Confessions of a Stationery Addict: Sidonie Warren

Posted by Rebecca Lee on

For the second instalment of our monthly column, who better to talk to about all things stationery than our very own founder, Sidonie Warren? Here Sidonie shares her childhood stationery memories, her day to day tools, and her love for travel and design. 

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So many of my childhood games involved paper and pens. I’d spend hour drawing floor plans of houses. I set up a magazine with my sisters, and started a library.

There’s something satisfying about stamping a book and then pressing the spine along one of those metal security machines. I think I used a mirrored jewellery box instead though. Stationery was a key part of my favourite game, ‘schools’... I was always the teacher and loved using different coloured pens for taking the register. My Grandma was a headteacher and sometimes she’d bring us real school exercise books! I also remember being very sensitive about paper types and pencil bluntness. I couldn’t touch certain papers without licking my hand first because they felt too dry. And god forbid anyone hand me a blunt pencil. 

At school, I had a gel pen addiction. I began underlining the date and titles in all my school work with a different coloured gel pen but then I got carried away in maths and extended the rule to include all symbols and lines. Needless to say my teacher wasn’t happy with how long it was taking me to solve equations.

Thinking about all of the above, I’d conclude two things; firstly a lot of my fondness for stationery and paper comes from the tactility of it and secondly I was a sensitive and strange child.

Nowadays, I sell stationery for a living and I use it everyday. If I’m carrying a small handbag, I’ll chuck in a mechanical pencil, a fountain pen and an everyday pen - a rollerball or gel ink that I can scrawl in. I like workdays because I can fit my pencil case in my big work bag and I’ll fill it with a rainbow of coloured fineliners and markers, wooden pencils and a handful of writing pens.

Being surrounded by pens all day means that I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a writing instrument. I’m mad about the OHTO pencil ball. It’s a pen that looks like a pencil but has a very fine gel refill. It’s so smooth yet needlepoint sharp and I’ve been raving about it to everyone. So much so that I actually gave mine away to someone who I thought needed it more than me. Note to self: must repurchase.

Besides running Papersmiths, I co-founded a design studio, B, six years ago. I travel a lot for work, scouring the globe for stationery and design inspiration and I’m always discovering new gems. I think this puts me at risk of indulging and purchasing items rather than just absorbing or documenting. My head always says to me ‘It’s research Sid, of course you can buy it.’ And I listen.

Do in Madrid has an exceptional curation housed in a most beautiful space. It’s so well done that it makes me feel sick. I’d wholeheartedly recommend checking them out. They’re super friendly too. When I’m in New York I’ll drop into CW Pencil Enterprise to stock up on obscure Japanese pencils and buy pressies, ABC Carpet and Home for cute, glittery bits and excellent wrapping supplies and Goods for the Study for luxury items...and treats for me! El Imparcial is a restaurant in Madrid that has a small concept store in one of the rooms on the first floor. Their papeleria includes a small but eclectic range including brands like Happily Ever Paper. Berlin is a top spot too, with stores like Paper and Tea and RSVP within a stone’s throw of each other. I’m hoping to make a trip to Japan soon.

I’ve met so many people who love stationery and feel a thrill when they come into Papersmiths. It’s made me ask myself what it is about stationery that we love so much, so we’ve started this column to have that conversation. I view my notebooks as tools for planning, recording, journaling, documenting and analysing. And handwriting as a way to express ourselves, not only by putting down words but through our style of hand too. The stationery we choose is also a means of self expression, it’s not just a tool to create with but it’s also a way to say something to the world about ourselves.

Some parting thoughts on stationery...

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

I pay close attention to the pens that people use and I like to look inside sketchbooks and notebooks. I’d love to have a nosy inside the pencil of case Alia Penner. She’s an artist and her work is vibrant, zany and playful. I imagine her pencil case would be too. I wonder if she’d have pencil sharpenings in there.

Paper is the most satisfying in the form of...
I can’t say no to a notebook of assorted papers.

I have a terrible habit when it comes to my notebooks. I’m constantly seeking the writing-on-the-first page thrill. I’ll use the first page, then switch it out before I get round to using the rest of the paper. All my notebooks fall to this, and end up just sitting on my bookshelves looking pretty. It becomes a vicious cycle, because who wants to start a new notebook with anything but brand new, fresh sheets?

Yes, Becks! I am guilty of this notebook madness too! I have stacks of them, it’s outrageous. At the moment I’ve got several on the go. My journal is a GF Smith Colorplan notebook with exposed binding. It’s a beautiful object made up of a rainbow of paper from the Colorplan collection. I use an astronomy observer's notebook with grids for anything that wants to be recorded in a table, a graph paper HIBI notebook in A5 for everyday notes and thoughts, a week-view diary, a handful of pocket notebooks which fit nicely in my small handbag for on-the-go scribbles and a linen Bindewerk sketchbook which is full of drawings of our new shop interior plans.

I recently turned thirty and one of our suppliers, Papier Tigre, gave me their A5 carnet in the Medusa pattern as a gift, and they foiled it with ‘Sidonie Warren #30’. It’s so special and I’m using it for recording big plans and big ideas.

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