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The Ways of our Window Displays

The Ways of our Window Displays

Our window displays have always prompted confusion and perplexed the passerby, especially before we put a sandwich board out front, proclaiming our purpose… The Regional Assembly of Text… cards, stationery, journals, souvenirs, button making, letter writing & many other clever things. Before this descriptive signage appeared, people would often pop their head in the door to ask, ‘what kind of a store are you anyway?’ But instead of putting products in our window, which we stubbornly refuse to do, we made a sandwich board for those dumbfounded people. This allows us to treat our window displays as temporary art installations which almost always involve paper & typewriters. In most instances the paper is recycled scraps from other projects and over the years we’ve concocted many different ways to connect paper to itself, by… folding, gluing, stapling, paper clipping, sewing, taping & weaving it together. We also find great delight in foraging thrift stores for paper that already comes on a roll, preferably narrow enough to emerge from the typewriters with satisfying simplicity. Our typewriters are almost always featured in these displays, luring people into our shop, only to be disappointed by the fact that we don’t sell them. But it starts a conversation, usually about the length of their dissertation and how sore their fingers got, or a sigh as they remember the smell of their grandparents basement where a dusty typewriter sat at an abandoned desk. We nod and listen and hope the nostalgia stuns them long enough to look around our unusual store.

 

Brandy Fedoruk
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the lowercase reading room

The recent loss of our dear friend Josie Cook brings forth so many booky memories that we know it is time to tell the story of how our lowercase reading room evolved as we honour and remember Jo, her work & her friendship.

Previously a storage closet, currently a reading room, the lowercase is home to hundreds of zines and self-published books. It features the former collections of the (over)view gallery (Brandy & Rebecca’s) and Cyclops Library (Jo Cook’s), with a cozy little sitting area, all in a space measuring less than 9 by 3 feet.

It all began in May of 2007, when, after running our miniature space as a gallery for almost 2 years, showing a rotation of artist works on a whirlwind schedule, we began to realize it wasn’t a sensible endeavour. A conversation with Jo had us thinking of alternate uses for this unusual space tucked under the stairs in an often-unnoticed corner of our Vancouver storefront. Books. So simple and far more cohesive with the concept of our store, and also…where our true passion lies.

Jo was born in Minneapolis in 1946 and moved to Canada in 1969. Her life & art were one. Over her many decades as an artist, poet, writer, publisher, philosopher, bookmaker, traveler & knowledge seeker, she collected, traded, & acquired hundreds of artist books, which she so generously donated to us. It feels extra special to have these books from her extensive collection in our possession now that she is gone. A tangible comfort. A constant reassurance. A true inspiration. But we are also thankful to have a myriad of memories with her, cherished & ethereal… creating & collaborating in her studio, problem solving technologies both aggravating & essential, getting inky, drinking wine while drawing & talking into the wee hours, hosting ten years of Book & Beer shows together (a story for another time), eating cheese toasties & tomato soup, fighting with photocopiers, exchanging ideas, and being endlessly inspired by her creative, weird & wonderful spirit. She will be forever missed.

In her honour, we have reopened the lowercase reading room, after a long covidy break, and installed a show full of her books for you to enjoy. Jo had too many alter egos to count, but you will meet a few of them on display in our reading room… Bucky Fleur to be sure, and Florentine Perro, Frances Zorn, & Aby W. Blake if you are lucky.

None of the books in the lowercase are for sale, but we are always accepting donations, and until the end of August 2022, if you mail us a book you have made, we will send you one of ours in return. Please drop by our Vancouver store or feel free to send them by post to 3934 Main Street, Vancouver B.C. V5V 3P2 Canada. Be sure to include your name and a return address.

Brandy Fedoruk
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Design Times

Design Times

Another holiday season is upon us and our new designs & beloved oldies are up on our website. Because we wholesale most of the products you see to other lovely shops in Canada, the United States and abroad, our design deadline is absurdly early and almost always interrupts the sunny summertime, when we would much rather be riding our bikes & camping on small islands. Over the years we have learned when to squeeze in a last summer trip, and when to put our thinking caps on and listen to holiday music in August.

