Paula Franco launched Luz Editions in 2020, but had been developing the project since 2019 when she discovered the wonderful work of photographer Artur Pastor – images that she felt conveyed the inherent emotion, and the history, of the Portuguese people.
“I looked for a way to use those images that was out of the ordinary, and screen printing on linen resulted,” she explains. “I started off with English text, which I envisioned would make my tea towels a perfect souvenir for tourists, but the Portuguese who bought them wanted their own version. Since then, the text is in Portuguese and the message is an expression of people here.
“Each product I introduce must represent something, and must be produced with the least consequence to our planet. Craftsmanship is crucial, quality is vital. Obviously, prices are affected, but manual labour has its own value. The craftsman is not a machine, he produces at his speed and with soul. It’s a journey in tradition, and in sustainability. The goal is to have pieces that are consistent with each other and that tell a story. The investment is in emotion, that’s the only way to make an acquired object last.”
Making it happen
Luz Editions has its own home-grown products: the tea towels (with new editions each year), the candles (which will have new fragrances each year), the knives, the collaborations with ceramists. And everything is produced here, in Portugal, with the exception of the fragrances that she buys from Grasse for her candles.
But it is the images she uses on linen that are the most distinctive. “They come from different archives in Portugal,” she explains. “I research databases in depth, and it takes a huge amount of time because the goal is to choose an image that conveys the emotion of the word I am going to use. I have probably viewed over 4,000 photographs now!
“When I make my choice, I buy the rights to use the image. Not every one results in screen printing, which is disappointing, but
you have to know the limitations of the medium you are using, and also to recognise when something is not going to work for you.”
And words are what it is all about, the very essence of each piece. “When I find an image that I like, I’ll try everything to use it. For the word Saudade (longing), it was difficult to find a photograph that could relate to a feeling that is so individual and heartfelt. My final choice was of two boys saddened and fascinated by the departure of the boat. It was based on the feeling of loss, a recognition of my own saudade every summer when I had to say goodbye to my family here in Portugal.”
Paula believes that Portugal’s contemporary personality really started coming to the foreground when times got tough. “In its reinvention, through yet another crisis, a whole generation has developed into entrepreneurs or craftsmen, and that is excellent news.”
Right now, however, Paula continues to work solo. She had an intern in the summer of 2021 and will probably take on another in the months ahead, as soon as she feels that the brand needs, and can afford, one extra person. “To be honest,” she confesses, “there are days when you have to motivate yourself because human contact is everything in creativity. And coming from the corporate world, there are days when I really feel too lonely!”
Spreading her wings
Today Luz Editions are sold, in addition to within Portugal, in Belgium, France, Canada, USA and online; one of the markets that she currently does include in her network is the UK – “It’s a shame that Brexit has made trading between small businesses so difficult,” she says ruefully.
But she hopes to be selling in the main countries of Europe within the next few years, and to have developed her online sales, and maybe even have her own store here where she can sell her collections alongside others she adores.
Based in Lisbon, in an apartment in an Art Deco 1930s building, she respects the architecture and the original details tries not to modify them except to create a more comfortable life style, knocking down a wall to introduce more light, or installing central heating for greater warmth. The style of her home is very French, with a touch of English cottage inspiration. “I try not to buy new furniture, so most of it is second-hand. And as I do with Luz Editions, I regard my home as a legacy, a piece of history that I will one day pass on to someone.” And she hopes that she will soon be ready to find a space which will become her workshop, and where she will be able to organise events and arts and crafts workshops as well. “For now, it’s only a dream, but one day it will come true,” she smiles.
Her favourite place? “Nazaré, the place of my summer childhood, is so dear to my heart. I would have liked to known it in the 1950s and 60s. I really admire the people of this ancient village for the respect they have for the sea, for their traditions, and for the courage of their fishermen. I love all the photographs of this period – the work of Artur Pastor, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jean Dieuzaide, Stanley Kubrick and many many others.
And her favourite piece? “In Luz Editions, they are all my babies, but If I had to choose just one, it would be the tea towel Alegria. Alegria (happiness) is one of my favourite words in Portuguese. If it was a
piece in general in my life, it would be a bowl chipped and repaired by a staple, so typical of country object repairs in Portugal.