Be careful who you invite for coffee — it could change the trajectory of your career.
In the case of Porter Teleo, what started as a started as a conversation over cups of java has become an internationally successful brand featured in Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Veranda and other national magazines.
Artist Kelly Porter and designer Bridgett Cochran are the creative force behind the Kansas City-based company, known for unique hand-painted wall covering and textile products. Every piece is individually painted and printed. After 14 years, Porter Teleo’s creations are available in showrooms from New York to Los Angeles and internationally in London and Toronto. Renowned designers such as Kelly Wearstler and Robert Couturier are fans as are celebrities Cameron Diaz and Gwen Stefani.
All of their work is created in Kansas City. Porter and Cochran have recently moved their business into a new headquarters at 1706 Holmes in the East Crossroads. The 10,000-square-foot building includes their production facility and a photography studio available for day rentals.
Kansas City Spaces: How do you describe what you do?
Cochran: We make handmade wallcoverings and textiles that we sell through the very best interior designers in the country. What we do is create everything by hand. We can create custom patterns for any space. Even if they are getting something from the standard line, it’s completely unique to their space. It’s being created panel by panel. It’s funny the reactions you get, because no one else says that’s what they do.
Porter: When we started, most hand-printed wallcoverings were silkscreened. That is a commercial process. We created prints using processes like woodblock printing, etching plates, relief printing and intaglio, which is a fine art process of printing. No one was doing that in the design world at the time. We were also using different types of inks, which led us to a unique product. We were able to get more transparency and vibrant colors and (use) different kinds of papers. People were excited to see something fresh and new. Our different techniques lead to a different aesthetic.
KCS: How has your process changed to keep up with the demand?
Porter: The process is exactly the same. We’ve grown our team and our actual space, but the product is made in exactly the same way. It used to be just Bridget and me making everything ourselves. We now have a team of 11. For about 10 years we’ve been growing we add about a person every year.
KC Spaces: Why did you decide to stay headquartered in Kansas City?
Porter: We’ve been able to do what we do because we are in Kansas City. From a business standpoint, it’s a great place for us to operate. We are in the middle of the country, which makes shipping easier. Kansas City is such an artful city. Not a lot of people are aware of that, but it’s getting to be better known. We have a great art school here in Kansas City. Although, we have hired a number of artists from other places, we have a lot from here. It’s important for us to stay. We have families. This is where we are rooted, and involved in our communities.
KCS: What do you like about what you do?
Porter: I love seeing the final result in the space where it is installed. I love seeing the interior designer’s work on balancing this art wallcovering — which can be very much of a statement — and all the other elements in the space. Some of the spaces are hotels where thousands of people see it every day. Others end up in very personal spaces like a bedroom or dining room. Even with our standard patterns, we still have a connection to it, because we made it.