Story posted September 29, 2011
Nobody likes to spin their wheels, but artist Kyle Durrie ’01 developed a unique way to jumpstart her creative slump. And it’s all about the wheels.
Durrie is in the midst of a nine-month cross-country adventure as an itinerant letterpress operator.
Driving a 1982 Chevy step van outfitted with a fully functional print shop, Durrie is driving from town-to-town doing printing demos and teaching workshops in fine letterpress printing.
She made a curbside stop in Brunswick this week as part of her Bowdoin Artist Talk, “Moveable Type: Cross-Country Adventures in Printing.” After sharing tales of her art career and life on the road, Durrie invited the overflow Beam Classroom crowd to step into her van to try out the presses.
“I got restless with commercial work,” said Durrie, who is proprietor of Power and Light Press, a letterpress studio in Portland, Ore. “I wanted to start something new. I got the idea after touring with [friends] in a band. I was inspired by the idea of pulling into town, meeting new people, then loading stuff up and moving on. I wondered, why is that relegated just to musicians and not other artists?”
Durrie developed a network of support for her idea through Kickstarter.com, a grassroots funding platform for creative projects. In return for funding, Durrie sends funders hand-printed postcards from the road. Her project captured the imagination of 350 supporters, whose funding paid for purchase and retrofitting of the van (which she found on Craigslist).
But they gave her more than money, she says: “I have a certain amount of fearlessness in me, but starting out into the unknown … it really gave me a vote of confidence that 350 people in America were interested in my work.”
It also gave her a diverse network of contacts to help her set up workshops at schools, community centers and events around the country.
“I’ve gotten a chance to share printing with newcomers and learn from expert printers as well,” said Durrie. who attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and was a resident at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Wisconsin. “I know some new work will come out of this.”
Durrie’s visit and talk was sponsored by the Marvin Bileck Printmaking Project at Bowdoin College and the Society for Lost Letters.