“It was like The Alchemist,” says Heather Braun, owner and creative director of Porchlight Press. “Letterpress kept showing up in my life, and the more I wanted to learn, the more it kept appearing.” There was the antique letterpress gifted from a friend, the opportunity to acquire acclaimed graphic designer Jim Rimmer’s Colt’s Press, along with a gnawing desire to create something tactile in her everyday work. As the form kept finding her, function soon followed, and a providential path led the young Vancouverite to open up Porchlight Press, a custom printing and design studio, this past January.
“What’s unique is that I’m a designer and a printer,” says Braun, who worked as a landscape architect and graphic designer before setting down entrepreneurial roots. “That’s why I can stand behind the quality.” The well-oiled working studio has found a niche. From wedding invitations and business cards to book covers and posters, Porchlight clients can personalize a project from conception to completion, or let right-brain Braun take the design reins in her capable hands. Notebooks are currently sold at Paper-Ya, and a wholesale paper goods collection is in the cards for 2013. Braun’s ingredients may be paper and ink but she likens her endeavour, and the care she puts into her craft, to the slow food movement. “These days, people are starved for quality. They are craving community,” she says. Porchlight Press has already joined a close-knit network of creative doers and makers in the city. (Her friends at Union Wood & Supply Company crafted a custom porch swing from century-old oak barn boards that Braun and her brethren have installed in the studio.)
Interconnectedness pervades the global letterpress community too, if only for one simple reason: with no new machines currently being produced, old ones must be cherished so that they can be passed along to future generations of printers. One of Braun’s machines dates to the early 1900s, and the rest are from the mid-20th century. The tools, however, have been modernized, allowing designers to go straight from computer to press using polymer plates; the process is comparable to silkscreen.
This means the printing possibilities are fairly boundless. Or, as Braun puts it: “As long as it fits in our press, the sky’s the limit.”
Photo: Ben Haggar.