Grey is the new black

Grey is the new black

Grey is the new black

Grey stationery

Grey is a colour that doesn’t get on a popular radar very often, it really is the new Diamine Earl Grey ink which started it all 🙂 Then the new grey washi tape arrived followed shortly by grey Age Bag notebooks – coincidence? Hmmm… We love playing with all stationery, so Dominic went on treasure hunt around the warehouse and collected everything in grey. I helped with inks (of course) in another blog post. You can read about 10 different greys here.

Age Bag Grey notebooks
Opera Pebble envelopes
use a notepad to make a list

Q&A: Can Stationery Make You More Productive?

use a notepad to make a list

How stationery can help you get stuff done


Being effective. Getting stuff done. Doing the things that need to be done and not the tasks that don’t matter. These are possibly rated as amongst the most desired objectives for the majority of people. We are all overwhelmed with the need to get things done and technology is meant to have made our lives easier. So can stationery make you more productive?

Yes, undoubtedly technology has been a benefit to our efficiency but it has also very neatly put greater emphasis on us to manage our own lives – we now organise our own holidays online rather than get a travel agent to do the hard work for us; we have become our own financial experts with online banking but have to constantly juggle accounts and direct debits ourselves; we are tax experts as we have to submit our own tax returns. The list goes on and all technology seems to be doing is adding to the list of ‘things we have to do’.

rhodia goalbook
Rhodia Goalbook - a new way to set out your goals

Now I’m not saying that technology isn’t wonderful or that I don’t wonder how we survived when we had to use a travel agent or had no access to our bank accounts 24 hours a day. But in the midst of it all, we seem to have developed an increasing need to manage our lives. It is notable how the more technology drives our lives, the more we like to try and manage the problem with an analogue solution rather than using yet more technology.

Stationery – much maligned over recent years, scoffed at for its days being numbered, yet actually a means to sorting out the very problems that the digital age, its supposed nemesis, has created. So this post is about how stationery can be used to make our lives a little bit easier.


Use a notepad to make a list
Use a notepad to make a list

At its most basic, stationery is simple, efficient and effective. A pen and some paper get the job done with minimal fuss, and the very act of writing in itself has been shown to aid the process of memory. And let’s not get to issues of battery life, lack of wifi, upgrades and more. A simple to-do list is easy to create, easy to amend, easy to use and easy to complete. Whether it is a shopping list when nipping to Tesco’s or a quick to-do list, having pen and paper handy at all times will make you more efficient.

Bullet Journaling

bullet journaling
Bullet Journaling - The ultimate in list making

Yes, I have mentioned the whole BuJo process. Apologies to Ryder Carroll but it is essentially an advanced form of list-making – he quite rightly argues that the act of writing out daily to-do lists and migrating tasks makes you more focused on what you are actually tasking yourself with doing, and so you also feel more readily inclined to remove tasks. Bullet Journals are far too big a topic to cover here (start reading more here and then see where it takes you) but it is one of the most obvious examples of people using stationery to complement or even replace technology.


sketch out ideas
Visualise it - sketch out your ideas on paper

Many people find that sketching out an idea on paper is so much easier. It helps you visualise an idea or problem. It’s quick, immediate and easy to start again. Visually having something laid out over a page or even both pages as your idea grows makes it easier to understand the whole thing.


diary planning
Use a diary to plan your time

Another topic for another day is how we keep a diary – online, on paper or not at all? Maybe it is a combination of digital and paper, but however you decide to keep track of your time a diary may well be the cornerstone of keeping yourself afloat – just the act of knowing what you have agreed to do at what time. We are seeing an increasing demand for ‘traditional’ diaries (i.e. paper based), as well as a much bigger range of diaries being made compared to say 10 years ago.

The Pleasure

The mere act of writing can help as well as be enjoyable

There is also something tangible that a pen with some ink on paper can provide that can’t be provided by a computer screen. Some people will lose themselves down that rabbit hole and in doing so efficiency will be lost by becoming a hobby. That’s fine, but even if you stick to writing as a means of being more productive, there is still a pleasure to be had from using a pen you know, writing in a colour you like and writing on paper that works for you. Maybe it handles wet ink well, maybe it has micro-perforated sheets that tear out neatly leaving no trace, maybe it is punched ready to be filed. Go find your ideal pen, ink and paper and see how being efficient can also be a pleasure.

