Damn this was a hard update to put together...
and it's a long one!

Sometimes this self-promotion stuff, it just flows. And sometimes, like with this here email, I can barely eek it out. In earnest, just about a month ago, I felt like I hadn’t had a good idea in months. If you follow what I’m doing on social media, you know how this typically works: you don’t see the let-downs and false starts, you don’t see the deepest, cyclical frustrations sometimes devouring my motivation.

The thing is, I earnestly appreciate you finding something meaningful in my work, and following what I do. That’s where the real connection and community begins, which is the critical heart of this work for me. My personality is really buried under a lot of other layers in my practice, but it comes up in venues like this, where I take the time to write to folks who want a deeper sense of what I’m working on and why. I mean it when I say thank you for reading.

Here's some projects I'm in the middle of...


“Nothing cuts off self-determination more efficiently than eradicating its language. Replacing it with misdirecting prattle… is a magnificent coup for those who would like to keep us wary of one another.”  - Miya Tokumitsu

I’ve started on a new project that I’ve been turning over in my head for several years. I’m making wax rubbings of historical markers, like how some folks make grave rubbings. But I’m not interested in the entire marker: I’m focused on finding very specific wording that drives an overall narrative, and excluding all the other text on the plaque. Rather than setting out to make every historical marker look bad, I’m suggesting that the language these plaques impart is important, and in some cases quite manipulative.

Example: there are several official markers in Pittsburgh that “honor” various labor strikes, and yet most of them end with the phrase “the strike was broken.” Does this make collective action sound like a reasonable way to win demands, now or at any time in the past? If any significant peoples’ uprising is doomed to get the National Guard or Army called on them, with maybe even a Gatling gun rolled out, why bother in the first place? Language in museums and on educational signage guides a narrative, which guides our understanding of how we got to the place we’re in now. Importantly, it also guides how we relate our understood histories to what we want to make out of the world we now live in. This is my starting point.

Currently my process involves a huge roll of Tyvek paper, some black and blue crayons I melted into little cupcake molds like I’m your kindergarten teacher, a small ladder, and a high-vis vest. A friend helped me realize that I should embrace the performative aspect of going out and doing these rubbings, so I’ve been honing the right costume (Bored Municpal Worker Man). A big part of this turns out to be the subterfuge involved in actually going out and doing the rubbings, which has already involved trespass, harmless lying, and a bit of the usual daylight boldness needed to push boundaries as to what is actually “public”, and what appears as public but is actually wholly private.

In this beginning, I’m working with regional markers put up by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. As this project evolves, I want to take it on the road and do this work around the country.

It all parallels the work I did with the Howling Mob Society, which amazingly was ten years ago. And that reminds me, check this out: one of our historical markers from that project was recently moved (by an unknown entity) to a new pole after the one it had previously been installed on fell over… moving our sign into a new realm of legitimacy!

These “redacted rubbings” are one of the first gallery-destined projects I’ve worked on in a long time, and I’m interested to find places to show these pieces on some walls. Are you involved in an art space and want to chat about showing these rubbings as this project evolves? Get in touch!


One effort at slowing down the pace of life has been my continuing focus on scrimshaw engraving, and my blossoming semi-alter-ego as 8 Bells Scrimshandry. What better way to slow down than by practicing an arcane craft that takes hours? I’m entering the third year since I decided to take scrimshaw seriously as a personal practice, and I feel like I’ve hit a good stride with the style and line work even if I’m constantly seeking to improve my technique. Lately I’ve been moving away from jewelry a bit and working on these small wooden boxes, thinking about little beautiful functional objects for living spaces.

Bookmark me for your holiday shopping, and use the coupon code “SCRIMLOVE” for 10% off anything in the shop! Please don’t ask about commissions though… I just don’t have enough time to keep up with them on top of all of the ideas I’m trying to find space to do!


This summer the folks on the board at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum are having me design merchandise for us to sell that I would personally wear, because if you know me you know I live on the razor’s edge of contemporary fashion. I helped set up an online shop for the museum, and Kim handles the orders down in Matewan. Know that if you buy a t-shirt from us, it actually helps us out! They’re printed locally and they look good. What museum has cool merch? Not most. Get it. Watch out for embroidered Realtree camouflage caps this autumn, and a reproduction vintage paisley bandana from the 1920s I’ll be working on over the winter...

Inside the museum, I’ll be putting together a new temporary exhibition this winter with board member/historian Chuck Keeney. We’ve got hold of a whole bunch of Major General Harry Hill Bandholtz’s personal and military gear, and Chuck and I are making a show of it. First time we've mixed up the interior in a little while, so that's exciting!

AND if you think you can make it down to Matewan in a couple weeks, we’re hosting our annual fundraiser as a big supper party! Unfortunately I can’t be there this year, but it’s going to be a blast!

Do you know of any new people’s history-related project spaces I should know about, especially that are looking to hire an exhibit designer/consultant? Tell me about it!


The big thing this past winter/spring was the publication of a fairly long research article I wrote last autumn, the previously undocumented history of Huntington, West Virginia’s Appalachian Movement Press (1969-1979) in Signal: a Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture. You can now get a copy of the journal here, and you should: it’s always really well put together and even if you find my article to be tedious and dry, you might like the spread on anti-fascist stickers.

