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August 29, 2016 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Papersmiths

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This month our Shopkeeper Spotlight post focuses in on Bristol based stationer shop Papersmiths. Our sub editor Kath speaks to owner Sidonie Warren about her design philosophy and love of printed matter…

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Sidonie, tell us a little about your background and your love of paper.

My adventure in retail began in 2011, when my partner Kyle Clarke and I had a design studio – Something Good – and we wanted to create a customer-facing part of our business that would continue to run even if we weren’t receiving commissions. Kyle is a hoarder of all printed matter – whether it’s unusual business cards or old menus – and I have always loved stationery and magazines, so we curated a small collection of useful, beautifully designed things. I’ve always loved magazines, and when I was a child I used to pretend to have a stationery shop, laying out all my things for my friends and family to ‘buy’!

What is the concept behind Papersmiths, and how has the store evolved?

The first shop – Something Else – was VERY tiny, and we kitted it all out ourselves – Kyle and I designed the space, and Kyle’s carpenter brother helped him build the shop fittings while I painted and decided on the layout. We soon outgrew the space and moved to our current space in 2014, in Clifton Village. We have such nice neighbours here – lovely cake shops and coffee shops, and we soon realised that all of our goods were paper-based, so we decided to re-brand as Papersmiths, separating from our design business which is now Studio B, specialising in visual and spatial design. We took elements of our old space and expanded them in Papersmiths – such as the wall where each magazine is given a big enough space to see all of the cover. We have enough space to add more complementary lifestyle products, and we thought – what do you do when you read a book? You light a candle and snuggle up with a blanket, so we’ve added some more products like candles and blankets to fill the bigger space and create a cosier environment.

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Papersmiths stocks delightful products from around the world – how do you go about sourcing and curating the stock?

I usually find products on my travels – such as a well-designed mechanical pencil I found in a Berlin bookshop. It had been designed specifically for that bookshop, and I really enjoy sourcing these more unique products that complement each other. We love sourcing products that use traditional printing techniques, such as painted edges on notebooks or letter press stationery. We carry a small range of prints by illustrators from around the world – again we celebrate those who use traditional techniques – as well as design sketchbooks, and artists colouring pencils. Although we’re not a supply store, we stock the kinds of tools that artists and architects might pick up as a complementary item to their everyday work tools, such as well-designed staplers or erasers. I also visit trade fairs, and seek inspiration from Instagram – but to find the most unusual or unique product there’s nothing like seeing it and touching it to understand how it will work in the shop.

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The store has a very clean, modern, welcoming feel to it. How much of this is an extension of your own design sensibilities and how did you come up with the interior design?

Well we designed the space in Studio B, and again Kyle and his brother fitted it, while we had lots of help from friends and family to bring it all together. The design studio has really grown this past couple of years, and since we undertook this project we really have a feel for the client’s perspective. The shop also serves as a kind of showroom for our spatial design work, and is a great ambassador for our client-facing part of our businesses.

How do you balance the challenges of having both a bricks-and-mortar shop and the online part of Papersmiths?

We have found our bricks and mortar shop to be more successful than the online part of the store! Through enthusiastic use of Instagram we’ve found ourselves of being in the enviable position of being a ‘destination’! Often people will come into take a selfie by the succulent wall, or browse the independent magazine section. It’s difficult just to pick up a beautiful magazine and flick through when you’re shopping online, and people enjoy that tactile experience of choosing a magazine from the wall and examining the content before buying. We’re enjoying the Instagram stories and Snapchat so we can show our followers the inside of a new magazine or they can share in the excitement when new stock comes into the shop!

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So what’s next for Papersmiths?

We’re thinking about extending the shop to include food and drink – we love the idea that you can come in and have a coffee while you read your new magazine or write in your new journal, and it also helps support the UK industry, which is a concern since the Brexit vote. I continue to find hidden gems, I’m ALWAYS looking for more stock! And I’ve been lucky enough to discover some wonderful brands that we now are proud to represent here in the UK. There has been a resurgence of traditional printing techniques across the world, especially in the USA, and we love makers such as Bench Pressed cards and Herb Lester travel guides. I’m incredibly fussy, so no doubt we’ll soon have a re-fit to accommodate our new plans!

With independent magazines, beautiful notebooks, cards and writing tools from across the world, we’re proud to say that Papersmiths is a 91 Magazine stockist! Visit the store at 6A Boyces Avenue, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4AA or online at

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