The Regional Assembly of Text | Vancouver

One of my favorite stores in Vancouver, B.C. is The Regional Assembly of Text, a sweet sliver of a shop dedicated to handcrafted type. My daughter, Kate, lives in Vancouver (she’s a student at UBC) and thinks shopping for typography is a good time. Other moms take their daughters shopping for clothes, we buy paper.

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Our bi-annual trip, and our bounty, a few weeks ago.

Kate and her friend, Brendan, stopped in for the monthly letter writing club last week, and I convinced them that guest blogging would be a good use of their talents. Here’s a chance to be a vicarious Vancouverite, and hang out with the cool, creative kids.

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On a sweltering evening in Vancouver, (okay, it was probably only about 85 degrees, but combined with extended use of public transit and a tremendous lack of air conditioning, the city becomes an oven) my roommate Brendan and I trooped eastwards to Main Street. We arrived about thirty minutes late to the Regional Assembly of Text, a stationary/crafting store nestled behind an inconspicuous doorway and just past the terribly trendy part of town.

The Regional Assembly hosts a letter writing club on the first Thursday evening of every month.  They clear out the center display racks, lay out tables end-to-end, and line up scads (scads, I tell you!) of typewriters for people to use. The place was packed with crafters.

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We took pieces of astrobright paper (mine was an appalling highlighter-orange) and old cut up maps of Vancouver to hand write our letters on. Later, as people (locals who had far more experience in letter-writing and had showed up on time) cleared out, we grabbed seats at the coveted typewriters. Sipping lemonade out of teacups and busily hen pecking away, occasionally going way past the page’s edge, I think the place charmed the pants right off of me.

My finished letters bore very little resemblance to the chatty emails and quick one-offs I send every day, or the stupid press releases I receive en masse as the culture editor of a university newspaper. There are horrendous typographic errors, words running off the page, and margins which fail completely to line up with one another. Phrases have to be held carefully in your mind, nursed from beginning to end, because the typing is so much slower. If you forget and let your fingers fly as they would on a computer keyboard, your writing is rendered incomprehensible because you can’t hit the keys hard enough to leave a mark.

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There is just something about taking an efficient step backwards that can make us more careful about the words we use and where we send them. A little sweat, a little more attention, and a few drawings in the margins make the messages we give people just a bit sweeter.

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Story by Kate Barbaria. Photos by Brendan Albano.

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