A Welcoming Visit to Texas Hill Country, with Pressed Paper
I was born in Texas but we left after a few months so it never felt like home.
When I thought about Texas, in my mind it was always a flat, kind of dusty, desert place with plenty of space and kind people.
A few months ago, work took me to Texas where I looked over the San Marcos river in Austin and we tried to find Sandra Bullock's mansion. I went to Waco, where I saw some fixer-upper homes. But I also made a detour to Texas hill country to visit the Pressed Paper and Print shop to help Sharon create new images for her shop.
The road to Sharon's studio was lined with tall grasses and juniper trees but I could only make out the silhouettes because I was arriving a little late and it was dusk (I had had rental car troubles).
But Sharon made me feel like I arrived at the perfect time. When I walked in the door, she rushed to me with open arms like I was her daughter coming home to visit after a long semester. Her husband, John, was cooking dinner with the same precision he brings to his job as an engineer, and Sharon's brother and sister-in-law were chatting in the kitchen and enjoying sips of wine.
Sharon rushed me to a bedroom where she showed me all of the paper she had been prepping just for our time together. As I always do, I started touching everything. It does help my styling process, but even more, I just like to know how things feel. And that first piece of paper I picked up felt like a little cloudy pillow. So I touched more and more, telling Sharon what she already knew: that she has the softest paper in the world.
Then she led me into her studio where her old letterpress is. "Here's Millie," she said, with the biggest smile I've ever seen. She showed me how Millie worked and then how she and John had engineered the perfect system to dry paper. I learned that that's the most precarious and time-consuming part of the process and together, they had nailed it.
When I sat down for the dinner John had meticulously prepared, I again, started telling the table what they already know: I was tasting the best fettuccini alfredo I'd ever had. I was raised not to use grandiose statements like this or my comment about the paper. I don't even order fettuccini alfredo. And yet here it was, perfectly seasoned. Surprisingly seasoned with shallots and prosciutto and more. And yet here I was feeling completely honest using my over-the-top statement. Feeling like it would be dishonest to say anything different.
We had our photoshoot the next day and I watched Sharon throw her paper in the air like confetti and make jokes with Christine, the photographer, and I and enjoy breakfast. What I told Christine and she captured perfectly, was that I wanted it to be so clear that beyond amazing paper and press services and everything else that the shop offers, Sharon's generous heart is at the center. I had never met anyone who seemed less concerned with what doesn't matter in a competitive community, and so concerned with how she can continue to give, serve, and love the artists she works with.
It wasn't until that night that I learned that however easy it feels to be a guest in their home, it doesn't mean life is charmed. They've had their own path full of unsatisfying careers and heartbreaking illness. But even as they shared their story, I was encouraged by Sharon's decidedly grateful and optimistic outlook. I was trying hard to hold any unruly tears from escaping my eyes.
When we said goodbye, Sharon said, "you always have a home here." I smiled and laughed a little thanking her, feeling like maybe she was exaggerating a bit too much in her generosity. But as I loaded up all of my props and luggage and pulled out of the driveway, I did have the distinct feeling that I was leaving home.