Digital vs Analogue

There is no getting away from the fact that there will be some who say that to reject or even blame technology is being a luddite or burying your head in the sand to progress. On the contrary I am someone who loves their technology as much (well, almost as much) as anyone, and I have an unfulfilled desire to find the perfect app that will deliver untold efficiency. I won’t find it and it will never exist, but I can still go looking. However I also know when to use pen and paper, when it will be more efficient and effective and making me get through everything. The secret is all in the balance between the two, and that balance will vary from person to person. Hmmm…I feel another post coming up on that very subject.

Taroko Design

An Interview with Steven from Taroko Design

Taroko Design

I have just finished my A5 Taroko dot notebook when it hit me…I don’t know a lot about the brand or the makers… Quick nosy Google search took me to their Etsy and Facebook page, but that did not satisfy my curiosity. The notebooks are incredibly popular (A5 dot is currently sold out), so I have set myself a mission to explore the brand, notebooks and paper in a 3-part blog 🙂

So we thought we would get Steven to share something of his background and love of stationery. I had a great time chatting and geeking out with him. Enjoy!

Interview with Steven Chang from Taroko Design

Tell me a little about your background.  What was the impulse to start making your own notebooks? We’re a small studio based in Taipei, Taiwan, and our story really started with the purchase of my first fountain pen, a Pilot Kakuno, several years back. With the fountain pen in hand, I was surprised at the difficulty of finding the right paper/notebook products in the market to use the fountain pen with. One thing lead to another (trying lots of different paper+pen combinations) and we’ve managed to secure three types of fountain pen friendly paper to make products with: Tomoegawa 52 and 68 gms, and our own Taroko Orchid paper at 80gsm. The mission is really to provide more choices to fountain pen users where most paper products cater to the rollerball/gel pen usages.

What’s the story behind your studio? After my earlier career in tech (product manager for notebooks and mobile phones), I decided to pursuit an industrial design degree. While taking the degree program, classmate at the time is my current studio partner Wenwen Liu. We decided to group up and start the studio a few months before graduation to keep the learning process going, by taking on projects as a team. Our past projects included graphic and floor plan design for photography exhibitions, souvenirs for tourist centers, and product branding and packaging. The creation of notebooks under the Taroko brand gives us the freedom of implementing our ideas (versus having to adhere to client design guidelines), as well as choosing the type of material that goes into our notebooks.

How did you come up with the brand name? Taroko is named after Taroko Gorge in my hometown of Hualien. Most people would think of Taiwan as an industrialized island packed with 20 million people, but there are still natural wonders on the eastern portion of the island. We will be incorporating elements from Taroko National Park into our notebooks in the future. 🙂 Here are some references on Taroko Gorge/National Park:

What would you be making if not notebooks? Leathercrafts. Love the experience of making things by hand that will age well with usage. An important lesson from design school days is to always make things with your hand, draw with pen and pencils, and suppress the urge to jump right into Photoshop or a 3D rendering program. So we are always cutting and binding paper during our prototyping stage.

What do you attribute the success and/or demand for stationery today to? The product has to deliver a kind of “experience” to the customer, from the weight of the notebook, suprisingly light to unexpected heft. The touch of the materials used, and the subtle feedback of the nib sliding across the paper. It is a difficult balance to hold between achieving that unique experience and manufacturing constraints in delivering products, but I believe that’s what most leading brands are striving to achieve.

What’s your favourite item of stationery in your personal collection? It’s a little folding hand knife I bought in Nishiki market in Tokyo, and I use it to sharpen pencils with. The knife is handcrafted by a Japanese artisan, and when I use it to sharpen pencils, it serves as a reminder of the trip, as well as liberate the aroma from the pencil wood.

And finally – what is your current paper+pen+ink combo? Tomoe River paper 68gsm (of course) with Pilot Justus 95 filled with Sailor Seasons Yama-dori (teal blue). The Pilot Justus 95, with its adjustable nib hardness, is perfect for when I need to write interchangeably between English and Chinese. And the Yama-dori gives a wonderful red sheen on Tomoe River paper.

Thanks to Steven for sparing his time to give this great interview. We wish you and Taroko Design best of luck.

Watch out for Part 2 of Taroko Trilogy – we’ll focus a bit more on their notebooks.

Part 3 will be all about Tomoe River paper. (Hint: it’s amazing!:) )

Taroko Design notebooks are available here.

Incowrimo 2017 Letter

Incowrimo 2017 – Writing Letters – Part 2

Incowrimo 2017 Letter

International Correspondence Writing Month. One a day. Every day. February. That's the tag line that got me interested last year 🙂 Are you ready to take on the challenge and put pen to paper?

You can read the first part of our series on Incowrimo 2017 here.

