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Catherine Schrenker—Appalachian Letterpress Krankie: The Devil’s 9 Questions

Letterpress Cranky: The Devil’s 9 Questions. This is a typographic interpretation of the Texas Gladden ballad: “The Devil’s 9 Questions.”

Fri, Nov. 6 | Catherine Schrenker’s irresistibly-titled talk involved “crankies” (or “krankies”)—either way, I was hooked from the start. Her work in the Burke Print Shop at The Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion, Virginia is where she teaches, paints, and prints. It’s what led her to make crankies.

Crankies are hand-cranked, hand-made animation machines. You need a scroll of paper (or cloth), illustrating your song (or story), two rods fixed to either end of the scroll, a box to put it in (with a side cut open like a pretend TV)—and then you’re ready to begin cranking and singing. Here’s a little history of crankies. And here’s a cranky-version of “The Devil’s Nine Questions,” which inspired Schrenker’s presentation.

Schrenker illustrated her song with letterpress printed pages using wood type, metal type, wallpaper pattern books, and contact paper (!)—face up—to hold her form in place on the bed. She had fun making her cranky and it sure was fun hearing about her process. So next time you’re in southwest Virginia a stop at the Henderson should be on your itinerary.