Movable Type is kerning to a town near you!
July 26, 2011 6:12 AM   Subscribe

These days, the term Movable Type is more likely to make people think of a blogging platform than anything involving paper, but it used to refer to the letters, words, and graphics typically cast in an alloy of lead, tin and antimony or carved from wood, that could be rearranged by a letterpress printer for each individual job. In an environment where toner serves most of our current printing needs, the endangered art of letterpress printing now has a roving champion. Her name is Kyle Durrie, and she is the proprietor of Power and Light Press in Portland, Oregon. Back in March she bought herself a 1982 Chevy step van, gutted it, and then installed a work area and a couple of printing presses in the back. She stocked it with a variety of type and ornaments and she is now driving it all over the U.S. teaching folks about the joys of printing with pressure. Maybe if you ask nicely, she'll stop by your neighborhood and show you how to print, just like Bi Sheng first did over a thousand years ago.
posted by Toekneesan (12 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Simply fantastic. I hope she comes through Austin.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:29 AM on July 26, 2011

This is pretty cool, thanks Toekneesan.
posted by arcticseal at 6:32 AM on July 26, 2011

If you have any interest in this subject, and you own an iPad, you owe it to yourself to pick up the LetterMpress app.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:54 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wen I was quite young I visited a friends fathers work where he ran a letterpress machine. Just an amazing device, a keyboard connected mechanically to this huge machine that would slide in text and spacers into a row. Typo? You just used a crowbar to pry our the letter.
posted by sammyo at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2011

Somewhere I saw a post about a home DIY letter press using plastic letters made with a 3D printer, which seemed like a great idea because old antique metal type can be scanned and replicated with all its imperfections intact.
posted by stbalbach at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2011

Well, this is awesome.
posted by theredpen at 10:13 AM on July 26, 2011

Wow - maybe I need to do this, convert a truck into a letterpress studio :) Last summer I took the letterpress intensive course at the wonderful San Francisco Center for the Book and had a great time during it. But SF is a bit too far for me to routinely travel to if I wanted to rent time on their equipment and I haven't done anything with my newly gained skills since. Letterpress equipment takes a lot of space; no room for it in a 600-square foot house.

I'm glad she seems to have a good wood type collection; broadsides using wood type work well to impress the masses.
posted by Numenius at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2011

So it's like a RenFair on wheels?
posted by ReeMonster at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2011

Holy crap, she's in my hometown right now. Small world.

posted by Celsius1414 at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2011

Oh hey, this truck was parked outside my apartment building a month or so back. The old garages underneath the building have all been turned into art studios or storage units, and two of them have small letterpress operations; one of them invited this truck to come by for a weekend. It was an interesting demonstration.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2011

That's literally movable type. Nice.
posted by busillis at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2011

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