 

As artists, and human beings, our inclination is to procrastinate. And although we set our own deadline, it usually coincides with figuring out what the last possible date is we can launch our wholesale site, before getting nudged by eager shopkeepers. It is not so much the design process we dread, but the deadline itself, which always approaches at break-neck speed, regardless of how prepared we initially feel.

 

After deciding our launch date, we work backwards, diligently inserting every other time sensitive deadline into the calendar. If one of these countless, sometimes seemingly insignificant deadlines isn’t met, the whole precarious thing falls apart like a poorly built house of cards. Our list of tasks and deadlines includes, but is not limited to: deciphering poorly kept inventories from the previous year, extracting products from awkward storage areas, brainstorming new design ideas, taking inventory of all our products (both holiday and not), ordering paper (this step involves math, so it takes extra time), ordering envelopes & packaging supplies, actually finding a moment to sit down and design, creating product images & descriptions for our sites, getting files & paper ready for our printer, receiving a text from our printer saying he’s run out of paper, ordering more paper, texting our printer to tell him what a great job he’s doing, posting everything to our wholesale and retail sites, and finally, making sure we have left ourselves a sufficient amount of time to actually make & assemble all the things we’ve designed.

 

The most important (and enjoyable) task on the long ‘holiday to do list’, is our brainstorming & design meeting. This usually happens in August or early September at the very latest. We first decide what to discontinue from the previous year, and then we focus on how many new products we’d like to add to our catalog. We keep this list fairly ambitious, but not totally unachievable and then we get tipsy & try to come up with brilliant ideas. It is a fact that we are just a little bit funnier & freer with our silly ideas when we’ve had a couple of libations. Once our ideas, and the look & feel of each item has been talked about, edited, scrapped, talked about again, and finally decided upon, we create a master design list and divvy up the tasks based on our skills and individual aesthetics.It is usually quite clear who will do what, and if not, we try to convince the other that they would do a better job, thus shortening our own list. During the design process itself, we check in with each other periodically to make sure no one has fallen off the deep end, and occasionally, but probably more than we’d like to admit, we have to edit out a tipsy & slightly ill conceived idea part way through… but most of the time we are quite happy with the final outcomes.

 

Cheers, and happy holidays! 

 

Brandy Fedoruk
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Letter Writing Club

Letter Writing Club

Oh how we’ve missed our Letter Writing Club over the past year. The thought of twenty strangers gathered around a long table, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, sipping tea and chatting freely, seems like something from another life. In that life, on the first Thursday of every month, since September of 2005, we have been opening our doors to welcome letter writers to this free event. Some come to diligently correspond with their pen pals or relatives, others come to reminisce and reacquaint themselves with a feeling of days gone by, and even more come, young and curious, ready to try something new.

At six o’clock on one of these evenings, we lock our doors and spend an hour transforming our Vancouver store, while a little line-up of eager letter writers begins to form. We install one long table down the centre of our shop, surrounded by 20 vintage chairs, a typewriter at each, and some rubber stamps scattered around to decorate envelopes and personalize letters. On our front counter we arrange an array of writing paper & envelopes and a station with tea & cookies. At seven o’clock we open our doors to the patient crowd who filter in, taking a seat to get acquainted with their machine. If there are regulars in the crowd, they lead the way to the front counter to gather supplies, but more often than not, the entire group, having never been before, sit politely waiting to be told what to do. “Come help yourself to paper and get to work” we say.

There is something special about typing on a typewriter that our digital devices haven’t been able to recreate, something charming and more human about spelling mistakes and a linear thought pattern, un-editable in many ways. There is no delete or backspace or inserting a word where one wasn’t, and your fingertips sure take a beating. But there are advantages to the effort it takes, as it can surely be felt by the recipient, just ask someone who has received a letter lately. In a time when creating an image of perfection seems like an ubiquitous goal, we encourage embracing mistakes, highlighting them, fixing them with a red ‘x’ and starting your sentence anew. After all, trying to get a perfect copy on a seventy-year-old machine with its fair share of quirks and idiosyncrasies is near impossible, and we think, beside the point.

Although it could be awhile before we gather again indoors, we can’t wait to hear the cacophony of machines click-clacking away and the sound of happy letter writers with us once again.

