Saturday, December 17, 2005

Brick & Mortar

Another year passes without sending letterpressed Christmas or New Year’s cards.

Before returning to Australia earlier this year, I ran a small letterpress printing business in Cleveland, Ohio. Visitors to my flickr page will have seen images of the wonderful studio I had there, all light and wood and crumbling brick, the large, paned windows looking out toward a sliver of Lake Erie. I knew the moment I saw the studio that I’d never have another like it, and I was grateful even during in the humid swelter of summer or the long, frozen winter, when ice built up on the inside of the windows and I wore a shearling ear-flap hat all day long.

The move was relentlessly hard. For months after, I imagined my presses out on the ocean, one little container among thousands and thousands on cargo ships, visiting places I’ve never been. It was comforting in some ways to have all my possessions so neatly boxed and completely out of reach. It was all out of my hands, and I could turn my attention to not getting a job, not working on our house, not being the friend I imagined I was.

I’m a person who’d describe herself as highly adaptable, easy to make friends, optimistic. Also prone to self-delusion.

Since being back, I’ve been grumpy, panicked and despairing. I’ve looked at factories and shopfronts, done sums and appraised my competitors. I spent six weeks in classes thinking up marketing campaigns for classmates’ enterprises. Rock blasting? Chai tea? Capoiera classes? All were easier to imagine getting off the ground than my own business.

Meanwhile, I’ve missed printing. I’ve never tired of the smell of ink, the feel of fine paper, the rhythmic clunk of the press. Not least of all, I can’t find any thank-you notes I like, and I’m tired of apologising for not having a business card. I don’t think I ever realised how important printing is in my life, that it’s like getting eight hours of sleep, or running five miles on the elliptical trainer, or remembering to take my contact lenses out at night. It’s a deeply satisfying activity to me. Without it, I lose the strongest connection I have between my head and my hands.

The problem, of course, is fear. Fear of failure, of compounding our already considerable debts, of making bad decisions.

But inspiration’s all around. Yesterday, I visited Calico & Chintz, a new yarn and fabric shop on Auburn Road (no website yet.) It’s a huge space with wood floors and exposed brick walls. The owner, Catherine, makes the most lovely linen needle cases you’ll ever find, lined with patterned cottons and closed with vintage buckles. She stocks Brittany needles, and lovely ring binders by Bookbinders Design. My head was so turned by the space and it’s vintage industrial fittings that I couldn’t begin to list her stock comprehensively, but it includes Rowan and Art Yarns and Amy Butler fabrics. If you are in Melbourne and need a Christmas stocking, Catherine has lined linen ones, embellished with a star made from vintage buttons.

Other new stores are lovely blogs brought to life. Rosa, Ana and Hilda are selling their wonderful wares in Lisbon, until the end of December. Camilla’s shop is open just in time for Christmas. Alicia’s Ella Posie Boutique in Portland looks to be a winter wonderland right now, all feather wreaths and sparkling lights. Carly’s Nest Studio is in Adelaide, only one state west of here. All of a sudden, there seems a desire for brick and mortar. It’s so nice to buy something from the person who made it, nicer too to see the work in the context of an environment created by that person.

So inspired by these girls’ leaps of faith, I scoured the internet again for real estate, and, very quietly lest I jinx it, I think I might have found The One. I was the first person to see it this morning, and even on a grey overcast day, there was light. It’s clean, and newly painted. It’s a ten minute walk from home across a park and down Rose Street. All day I’ve been in a heightened state of panic, but it’s the good kind, the kind that’s just like falling in love.

Calico and Chintz
99 Auburn Road
Hawthorn 3122 (right by Auburn Station.)
(03) 9813.5634


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A walk down Rose Street -- sounds like magic to me. Best to you and your endeavors. This is a lovely blog.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, thoughtful post. I do hope you find the space you need and that you can restart your printing business. Good luck.

3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my! Big day. Very best of luck to you.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog, and I love letterpress. I think I found you through What About, Honey?. I'd just like to sign up as a future customer to have some letterpress cards done. Here's hoping this studio is The One!

11:06 AM  
Blogger Di said...

My fingers are crossed for you! So nice to read about your passion and inspirations.
And thanks for the tip-off about Calico and Chintz in Melbourne!

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is such a wonderful picture (a total artist at work kind of image), and this is such an inspiring post. It seems to really delve into and so honestly explore that process one goes through just before they break through and take another leap to the creative place they know, deep down, they need to get to... I hope the space works out...

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so excited!! I was just complaining the other day about how I can't find any thank-you cards I like, either. I saw some neat ones printed up with a nice, tiny font up at the top, but I said to myself, "I wish they were letterpressed." Especially considering they were US$452 for 100 of them.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your post and am a fellow Calico & Chintz devotee - the aesthetic of that space is pure soul food don't you think?!

I was searching the web to see if they had a website up so I could send my mum there on a cyber trip but alas. Funny to come across a blog that seemed so familiar to me .... being a fellow Melbourne based artist who can not find any good thankyou cards and has just crossed the 'learn to crochet' off her list thanks to C&C!!

Having relocated 18 months ago from Japan via Sydney (with daughter & US-born husband in tow) I hear your despairing and am keeping my fingers crossed that you get The space you need to put down roots again. We are in 'bricks and mortar' mode ourselves :-)

9:30 AM  

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