Sandwiched between two major cities, San Francisco and Seattle, the city of Portland marches to its own beat – a place where the button-down and the thrift store chic styles coexist peacefully under the same zip code. IFC’s hit comedy show Portlandia is a spoof on the city, portraying the stereotypical Portlander as a dirt-worshiping, chicken-raising, jewelry-making, cyclist crazy folk all living the Dream of the 90s.
In fact, Portland is a well-known urban epicenter of creative indie-entrepreneurship and engenders a do-it-yourself spirit with a thriving economy of a growing number of independent shops such as Powell’s Bookstore, which has earned the title of World’s Greatest Bookstore and World’s Largest Independent Bookstore.
The city is also known as the “Small Press Capital of the World” with a number of resources for self-publishers to create and publish their works, such as the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a 14-year-old non-profit organization. The center recently moved into a bigger space that provides members, instructors, and students with more elbowroom to work comfortably from a hodge-podge of stations: a letterpress print shop, a screen printing station, a photocopy station, zine library, binding machine station and the unforgettable Yeti Research Station.
“There is no organization like the IPRC anywhere in the country or the world,” said Executive Director, Justin Hocking, who has been a part of the IPRC for the past five-and-a-half years.
Since 1998, the IPRC has been a one-of-a-kind non-profit organization, helping approximately 23,000 local artists by providing a space of creativity to publish their works in art, books, comics, graphic novels and zines. There are other similar organizations around town such as The Attic, a creative writing community organization, and m-Space, a book arts center. In Seattle there is the Zine Archive Project (ZAPP), which owns a zine-library and provides classes on zine-making. The IPRC is a perfect fit to Portland and is unique in that it combines workshops, classes, and publishing while providing creative people with the space and resources to create their works. The center also proudly owns one of the largest zine libraries in the country. “We have about 7,500 zines in circulation. But after the expansion, we have four new large bookshelves. Eventually we will get another 5,000 plus zines into circulation,” said Hocking.
The most popular corner of the center, especially for kids, is the Yeti Research Station, which provides members with a computer lab and a wall dedicated to all things Yeti, which happens to be the IPRC’s mascot.
The IPRC engenders a “do-it-yourself spirit”, offering members a selection of classes and workshops such as Intro to Letterpress, Zines 101, Hand-lettering, and much more. The center also offers Certificate Programs in the following categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Comics, Graphic Novels, and Poetry.
“Portland is the American epicenter of letterpress printing,” said Letterpress Shop Supervisor Phillip Stewart. The Intro to Letterpress is one of the stars of the center as this class almost always sells out. “A lot of people want to re-connect while making things by hand,” said Stewart.
He has been teaching Intro to Letterpress for the past one-and-a-half years and explains “Letterpress was the commercial form of printing for 500 years.” Fast-forward to 2012 – letterpress printmaking is currently undergoing a renaissance sweeping across North America and abroad. According to Stewart, “It’s finding itself as a craft art.”
Portland is also a hub for an old-fashioned way of life with a Dream of the 1890s vibe scattered throughout the town; a Victorian-era revival of letterpress print-making, mirobrewing, artisan bakers and meat curators can all be found in Portland, Oregon.
Get in touch with the author @alicperez.