It's in the blood
by Katie Bretherton, Cranden Press
Clunks and clicks, hisses, thuds, swooshes, stomps and clacks. These were the sounds booming out of Cranden Press in the 1980’s. On a busy day, more often than not, the machines were alive emoting a buzz in the air, along with setting off powder and white spirit. I was mesmerised watching the printers orchestrate these grand instruments like steel quartets, fine tuning them to the needs of paper and ink. Cranden was located on the top floor of Primrose Mill on Adelaide Street, faced with steep stairs or perilous lift, even the journey up was one of excitement. As a six year old, it was an epic place to be! This was the family business, where we grew up together, the four daughters of print.
To me it was a paradise of paper mountains and cardboard coves. My sister Liz and I explored the gigantic reams and took our adventures over crevasses of 170gsm silk. We created box transport and cardboard outfits. Post Office play was a favourite with the franking machine and endless stationery supplies! We designed and printed our own party invitations in cast’s with wooden letter press. Hide and seek an obvious delight with endless opportunities of surprise and attack. If you were brave enough and could withstand the fumes of the developing fluid, the darkroom aptly lit by a red glow, would create a perfect cover!
I watched Dad creating lead type cast by the Linotype setter, studying the frosty looking lead shards and the swirly larva patterns in the molten lead. I was intrigued as he set forme’s filled with type and dividers, then locked them into place on the Heidelberg’s platens. Dad lived and breathed this place, it was his provision. He grafted hard, long hours, knowing the press like the back of his hard worked hands. His passion for print flowed through his veins. His eye for creative detail was intricate and his handshake to customers was strong and sincere. He was the “Gentleman of Print”.
The workforce was an extension of our family and to this day still is. Each like an Aunt or Uncle, each held as a dear memory. I was nicknamed “Titch” by Linda, one of the finishers. “Come on Titch” she’d holler across the works and through gritted teeth, I would assist her in collecting the dinners for the printing elite from the local pie shop. Dad’s favourite a hot meat pie and a buttered barm-cake.
Cranden was where print worked, thrived and where if you were told “Don’t touch” it was more than likely because you would loose a digit in your ignorance.
Now based in Chapel House on St Marys Street, Cranden has adapted with the changing face of print into the digital era and its hard worn hands, much like our late Dad’s, shows that. However, our heritage and specialism of beautiful print is defined now in the sisterly hands of Catherine! She has nurtured and kept foiling and embossing part of who we are. Liz, a talented artist, has incorporated her love and flare for design and illustration into the backbone of Cranden’s creativity.
After joining the business a year ago, the mountains are smaller and the workforce fewer, but the heart and passion for print remains strong. It’s nurtured in a love for design, ink, paint and photography. Art has increasingly become more and more part of our values and identity here at Cranden. Our printer and dear friend of Dad’s, Peter Mason, is truly an exceptional artist using flamboyant colours and creative methods to produce stunning pieces. Dad’s vision for Cranden is mounted onto the walls of the chapel. Dad was an artist and fisherman, and his work now overlooks the machines of the press room. His dream in Chapel House was to provide a gallery space for local artists to exhibit and promote their work. A space for sharing creative expression and a love for art.
We stand together now, on the edge of his dream and anticipate what the future will reveal. It’s an endearing joy to share, rubbing a fine sample of gorgeous paper between your fingers, observing a beautifully embossed crest and dare I mention appreciating an exquisitely foiled job. Its developed within each of us, this love for print, it’s passed down from a man dedicated to his work and his family. His values are ever within us as we meet and greet, create and print. It’s in the blood!