[Final] Peek: Signs (a poetry broadside)

Final Peek: Signs Photo (c) 2012 Peach Farm Studio.


This is the final peek at “Signs”, a limited edition poetry broadside print by Peach Farm Studio.

Signs (2012)

The “Signs” poetry broadside print was designed, typeset by hand and letterpress printed in February 2012 in a limited edition of 4 numbered prints.

Final Peek: Signs Photo (c) 2012 Peach Farm Studio.

Inspiration for the Poem “Signs”

Inspiration for the poem “Signs” came from the Willard Suitcase photography project of Jon Crispin and the separate, yet intersecting genealogy research of Linda Stuhler toward the publication of her book “The Inmates of Willard – A Genealogy Resource“. The place where these two projects meet is at Willard State Hospital (formerly known as Willard Psychiatric Center and previous to that, as The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane), in Seneca County, New York.

. .

. . .
found in the attic
of an asylum
practical objects
readied for the trip
satin shoes,
letters - never mailed
life checked
upon arrival
then, taken away
. . . .
bodies buried
in an open field
-- no stones
buildings torn down
-- but for suitcases,
no trace
. . .

Final Peek: Signs Photo (c) 2012 Peach Farm Studio.

Designing the “Signs” Broadside

The subject of the poem takes place on two planes: in an attic and under the ground. Consequently the poem was simultaneously written and designed to be letterpress printed on two planes.

The title and the first three stanzas of “Signs” occur on one plane, the “life” layer, in plain sight on an imperfect, not-quite-white surface informed by the somewhat normal lives led by a number of Willard inmates prior to being institutionalized under what today, might be considered questionable circumstances.

The fourth stanza occurs on the same plane as the first three, however the fourth stanza is accompanied by a rift, as occurred in the lives of people at the time of being committed to Willard. At the point of the tear, the under laying surface is torn and a gap occurs, causing the fourth stanza to be disjointed from the prior three, as people, separated from their own lives.

Immediately following the fourth stanza, the “death” layer representing the eventual deaths at Willard of nearly 25,000 inmates — 5,776 of whom were buried in unmarked graves in the Willard Cemetary since 1870 – moves to the forefront, becoming the upper layer. The “death” layer virtually obscures the words in the fifth and sixth stanzas, as the nameless, the faceless were hidden. True to life and death, “suitcases” is the only word of the poem printed on the upper layer, as this is all that remains of these people today.

In addition to the work of Jon Crispin and Linda Stuhler, The Willard Suitcase Project and Museum Exhibit and The Williard Memorial Cemetery Project are giving visibility to the forgotten people who lived and died at Willard, and are helping to pull present day mental health issues out of the shadows and into the light.

Final Peek: Signs Photo (c) 2012 Peach Farm Studio.


“Signs” was completely set by hand using Janson 18 pt typeface.

Typesetting and Printing

“Signs” was printed on a Vandercook press. The process of printing “Signs” required a total of six passes through the press to complete.

  • First Pass – The first three stanzas of the poem were typeset and letterpress printed on the lower layer in the first pass.
  • Second Pass – Due to an insufficient number of Janson 18 pt lower case sorts of “e” and “d” available in the antique typeface case and the choice to use a hyphen from an unidentified typeface, of which only one sort was available, the fourth stanza of the poem was typeset and letterpress printed on the lower layer in the second pass.
  • Third Pass – Due to the same reasons stated in the description of the Second Pass, the fifth stanza of the poem was typeset and letterpress printed on the lower layer in the Third Pass.
  • Fourth Pass – Due to the same reasons stated in the description of the Second Pass, the 6th stanza of the poem, with the exception of the word “suitcases”, was letterpress printed on the lower layer in the Fourth Pass.
  • Fifth Pass – The word “suitcases” was letterpress printed on the upper layer in the Fifth Pass.
  • After the lower layer and the upper layer papers were adhered together, a base layer of paper was added. The attributions were added when all three layers where semi-blind letterpress printed together in the Sixth Pass.

The Ink

Soy based NAGraphics White and oil based Silver inks were mixed together for “Signs”.

The Paper

Three handmade art papers were used to create “Signs”. Two of the papers were printed upon and a third was used as a base. (NOTE: more information on the specific papers used will be included in a separate, upcoming Peach Farm Studio blog post.)


To read the original blog post containing the “Signs” poem (from November 2011), click here.

21 responses to “[Final] Peek: Signs (a poetry broadside)

  1. Pingback: Shake off the dust | sanslartigue·

  2. I found this site through Five Reflections. I love reading about why you created something in the way that you did. It reminds me of the old maxim: Content dictates form.

    • Hi poietes. So glad you’ve found us and thank you to Five Reflections. Ah, yes, content dictates form indeed. Absolutely! We appreciate knowing and learning how things come to be, how they happen and so we like to share our process with others in return. A world of learning, leads to a world of understanding, and then leads to a world of peace. Come back to visit our blog any time, the lights are always on!

  3. As president of KaDo Ottawa’s haiku group, I appreciate that the poems are also good haiku. Well done!

  4. I stumbled upon Jon’s blog entries about the suitcases just a week ago. They are stunning photos and descriptions. I’ve been working on the replacement for the Oregon State Hospital for the last 4 years, making his work incredibly meaningful to me. His images are equal to David Maisel’s Library of Dust photos of the cannisters containing cremains of past patients at the Oregon State Hospital.

  5. I love the bookmarks that arrived in Friday’s mail. Thank you so much. I bet you have sent a lot of them out and they have brightened a lot of faces around the globe.
    Thank you.
    Ruth in Pittsburgh

    • Hi foundinfrance. You are very welcome. Linda Shuler’s book “The Inmates of Willard – A Genealogy Resource” is available here. Darby Penney and Peter Stastny’s book “The Lives They Left Behind – Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic” is available here. Jon Crispin is in discussions with a publisher in New York regarding publishing a book of his photography on the subject of the Willard suitcases.

      • If possible, I should like to know about publication of the work.

        If I were there, I would love to write the stories that each suitcase told me.

        Kind regards,

        • Hi foundinfrance. If you are referring to the publication of Jon’s book, the best way to follow his updates is to follow his blog: http://joncrispin.wordpress.com/. If you are referring to the poetry broadside, it will be shown in May 2012 at the Atoi Cooperative Salon event at Quicksilver Mine Co., an art gallery specializing in Sonoma County and Northern California fine art.

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