Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adventures in Letterpress, part 1

Last December I had a chance to visit briefly with Kyle Durrie, proprietrix of Portland's Power and Light Press, who is currently on a multi-month adventure, traveling from city to city and state to state in a tricked-out delivery truck that houses two medium-weight letterpresses. Durrie was visiting Memphis, and the graphic arts professor here at CBU arranged for her to come to campus and talk and give a demonstration of the truck and the project.

The project, dubbed "Moveable Type," is the realization of a vision Durrie had while visiting her musician boyfriend on the road during a cross-country tour. "Two of my favorite things in the world are printing and road trips," Durrie says. "I wanted to figure out a way to do both things at the same time." She then set a plan in motion to get the project off the ground:
The plan was hatched last year while on a cross country band tour, studying maps and staring out car windows and exploring new towns. It was furthered along by listening to lots of songs about cowboys and truckers. In November 2010, I launched a fundraising campaign through, which was met with surprising and overwhelming support and success. I more than doubled my original financial goal, which turned out to be a good thing, because it turns out I had a very poor understanding of the costs involved in pulling something like this off.
Durrie's success with Kickstarter allowed her to buy and retrofit a 1982 Chevy step van into a fully functional letterpress print shop. "I’ve outfitted the back of the truck with built-in cabinets and workspace, a sign press from the mid 20th century, and an 1873 Golding Official No. 3 tabletop platen press," Durrie writes on her website.

The result is a compact, functional, and very beautiful work space. The trip has consisted of Durrie pulling into towns on prearranged visits, parking her van and setting up shop. She invites people into the truck to try their hand at the press, to learn what printing is and what it feels like to make something with your worn hands and effort.

I got a chance to use the sign press, and was amazed. Despite all my research into printing and the publishing of Bibles, I realized I had never thought much about the actual process of printing of physical pages. Just the little time I spent in the Type Truck was eye-opening. Printing has a feel, and a sound, and a smell to it that is unique. I never would have known this if it hadn't been for Durrie and her vision of bringing letterpress to the masses.

You can contribute to Kyle Durrie's continuing travels here, and you can make arrangements for her to visit your town here.

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