The Gold Country of Osborn and Woods

Nevada City California

David Osborn and Charles Woods lived in Nevada City, CA for over 50 years. Drawn to the town in the late 50s after seeing some of Harold Berliner’s work (he ran a greeting card company in Nevada City) they moved up to the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas to the old historic gold mining town. There, they began experimenting with cartography and print-making. Nevada City in the 60s was a burgeoning art scene which attracted people like Gary Snyder, Utah Phillips, and hosts of  hippies and artists.

Gold Country Poster

Osborn/Woods inherited a lithography studio and began silk-screening as well. They created posters, greeting cards, wrapping paper.  They figured out a way to silk screen large format, pulling the squeegee together at the same time. They set up a shop downtown and sold their printed goods, as well as toys and other curios.

silk screening

They were inspired by this historic Victorian town, and besides being artists, fought to preserve Nevada City. They bought the old miner’s foundry building, restored it,  and turned it into the American Victorian Museum–a place that housed many Victorian-era relics, as well as a place for art and events. They protested when the freeway was built right through the town (in a time when most people thought this was a good thing), and they set up the local radio station, which still broadcasts today.

June 16 1 p.m.

Everyone in Nevada City knew who David and Charles were. I grew up going into the Osborn and Woods shop and exploring the toy table. And the  annual Teddy Bear Convention they started was one of my favorite things as a child. Looking at their work now, I’m taken by how fun, whimsical and colorful it is. I’m reminded of Paul Rand’s children’s books with the blocks of color and overlapping shapes. But the Osborn/Woods style is so their own and I can see how the town inspired them.

Gold Country Poster

Osborn and Woods have both passed, but their work lives on. And I think will only inspire another generation of makers.

Osborn and Woods

*All images courtesy of David Osborn and Charles Woods

6 thoughts on “The Gold Country of Osborn and Woods

  1. Pingback: Charles Osborn & David Woods | alicke

  2. Travis Tom

    @Heidi–One of the lino-cuts was an illustration of a knight on a horse, which was made to accompany a poem I wrote and set in metal type (Lydia). The other lino-cut was a reductive cut…so each time a color was used on the press, this was etched out so another area of color was printed. This method really made limited editions so you had to be precise and know how many prints you wanted to make. This illustration was for another poem I wrote and was included in a series of prints called ‘Chicken Dust’. The folio is kept at The University of Georgia in their book collections and included 12-15 other artists. If I can find the prints, I’d be happy to share some images. My e-mail is: This class was prior to starting design classes.

  3. Heidi Meredith Post author

    @travis–i’d love to see those lino-cut blocks on the Vandercook! Sounds really interesting. It does seem like today you can really make a go with things via the internet, though there was something so nice about going into the Osborn/Woods store and sorting through the trinkets, postcards, and other curios! The overhead on a physical space vs an online shop really tilts the scale in favor of the web.
    @scott–congrats on living in nevada city. I have dreams of moving back someday. My dad actually inherited these posters when Charles Woods passed away this year. I think at the memorial they might have passed some of them out as well. If you’re really interested I could ask around and see if there are any more.

  4. Travis Tom

    Thank you for the inspiration. Their illustration and color palette reminds me of Matisse. I took a book arts course at the University of Georgia in the late 80s and learned about xerographic transfers, papermaking, binding and lino-cut blocks on a Vandercook Press. Today I am an independent contractor and have some side ventures I am pursuing which include digital art prints at postcard size and sets of icons and illustrations I am hoping to convert these to a font this summer and making them available to the public. I have also completed an animal alphabet book which I wrote and illustrated — it is currently at a book publisher for consideration and may turn into an e-book and coloring book if they are not interested. 
    Hearing about how the artists opened their store was insightful too. Now with on-line stores and a little bit of social networking and promotion … the possibilities are greater to reach out to a wider audience and fan base for your creations.

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