Join us on April 6 from 6pm-9pm for the unveiling of our new mural and works by Kate Bingaman-Burt. Kate, fellow Project Object neighbor and friend, is a Portland-based illustrator who is very active in the Portland community. She is on the board of directors for Design Week Portland and is the associate professor of graphic design at Portland State University. And if she's not much of a badass already, her past clients include Google, Chipotle, Pinterest, Airbnb and Oprah Magazine. We are absolutely stoked to feature her next month. Read our interview with her below:
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
For the last several years I have been working as a commercial illustrator and educator and also actively working on projects that talk about our relationships to objects. I am an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State and I currently head up the program and it has been hugely fun seeing students grow and thrive over the last ten years. Last year, I opened Outlet which is my studio, but sort of a studio on steroids since I also run risograph workshops, host workshops and pop-ups by rad people and a variety of events over the year.
Describe a typical work day for you.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I get to school around 7:30 and leave around 6. It's packed with teaching and advising and class visitors from the Portland design community. We have been really fortunate to have such a crew of amazing people come in to talk with students or hold workshops over the years (THANK YOU). As far as classes go, I usually teach senior portfolio and sometimes a class for sophomores that focuses on storytelling and narrative. A few years back, I started a class that acts as the in-house design studio for the school and through this class we organize all of the workshops, talks, public events and other fun stuff that happens for the students and the community. It's my favorite and I teach this every term. Fridays are usually filled with meetings. The rest of the days are spent running my illustration business and running Outlet.
You are very active in the Portland art and design community. How do you avoid getting overwhelmed?
It all sort of points back to my students. The more active I am, the more opportunities they will have, so it's an easy equation for me. And the more I have my hands in the things, the more smoothly teaching goes, so it's sort of win/win.
What is your favorite method of self-care?
I hurt my back a few years ago, so I started on a pretty frequent schedule of acupuncture/chiropractor visits (though I need to go to another one...my acupuncturist of two years or so moved about six months ago and I am sort of lost right now!) My daily drawing project (where I have been drawing one purchased item everyday since 2006) falls under self care for me too. It's my time to wear headphones, be by myself and just draw an object and reflect on the day. I stopped this project for a few years and recently picked it back up again in August because I missed the drawing chill time.
What events led you to illustration and education?
Both were sort of accidental. I went to graduate school at the University of Nebraska to focus on some ideas for projects that had been accumulating after working as a graphic designer for a few years. At UNL they awarded me a teaching assistantship and I ended up teaching a TON and really enjoyed it, so I decided to keep with it. And illustration happened because I started a project in 2004 where I started drawing all of my credit card statements until they were paid off. I picked drawing because it was my least favorite way of working, but I fooled myself and actually started enjoying the immediacy and meditative time of just drawing the lines and typography of a credit card statement. Two years into that project, I started my daily drawing project and about a year into that project, people started contacting me for illustration jobs. It's just sort of snowballed from there. I am VERY grateful for having a graphic design background because it informs everything that I do in regards to operating my illustration practice. And all the classes I teach are graphic design focused, but always celebrate image and illustration, but mostly the idea and how our work engages with people.
Describe your thought process behind the Project Object Mural
I started teaching Risograph workshops at Outlet in August and since then, these machines have been a part of my everyday. I love the colors, the layers, the super saturated marks that occur with this form of printing and I am excited to cover the back wall at Project Object with tons of prints of patterns and overlapping illustrations all made by my Risograph machines. Along with the patterns, the literal imagery is informed by collections of objects (from bobby pins, to shoes, to lipsticks, to pens, to cheeseburgers) that are sometimes overlooked, but get used in our everyday.
What is your favorite project so far and why?
I think my longest project has been this crazy giant collaboration with my students over the years. I taught my first class when I was a graduate student in the fall of 2001 and I am coming up on celebrating 17 years of teaching at a variety of institutions (Nebraska, Mississippi State and finally at Portland State). My daily drawing project will probably always be with me and has yielded so many opportunities from new ways of making, to being invited to speak at schools and conferences, to kickstarting my illustration practice. My mom and I also collaborate on a line of soft goods that includes ridiculous banners and pillows made out of estate sale and thrift store fabric, so that's been a pretty fun way of working as well. And being part of Design Week since it started in 2012, is hugely important to me. Working and learning from festival director Tsilli Pines is something that I would never want to give up. As far as commercial work goes, my work with IDEO and the organization Bedsider has been one of my longest client relationships and also supports a platform (education about birth control) that I strongly believe in as well.
Your work frequently cycles around materialism and the things we consume. If you had a million dollars, what is the most frivolous item you would purchase?
I don't know if it's frivolous, but I have a fantasy of donating money to our terribly underfunded School of Art + Design at PSU in the name of Nancy Pollard who was a children's book illustrator for 55 years and my grandmother (I draw at her drawing table). But a million dollars isn't going to put a DENT into my dreams of a new building, so I would need to make that be 40 million, is that okay? I think the Nancy Pollard School of Art + Design has a nice ring to it. And if that doesn't work out, I would just buy a bunch of washi tape and post-it notes instead because that might be the most frivolous thing that I buy right now.
We ask artists to pick a non-profit for us to donate to during their show. Why did you pick the IPRC as your dedicated non-profit?
The IPRC was one of the first places that I visited when I moved to Portland ten years ago and has remained one of my favorite places ever since. I had a chance to be on the Board of Directors three years ago and jumped at the opportunity to be part of this 20 year old community non-profit that champions small press, social justice and arts education.
What are your next steps?
Outlet is launching Outlet Editions which is a monthly publication/print subscription highlighting an illustrator/designer. We are publishing a zine and/or print of someone who we are currently crushing on work wise. Also, we are hosting our first artist in residence this summer with Nicole Lavelle who will be visiting us from SF. She will be organizing programming and working out of Outlet starting at the end of June through the end of August. That is my next step and then I think just figuring out how to balance teaching, making and all of the doing.