Kate VanVliet

As founder and studio manager of BYO Print, tell us a bit about the
organization/ space.

BYO Print is a printshop for intaglio, relief printing, silkscreen and other etching-press based printing methods. We opened our doors last spring to young and emerging artists who needed an affordable place to make prints. We were part of an 8-member studio before then, and didn’t have printers outside of the studio.  Now, we have a la carte members who come in to work on one project, and long-term members who are avid printers and continue to experiment with 24/7 shop access. When I graduated, I couldn’t find a space to continue making prints on my own schedule or budget, so I decided to start my own. I run BYO Print with another Moore grad, Lauren Fischer. We are a true DIY operation, surviving on good math skills and loads of personal investment.

What are you currently working on? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions/ shows you’d like to discuss?

I’m a multi-tasker by nature, so I usually have several projects going. I am always working on multiple etching plates. Most of these are whimsical narratives or scenes that may be surreal. They are great fun, hard work, but develop slowly.
I have an installation up now at The Random Tea Room, which is part of The Only Reason I’m Still on The Pill is for this Art Project. An ongoing project since 2006, I’ve been collecting/hoarding women’s birth control (placebo) pills, their blister packs and other paraphernalia. This is the first year that the installations have made it into galleries, but the project continues to be ongoing. The installation at the Tea Room will grow and change through it’s duration (July 30), so I’ll be working there from time to time. (Find me on the facebook to find out when!) Next up for that project is a series of drypoint portraits of my pill contributors, on the plastic clam-shell cases of course.

What themes does your work generally revolve around?

I tend to focus on the personal. I collect lots of miniature objects to draw from, and I started collecting placebo pills because I was taking the pill, and tend to collect tiny things.  I also use a lot of tea-related imagery (so it’s only natural that my show up now is at a tea room!). It’s easy to tell from my work that I’m a lady, although I try to not make too many political messages; I’m more interested in sparking a conversation. I like images and titles that are thick with meaning, but still a little snarky.

Any past exhibitions/ shows you’d like to mention?

The LOVE show at B Square Gallery this February was a great opportunity. Heather Bryson, the gallery owner, gave me free reign to install my birth control show without censorship, and I was thankful that it’s first installation was with so much freedom. It also helped to see what 2000 tiny pills looks like. I need more!

Is any of your work political?

It’s not my goal, but I’m certainly a headstrong person and don’t like secret conversations, so putting birth control detritus into the open might make me political.  It definitely does right now, while women’s health organizations like planned Parenthood are being threatened and defunded. Did you know that most women don’t take their placebo week of pills? That’s the only real thing I’m stating in my work, that “Here are several thousand placebo pills.  We didn’t take them, but we are on the pill.  Here’s the evidence in all its glory.  Decide for yourself what that means.”  There are lots of directions to take this evidence.  I mostly just drink tea and listen.

You studied Sculpture at Moore College of Art and Design?

Yes, Moore was a great place to study. I met amazing artists and educators who became my mentors, friends, and colleagues. Martha Gelarden taught me how to think critically, and observe the world with a unique point of view, and still be a little silly. She taught me that there were no boundaries of sculpture, that it wasn’t just something that was carved or built out of clay, but that sculpture today is really about ideas, and presenting something visual to convey an idea or to give a viewer an idea.  Sculpture can actually be flat when you’re talking about ideas.
I also was turned onto printmaking at Moore by Shelley Thorstensen, who is an amazing printmaker and no longer teaches there.  I took etching because I love to draw, but didn’t like slaving over a drawing that was just so.  The technical processes of etching, and the machine interference allowed me to step back and look at my own drawings step by step. I build them into layered images that my pen and ink drawings can never be. And it doesn’t hurt that you get more than one at the end.

What materials do you generally work with?

I almost always print on Arches Cover white printmaking paper.  I prefer copper plates.  I love making sculpture/drawings out of bandsaw blades.  Since I collect tiny things, and sometimes make sculpture out of parts, I like things that can be taken apart and put back together with something else in an interesting way.  I like found objects and look for things that call out to me, but aren’t cliche.  I would never make a sculpture that had part of a porcelain doll in it, or a cigar box or watch gears.

Any past projects you’d like to highlight?

I am very proud of my thesis from college, Steppenwolf, which was a series of surreal found object sculptures that were made of all sorts of things. I’d like to make more sculpture this way, and quietly collect the parts to do so.

What are a few of your favorite things about Philly?

The food, the geography, the history.  I’m less interested in the things going on near Independence Mall than I am seeing the differences between rowhouses on the same block and pondering on how they got that way. I love fresh ethnic food, and am so lucky that so many tasty choices are a quick bike ride away. I ride my bike in Philly, so I love that it’s a relatively bike friendly city. Despite some loudmouth folks, most of the drivers in Philly seem to be okay with me on my bike too. I love that my younger brother followed me to Philly, because he saw the great things that I did. Now, after growing up mostly in separate homes, we are only a bike-ride away! (His name is Fletcher and leads a West Philly band called Da Comrade and the Chernobyl Arts Collective.)

Tell us a bit about your involvement w/ the East Kensington Neighbors Association.

I was brought into the civic right after I graduated from Moore by a friend who is now the EKNA President.  He saw that I could help lead the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, which EKNA hosts but at that time was facing an uncertain future as the leaders of that project were stepping down.  I volunteered to coordinate the festival for three years, and also served as the civic’s Treasurer for 2 years.  Ironically, it was my keen grasp of numbers during my first year festival planning that led EKNA to ask me to be their Treasurer too.  How funny, an art-school treasurer!
Although I passed on the torch of the festival this year and no longer cook the books at EKNA, I still attend regular neighborhood meetings. I’ve lessened my volunteer commitments drastically to focus on BYO Print.

You grew up in Moscow Pa? What’s it like there?

It’s at the top of the Poconos, so very pretty in the spring and fall, cold in the winter. Everything is very far away from everything else, but luckily, drives are scenic. It’s a car culture. It would be a wonderful place to establish an arts residency, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Have you held any jobs/ careers that you’d like to discuss?

I’m the Director & Manager of the Art Shop @ Moore College of Art & Design, and love my job.  I get to curate an ever-changing collection of student and alumnae artwork and craft.  I get to interact with people (I’m a pretty good salesperson too!), and I love helping to shape the craft culture in Philadelphia.  My contacts overlap between The Art Shop, BYO Print, and the Trenton Ave Arts Fest.

Your website(s):

You can find me online at:
katevanvliet.com (portfolio of artwork, artist statement, etc)
kvanvliet.etsy.com (prints and jewelry for sale)
byo-studio.blogspot.com (BYO Print’s website and blog)
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