Photo: Mitch Allen
It’s difficult to imagine the petite Whitney Shaw working over her 900 lb. 1901 Golding Pearl press, but the unique artwork produced under her brand name Easy Keeper with that iron workhorse is quite tangible. From coasters and cards to notebooks and decorative pillows, this new Craft Lake City artist gives your everyday accessories classy details with a subtle sense of humor.
Graduating from the University of Utah in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, Shaw became interested in letterpress through the Book Arts Program offered at the U. “I was really lucky that I went to a school that supported [letterpress] and made sure it was part of the design background. I love working with my hands and so much of what we do is on the computer now—you kind of lack participating in the printing. When I send stuff to press, I feel like it’s out of my control. With letterpress it’s something that you can do yourself and be a part of the process,” she says.
Along with the use of a vintage press, Shaw’s designs also set her apart as she finds pleasure and inspiration in the unusually ordinary. Her letterpress prints contain dogs, cats and donkeys, and her handmade pillows depict possums, baby tapirs and even pigeons—all with surprising grace and elegance. “I had this idea for a while to do these decorative pillows. When I started to look around and do research, there are so many owls and peacocks and pretty birds … I’d been wanting to do a pigeon for a while, too, because I think they’re really pretty and most people think they’re rats with wings. So I went with that and other animals that don’t get their due,” she says. “It’s what makes it so fun, they’re so specific.”
Shaw also makes her own printing plates, the process is described as much like exposing a negative, but she also likes to look for copper plates at antique shops for some of her prints, making those products thoroughly vintage in a production sense. Shaw’s work has been featured at the Farmer’s Market, Sundance Harvest Market, Jewish Arts Festival and gallery shows at Kayo, the Women’s Art Center and the U of U Gittens Gallery.
Working alongside her partner and significant other, Ryan Perkins, a local screenprint, woodwork artist and the designer of this month’s cover. Shaw’s Craft Lake City booth will be a memorable one to visit. “Our booth is really fun, we spent a lot of time setting it up and we have hand-painted walls. Product-wise, I think both of us have a really good sense of humor and that really shows a lot. Letterpress tends to be kind of formal and serious, and I like to break away from that,” she says.
Check out Shaw’s work at threewholebuffalo.net and easykeeperpress.com, and don’t miss the Easy Keeper & Big Fun booth at Craft Lake City on Saturday, August 14 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Gallivan Center. Oh, and in case you don’t figure it out when you come by, her favorite animal is the wolf.