Kyle Durrie, a printmaker based in Silver City had a simple idea over the holiday break while doodling in her notebook: create a tote bag with text in the vein of a souvenir you might get while on a trip: I went on vacation and all I got what this t-shirt . . . before the ink could dry on her prototype, Durrie’s idea went viral. By the first day of the New Year, she was inundated with orders. So far her totebag project has raised $70,000 for Planned Parenthood. One person CAN make a difference.
Durrie’s company, Power & Light Press was established in 2009 in Portland, Oregon. The business started as a small greeting card line that also took on custom work. Durrie took the business on the road in 2011 as a mobile printshop she calls “Moveable Type.”
Along with her partner, Durrie relocated in late 2012 to Silver City, reconnected with family, and opened a brick and mortar workshop. Today, Durrie’s all-female letterpress print shop is working on delivering 12,000 high-quality printed tote bags to Planned Parenthood supporters.
We caught up with Kyle to find out more about her project.
How long have you supported Planned Parenthood? Without revealing more than you want to, what types of services have you utilized at PP?
I have supported Planned Parenthood in one way or another since I was 22. I have only used their services a handful of times, mostly for birth control and check ups, and I am grateful for those times. When I burst into tears of relief after a pregnancy test came back negative, they made sure that relief didn’t stem from me being in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, with someone I might have been afraid to conceive a child with. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but I will never forget the safe space they offered me in that moment, should I need it.
What inspired you to take on this project?
Like so many people, I’ve been feeling hopeless and helpless since the election. I’ve struggled with how to respond to this new world order and doubted my own ability to make a difference or bring about any sort of change. And so I just went back to work and started working harder than ever. It started as just a distraction, to keep my mind off of current events, but it made me remember how much I love what I do – working with my hands and making things to put out into the world. It’s what I’m good at. And so I started thinking about how I can use my skills as a maker of things to create something – change, dialogue, laughter… it was worth a shot.
This turned out to be a large project. What were some of the obstacles to getting this done?
I never dreamed that this project would blow up the way it has. I honestly thought we’d maybe sell 100 bags and be able to make a nice end-of-year donation to Planned Parenthood and that would be that. This thing went viral in about two hours, and I quickly realized that we’d need to shop the production out to another printer. We are set up for high-volume letterpress printing, but screen printing is something we’re just not equipped to do in large quantities.
It was also important to me to use made-in-the-USA bags, so sourcing those at a reasonable price that wouldn’t take two months to manufacture was a task. So yeah, figuring out production has been a challenge, but I’m so thrilled with the partners we have working with us: Portland friends Little Red Press (a woman-run screen printing shop) are handling the printing, and our bags are being manufactured by Enviro-Tote, an American woman-owned company.
There was a little bit of “pushback” regarding the editing of the info on the tote in terms of what services PP offered. How did you deal with that?
Yeah, I totally regret not getting that first draft right… and the fact that the original image has been more widely shared than the corrected image is, well, that’s the internet for you. In my research for this project, I misunderstood Planned Parenthood’s mammogram offerings. Turns out that they do not offer mammograms, but they do offer breast exams and can refer for mammograms.
A small thing, but also a huge thing, in this age of misinformation… unfortunately, it only added fuel to the fire for the haters, and caused the project to lose some credibility in the eyes of some other folks who might otherwise have been supporters. I really regret that mistake, and want to note that the text on the bag has been changed from “mammogram” to “breast exam”. None of the original bags will be out there in the world, only the corrected ones.
What are some of your concerns when it comes to women’s health, health care coverage, and the potential reversal of Roe v.Wade?
Even with the ACA, not everyone can afford to have a primary care practitioner, let alone one who will treat them without judgment or shame. Planned Parenthood is so crucial because they offer a safe space for women (and men!) to receive treatment and counseling for, frankly, some pretty intimate and often very scary issues. I know that abortion will always be a divisive issue, and I don’t think this country is ever going to see eye to eye on it. And even though I personally believe in a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion should she need it, I also would love to see abortion rates decline. And maybe THAT is the one thing we can all agree on. But repealing Roe v. Wade is not the way to do that – making abortion illegal isn’t going to make it go away. It just means that women in need are going to seek out more dangerous solutions. But you know what *will* make abortion rates decline? Shame-free access to contraception, sexual education, reproductive health counseling, and open dialogue surrounding the REAL issues that women face during their reproductive years. Men need to be a part of this, too – it’s not just a women’s issue.
What does the future look like to you in terms of print media and its political potential? Will you take more stands like you have, with the tote?
If this project is any indication, print media is alive and well. This thing could have just been another meme, passed along via social media and then forgotten. But (some) people want to put their money where their mouth is and, so far, over 10,000 of them have forked over their hard-earned cash to be able to carry this message with them – in a physical, printed form – for their communities to bear witness to. It’s a powerful statement – to become a walking billboard for a cause you believe in takes courage, a kind of courage that doesn’t exist in our insular and anonymous online communities.
I’ve never considered myself a political printer, but I have always celebrated the power of the press to disseminate information. I’ve learned a lot about the weight of that power in the last few weeks, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
Will you continue to sell the totes? What’s been the feedback on them??
Yes! The totes are still for sale, and will be indefinitely. We will continue to make donations to Planned Parenthood as long as folks are still buying. The feedback has been tremendous – we’ve sold over 12,000 bags and, at the time of this post, we’ve have donated $70k to Planned Parenthood. It has been an extraordinary start to 2017.
You can find out more about Kyle’s bags and other work here: www.powerandlightpress.com