From the moment she was born, Chelsea was constantly surrounded by the smells of printer’s ink, paint thinner and ozone. As toxic as that environment sounds, it didn’t affect her negatively. In fact, it started her journey towards design. Her Father Gary and Mother Carol both worked at the same print shop and Chelsea would spend her days watching and learning both sides of the business. Her Mom worked in the office during the day, and her father came in for the night shift.
“I remember when I walked in, the smell of the ink hit me right away.”
“I loved that smell. My Dad would take me back to where all the printers were and the sounds of the machines. Take me up on the press and show me how all the rollers worked and all the working pieces.”
The work also came home. Her father built a darkroom in the basement where he would develop all the press sheets.
There was also the constant crafting and creating that her Grandmother and Mother were involved in. Chelsea can’t remember a time when they weren’t cross-stitching, making tee shirts, sewing and doing other DIY projects. It was just the way it was. Your creativity wasn’t shut off after work. There were always projects. “My Grandmother gave me my first drawing books.” Chelsea says smiling. “The books would walk you through how to draw a person or a cartoon. I was always doing that.” Without a doubt the idea of doing and creating with your hands was a family tradition.
But, that’s just the beginning of the story.
Her Grandfather Russell (the one with 9 digits) worked as a printer and his wife was Vice President of the GAIU (Graphic Arts International Union).
As impressive as this ink splattered generational story is, it doesn’t end there. It starts with Julius her great Grandfather who was a typesetter for the railroad where he created Tariff Books — setting type with upper and lower case printing blocks and a printing press.
In 1955, Julius was awarded the title of Master Compositor. A Compositor is one who sets type up by hand from a box containing all of the various letters, numbers and punctuation marks. To be a Master Compositor one must be able to pick up the various individual pieces of type without looking at where they are located in what is called “the case."
“Gordon was an older man with silver hair and a mustache to match,” She remembers fondly. “He worked on a Wacom tablet and his desk was surrounded by pens, pencils, paint brushes and tons of books and labels and framed illustrations he had done. He started all of his work with pencil and had an enormous light table on his desk.”
She enrolled at Meramec and then transferred to Maryville and earned her BFA in Graphic Design.
For more than seven years Chelsea has been applying her craft, always under the watchful eyes of her great grandfather and grandfather. Their angels’ wings stained with ink and their calloused hands clapping with joy as she continues the work that was started so long ago.
Those same proud spirits are no doubt eyeing her two-year-old son Hudson and her youngest Holden. Have they inherited the printing /design genome? “Hudson is very imaginative and creative,” she says. “He always asks me to draw things for him and then he colors them.” So in a way Hudson is shadowing Chelsea – much like she did with Casanova. He’s watching and learning just as she did at her parent’s business. It’s just how it’s done in their family.
So, while Chelsea’s hands are unstained by printer’s ink she makes her living in the family business — the tools are different. She’s traded in the wood blocks and printing press and now she’s designing interactive experiences as well as traditional design. No ozone filling her lungs, no paint thinner in the air, and no fingers lost — at least not yet.