Brandy Fedoruk
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Old & New

Old & New

Our 15th store-iversary came & went with little fanfare this past August. There were no handshakes, or hugs, or congratulatory pats on the back, but we reminisced, thinking of all the things that have changed and all those that have stayed the same.  

In honour of the changes, we have updated our crest to reflect the passing of time. 

Our fancy drink fountain of rowdy parties gone-by has retired, leaving room to highlight the trusted typewriter which has become a symbol for our business. Our collection has grown over the years and includes a healthy team of working machines which, in normal times, we encourage the use of, either in store or at our monthly letter writing nights. The tired and broken ones, still beloved, line our shelves and inspire our window displays, each one with a story to tell.  

The metal type from our dearly departed letterpress equipment has transformed into a mailbox.  The essence of our business is, after all, promoting the art of letter writing & staying connected to the ones we love.  

The hammer, although still a useful tool, has been replaced by a classic HB pencil for all the brainstorming and designing we do. And because we are getting older and more forgetful with age, the pencil records the ideas we have, so we don’t have to argue about who said what, or when. Now, all we have to do is find that scrap of paper we wrote it down on.  

Rebecca’s cat, seated at Brandy’s feet, still glares disapprovingly, but sadly used up his 9th life many years ago, hence the newly acquired halo.  

We also added a few telling lines to our faces; someone got glasses (yes, bifocals) and we changed our hairdos and put on new frocks to freshen up.  But amidst the change, a great deal has stayed the same, including: how messy our lockers are, how much we love coming to work, our obsessive list making habits, our hatred of cantaloupe, our problem solving skills, how stocked our liquor cabinet is, how much we appreciate our neighbourhood, how riding our bikes to work never gets old, our shared goals, our funny bones and most importantly, our friendship.

Brandy Fedoruk
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From the Archives

circa 2014 - when we renovated a container into our studio

Ladies of The Assembly
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Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

Staying connected with the ones we love has always been at the heart of our business, and now more than ever, it is important to reach out to our family and friends, so they know they are loved during this current storm of uncertainty.

It’s been six weeks since we closed both our shops and we are feeling privileged to have been able to make this decision for the health and safety of our staff, customers and communities.

We feel thankful that our new website was up and running smoothly, allowing us to transition to online sales that will help us stay afloat. We had to set our employees adrift in small emergency vessels in hopes that they can weather the storm with the help of our government, as we try to steer the mother ship through the worst of it, so she can be there for them on the other side. We are strong sailors the two of us, having weathered a gale or two in our past, adaptable and ready for the challenge with our eyes peeled on the horizon, scanning for land or a ray of sunshine through the clouds.

In the meantime we are keeping our minds and hands busy. Introducing some timely products for your amusement.

Ladies of The Assembly
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From the Archives circa 2006

The Regional Assembly of Text Closed Early Sign

The Regional Assembly of Text Rebecca Sleeping

Ladies of The Assembly
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From Analog to Digital

From Analog to Digital

Our analog roots are strong, sometimes too strong, holding us stubbornly in place. When The Regional Assembly of Text opened its doors in 2005 we were recent Fine Arts graduates from The Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Our brains were full. And our hands, they were inky from screen printing, slivered from woodworking, raw from dark room chemicals, sticky from collaging, sore from drawing, cut from the metal shop and dirty from scrounging for supplies in nearby dumpsters. Apart from writing essays and checking our new hotmail accounts, we had barely touched a computer, let alone learned any design skills.

 

Over the last fifteen years, we’ve taught ourselves a number of digitally useful things on a ‘need to know’ basis. After all, problem solving is the essence of small business ownership. And although we use our newly acquired computer skills as design tools to speed up process and maximize efficiency, we always start with a pencil and paper, our hearts firmly planted in an analog world.

 

We are inspired by the simplicity of days gone by. Old textbooks, maps & dictionaries line our studio bookshelves. We marvel over vintage packaging, mouldy receipts and dusty report cards. We fill drawers with historical postcards, postage stamps and outdated pamphlets. And we greedily hoard typewriters & old office supplies for fear of forgetting where we came from.

 

This new website is our heartfelt attempt to join the digital age, so we can spread our love of analog far & wide.

Ladies of The Assembly
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