Despite the awful weather and bitter cold, plenty of folks came out to the parking garage of the Sears Crosstown building last night to try their hand at letterpress in Kyle Durrie’s incredible workshop on wheels. Durrie’s project, Moveable Type, employs the system of printing by the same name, using variable pieces of type to reproduce elements within a document, invented in China but popularized by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Such a system allowed the widespread reproduction of printed materials, inevitably leading to the broad distribution of information and knowledge.
Durrie came to love letterpress in 2006 after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College with a focus in drawing and printmaking and then attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She explored her interest through taking classes at the Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Independent Publishing Resource Center, then developed her skill in the art with apprenticeships at the Blue Barnhouse and Wolfe Editions. Durrie subsequently created her own business in 2009, Power and Light Press — a studio based in Portland, Oregon that specializes in letterpress packaging, posters, custom stationery, and, of course, quirky greeting cards. She then began to conceive of a plan to share her uniquely old-fashioned passion with the rest of the world, by bringing a fully functional letterpress print shop right to their doorstep. The fundraising campaign began in November 2010 through the popular project start-up website, Kickstarter.com, raising more than double the original financial goal, an impressive feat considering the nature of the beast. Check out the thoughtful video she initially made.
Durrie has since converted a 1982 Chevy step van into a mobile workshop, outfitted with built-in cabinets and workspace, a sign press from the mid-20th century, and an 1873 Golding Official No. 3 tabletop platen press. She set out in June driving all over North America to come to farmers markets, group workshops, and basically anywhere and everywhere that would have her, inviting visitors to tour the truck and make their own charming prints with her careful instruction.
It was truly inspiring to see an artist with such passionate vision succeed in a project based entirely on the love of an art form and the desire to spread that love around, perhaps inciting genuine interest for the craft here and there in an excellent demonstration of the hopeful possibilities intrinsic to the creation of art. The Amurica photo booth and wonderful food trucks were a great addition to the Moveable Type festivities, and Crosstown Arts did a fantastic job of showcasing interesting artistic ideas.