The Nation’s Stationery Obsession Revealed
The UK loves their stationery, it’s official! We can’t get enough of our pens, journals, ringbinders, post it notes, paperclips and much more. With brands and premium stationers reporting continual rise in sales (statistics reported by the Guardian here), and a trend towards traditional craft, we thought it was high time to get under the skin of our obsession.
We launched a nationwide competition during April 2016, asking stationery lovers to complete the sentence “I love stationery because……” Whilst we found many loved staying organised, we discovered that our passion ran much deeper at a psychological level. We received emotional childhood memories, admissions to shopping addictions and photos aplenty of gargantuan collections. This blog post reports our findings.
“I love stationery because it inspires my creativity, liberates my imagination and transports me to my childhood, with the promise of endless opportunities to leave my mark in history.” Colette Mellor
Stationery is the antithesis of impersonal technology
Technology has taken over much of the written word (see our handwriting survey). Whilst It can be more convenient, on the flip side it lacks the human touch and permanence of something physical, and we found people loved their stationery because of this.
“I love stationery because ...... of the joys of receiving a handwritten letter or card, the peace that can be gained by getting out a beautiful pen to write a letter to a close friend, the satisfaction holding an actual list and physically ticking off items” Jane Leigh
“I love stationery because of the tactile feel and permanence compared to digital media.” Jeremy Hards
Many people who entered the competition loved the way stationery gave a sense of their personality (as opposed to digital). The huge choice of colours and nib sizes meant there would be a suitable pen for all moods.
"I love stationary because you can stamp your individuality in your communications and in the instruments that you choose. I love stationary because I am proud of my neat handwriting, and I want to show it off because I remember being at school, slightly teased for how sloppy it was back then." Louise Evans
“I love stationary because it helps all my creativity and even depicts my mood. I select different stationery for tasks I'm to do and also what mood I'm in -bold marker stationary and nibs for discipline and anger and fine delicate pens for love and beauty. Stationary defines who I am and a friend always know what I'm thinking as they just need to look at the stationary I use to see what kind of day I'm having”. [email protected]
We loved the idea that a fresh page of paper offered a greater sense of excitement than a blank computer screen.
“I love stationery because nothing electronic gives you the same sense of anticipatory promise, new beginnings and endless possibilities, as a virgin page in front of you and in your hand, a writing instrument filled with smooth flowing ink. Delightful!” Eirini Kourvouli
Oh the childhood memories
Hands up who remembers their favourite pencil case from school? Mine was a Transformers one, it was the envy of all my classmates. Many of our nation’s stationery lovers felt their addiction stemmed from childhood memories of back to school shopping, smelly rubbers and troll toppers.
“Crayons smell of child hood, A4 pad of student days. Colouring books of child hood and lazy days.” Rachel Morris
“When I was a child at school starting a new term or school year, my brother and I would take a trip to the shops to get fully kitted out with not only new uniform but new stationery too. It could be anything from pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers even a new pencil case to house our stash of goodies. I remember once buying a pencil sharpener that looked like a cake, with white icing and a red cherry on top. Rubbers that not only looked like sweets but smelt like them too. It soon become the norm at school to have some amazing addition to our already packed to the brim pencil case!” By Andrea Hewitt
“I love all stationery items, particularly pens. This wooden pencil box (well over 55 years old) has been with me all through school, carried in my satchel and bag to college and with me through exams. It is a treasured item in my desk draw today.” Mrs Carol Patrick
Stationery Motivates Creativity
The sense of excitement created by a blank page of paper seemed to resonate with many of our competition entrants. They loved the idea that stationery was going to unleash a wave of creativity. A lovely notebook or pen would give them the much needed motivation.
“I love stationery because it can unleash your creative potential. The unsullied page, the pristine pen offer limitless possibilities.” Solange Thomas
“…Where will this page take me? Perhaps to a new world? To a conversation between the greatest minds in history ? To a beautiful drawing? What may come into being through the empty page? Love it!. Sian Collins.
“Because a pretty looking set of stationary, can boost moral and make you happy, when trying to write 20 songs in a week with writers block! It can also be used as a means of self expression and as a creative type, thats what Im all about! They say the pen is mightier then the sword”! Rebecca Walker
Motivates Planning and Organisation
The obvious use for stationery. Whilst many entrants mentioned organisation, it didn’t seem to generate as much love as something like childhood memories. Rachel Howlett, said it best.
"These days I love notebooks - nothing beats a fresh, clean one with its endless possibilities - I have dozens of them which I use for planning everything from holidays to my future as well as everyday things such as recipes and shopping lists. I have them in a variety of sizes - big ones to write about my travels in, medium ones for making notes about something I’m researching and small ones for my to-do lists. I use lightweight paperbacks for those that get carried around in my bag a lot and sturdy hardbacks for those that stay at home." Rachel Howlett
Stationery Shopping Addicts
Stationery shopping is super fun. We love to ogle at the vast array of pens, pencils, rubbers and sharpeners, all lined up neatly in a rainbow of colours.
“…my natural habitat seems to be the local stationers in town called Wrights. The rows of notebooks, labels, pens, cards are thrilling. My Granddaughter has inherited the same love and often let her choose a lovely notebook or two when she visits.” Mrs.Oonagh-PatriciaWood
"If I start a new job or even a new venture that involves writing of some kind a trip to a stationer is a must. It doesn’t have to be a well-known one either, it could be a little hidden shop down the local High Street to a Supermarket it makes no difference to me! As soon as I walk in, I’m mesmerised with the rows and rows of various stationery, leaving my Stationery Widow behind (my husband), as I speed off down the aisles like a child in a sweet shop. My persona changing from that of a grown up to that of the child I used to be." Andrea Hewitt
“………the bliss of standing in a stationery shop and deliberating over the colours, textures, sizes and shapes” Jane Leigh
It’s so pretty
Well-designed stationery can be a beautiful thing. Forget about the practical nature of stationery, the visual appeal could be one of the most emotive factors we identified.
"I love stationary because as well as being extremely useful and necessary ( well, maybe not all of my collection!) it's so Pretty!" Ellie Thatcher
"I absolutely cannot resist beautiful stationery - my pride and joy is a custom made ink pen that my dad had made for me out of blown glass. I also have an amazing 3D unicorn notebook from Urban Outfitters that I actually can’t bring myself to use because it’s too beautiful. I love having beautiful stationery because it helps make beautiful things! I’m a designer for a living and you have to surround yourself with inspiration - even if it’s something as small as a pen :) " Claire Durrant
"I love colour and pattern and nice stationery makes mundane things like diaries and shopping lists more attractive. I really should get a life!" Jane
We are natural collectors
Its human nature to collect, to feel like you have the best collection, to find rare or unusual items. It gives us a sense of pride.
“Stationery is like a hobby as I love to shop and collect, a real pleasure.” Madalaine Collins
“I have a huge collection, as shown in the many pictures, and I'm always adding to it whenever I get an opportunity. Every time I'm walking past a stationery shop, I have to linger around it avidly
gazing into the window, admiring the large bundles of notebooks, pens, pencils and other glorious treats tucked inside the store. My collection is filled with unusual items that I absolutely adore. My favourites would have to be: My unicorn tape dispenser, My wheelie bin desk tidy and my home-made star shaped crayons.” Lucy Underwood