The Scriptum Blog
Last time, you met Holly. In the next of our series it's time to find out a little bit more about Nick:
Hi Nick, thanks for chatting to the blog! First of all tell us how long you’ve been at Scriptum?
I’ve been here five months now. It really hasn’t felt like five months though - it’s been going by so fast. When you’re having fun you don’t really notice time going by.
What did you think of Scriptum the first time you visited?
Honestly, my first reaction was “wow! It’s my shop”, because if I had a dream shop it would be Scriptum. I’m still not done purchasing everything that I want to buy! I liked all of the detail in the shop - there are so many nooks and crannies, where you wouldn’t necessary think to look straight away, where you can find little treasures. I really think it takes a good four or five visits to the shop before you can take in a good chunk of everything - every time you come back you’ll find something you missed.
Now that you work here, what would you say is your favourite thing about Scriptum?
As much as people would think one might complain about the opera playing constantly in the shop, I never get tired of it. I even go home and listen to more. It gives the shop a bit of extra ambience and sets the mood, like you’re actually stepping into another world. As soon as you step out of the shop you can’t hear the music any more and you’re back in reality.
Ok, so in case our readers can’t detect your Louisiana accent through their computer screens, you’re from the States aren’t you? Can you tell us about the difference between Oxford and Lafayette, where you’re from?
They’re roughly the same size in population but I’d say the similarities end there. There’s definitely a lot more charm to Oxford, but having said that Lafayette is probably a bit more fun [Nick looks slightly guilty for saying this - ed] - there’s definitely a liveliness to Lafayette, with its Cajun culture.
Holly, as we learned last time, has her calligraphy. You also have a creative outlet outside Scriptum, don’t you?
I have a bachelors degree in fine arts and I concentrated on painting and drawing, which I still love, but currently my work takes the form of building sort of dioramas and sets for claymation. I enjoy making the little rooms that I create, I have a big soft spot for interiors - that’s another reason Scriptum appeals to me. I love the layout and interior of the shop.
You mentioned earlier that you still haven’t bought all of the things in the shop that you’d like to… Do you think you might have a bit of an addiction to shopping at Scriptum, despite working here?!
Haha, I think so. It definitely started out with my owl purchase before I began working here. I bought a taxidermy owl and after that I was hooked. Working here doesn’t make it any easier because each time I come in I see any new stock we have and just go “ooh”. I still have a laundry list of items I’m planning to get. My wife says I’m starting to develop an addiction to wax seals; I already have six, along with eight different colours of wax. I even have a fleur de lys for letters back home as that’s the symbol of the local football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Here's the first in a series of posts introducing Scriptum's staff. First, meet Holly:
Hi Holly! Let’s start with the basics: how long have you been working at Scriptum?
Just over two years. I’d just finished my masters at St Hilda’s but wasn’t ready to leave Oxford - then I saw that there was a job going at my favourite shop in the world so I walked in and begged to be employed.
What did you think of Scriptum the first time you visited?
I was a little intimidated by how beautiful everything was, but Karima, who worked here before me, was always very friendly and helpful. I used to come in mostly for the books but I ended up with several journals that I used to do my university work in. And friends would always buy me presents from here.
What’s your favourite thing about Scriptum?
I would say the people I get to meet, who share my love of beautiful stationery and the other quirky things we sell. There are loads of people who have fascinating stories about why they need a particular sort of inkwell, say, and you feel involved in people’s lives when you help them choose a special present.
You do calligraphy don’t you? Did you learn after working at Scriptum?
I did, I decided it would be a lot easier to sell inks and dip pens if I actually knew what I was talking about, and then I found that I really love it [and she’s very good at it - ed]. And then we started getting lots of requests for calligraphy projects, so I started doing it professionally. I mainly do specially commissioned pieces for people who want quotes, poems and certificates. The strangest commission I’ve ever had was filling a beautifully bound book with painstaking calligraphy detailing the rules of drinking games for a college rugby team! I’ve had the occasional request for a love letter too, and those are my favourite.
You’ve lived in Oxford for three years now, can you imagine ever living anywhere else? Can you imagine Scriptum being anywhere else?
