Elevating the everyday with handcrafted care.
Our showroom brims with stories—of fearless creatives who have funneled their time and their talent into collections that elevate the everyday. Our new Journal feature, Showroom Spotlight, charts the entrepreneurial trajectories of these inspired artisans.
Starting with Kimberly Austin of Austin Press, a Bay Area native who began her bespoke stationary business as an experiment back in 2004. An Old-World aesthetic courses through her creative career. Having spent her early years pursing 19th century photographic processes—at art school and then studying and exhibiting abroad—she returned to San Francisco, eyeing new mediums. “I always had a vintage aesthetic, and I was inspired by art that has a hands-on and hand-formulated approach,” she said in a 2018 interview with Bay Area Made. “When I decided to take a different path, I chose letterpress because it is a historic printing process that would allow me to work with images, text, and fine materials. I had always admired letterpress, but I didn’t know much about it as a craft or technique. So I just taught myself.”
Such bravery continues to frame her work. Transcending trends, Austin takes a tactile approach to her practice. “When I’m working, I’m not thinking specifically about how my products fit certain styles or genres. I’m just naturally drawn to objects with history, texture, and craftsmanship. My work does come across as vintage-inspired, but I think it’s also decidedly minimal. While I love ornate details, I try to be disciplined and pare my designs down to their essence.”
Ever challenging herself, she routinely expands her repertoire, adding a new medium or material, experimenting with new forms and formulas. For instance, after a decade focused on letterpress stationery, she rose to the occasion of customers’ requests and tried her hand at candles. “I didn’t know the first thing about wax or fragrance, and so I just started experimenting,” she said. “The first candles were forest-themed, made with completely natural scents that you might experience walking through nature. In my next series I focused on virtues. I thought about the qualities in human nature that are admirable and desirable. When I started my third series, Sanctum, I wanted to invoke a person and a place, I guess combining the two previous projects. I tried to come up with a mix of interior and exterior environments, with both male and female characters. I imagined personal sanctuaries, where one feels peaceful, safe, and inspired.”
Her instinct to nurture moments of solace pervades her hand-hewn wares. A closer look at her candle line speaks of her meticulous attention to thoughtful details. Limited to small batches, each candle comes in an apothecary or milk-glass vessel, adorned with a letterpress label. Drawing inspiration from nature, she uses only botanical waxes scented with fine perfumes and essential oils.
Poetic descriptions frame the “aromatically nuanced” line: her Ladies Cabin candle, for instance, conveys notes of “field flowers, chopped logs, summer herbs, and a flowing river,” and stars a fictional cast of free spirits. “The ladies of the cabin all wear cotton dresses and collect wildflowers in pale purple mason jars. They braid each other’s hair as they sit on chunky logs covered with ladybugs and soft moss. Their secret forest hideaway, made from dovetailed cedars, is loved for the fresh air, surrounding evergreens, honeysuckle, wild bluebells, and tall grass. The nearby lemon grove provides them with an endless supply of food, drink, and medicine. Here in this cabin, they have everything they need.”
Meanwhile, her Cowboy’s Camp candle evokes “midnight campfires, dirty denim, tobacco, horsehair, and sappy pine.” “The Cowboy is the embodiment of the Wild West. He lives for starry nights, story-telling rituals, and bustling campfires. His best friend is the horse, and nothing fits him better than a pair of 501 Levi’s jeans… When he packs up to leave, the pine trees in the distance rekindle his wanderlust. He jumps back in the saddle and heads due west.”
So attuned to context and character, Austin makes small moments matter: her stationary—pressed on thick cotton papers using vintage machines—lends an heirloom quality to handwritten notes; her natural soaps—crafted with mountain clay and vegetable oil—transform the simple sanitary act into a nourishing experience of self-care. Echoing the ethos of Twenty Two Home and Snake River Interiors, Austin surrounds herself with beautiful functionality in her studio, set within a shipyard. “I feel like one’s personal space is important and allows us to be creative and productive. I want my workspace to be peaceful, so I can do whatever it is I need to do. But it also needs to be functional. I have a lot going on now: melting wax, printing ephemera, pouring perfume, packing orders. So my studio needs to be both pretty and functional. The tables are all custom, made to my height, from recycled supplies at Building Resources down the street. I love both modern and vintage artifacts, so I have an eclectic mix of furniture, and of course I have to have a red velvet curtain. Like the drapery separating a room in a Renaissance painting.”
Honored to stock Austin Press, we look forward to hearing how you come to live and love her pieces. Such thoughtful creations seed an infinite line of treasured memories.