Kate Bingaman Burt.

“I actually have three workspaces. My school office at Portland State University, a small portable workspace in my apartment and my primary work space at ADX Portland. I used to do all of my non school work in our apartment, but it got a bit crazy because I was taking over our living space with my piles of stuff. I still have a small portable workspace for late night freak outs and tight deadlines, but I keep it all in a box, so when I am finished I can pack it up and not have it interrupt our living space.

My office at PSU is where advising and grading happens. The space also acts as a catch all closet for miscellaneous x-actos, pens, rulers, paper and other odd items for making (string, clay, design books, photo equipment and the occasional plastic toy) that students might need over the course of the typical day. I’m rarely sitting down in this space, but it still serves a huge function in housing student work and materials to talk to current and prospective students about the graphic design program at PSU. My school space is my primary space Tuesday through Thursday.

I have been at my space at ADX Portland since July. This space is shared with my husband Clifton Burt and friends Will Bryant and Nicole Lavelle. All non-school work happens here (though some does seep in, of course). This is my primary space Friday through Monday.”

(Kate’s workspace photos by: Carlie Amstrong)

Kate Bingaman Burt was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1977. She has been making work about consumption since 2002, teaching since 2004 and drawing until her hand cramps since 2006. Her first book, Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where, along with being an Assistant Professor and the co-program coordinator of Graphic Design at Portland State University, she also makes piles of work about consumerism: zines! pillows! dresses! drawings! paper chains! photos! Her Obsessive Consumption work is represented by Jen Bekman in NYC and she has produced several editions with Jen and 20×200.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

KATE BINGAMAN BURT: I try to keep the different aspects of my work compartmentalized in order to maintain a bit of sanity. Home Life, Freelance Life and Teacher Life all have their own space. So far this has been a happy arrangement. The average studio day involves drawing, designing, emailing, blogging and the occasional order sending out. Sometimes it involves painting, cutting, photographing and zine making. also: eating and drinking and listening and watching. Lots of INGing. HA!

I love the theatrics of a good sale.

FYD: In this current economy are you still “obsessively” consuming or have you tamed it down a bit?

KBB: I don’t think I ever obsessively consumed…more like intensely documented what I was consuming and made work about it. Ironically, I find it pretty easy to shed material possessions. I have a weakness for paper bits and things that hold emotional meaning, but I don’t have too many large ticket items. No house, no car, no jeweled tiaras…

FYD: I find myself shopping for “deals” but certainly wind up spending just as much as I would full price. Is this a danger via one’s trying to save?

KBB: Yeah, sales do that to you. Lots of people end up spending money they normally wouldn’t be spending on an object that they wouldn’t normally buy simply because it is on sale. I love the theatrics of a good sale, however. Though I rather read about it on the internet than participate (hello, no black friday for me, please).

FYD: What are your three favorite purchases this year?

KBB: I saw the original Muppet Movie at a midnight showing here in Portland with my sister. The ticket was three dollars and the night was intensely fun. I bought a ceramic bust of a king with a beard for my husband on valentine’s day. He resides in our studio and we lovingly call him King Beard. Photo Booth strip taken at The City Museum in St. Louis featuring my three best friends from graduate school. I miss them terribly and we usually try to meet up once at year at the Southern Graphics Printmaking conference.

FYD: What is the best deal you’ve found in your piles?

KBB: When my husband and I lived in Mississippi, we found a first edition The Graphic Designer and His Design Problems by Josef Muller-Brockmann for a quarter.

FYD: Does living in Portland, because it’s design savvy and less materialistic, over say New York, help fend off pricey impulse buys? Let’s be honest, does Geography matter?

KBB: This is a tough one…I have lived in Portland for over three years now and absolutely love it. Prior to this I lived in Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska and Mississippi. Because Portland is the most urban place I have lived, there are more ways to spend money. Mississippi was good for the old pocketbook. Living in Portland is cheaper than living in NYC. Portland, however, is more expensive than living in Mississippi, so I suppose that geography does matter. I’m probably going to still buy too much coffee and magazines in any place I live.

Ironically, I find it pretty easy to shed material possessions.

FYD: Maybe we should all journal and sketch our belongings. You know, stop and smell the roses. How can we tame the world to enjoy what it already has and stay responsible?

KBB: This is a question that I don’t have an answer for. I suppose I’m trying to figure this out through my projects. Looking back through my favorite purchases they are all connected to people and experiences and not things. Things are boring without stories. What is interesting and important to me are the experiences that happen as a result of the thing. The thing is just the conduit for the experience. I want more experiences via things rather than things just being things.

FYD: You’re on Instragram. What do you love about it?

KBB: Instagram is one of my favorite platforms for sharing and viewing right now. No other clutter on the screen. You are only focused on the image. I love the immediacy of viewing other people’s photos on my I-phone during my downtimes (ie: waiting in line, in bed in the morning, in bed before I go to sleep). I like how highly participatory it is…so much activity. I also like the positive aspect of it. Rarely do people take a picture of something that they don’t like. No complaining…just sharing of images, ideas and experiences. It’s a great combination of real life experiences and internet experiences.

Own a print of Kate’s work 20×200, her book Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?, keep up via her blog and Twitter here.

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