I wouldn’t really want to live anywhere else. Oxford suits me, and Scriptum suits Oxford. I imagine it might possibly work somewhere like Bath, but the idea of Oxford without Scriptum is unthinkable.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite Scriptum products?
[Holly starts panicking and shouts “but I love all of it!” as she ponders the question.] Can I say journals? I have a different journal for every single thing at home, I spend most of my pay on them. One for books that I’ve read. One for dinner parties I’ve given. One for gardening. I have one for lists of present ideas. One for general lists. I have a music manuscript journal for piano practice and I also have a separate journal where I record how much I’ve practised. And then I’ve got lots of calligraphy journals for practising new fonts and things. I’m really stretched now when we get new journals in to think of something I actually need it for. Yet I still buy them! Oh and I’ve got a translation journal and an etymology journal. [Ok, I think we’ve got enough now - ed. Holly points out that this doesn’t even cover half of her journals.]
An example of Holly's calligraphy
With London very much in the international spotlight this year, and the Olympics in full swing, we thought it might be a good moment to showcase a few of our favourite products that are made in the UK.
Large faux book bookends, £85. Handmade in the Cotswolds.
Dinner party journal, £46.
Labrador bookends, £105. Handmade in the Cotswolds.
We hardly need to be reminded how much pleasure can be obtained from writing with a fountain pen, but nonetheless we’re very happy to read of their recent resurgence.
The BBC reports that many fountain pen stockists have seen sales increase this year - some up to double 2011’s figures for the same period. But this “is not part of a wider handwriting boom” - sales of ballpoint pens have remained stable. The fountain pen seems to hold a special place in our hearts, not simply for providing a superior writing experience to the ballpoint, but also because of its connection with tradition and its status as a beautiful object in its own right.
Stephen Bayley, writing in the Telegraph, thinks there’s “something touchingly humane about this resurgence. Given the choice, we prefer warm, wet smudginess to glacial perfection.”
In fact, the Telegraph has recently received a deluge of letters on the joys of fountain pens - providing even more reassurance that they’re here to stay (although some correspondents apparently still prefer to write with quills!).
And whilst every fountain pen devotee has his or her own brand of choice, at Scriptum we’d have to side with author Neil Gaiman, who tells the BBC that his current favourite is a Visconti.
We’ve been selling their products in our shop on The Turl for a little while and now we’re very pleased to be introducing a wide selection of Bomo Art stationery to our website.
Bomo Art are based in Budapest, where they design and make all their beautiful items - from the conception of their unique printed papers, to the handbinding of their journals.
A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of a Hungarian heatwave, we were lucky enough to have lunch with the business's founder at a leafy Budapest cafe and discover for ourselves the passion and workmanship that goes into everything the company produces. Bomo Art say they aim to entice us to write… with stationery this wonderful, how could one resist?
There are cards, photograph albums, address books, boxfiles and a handful of different journals to choose from. To see everything click here.
Scriptum had a mention in Monday's Telegraph! Tim Walker very kindly describes us as one of the most gloriously idiosyncratic shops in the land.
Hello! We’re very excited to be welcoming you to Scriptum’s brand new website. As you can see, it’s now possible to order many of our beautiful products online. It’s a lovely thought that, while we remain in Oxford, our fine stationery will be whizzing all over the planet to customers old and new.
Our plunge into the digital world might seem somewhat at odds with our commitment to encouraging the arts of letter writing and journal keeping (not to mention the use of good old pen and ink) but we strongly believe that these practices can only thrive if as many people as possible have access to the information and tools necessary to carry them out.
And - as it happens - we don’t think that you need to pick between a digitalised life and one that embraces more traditional pursuits. We may be slightly biased but whilst email certainly has its place for Scriptum’s staff, none of us could let it replace sending handwritten letters on fine paper. Who wouldn’t rather receive a message in the post on a headed note card (in an envelope lined with florentine paper, of course) than a hastily dashed email?
We hope you enjoy having a look around our new site. Do get in touch if you have any questions, or would like to let us know what you think. And don’t forget to follow this blog and find us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with news, special offers, competitions and to get a behind-the-scenes peak at the exciting and glamorous world of fine stationery!