The fun part post-publishing: I did a few public presentations of this project, which I really enjoyed. One such event was at the venerable Interference Archive in NYC, and a podcast episode developed out of that event + a follow-up interview, which you can listen to here.

I’m down to travel to talk about any of my work, so if you’ve got the resources to bring me to your classroom or workshop, get in touch!


I got my hands on an old tabletop platen printing press, a Craftsmen Machinery Imperial 5x8.  It needs a lot of work -- to be dismantled and rebuilt -- and I’m excited to dive into that this autumn. It prints small images only, but that’s OK: I’ve actually really been enjoying carving small blocks these last couple of years, and I’m excited about continuing that  thread. With this new press I can increase the number of prints I run for any edition, which increases the number of people I can gift them to or sell them to (for cheaper if I’m printing more). I like that. I also just dropped $200 on new ink rollers, so I think that means I’m really doing this...

Check out my page at Justseeds to see all the prints I currently have available!

Over the winter, Justseeds worked with some of the organizers of the new Poor People’s Campaign to create a popular education portfolio for PPC activists and organizers to use during regional and local teach-ins. It’s what I would call “service design”: the PPC determined which quotes and slogans they wanted participating artists to work on, and we either selected or were assigned something from their list. From that point we had the freedom to design. Here’s the print I created.  Justseeds member Mary Tremonts and I just opened a show with this portfolio at Pullproof Studio, a new screenprint workshop in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh City Paper dropped off a short little article about  the show (I'm pretty tired of being quoted out of context but it's almost inevitable).

Right now we’re working on a new portfolio with Escuela de Cultura Popular Mártires del 68, the vast collective we met with in Mexico City at this time last year! Check out my design for the project.
AND I’ll have a couple older pieces in an upcoming Justseeds coloring book...

Thanks again for parsing through this update,
and for drawing connections in the places you can!

Media I've enjoyed and recommend:

I’ve not been able to stop listening to Erykah Badu’s But You Cain’t Use My Phone mixtape.

Robin Wall Kimmerer (Potawatomi) interviewed with On Being.
Her book Gathering Moss was a big inspiration on my collaborative project with botanist Jessica McPherson, A Field Guide to the Mosses of the Leslie Park Pool in 2012.

Nikhil Pal Singh interviewed on Intercepted.
Black is a Country and Race and America’s Long War are now on my to-read list.

Except insomuch as they might operate as research tools, I’m deeply bored by the idea of online-only museums (and, perhaps worse, online-only art exhibits). Yet I couldn’t get enough of Below the Surface, an online database/museum of excavations from River Amstel in Amsterdam. Just spend some time with it - I loved clicking randomly through eras using the timeline on the right-hand side.

Maximillian Alvarez: “Antifascim and the Left’s Fear of Power”. “One starts to sense that, absurd caricatures and cynical fearmongering aside, the right has a better grasp on the radical core of antifascism than do many on the left. The right recognizes that what we call “antifa” today is simply one arm of a broader movement. This is a movement comprised of diverse leftist groups whose commitment to antifascism is entirely inextricable from their collective drive to upend the existing social forces of inequality, domination, exclusion, and violence that fascists and proto-fascists wish to seize and weaponize for their own ends.”

Adam Greenfield, “A Sociology of the Smartphone”, excerpt from The Design of Everyday Life.
It’s not the kind of article you might think it is.

Asad Haider, Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump.
Political movement and solidarity has been slowly destroyed on the left, and what remains is the anxious performance of our individual identities and surveillance of other’s identities. This book is a needed counterpoint to some of the problems of individualism I’ve been watching boil over in my communities lately. (aside: can we please stop using Donald Trump’s name to describe any era of time or geographical region? Like if I hear “age of Trump” or “Trump’s America” again my head is going to fucking explode... )

Claire Vaye Watkins, Gold Fame Citrus.
Only fiction I’ve read in a short while, and I deeply appreciated that I couldn’t immediately explain how it was making me feel. Also, this is the kind of post-apocalyptic hellscape I will actually make time to read these days. Whatever you do later, take some time to read her essay "On Pandering" sooner.

Steven Stoll, Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia.
Everyone wants you to read this lately, and for good reason. My dad says “A very laborious endeavor, but an extremely interesting book,” so he’s not getting paid to write reviews.

Neal Shirley & Saralee Stafford, Dixie Be Damned.
I really wish these authors weren’t so frightened by being good history writers, because they wrote one of the better books on the US Southeast I’ve ever read yet seem poised to never bother another book.

Paulo Freire & Myles Horton, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change.
Friend/mentor Greg Pond has me reading this right now (“This is what you DO!”), and I’m just starting to wrap it up. I find myself halfway reflective, halfway inspired... as in perhaps it’s “what I do” and also “what I will do better” in the near future.
Multi-tasking is considered an asset in this civilization, but lately I’ve been thinking it’s more of a liability, and it makes me want to abscond to a secluded cabin for half of every month just to get my own work done. Ever feel that way? Do you have successful methods for dealing with being a creative person in this civilization? I want to hear about them (even if you just end up telling me to drink herbal tea in a scented salt bath)! Call me or email me so we can discuss living better…

I have to tell you where I live in order to send you these emails, so send chocolate:
Shaun Slifer
4078 Howley Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

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Shaun Slifer · 4078 Howley Street · Pittsburgh, PA 15224 · USA

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