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Interview with Sophia Bennett

Sophia Bennett talks to Papers Pens Poets about her addiction to stationery.

Sophia Bennett

I’ve always known I was an addict. It was stationery from the first day I went to primary school. Before my ‘costume dolls from around the world’ collection (which I got a Brownie badge for, aged 8), and my ‘German porcelain coffee cup’ collection (which my German aunt kindly gave me, year by year, as a teenager, but which sadly got smashed as I moved from home to home).

I still remember the rubber you could get from WH Smith which was a long, thin oblong surrounded by colourful plastic Lego-like squares. As the rubber wore down, you would take the top square off and place it on the bottom. It was a mini work of art! It was hours of pleasure, taking it apart and recombining it in different combinations. It even worked for a while, until the rubber’s structural integrity became compromised by being denuded and re-encased so often by me, bored in class, more interested in the contents of my pencil case.
Then there were the Caran D’Ache watercolour pencils. For years, from the age of 10, I sat in my room after school, drawing simple figures of young women and dressing them in different designs. My sky blue pencil always got worn down first, followed by shell pink (skin) and chestnut brown (hair). I’d tell myself the story of each girl and her wardrobe as I went. Those stories all went into Threads, my debut novel about the world of fashion design. I still get a thrill when I see a box of Caran D’Ache today.
As a teenager, I lusted after Snoopy letterhead. The best birthday present I could possibly receive would be a box of it, with a cellophane lid, and matching Snoopy-kennel envelopes.
When I grew up and got sophisticated (kind of – I still adore Snoopy), I lived in Venice for a while and discovered Italian stationers, with their leather-bound notebooks, flame-like Bargello designs and rough-cut edges. I couldn’t afford them as a student, but I adored them. I would happily travel to the part of town that mostly sold them and spend an afternoon just admiring the various designs.
Do you have a preferred size/format of notebook? Maybe you have more than one.
I hate to be boring, but standard A5 Moleskines are just so useful. The size, the page thickness, the impermeability of the paper, which means that my Papermate Flair Medium felt tips don’t go through. Also the genius addition of the elastic band that holds the whole thing together in my handbag. My last Moleskin was sunshine yellow, in honour of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun. But usually, they’re black.
There’s a picture of them here, behind one of the many hearts my husband has made for me over the years. He’s
a stationery addict too …sophia 3
Which stationery brands are you most loyal to?
For writing, Papermate. My husband gave me ten black Flairs for Christmas once, because I’m always losing my pens. Like, ridiculously always. I buy them regularly now. For signing, it used to be Sharpies but they do tend to bleed through the page, so now I tend to use coloured Papermates for that too. For bits and pieces, including their fabulous Perspex boxes, Muji. For elaborate thank you cards, Lacroix. A writer friend kindly gave me a Lacroix notebook at my launch party for Love Song, and I’m using it with great plesure now that the yellow Moleskine one is full. And like you, for business cards it’s Moo. I’ve been a fan of theirs for years. I love the ease of use, the quality of the cards, the fact they make me look a lot more artistic than I really am, and their jokey communications. I miss the days of sending out launch invitations by postcard, because I used to enjoy designing them on Moo. Now it’s all email and Facebook. Much more quick and efficient, but much less fun.
Do you have a favourite stationery retailer and why?
Well, there’s a little shop in Venice …
The small independent shops I used to love for stationery tend to have closed down over the years. There’s one on the Northcote Road near me, called Printax, which isn’t very exciting but manages to be perfectly useful. It always has the essentials and it’s great for emergency restocking. However, if I ever feel like a fabulous stationery window-shopping session (and I do, I do …), I go to the big Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road and marvel at their handmade papers, their cute leather satchels, pens, art materials and Christmas decorations. I can rarely afford more than a couple of baubles, but it’s lovely to look.
Anything else you want to tell the world about your stationery habit?
I’m very messy, but I dream of having one of those Vogue-like white offices, with lots of white and Perspex boxes neatly aligned and labelled, creating a minimalist study heaven. I would have just one large vase of pink peonies to create a splash of colour and feel like Anna Wintour. As it is, I make do with a scented candle on my desk. It’s not quite the same, but it helps.
Tell us about your latest book to hit the shelves
Sophia b lovesong stationeryLove Song came out in April, and is about a girl who goes to a tumbledown country house in Northumberland with a rock band, and saves them from implosion. It’s inspired partly by One Direction last year, partly by The Beatles in the Sixties, and a lot by my teenage years – and all the things that didn’t happen to me, as well as a few that did. Nina in the book is an artist and maker. She doesn’t specifically have a stationery habit of her own, but she loves painting and making collages, so she’d adore to do a tour of that mega-Paperchase with me. Plus, she hangs out with rockstars, so she might be able to get me a discount.
Thanks Sophia for this fascinating insight into a fellow stationery addict, I share your childhood longing for Caran Dache pencils, although when I was finally given a set, I didn’t know what to do with them. And now I also have Muji perspex boxes on my desk for keeping my Post it note collection, ink cartridges and other essential bits and pieces. It is essential to have good storage solutions for stationery.

One thought on “Interview with Sophia Bennett

  1. Another great interview by Anita.
    Sophia, I was the only person at school who didn’t have Caran D’ache watercolour pencils. So I went out and bought myself a set when I started earning money. Jo


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