Lenora St. Blog

Print Lab Tech Tory Franklin: The Universal Language of Play

By Tory Franklin, Evening Printmaking Studio Technician


My name is Tory Franklin and I’m the evening printmaking studio technician. During the day, I’m a public artist who creates large-scale site specific work. My definition of print is a bit broader than most—while it incorporates handmade traditional presswork, much more of my work uses computer assisted drawing and cutting techniques to play with replication in space as well as on the page. 

In 2018, I started working with my sister Eroyn Franklin on several integrated pieces for the Sound Transit Star Lake light rail station that will open in Kent in 2024. The pieces at their core are printed processes designed in Adobe Illustrator for several different types of image output.

When the station is complete, the platform will contain 324 windows digitally printed with frit ceramic ink that will glow like stained glass and a breezeway tunnel between the two sides that will consist of backlit laser cut panels. Both of these sites utilize repeating patterns we created based on edible plants indigenous to the region as well as from many of the cultures that have relocated to Kent. 

The last piece, shown in the images, is located outside the station and is the first section to break ground. It was added to the scope of work in the summer of 2020 and is currently being constructed across the street from the station site at Mark Twain Elementary in Federal Way (the station is on the border of the two cities). It is the skin of the support structure that allows the trains to come into the station and spans the length of the school’s sports field.

This work is created from six repeating 5’ x 5’ x 6” cast cement tiles in a common infrastructure application called Formline. These were designed and composed as small-scale vector graphics that were sent to the fabricator in Colorado who CNC routed full size masters and created bas-relief molds of each tile, which were then freighted to Eastern Washington and cast in cement and freighted over Snoqualmie Pass to the installation site.

An image of a planned art installation in concrete.

In the development of the designs we went through months of zoom meetings with the school to create four initial ideas which were then narrowed down to two designs. We researched the role of sports in the region, which was home to several Olympic medalists as well as hosting the Goodwill Games and Olympic trials. This led us to an interest in Olympic icons through the ages and how they articulate a range of bodies in motion.

The final design is called The Universal Language of Play, which spoke to the idea that sports unite people from all backgrounds, allowing them to connect beyond language barriers. The four figures are made from simple geometric shapes and are interconnected by two repeats of iconic ball bounces that create motion as well as build a mountainous panorama that reflects the region.

It’s intriguing to design things that have landscape permanence utilizing problem-solving processes that are commonly used on ephemeral materials like paper. Once you start looking you can identify the many ways that print shapes the world around us.

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