Culture

 

Czech designer on joy of working with paper

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

“Paper is a tool of the learned, a raw material for bookmaking. Paper is the household furniture of the chancery, the treasure of scholars, a preserver of human friendship. O, my paper! You are indeed a splendid thing.” A quote by Abraham a Santa Clara, a 17th century priest, inscribed on a shop window of a small stationery in Prague’s Vojtěšská street, captures the philosophy of the small Czech design brand, Papelote, which has been around for more than five years. The tiny Papelote store only features a few tables and shelves to set off its products - notebooks, journals, wrapping paper and many others. They are all designed in a distinctive, subtle style, with just an occasional splash of bright colour. Papelote was awarded the Grand Design Award a few years ago and nowadays, you can come across its products in a number of bookstores and shops around the country. When I met with Papelote founder, Kateřina Šachová, in her Prague studio, she told me where the idea for a stationery shop originated:

 
 

“I have been interested in stationery for a very long time, I would say for my whole life, but the idea to establish a stationery store came much later, in the last year of my studies at the department of illustration at the Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Prague.

“I have the feeling that when I was searching for the topic of my diploma work, everything that has interested me for a long time somehow naturally interconnected: fascination with paper, physical work with material, pleasure of writing and drawing.

“But most of all it was probably my need to do something meaningful and useful that would interconnect the world of creativity and fantasy with the daily life. I was also looking for something that would not end behind the school walls, but would naturally carry me over to reality. That’s why I decided to fulfil my dream and open a stationery store.”

How difficult was to put the idea into practice?

“At the beginning it was quite difficult, because we would make everything in our living room, just like many people do when they are starting a business. But after about one year we moved to our existing space in Vojtěšská street near the National Theatre where we now have a shop.

“And slowly, as the demand for our products increased, we started to look for someone who would help us with the production. So now most of our production takes place in a special printing house and only a small part of our projects, especially the limited editions, are made directly here, in our workshop.”

How long did it take you to establish on the market and how do you reach new customers?

“I don’t know if we have already established ourselves but hopefully at least a little bit. Papelote has been around for five and a half years, but it seems to me that in many ways we are still at the beginning.”

“I think we have to be active in many ways. We have the Papelote brand, we have the customised edition, we organise workshops…”

What kind of workshops do you offer?

“Over the last two years it was mostly workshops for children, prepared in collaboration with young illustrators. Sometimes we also do origami workshops and now we want to start with workshops for adults, focused on paper decorations, wrapping, how to use paper in our daily lives in some creative way.”

You also won the Grand Design Award back in 2011. Did that help you in attracting new customers?

“We received the award when we were still at the beginning, when a lot of people didn’t know about us and our potential clients didn’t really know what we could do for them. So I think it definitely helped us a lot in being exposed to the wider public and also providing a certain guarantee of quality for potential clients.”

Who would you say are your typical customers?

“I think it’s very different. I can’t really simplify it to one definition but I think our customers are definitely people who care about where and how the products are made and who try to find something more in the ordinary things of daily use.”

The paper and textile that you use, is it manufactured here in the Czech Republic?

Unfortunately we are not able to use only paper from the Czech Republic, even if we would like to, because the Czech producers often do not produce the material that we need. So the paper comes from Germany, Sweden or Italy. But we always try to look for suppliers and sources in the Czech Republic first.”

Is there actually a paper making tradition in the Czech Republic?

“There definitely is some tradition but definitely not as strong as for example in France or Italy, where there is a very rich tradition of paper making.”

What kind of products do you currently offer?

“We have quite a wide range of products at the moment. At the beginning we started with simple journals and notebooks but we slowly added various textile and felt covers and cases, and then also diaries, document files and photo albums, wrapping paper and so on.”

And what are some of your best-selling items?

“I think one of the most popular products are the simple notepads called Spiral with an elastic band that can hold pens and pencils. I think it is popular because it is simple and practical. “Photo albums have also become very popular recently, because people started to print photos again. I think there is a new wave of Polaroid images.”

You said people like simple and practical items. Simple and clean design actually seems to be your trademark. Who is designing your products? Is it just you or do you invite other designers to participate?

“That’s actually our creative studio called Papelab. In the beginning I would do all the designs myself but with the increasing volume of work it was no longer possible development of Papelote brand and its promotion.”

Nowadays, most people have their diaries in their computers and mobile phones. Why do you think they are still attracted to paper?

“I think it’s precisely because of the huge number of mobile applications, because I think that one hand it can make or lives simpler but on the other hand it can really overload us. And I think that paper and its tactility brings completely different experience and feelings that no mobile application can ever replace.”

 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 03.02.2015
 
 
 

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