What to write always seems to be the hardest thing about Incowrimo. The good news is that it’s actually easier than you think. Reconnect with people – find something you have in common. Write about something nice 🙂 Be kind, ask questions, or just one 🙂 Keep it light.

I always mention pen and ink combo and then decorate remaining space with doodles, ink splats, stamps, washi tape, stickers, etc.

Plan your incowrimo – it’s perfectly fine to start with few quick thank you notes, postcards, Valentine’s card and slowly build up to letters.

Incrowrimo 2017 postcard ideas

In this second part of our letter writing series, we will be looking at paper and filling those envelopes.

My recommendation for a more sophisticated writing experience are the Original Crown Mill sets. Each box comes with enough stationery to get you through a month of incowrimo, easy.  The laid paper in these sets are the reason why this feels luxurious. Ordinary copier paper is no match for the ribbed texture here which looks and feels more personal. That is the tone we want for Incowrimo 🙂

The Crown Mill comes in two different sets. The gold box comes with cream coloured materials. Silver box contains white paper and envelopes.

Incowrimo 2017 letter on a desk

When I talk about writing letters I have to mention Triomphe. It is a brand of pads and envelopes by Clairefontaine – famous for its glassy smooth 90gsm bright white paper. These pads have plain paper in them and come with a ruled cheat sheet which will magically help you write in neat, straight lines. Simply genius 🙂 Envelopes are lined with white paper and the seal is diamond shaped which makes them perfect contestants for wax seals. They certainly do look classy and are fantastic value for money.

We had these pads reviewed by the wonderful Azizah on her blog. Have a look – there are some fantastic photos which will inspire you 🙂 Perfect incowrimo cue.

My go-to is Rhodia R pad. Some may consider it as a budget option because it is just a pad. Don’t be fooled – it is gorgeous 90gsm buttery smooth ivory paper. We sell them in plain or lined paper. I pick lined over plain because when writing, I can anchor the letters to the lines and find it makes my handwriting look neater. Certain fountain pen inks ‘shine’ on ivory paper, others look great on bright white paper. My top 3 inks for ivory paper are KWZ Honey, Diamine Syrah and J Herbin 1670 Caroube de Chypre. Pages tear out easily, one by one, and it does look rather smart 🙂

Incowrimo 2017 letters with clips and washi tape

Last year we were part of Letters Live 2016 which was a spectacular event, defo check out for a spark of inspiration and get on for further information.

Next week we’ll be helping you out with some ideas and creations we’ve been prepping for our own contribution to Incowrimo 2017 🙂 See you soon!

Incowrimo 2017 letters and ink
Bullet Journal with Incowrimo calendar

Incowrimo 2017 – Writing Letters – Part 1

Bullet Journal with Incowrimo calendar

February, the shortest month of the year is almost here... For many stationery geeks this is the time when we sit down and write one letter a day to someone. INternational COrrespondence WRIting MOnth aka Incowrimo here we go...

In the beginning it was a simple idea – write more letters. Vintage social media beats email/text every time. It is without a doubt more romantic and personal.

February was picked because it is the shortest month of the year. So if you commit, you will only need to write 28 (29 during leap year) letters, cards, postcards, notes, post-its, napkins…

Who you write to is up to you, of course. This is a fantastic way to reconnect with old friends and family. Write to loved ones, write to strangers…or write to us if you like 🙂

To start off Incowrimo, I make a list of 28 souls 🙂 Next step is my favourite one – grab all the stationery which I can find around the house/office and start brainstorming 🙂 The usual ingredients are: envelopes, paper, cards, postcards and stamps. Extras like shimmering inks, washi tape, wax seals, stamps are the cherries on top.

Bullet Journal with Incowrimo calendar

In part one of this letter writing series, we will be looking at envelopes.

Envelopes are the first thing that your recipient will see, so I try to make them stand out.

Colour usually does the trick – your bank would not send you statements in pink envelopes 🙂 Silver and gold envelopes catch the eye and say “you are special.” Plain envelopes are okay – Decorate! Why not recycle any old ones too?  Incowrimo is prime time to open that stationery drawer grab the cute stuff which is too good for use in your journals.

Check carefully that you have the correct address and also write a return address – you never know, one letter can be the beginning of beautiful pen-pal friendship 🙂

Make sure you use some kind of waterproof ink – this goes especially for fountain pen users in UK where we get a lot of rain. Iron Galls should do the trick, if you don’t have such inks, hack it with clear tape over the address or use clear wax to make it waterproof 🙂

I participated in Incowrimo 2016 while I was working on improving my handwriting. Those two go hand in hand and it was really rewarding to put all those hours of practice to some good use. Commiting to do something for a month became a lot easier as soon as I put my mobile away. Go offline and take time to unwind. Sit down, surround yourself with stationery, put nice music on and focus on someone and then just write… It is a very happy place, trust me 🙂 What are the chances that you will start a new hobby after writing 28 letters?

