Confessions of a Stationery Addict: Pui Lee

Posted by Rebecca Lee on

Pui is a freelance graphic designer, and has a background in fashion, retail, branding and product design. Alongside her brother, Wai, they founded Scout Editions, a lifestyle studio where illustration and paper experimentation is at the core of the brand.

Pui draws inspiration from her travels, nature and from folklore, resulting in unique paper goods. Each card is thoughtfully designed, from the risograph colour palette to the little histories printed on the reverse.

It turns out Pui has always been fond of storytelling. She spoke to us about comic book doodles, paper folding, and her adventures in Tokyo.

When did your love of stationery begin? Do you have fond childhood memories of pencils and paper?

I’ve always loved stationery. I'm from a large family with four siblings. My brother, Wai and I spent our pocket money on stationery as it was affordable and fun to collect. We’d often do swaps too.

I remember we collected scratch and sniff stickers, writing tools like pens and pencils and novelty erasers. We were obsessed with nice smelling stationery. Even the the pens came in different smells, like bubble gum or coffee. I remember I had a miniature milkshake eraser and amazingly it smelt like chocolate milkshake!

As a nine year old, it was tricky to decide between buying new stationery or sweets with my pocket money. We'd buy our stationery from the local post office, newsagents, WHSmith's or toy shop. Some of my erasers were rare or gifted from family and friends. We'd always look forward to a new school year, as this meant new stationery.

I was also a bit of a doodler. I used to draw my own comic strips in pencil and duplicate them by tracing my originals on the window so I could hand out copies to friends to read. I was a bit geeky like that.

How does stationery and paper play a part in your work and creative process? What are your go-to instruments for creating?

Stationery plays a big part everyday in our studio, where I’m a designer and illustrator. We create paper goods, so we're constantly sourcing new papers and play with new formats, like our paper shirt cards and concertina cactus cards.

The majority of our illustrations are created on the computer. However, I like to spend time experimenting with paints and inks, and using brushes or sticks to make marks and textures, and then introduce them into the illustrations.

I think it’s good to go back to basics and use pen and paper to brainstorm ideas. It’s a much more loose and free way to work, which cannot always be achieved on the computer.

Do you have any favourite pieces of stationery?  Any new purchases you’re getting a lot of use out of lately, or classics that you keep going back to?

It probably sounds a little odd, but scissors are my favourite tools. I like cutting and pasting my ideas together once they're printed out, as it’s a more tactile way to work - and quicker too.  

There’s something so satisfying about this process. So a super sharp pair of scissors is essential!

I've also just returned from Tokyo. It’s one of my favourite places for inspiration - ever! The Japanese have an abundance of amazing stationery shops, so it feeds my love of stationery. I have bought a ton of new stationery back with me, from washi tapes, innovative pens to beautiful notebooks. Some I will use and some I will hold onto, or I'll gift to friends.

I do tend to stick to the same pens for drawing, like the Muji fine liners but lately I've loved experimenting with the Pentel brush pens.

My handy Vitra Toolbox keeps most of my tools together and keeps me organised.

Can you share your top stationery shopping spots with us?

My favourites in London for something special are Present and Correct, Choosing Keeping and Papersmiths. Muji, Cass Art and London Graphic Centre are great go-to places for more traditional and staple materials.

Out of London, it’s definitely got to be Tokyo. They have an amazing selection of stationery brands and shops like Loft, Delfonics and Tokyo Hands.  

Paper is most satisfying in the form of…

Notebooks! However, I do find it hard to use them as I always try to save them for big projects. Instead, I end up accumulating a collection of notebooks that I don’t use and display instead.

I also have a bit of an obsession with packaging. Just like an art print, it has taken time and thought to craft. As I'm also a packaging designer, I'm constantly on the look-out for lovely designs. I always end up bringing home a little haul of lovely packaged goods from Japan, that I then display in the studio.

If you could have a rummage in anybody’s pencil case whose would it be?

A tricky one.... I have a few.

Dick Bruna. I'm a big fan of his illustrations, having grown up with his work. A couple of years ago I saw a retrospective of his work in Tokyo which included original drawings of his characters. Each illustration was drawn by hand with one type of pen. The quality of line work looks effortless and consistent. I would love to know what his go-to pens would be.

American artist, Charley Harper is also a big inspiration to me. I love his use of colours and textures in his beautiful illustrations. I would love to see what tools he uses to create textures.

One of my favourite artists is Jean Michel-Basquiat. His graffiti-like style is enigmatic, chaotic and energetic. I imagine the inside of his pencil case is colourful, random and full of pencil shavings!

What’s been your biggest stationery indulgence?

I recently bought back some vintage pencils from Tokyo. I doubt I will use them, as they're more collectable items because I like the packaging!

Any parting thoughts / anecdotes on your love of stationery?

Stationery is one of life’s simple, and affordable, pleasures.

I like how a favourite pen can make you write better, and enjoy writing too.

Finally, I love how my niece has just developed a love of stationery!

Thank you Pui!

Visit Scout Editions

Follow Pui on Instagram

Images © Yeshen Venema and Pui Lee 2017