Published on October 3rd, 2014 | by admin
‘Adventures in Stationery’ by James Ward
Adventures In Stationery – Q&A with James Ward
When it comes to an obsession for stationery, someone who certainly shares our passion for pens, staplers, paper clips and much more besides is James Ward. He has even written a book exploring many of these everyday objects which are often taken for granted.
We’ve recently caught up with James and put some questions to him on all things stationery:
Q: In your book you describe how your love of stationery was inspired by regular visits to a local independent stationer as a child. What captivated you and why?
I guess I’ve always had an interest in stationery. I think as a child I liked it because it seemed grown-up, and now as an adult, I like it because it reminds me of simpler times when I was back at school. I think part of the appeal of stationery is that it has this sense of potential. When you walk into a stationery shop, everything in there could change your life. This notebook could be the one in which you write that novel that you’ve always wanted to write. These files and folders could help you finally sort out your paperwork and get organized. This highlighter and set of Post-it Notes could help you pass that exam. That sense of potential is magical.
Q: What was the first piece of stationery you recall owning?
I think it would have to be the Berol Handwriting Pen. It was a big deal at school the day you were upgraded from pencil to pen. A sort of rite of passage. I don’t mean to show off or anything, but I was one of the first in my class to be given that honour and I’ve never looked back.
Q: When you think of all the various stationery items we use in our everyday lives, which one do you think has been the most inspired invention?
I think the development of the Post-it Note is a really interesting example of how inspiration and innovation can come from unlikely places. Spence Silver was working as a chemist at 3M and was developing a new type of glue. Unfortunately, he got the formula wrong and instead of producing a really strong glue, he created a really weak glue instead, which was basically useless. Art Fry was one of his colleagues and in his spare time, he sang in a choir and used to use small pieces of paper to mark the pages in his song book, but often the bits of paper would fall out so was looking for a way to make them stick without damaging the book. Then he remembered hearing about Spence Silver’s weak glue and the rest is history.
Q: What are your most prized items of stationery you own and why?
I’m a man of simple tastes, so I’m not really interested in expensive fountain pens or fancy notebooks. I’m more interested in the kind of stationery we use every day. Simple things like the Bic Cristal – a design classic, barely changed in sixty years. Over a hundred billion have been sold. It’s unbeatable. Although, saying that, I do also like the Staedtler 430M. It has these nice, clean lines. Teutonic design. I’m also very fond of the Silvine Memo book. I love the bright orange cover and the way it fits neatly into a jacket pocket. And they’re really cheap, so you don’t need to worry about it getting creased or messed up. It’s perfect for carrying around with you to write down quick little notes or ideas.
Q: What peculiar facts about stationery have you discovered?
I was surprised to find out the crucial role that stationery played in the formation of MTV. Correction fluid was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham while she was working as a secretary in the early 1950s. She used to make lots of mistakes when she was typing. One day she was watching a sign painter painting a display for a bank window and noticed that when he made a mistake, he’d just paint over it and wondered if she could develop something similar for typing errors. Her Liquid Paper company was sold to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5m in 1979. After she died, she left half of her fortune to her son, Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, and he used this money to fund PopClips, an American music video programme which later grew into MTV.
Q: You are co-founder of the Stationery Club in London, what does that involve?
Stationery Club started life as a hashtag on Twitter created by my friend Ed Ross. He used it when he wanted to talk about stationery on Twitter but I thought it sounded too good to just be a hashtag. I thought it should be a real club. Originally, I wanted it to be like a book club. With a book club, everyone reads the same book and then gets together to talk about it. I thought Stationery Club should be the same – someone nominates a particular pen and then everyone uses it for a week or so and talks about how they found it (“I thought it was a bit scratchy” or “It smudged a bit when I used it” or whatever). That was perhaps a little too specific, and so it broadened out into a general discussion based around a different theme – notebooks, Post-it Notes and so on.
Q: Do you see a time when the paperless office will mean traditional stationery no longer exists?
I don’t think so, or at least I hope not. I think the two can live side by side, they’re not in direct competition. There’s a joy in the physical experience of writing with a pen on paper which you don’t get with a laptop or tablet. I think stationery will continue to exist, but the meaning and purpose of it will change. We didn’t stop using candles when the electric light bulb was invented, we just gave them a new meaning – they became romantic rather than purely functional. I think something similar will happen with stationery. It will be appreciated as something much more personal and intimate than an email ora text.
How do YOU fancy getting your hands on a copy? The PostOfficeShop.co.uk is offering one lucky reader of our blog the opportunity to win the book signed by James himself with one of his favourite stationery items! (This competition is now closed).
To enter, simply watch the video clip and tell us the Make and Type of pen used by James Ward to sign one of books and submit your answer in the form below.
The deadline for entry submissions is Midnight on Sunday 19th October 2014. (This competition is now closed). All correct answers received by this time will be entered into the prize draw.
Full terms and conditions of the competition are available here.
James Ward’s book, ‘Adventures In Stationery – A Journey Through Your Pencil Case’ is published by Profile Books and available now from Amazon