Hefty, Heavy, Historic

The print process at Bison Bookbinding and Letterpress
captures the essence of the bison. They are both historic,
and ecological. The machinery used is heavy and large,
just like a buffalo. Both were brought to the edge of
extinction but have had a revival.

Ever since she was a child, Carly James dreamed of
becoming an artist. She discovered book arts during college and
has been hooked ever since. James co-owns Bison Bookbinding
and Letterpress with her husband, Kevin Nelson.

The two opened the business in Bellingham in 2004 and
relocated to a print studio downtown in October. The new
studio allows them to connect with the community, as well as
print, store, and sell their products in one space.

On the third Wednesday of each month, James and Nelson
open up their workspace for the Write More Letters Club. It
is a semi-guided session to explore, preserve, and make new
friends through written correspondence. The idea is to inspire
the community to devote time to hand-written letters.

“There’s a pendulum swinging back between everything
being totally virtual to something physical, tangible, and with
cards and correspondence it’s like a record that you save of
your life,” Nelson said. “People don’t print out emails and
save them and read them in 20 years but people will pull
an old card out of a box and reread it, so it’s got a lot more
lasting value to it.”

Whether it is a blank book, greeting card, or stationery,
everything in the store has a connection to writing. James
works with a small group of local artists to create styles and
designs for Bison’s products. “All of [the styles] are produced
in a way to highlight something special about the letterpress
process, and on top of that it’s highlighting the amazing art
that’s coming out of Bellingham,” James said.

Original work is created with media such as pen and ink,
painting, or watercolor then a printing plate is made for the
letterpress machine. “Virtually all of our products are run
through the letterpress, so it’s keeping the process alive,”
Nelson said.

“The bison is a historic American animal that almost went
extinct and that has had a resurgence. And it’s kind of the
same with letterpress,” James said. “It was the way of printing
but as it became obsolete it nearly died off and artists are the
ones who have brought it back to life.”


"“It was the way of printing but as it became obsolete it nearly died off and artists are the ones who have brought it back to life.”"