One last piece of advice. If you think that 28 letters is a lot and you will struggle, set yourself some kind of reward – a beautiful pen or new ink works for me every time 🙂

If you would like to join and pledge to write one letter/card/note a day please head over to

In Part 2 of Writing Letters for Incowrimo we’ll focus a bit more on what goes in the envelope… (Hint: It’s paper!)

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Stationery vs Stationary

What have the Romans ever done for us?

What have the Romans ever done for stationery?

Well, they gave us our alphabet

Alright, but apart from the alphabet, what else have they done?

They gave us the name ‘stationery’

But they didn’t have paper or pens

They didn’t have paper or pens – they came from China and the Arabic world – and the Romans would have been surprised to find that the word had come to be used in that way. They would have understood the usage of ‘stationary’ but why ‘stationery’?

It’s a long story but the two words are connected and have the same origin.

Both stem from the Latin verb ’sto’ – to stand, to stay, to remain. The development of ‘stationary’ from this is obvious but why ‘stationery’ and ‘stationers’? An early step from ‘sto’ was ‘stationem’, originally a Roman military term, first for a picket, then any place such as a permanent encampment or outpost, something that was not moving.  Over time usage moved beyond the purely military to cover any establishment that had permanence, when in the past it had been itinerant.

So, when in medieval times merchants began to establish purpose built shops to sell goods, as opposed to stalls or itinerant traders, such as pedlars, or ‘chapmen’ in the case of books, they took the same term. ‘Stationers’ were establishments you actually entered to view, discuss and buy, a qualitative shift from the, often permanent, stalls that had been in existence since Greek and Roman times. The new ‘stationary’ shops were particularly suited to writing materials and books because of their vulnerability to climate damage.

This development was especially marked in Paris, then as now seen as a centre of sophistication, and a great many of these ‘stationers’ sold written works and the materials required to write, a rarefied and expensive activity at that time. It was copies of these writing material establishments that first found their way to England, where, consciously adopting the then French name as a mark of their sophistication, they became ‘stationers’.

Whilst derivatives of the original ‘sto’ are numerous in both English and French, statue and statistic are but two examples, the link with retailing or ‘stationery’ has been lost in French for some long time. In contrast, in English it has come to have a very specific set of meanings, all related to that original adoption, shops that sold books and writing materials and as a general term to describe the writing materials themselves. Nowadays, booksellers and stationers are often seen as distinctively different, but the ancient link between writing and the end products remains in a great number of cases.

Until the 18th/19th centuries, usage of the two spellings, ‘stationery’ and ‘stationary’ was a matter of choice, with ‘stationery’ the more common of the two. It is only in the last two hundred years or so that the distinction has been regularly observed, although it remains a trap for many.

So, to return to the beginning, in a roundabout way the Romans gave us stationery, or at least the word to describe it.

Written by Ken Irons, November 2016

And for anyone who either wants to watch it again, or (is it possible?) doesn’t get title, you can watch that scene again

autumnal stationery

Autumn Stationery

autumnal stationery

Anatomy of an autumn scene

Everywhere you look at the moment there are autumn leaves and in keeping with the spirit of the season I put together a selection of suitably autumnal stationery in yellow, orange and brown.

Bruce Sewell

Stationery Essentials

Who says that stationery is dead?

We found this little gem online, a perfect demonstration of why you need stationery in your life. Even Apple, the biggest company in the world and the definition of technology today, need a paper back up it would seem.

The story is that Bruce Sewell, Apple’s top lawyer, was giving evidence at a Congress Committee using his iPad and swiping happily until it clearly failed and he hastily turned to his trusty old ring-binder for reference. What struck me was not so much that he turned to a paper copy, but that he had his paper copy at the ready. Now if Apple’s own top lawyer has to keep his paper back up to hand like that, surely that is an indication that we can’t rely on the digital age as much as we’re led to believe we should?

See the article and video on The Guardian here


Who Would You Receive a Letter From?

In a recent competition we asked entrants who they would rather receive a letter from. Our process for choosing the possible letter-writers was of course a tough process of elimination and deliberation.

