When we interviewed Kyle Durrie last week, she was camped out in a Key West hotel, about as far from her Portland, Ore. home as she could possibly be. Her mode of transportation, a 1982 Chevy step-up van fully equipped with a mobile print shop, was at the mechanic. After she'd driven it more than 21,000 miles, it's no surprise that the truck needed a little TLC. And she still has quite a ways to go.
Durrie, owner of Power and Light Press, started her cross-country adventure last June. Funded in part by Kickstarter donations, she converted the Chevy into a working print shop complete with a sign press from the mid-20th century and an 1873 Golding Official No. 3 tabletop platen press. From there she started working her way across the country, teaching workshops, doing demos, and spreading the gospel of old-fashioned printing techniques. She also sells cards and letterpress with cheeky sayings like "Put a bike on it: People will shit themselves." Another card, modeled after a library catalog card, says, "I've been checking you out all day."
With well over 100 stops under her belt so far from Denver to D.C. to Dallas, Durrie has already canvassed much of the country, but she still has a few months left. After a stop in Charleston at Sideshow Press, she'll drive up to Charlotte for Letterpress Fest and eventually head west on her way home to Oregon. "I really over-booked things on this trip, partially just for financial reasons," Durrie admits. "The truck is a real gas-guzzler, so it's expensive to get from one place to the next. I try not to drive too far without stopping for an event, a chance to make a little money back. I also just got kind of excited about the prospect about all these events."
Starting out, she sat down with an atlas and a calendar and started contacting universities, galleries, and print shops that might be interested in her project. Soon enough, people started contact her to request appearances. Some of the locations provide a stipend, while other times she relies on the sales of her prints and a tip jar to keep gas in the truck. "I wasn't trying to turn this into a moneymaker," she says. "I just wanted to support myself for the year and get from town to town and then go back home and do my normal thing again."
Despite the long hours on the road, Durrie says she rarely gets bored while driving. "It's really hard to be complacent when you're driving that truck," she laughs. "When I'm driving my little car long distances, I don't even have to think about it. You just kind of put it in gear and go, and it does the work for you. The truck is a very physical experience, so I find that I'm much more overt and aware of everything around me. That really takes up a lot of mental space. Only if I have a super long drive, like eight to 10 hours, do I feel antsy and bored, but that's what the radio's for, that's what CDs are for."
Durrie blogs about most of her stops, posting pictures of print shops across the country as well as more touristy places like William Faulkner's house in Oxford, Miss. She's been surprised at some of the places she's fallen in love with, like Little Rock, Ark. and Houston, Texas. "I've had some great travel times on my own and camping and visiting beautiful parts of the country, but when it comes down to the events, it's usually the people who make it for me," she says.
She admits she's been too busy to come up with many new designs during her travels, but she's looking forward to having more time for that. "I'm definitely inspired by the places I visit, and I think my work will change when I get back home," she says. "So far I haven't had a chance to do any of my own work, haven't been able to step away from these public events to dive into any of my own ideas. ... I'm curious to see what happens when I do get back home and have a bit more mental space to reflect on this entire experience and see how that comes out in my work."
Until then, she's got two and a half months and more than a dozen cities to visit before she makes the trek home. "I think it's going to be really mixed emotions when it's over," she says. "It'll feel great to be home and in one place, to just be still. But I also know that I'm going to miss it, that excitement of having something unknown ahead of me. And just the amount of information I'm consuming every day, whether it's new landscapes or environments or new people, new experiences. I think that's something that's really special that I think I'm going to value a lot when this thing is over."