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Papersmiths story: on a mission to support creativity

In 2011 Sidonie Warren and Kyle Clarke founded design studio B, specialising in branding and commercial interior design. Two years later they opened the first Papersmiths store in Bristol with only £500 capital. Five years on and adding 23 employees to their team, the brand has grown its presence in Brighton and recently London Shoreditch and Chelsea. A year of expansion marks also their current partnership with Wolf & Badger in Kings Cross, bringing paper happiness to the cool crowd of Central St Martins students and creative minds of nearby tech giants such as Facebook and Google. Here we spoke to Sidonie about Papersmiths’ early days, journey and mission to support creation. 

How did you get to where you are now?

It was through a series of happy accidents, stepping stones that I never dreamt would lead to this. About three years into running the business I learnt about the effectiveness of goal setting and visualisation. But in the beginning, I didn’t have an end goal.

What did you find most challenging in the early days? What lessons did you learn?

Creating and working in teams has been challenging and wonderful. It’s lead to bursts of happiness and love as well as tears of complete and utter frustration! My communication skills have improved but I’m still working on them.

What is the mission with Papersmiths? Why do you exist?

Our reason for existence is creation. Kyle and I were 23 when we started. We were running our own design studio, creating for other businesses, but we didn’t have enough work to pay our bills. We opened our shop because we desperately needed extra income. We have grown as a business and as individuals. I turned 30 last year and I feel like the past 12 months have been a whirlwind of change. I’ve found more meaning and purpose in my life, and I’m applying that to Papersmiths and finding there’s so much potential in the business to have a positive social impact.

We place a huge emphasis on creation. Books that help us to evolve as individuals, tools and instruments to create with, items that help us to find meaning and encourage diversity. We want to create fun spaces and products that bring a smile to people’s faces when they’re writing down their big ideas or their shopping list. I believe there’s no reason why anything should be ugly or impractical. Function and beauty all round, please!

We’re not in this to grow a chain of retail shops. Don’t get me wrong, we want to make a good living and we have targets to meet and bills to pay, but at the same time, we can be true to ourselves and our values. We’re in this to enjoy life and if we can make the lives of others more fun too when they come into the stores, and support their creative process in some way, then that’s just brilliant.

In the digital world we live in, why do you think customers still crave a physical paper product?

I believe we crave the physical paper product precisely because it’s physical. It’s real and you can touch it. We have non-physical parts to our make-up as human beings, like our consciousness, but we’re very much physical too and we gain pleasure from experiencing our world through our senses. Whether that’s tasting delicious food, smelling the aroma of fresh herbs or, in my world, feeling the flow of an ink-pen on a beautiful paper stock – it’s magical. We’d be starved of stimulation is everything was digital.

What’s your favourite product that Papersmiths currently stocks?

The converter for our fountain pens. It’s a refillable ink cartridge which you refill from a glass bottle of ink – so no single-use plastic! We’re trying to reduce single-use plastic at the moment.

This article is from ESTILA Vol 9. For more stories like this and inspirational case studies of small creative brands, designers and artists, head over to our shop.