There’s a lot of similarity between stationery and fashion. Both are about the appreciation of beautiful textures and surface details, clever design and a sense of beauty. OK, so it might seem a long stretch from a designer-of-the-year Stella McCartney jumpsuit to licking the back of a tissue lined envelope, but it’s no coincidence that many of our fashion-y friends have cupboard-full stashes of the stuff. Stroking a velvet piled jacket is no different from smoothing your fingers over the soft cushiony surface of proper cotton stock (paper card to the uninitiated).
Thus it was with a skip in my step that I went to see our new best friend Monika Day and her Paperplain printing company this week. Monika is a TWR reader and gave us some very sound advice when we were having our bit of bother (something similar had happened to her) and when we found she was involved with very beautiful stationery, well, we almost had to be restrained from legging it round to her store and office in Marylebone to see what she was about.
Using a vintage traditional letterpress machine (called Charlie Cropper, made around 1897) Monika is an artisan printer and produces, via peddle-power, the most beautiful, stroke-able printed stationery, including invitations, personalised notecards, Christmas cards and notebooks. Letterpress – where the letters are literally pressed into ‘stock’ made from cotton or bamboo with soya ink colours Monika has mixed herself – is a very traditional way of printing, comparable to hand-made or even couture- made clothing, where only the most authentic traditions and very best quality of everything is used.
Monika found her ‘Charlie’ in a disused convent and it took six months to restore him to working order. Even now he isn’t keen on the cold (who is?) and can be prickly if he’s having an ‘off’ day. It’s mucky work and to keep clean, Monika bought herself a woven linen printers overall from Charvin in Paris, where Picasso bought his paint, as it’s perfectly designed for the work, with generous length and black trimmed sleeves to disguise the ink stains.
I stroked and smoothed my way through the Paperplain collection as Monika educated me on the huge range of printing techniques she does (other than the letterpress), including digital print (the cheapest, equivelant of fast fashion perhaps?), themography where the letters are baked on to give a shiny raised finish and (my favourite) metallic block foil -definitely the ‘fashion-moment’ collection.
The joy of Paperplain is that is makes everything personalised, so you can have note cards, letter paper or note books, artfully designed and coloured with what ever you want to say on them (it’s traditional to use your initials or name and address, but why stop there?)
It suddenly seems a really modern thing to do, in this screen-greyed, homogenous world of digital communication. I am hooked on the idea of having thick plain note cards letterpressed with some jolly words (‘Chin Up!’ or “Onwards and Upwards!’) in piercingly vibrant colours to send out notes of thanks or just to say hello….A bit like I imagine Nancy Mitford might have done or maybe Lady Cora… Again, I blame Downton Abbey for giving me ideas above my station…
But in practical terms, it might be a novel and very individual present for tricky-to-buy-for teens to have cards made with their initials on or maybe just a sweet graphic, in the coolest of colours. You can also do the entire process on line too, so heck out the collection on line here or if you are close to the Marylebone store in Harcourt Street, pop in
Since Paperplain make everything locally, they can turn orders around very quickly, so there’s still time to order presents for Christmas, you can even personalise your Christmas cards…very posh! Last orders are 16th December.
Paperplain does designs for weddings, parties, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and if any fashion PRs are reading, they do amazing event designs too.
Website and contact details for Paperplain here A must for stationery fans,