After receiving the much awaited results we thought to expand upon some of the most popular answers with a little bit about some of the letters they had already written in their lives. Below are the results, scroll down further to find out a little more about them.

letter results

William Shakespeare

A choice that would no doubt have yielded the most valuable letter of the bunch, since there are in fact no surviving or verified letters from the playwright himself that we know of. However what we do have is the fact that his plays themselves are stuffed with letters, like a bursting postbox. Of all his plays just 5 don’t contain letters, and there are 111 letters in total. What would you hope to hear about from Shakespeare? A secret from his plays, something about life in the Renaissance, or a love sonnet to you?

My favourite example of a letter in his plays comes from Twelfth Night, in which Malvolio is tricked into believing he is finally receiving a letter from the noble lady (Olivia) he is enamoured with. It’s a letter that contains the great line ‘be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.’ but also the letter hilariously encourages Malvolio to smile endlessly and wear cross-gartered yellow stockings, which Olivia actually hates (who wouldn’t?). Sadly Malvolio ends up being locked in a dark room and thought insane for the way he interprets this letter’s commands.

M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and
yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for
every one of these letters are in my name. Soft!
here follows prose.

‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,

Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is
open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors,
I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross
acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.
I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade
me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady
loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of
late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered;
and in this she manifests herself to my love, and
with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits
of her liking. I thank my stars I am happy. I will
be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and
cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting
on. Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a

‘Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou
entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;
thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my
presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.’ 158
Jove, I thank thee: I will smile; I will do
everything that thou wilt have me.

Winston Churchill

Churchill came a very close second in our poll and as a well admired figure in British history, known for his rousing oratory skills as well as his wit I’m sure he would have written a very entertaining letter. For the time of year I chose an example that shows a rather different side of Churchill, in what is a very touching letter to his wife Clementine.

Their marriage was a lasting and happy one but they also had fiery arguments. Clementine was a determined, dignified, loyal, sympathetic and yet also challenging partner. She was the critic Winston heeded above all others. During their fifty-six year marriage, Winston and Clementine wrote warmly to one another whenever they were apart. They even wrote love notes back and forth to each other while living in the same house. Their letters and notes often ended with drawings illustrating their pet names for each other. I think we could all learn a little something from them.

My darling Clemmie,

… you wrote some words very dear to me, about my having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love… What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey.

Time passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together, amid the storms and stresses of so many eventful and, to millions, tragic and terrible years?…

With tender love from your devoted,


J. K. Rowling

J.K Rowling receives numerous letters from adoring fans, but always seemed to find the time to respond to those who truly needed the support of someone to whom they so looked up to and appreciated the work of. Such was one tragic example of a girl who wrote to her to thank her for creating Harry Potter, her ‘best friend’ after both of her drug-addicted parents were murdered and she was left to care for her siblings at just 16 years of age.

To see this touching correspondence click here. I think letters like these show a glimpse of how much of an impact writing can have on people’s lives.

Don’t wait to receive, go and write!

Now whilst we can’t actually get you a letter from any of them, we hope you will be inspired to write some of your own letters to whomever you like, and whether it be funny, romantic or supportive, receiving a hand written letter will no doubt have a positive impact.



Love Letters to Strangers

In a heartfelt talk given at a TED conference several years ago, Hannah Brencher the founder of a company called ‘The World Needs More Love Letters’ gave a talk about the impact of letters in her life and what inspired her to start her very unique organisation that aims to send as many letters of love to strangers in need as possible. Whilst we at Bureau Direct have been thinking a lot lately about letters, love and (of course) stationery, we found the talk to be a moving and motivating one that made us wonder why we didn’t ourselves write or receive more love letters these days.

The thought that just a simple idea that helped one person cope with a tough time in their lives could snowball into something global and heartfelt was really touching. Many people nowadays have grown up in a world where every message we send is transient, efficient and some might even say shallow, but like Hannah says ‘what if it’s not about efficiency?’. A message of love committed to paper, even to a stranger, can be more powerful than you know.

My first thought upon seeing this was that it was simply an idea that did not fit with the English temperament and our habits of avoiding all but the most vital interactions with strangers (although that may just be a characteristic of Londoners), but if by taking just a little time to engage in something as enjoyable as writing a letter can be, one could perhaps immeasurably improve the day of someone out there. When we all face tough times in our lives, isn’t it the human thing to write and communicate some positives through writing.

Let us know about times in your life where a letter or message helped you in tough time. If some of you are inspired, why not go out and write some loving notes to strangers, or simply to your loved ones that you may not have written to in a while. You never know how big a difference it could make.