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Making art in the new old way

By on October 28, 2019 in Arts with 1 Comment
This is not a private wine cellar; it’s an array of labels Kirk Dietrich’s company Blind Renaissance Design has designed and produced over the years. Other walls are filled with commercial packaging and poster innovations. Photo by Mike Irwin

By Susan Lagsdin

Kirk Dietrich is good natured about being 67, with his five super-tech-savvy design employees all at least 30 years younger than he is. 

They’re experts in gaming, websites, social media, user interface, video. 

“When I started doing this commercial art work in 1972, I was a one-man band,” he said. “Then gradually I added a horn here, strings here… Now I’m the concert master — and I admit I don’t remember how to play all the instruments.”

He and the crew at Blind Renaissance Design fill a warren of studio and production rooms tucked into a treed lot in East Wenatchee. 

This in-house design produced for Fresh Fruit Marketing featured original artwork by local painter Jan Cook Mack.The firm does its own commercial graphics interspersed with that of regional artists.

Their clients, as well as their contract artists and print providers, range all over the map, in-town to overseas. You’ve probably seen the firm’s designs:  a portfolio of local artists’ work commissioned by Pybus Market as a fundraiser, Campbell’s Lodge visuals, the Wenatchee World logo and Ryan Patrick bottles or the packaging and labeling of individual plums. 

Kirk’s title is creative director, and though he has a skilled and collaborative staff, he continues to help perfect every design project that comes over the threshold, using his lifetime of experience

“We grew up on the Oregon coast,” said Kirk about his three siblings who were the children of a water colorist and art professor. “And when my dad would go on painting trips, he’d take us along, with our own little paint kits.” 

Their mom, an early education specialist, also acted in community theater, and the family had season tickets to the symphony. Art appreciation was a natural part of childhood. 

Kirk won a prize in kindergarten for a painting of Santa Claus and says he always knew he wanted to be a visual artist. He remembers being the only student at Wenatchee High School who’d come back to art class at night to work on projects.

His teacher, Doris Kirkpatrick, introduced him to woodblock and screenprinting, so after graduating in 1970 he headed off to Central Washington University with a background beyond painting and drawing.

Good preparation and good timing worked together. 

Though he received a painting degree, he was also hooked on the new technology. Early on, Kirk designed music album covers and posters. Then he ventured into the fruit industry, starting with apple box labels.

“I was this long-haired 20-something fresh out of school, but I knew how to talk to plate-makers at the box companies about printing,” he said. Soon wineries were added to the mix as innovations in bottle labeling met the explosion in viticulture.

He named his new, one-man company Blind Renaissance, and after almost a half century in the design industry that name brand still works. 

“‘Renaissance’ reinforces the blend of art and science, and the word ‘blind’ is like ‘blind justice,’” Kirk said. “We try keep our minds open every step of the way when we’re developing a project.”

Kirk keeps involved in every aspect of the business and uses his creative talents daily. 

“It’s amazing knowing the color pictures floating around in my mind will be transferred to a two-dimensional surface,” he said. He’s glad to watch his Blind Renaissance grow and change, aware that in this area, making a living at making art is untypical.

Kirk worked first out of a shared-space warehouse in Cashmere, then brought the company home 20 years ago, quite literally, to the acreage and existing buildings his extended family had developed over generations on a view hillside on Alan Street. 

His own house is a two-minute walk across from the main building; part of that cyber-rich environment was once a tack room for his aunt’s horses.

Is it about time to retire? Kirk thinks not. 

He loves making art every day and paraphrased Willie Nelson’s retort to the same question, “All I do is play music and golf. Which one do you want me to give up?” 

However, he said, and he looked just a little wistful here, “Someday I hope to have more time for my own art.”

Color, texture, composition, hue — they’re all part of the visual vocabulary whether digital or manual, and for Kirk making art in retirement may mean stepping away from the computer and going back to the easel, applying oil paints with a brush to a stretched canvas. 

Everything old can be new again.

You can see work by Blind Renaissance Design at www.icblind.com.

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  1. Grace says:

    Thanks Susan for your insightful reflection of a wildly creative & intuitive guy 🙂

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