idea of creating handmade books. Upon my return to my winter home in Tucson I joined PaperWorks, a paper and book artists’ collective, so I could explore the craft of bookmaking.

I returned to my family home in Wisconsin for the Thanksgiving holiday and visited my favorite botanical gardens to photograph the autumn flowers. While walking the less frequented paths, I wandered onto an adjacent property.

Novembers Child - Page

November’s Child – Page ©2013 Bo Mackison

I discovered an abandoned warehouse and walked around its perimeter. Everywhere I looked I saw features that spoke to me. There were symbols and metaphors — graffiti, piles of debris, garbage dumpsters, a crumbling brick building — that triggered memories of my past and my ongoing efforts to continue the healing process.

The next day I visited an antique store in search of carefully selected props representing childhood and the next weekend I returned to the warehouse. I placed the props — a child’s red chair, a green tricycle, a yellow dress — in the warehouse landscape and photographed dozens of vignettes.

Later when I began to process the photos, the immensity of what I had re-created struck me and I cried while studying the images. These tears released buried feelings and solidified my recognition and understanding of the innocence of children. They were tears of blessings.

I share these photographs as a testimony that, yes, the human spirit can be broken. But that spirit can also be mended and made whole.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She believes in the power of healing using the creative arts.