Episode 32: Put the Pedal to the Metal with Kyle Durrie


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People dream of the open road, but do they dream of hitting the highway with thousands of pounds of metal type? Kyle Durrie did, and she’s spent the last two years crisscrossing America like a Janey Typeseed. She funded her initial excursions almost three years ago through Kickstarter for the Type Truck, a converted packet van from which she teaches about letterpress type and printing. Her Power and Light Press relocated its permanent home last year from Portland to New Mexico, from which state she still takes tours when the roads cooperate.

On Twitter: Kyle Durrie

Show notes

In days of trade guilds, anyone wanting to pursue most professions first served an apprenticeship to a master, and then traveled around as a journeyman to perfect his or her trade before setting up shop as a master — if lucky enough to do so.

Kyle’s Kickstarter was way back in late 2010; she set out to raise $8,000 and brought in $17,010, and needed every penny of that to fit out her truck and get it on the road.

My friend Yoni Mazuz and his wife Vanessa had a mobile ice-cream operation, and wanted to establish a fixed location from which to scoop called, naturally, The Parlour. They used the promise of future ice cream and other rewards to raise about $23,000 on Kickstarter in mid-2012 and opened their retail shop in April 2013. I backed Yoni’s campaign, but have no plans to get to Raleigh-Durham, so I was bereft of ice cream. As I describe in the podcast, I gifted it to a stranger via Twitter. But can anyone to whom you give ice cream be a stranger?

Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts hosted the Type Americana conference for the first time in 2010, and I wrote about it for Boing Boing. It was a neat event, and highlighted the terrific typeshop there run by Jenny Wilkson, where I took a night class the next winter. At the conference, I went to a half-day workshop run by Jim and Bill Moran, the respective museum director and artistic director of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum.

You can read about Seattle’s type scene in the July 4th issue of The Magazine; Nancy Gohring wrote about it in “Inkheart,” focusing on Carl Montford, the dean of the community. Jacqui Cheng, in the same issue, visited the Hamilton Type Museum and came back with its stories in “Wood Stock.” The C.C. Stern Type Foundry is a museum in Portland, Oregon, devoted to metal type and has working Monotype equipment. (Open by appointment.)

The Hamilton museum was built on almost literally the foundations of the factories that produced wood type for a century. The Dale Guild Type Foundry relied on expertise and equipment extracted from American Type Founders, the monopolist in America for foundry-produced metal type for 100 years. Theo Rehak was written about by Fritz Swanson in the Believer in an article called, “The Last Man for the Job.” Sadly, the Dale Guild is breaking up.

Photopolymer plates are a modern bridge between digital composition and output and letterpress printing. (You can read more about them in Nancy Gohring’s article noted above, too.)