Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reminiscences about “Plucked Chicken Press” — founded in 1978 by Will Petersen and Cynthia Archer — specializing in lithography

Front and back of the Plucked Chicken Business Card, c.1980 — from the collection of David Versluis

One afternoon, perhaps in the fall of 1980, while researching art internship sites for students at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois my colleague Jake Van Wyk and I visited Plucked Chicken Press and met with Will Petersen to discuss the possibility of providing a student internship. Cynthia Archer was there to greet us as well as we entered the workshop, which was housed on the second floor of an old industrial building. Petersen was professional and friendly and with a sense of humor — he was a genuine character. We were impressed with his collection of lithographic stones. The press was located in downtown Chicago just west of the fork in the Chicago River.

Along with the “Plucked Chicken” logo and printer’s mark — the business card design is based on the printmakers numbering system, which is a good way of recognizing a limited edition original art print. Usually, but not always, for authentic prints the artist signs their name in the bottom right-hand corner on the front just below the image. On the bottom left corner opposite the signature the artist writes the number of each print in the edition. So, for example, a print numbered “3/30” signifies that it is the 3rd print out of 30 in the print run.

As published in the current Plucked Chicken Press website (courtesy of Oakton Community College, Skokie, Illinois) here’s a nice synopsis about the origins of the Plucked Chicken logo:

Plucked Chicken — The Journal and the Logo:

Plucked Chicken, a journal of art and poetry, was founded in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1977. The Chicago poet and writer, Effie Mihopoulos, provided a glimpse of the journal’s birth in an April 1981 Serials Review:

The magazine was started because Petersen just having quit his teaching job [at the West Virginia University] (at 49) and feeling like a plucked chicken, had boxes and boxes of notes, letters, prose and other miscellanea that needed sharing, an outlet. He had a strong editorial background ranging from work with mimeographed magazines in grade school to [poet] Cid Corman's second Origin series; he was also associated with Bussei, which published [poet] Gary Snyder's first poems and [writer] Jack Kerouac's first haiku. Working with shapes one day, Petersen and his wife [Cynthia Archer] came up with one the size of a postage stamp that they liked — it looked like a plucked chicken, and since it seemed symbolic of the artist (a bird that can't fly, ready for the stew or to be barbecued, all goose bumps and no feathers), the name stuck.

The journal ended in 1980 with issue number six when Petersen and Archer moved to Chicago, but the name and logo continued to identify the press they had founded in 1978. Every print published by the Plucked Chicken Press was embossed with this logo.


  1. I just bought 6 Petersen prints and some others; artists printed at Plucked Chicken. Good quality and 30+ years old. Now I have the art and the story. Minor from Michigan

  2. I'm wondering if anyone can answer a question for me/

    How can I get copies of Plucked Chicken magazine articles (1978-1980)?

  3. Visit Lakeside Gallery West, Michigan City, Indiana.
    Jon E. Wilson, director of gallery has two full sets of 'Plucked Chicken' mag. Current exhibit thru July is the 'Will Petersen Tribute'.


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