Quite literally, moveable type is the system of printing that uses moveable pieces of type – individual letters, numbers, characters – to reproduce the elements of a document. Invented in China, but popularized by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, moveable type was like the internet for the 15th century, allowing widespread reproduction of printed materials like books, announcements, and advertising. Today, moveable type is associated with the art of letterpress printing. It is also a project involving 1982 Chevy step van and a few thousand pounds of lead, wood, iron, and love.
My name is Kyle Durrie. I’m a letterpress printer from Silver City, New Mexico and the proprietor of Power and Light Press.
I am inspired by paper, wobbly lines, history, overheard conversations, logs, whiskey, trains, the color brown, roadside Americana, the Wild West, dogs, salt water, maps, and vintage office supplies, among other things. I also love crossword puzzles, swimming in creeks, green chile, adventures, and occupying small spaces.
But two of my favorite things in the world are printing and road trips. These two things kept getting in the way of one another in my life, though; they seemed mutually exclusive. I wanted to figure out a way to do both things at the same time.
The plan was hatched in the summer of 2010 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 Kickstarter.com, 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.
I used those funds to purchase and convert 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. I’ve spent much of the past two years driving all over North America, teaching workshops, doing demos, and generally spreading the good word about printing the old fashioned way.
Big thanks are due to my amazingly generous sponsors – the Dale Guild Type Foundry and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. Dale Guild set me up with some gorgeous freshly cast type and ornaments. I’ve been printing with most of it, but there’s one little package that I just can’t bear to distribute – it’s so beautifully packaged, and it makes people swoon when I show it to them. Hamilton donated the Showcard sign press that I’ve used every single day of this tour, as well as some sign type and a smart little type cabinet that, unfortunately, had to be left at home due to some mis-measuring during the truck build out… But the sign press is my workhorse and a inspires fits of envy from all who encounter it.
While I really appreciate the material donations from these two organizations, I especially appreciate the immaterial vote of confidence that their sponsorship implies. Their support lends an air of credibility that this adventure might not otherwise have… Big thanks to them, and to everyone who has expressed support and interest in this project!