Denver newbie Patricia Branstead is a master printer, papermaker, book artist and teacher of all of the above, a globe-trotting treasure who decided to roost here. Raised near Washington, D.C., and schooled in the Bay Area, she founded and ran the Aeropress intaglio studio in New York City for seventeen years before moving about as far from the city as one could possibly go to Steamboat Springs to help art dealer William van Straaten build his Riverhouse Editions print workshop there.
But Branstead's not a skier, she missed the city, her boys were growing up, and she wanted to open a store. So she ended up here, basking in our often-glorious weather but not knowing a soul. It didn't take her long to gravitate toward her own kind, nosing out such kindred spirits as printmaker Mark Lunning at Open Press and Alice Turak of the now-defunct store Paper Pleasures.
"I was either brave or foolish," Branstead says of her leap into retailing.
But if you're a paper freak like me, it won't take long to fall in love with Kozo Fine Art Materials, Branstead's shop at 10 East Ellsworth Avenue. Her well-organized stock of decorative and printmaking papers is neatly displayed in swinging poster frames for easy viewing and lingering over which is more than necessary, considering the wide selection of beautiful handmade papers from Nepal, Thailand and Japan.
There are bright butterfly prints and sheets mottled with tomato-red and gold patterns, fragile papers with leaves and blossoms interwoven among the fibers, elegant and delicate Japanese gray-on-white tissues finely etched with intricate waves and cranes, navy blue-on-white seals, colorful mountainscapes, rose batiks and floral medallions. And if you can't quite choose among the larger sheets, Branstead packages up colorful scrap assortments for $10 a packet.
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Farther back is a small general art supply selection with surprisingly reasonable prices, including a large array of printmaking materials, from fine Charbonnel inks to zinc and solar printing plates (the latter is a local exclusive). You can also consider a compact Richeson medium press for a couple grand or pick up an exquisite wood-framed Japanese papermaking kit that's almost too pretty to cover with pulp. There's a small but sometimes whimsical selection of gift items, too, including brocade totes and finely striped pillow covers, handbound journals and marvelous Chinese tin toys. Who wouldn't love a battery-free whale-eating fish or kicking zebra?
Branstead also reserves some wall space for work by area artists, as well as her own framed swatches of leaf-embedded handmade papers, stamped with graphics. "I used leaves I collected on the streets in Denver last fall while walking my dog," she says of her handiwork. It doesn't get more personal than that.
Friendly and more than knowledgeable, Branstead is Kozo's sole staff member at present, and she's happy to work with artists both amateur and highly skilled. And classes will soon be coming to Kozo for anyone interested in learning to make a book or create a sheet of decorative paste paper.
Kozo is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; call 303-733-2730 or visit www.kozofinearts.com.
Starts: May 23. Daily, 2007