Imagine flying on a plane looking at my stationery landscape from high above. Beautiful song by Dimitri From Paris featuring Pink Martini. Yup, I was busy flying around HK/Shanghai/Japan/Korea lately. Next trips to Shanghai/Korea in October. Sorry, I'm so slow in my blog, but rest assure the instagram feed is the best place to tag on my journeys.
J'aimerais tant voir Syracuse
L'ile de Paques et Kairouan
Et les grands oiseaux qui s'amusent
A glisser l'aile sous le vent
Voir les jardins de Babylone
Et le palais du Grand Lama
Rever des amants de Verone
Au sommet du Fuji Yama
Voir le pays du matin calme
Aller pecher le cormoran
Et m'enivrer de vin de palme
En ecoutant chanter le vent
Voir le pays du matin calme
Aller pecher le cormoran
Et m'enivrer de vin de palme
En ecoutant chanter le vent
Avant que ma jeunesse s'use
Et que mes printemps soient partis
J'aimerais tant voir Syracuse
Pour m'en souvenir a Paris
Why I did this update? I needed to slow down and turned down going out on Sunday, listening to Jazz radio and dwelling in these beautiful landscapes. So beautiful I had to make a video and bring everybody with me flying for just one minute.
Then all hell broke loose, there are so many stories behind each piece of treasure, I am to write just a little bit here after.
Something annoyed me for a long while, right behind my desk there is this window I hate. Normally I love windows, this one, landlord decided to replace a broken air conditioner with one that must be sealed onto the window, somehow the contractor had to glue the whole thing and the window couldn't be turned open anymore. The heat, the vibration noise, arghhhh, I couldn't even install a curtain anymore, my desktop monitor would be impossible to look at during day time. Anyways, I faced the same problem today, kid just gave me a solution which I never thought of. I got some nice Norens (Japanese fabric dividers) bought from Traveler's Factory and ITOYA, and we just clipped them onto the window and it was almost a perfect day. Beautiful Japanese design. Vibration still goes on, but it is alreay a lot better.
A few days ago, as usual I got pissed off with vague empty monkey ideas which everybody seems to have opinions about how to realize but none could specify exactly how. I could "let it go", but my problem is I couldn't bear such ugly outcome if I were not getting my hands dirty. Luckily I have the experience using SketchUp for close to 10 years now, I found a crack of time and I had to specify it clearly.
Got me into thinking: physical form follows function, conceptual form follows intentions. Yes design is an iteration process, building something starts from fulfilling function with form, great designs infiltrate aesthetics and intentions into the form in the process. Most people forget that the most important aspect of customer experience is YOUR intention, how is that being designed. Losing focus on that, you get a piece of junk sitting around doing nothing.
Got me into thinking: form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Buddhist's word.
Got me into recalling: "Who? Who is but the form following the fuction of what and what I am is a man in a mask". V for Vendetta.
Back to stationery. I usually use my Kaweco SketchUp 5.6 for rough draft, Rotring 800+ (which has a nice twist and hide mechanism to protect the needle head and a nice stylus tip, got it from ITOYA a week ago in addition to my Rotring 800) for finer lines drawn on my Traveler's Notebook. Then I move on to SketchUp for simulation in exact measurement.
Which lead me into another project, a space to be created in a new store coming up in December, for gathering with customers having fun together, once in a while with interesting exhibitions. I can't be fully involved but according to some, this space is important to my departments, so if I don't specify it will go astray to my dismay. Then there was this Saturday afternoon having fun and deeper discussion with partner Out of Stock. What interests me is that picking people's brain trying to integrate and elevate something satisfies me immensely.
Got me into thinking: what's the most common pattern in nature? I was thinking of honeycomb hexagon when designing flexible tables, allowing multiple arrangements and collapsable for storage. Turned out there is no such thing as "the most common", there are variety of patterns in nature, spirals, fractuals, chaos, waves, etc. Thank God I have this wondering journey of discovery and linkage back to my science education, which is mostly an intellectual process I enjoy most for the work I do.
Which leads us back in time for a week when I was in Tokyo/Osaka. It was a 7 days travel to visit trade show, meet suppliers and explore places and spaces. At one point I sat down in a nice cafe in Nakazakicho (中崎町), Osaka, which is a really nice area with small shops and cafes. I thought of my extremity being in certain roles at one time but completely another roles in other times crossing disciplines, it felt almost unbearable having my personality and skills split into compartments, unable to manage it I would become a mad man getting nowhere. How to simplify such management was the thought in that very cafe.
Got me into a thought experiment: Can't just be a lighthouse in a tea cup, able to show direction but knowing just that and in a small world. Can't just be an explorer seeing so much there is no place to berth and share what I see into the future. Can't be both at the same time either. What I need to become? Need to be fluid-like waveform and become Schrödinger's cat, observe me I'm a lighthouse, observe me again I'm an explorer. Can I master this meta personality? I have a long way to go.
Alright Osaka was fun, I wish I stopped by Kyoto instead but it was a rush decision. I thought I hadn't been there for 5 years so I wanted to see what was changed. Visited 15 stores, two most loved ones are Flannagan and Standard Bookstore. Despite unable to communicate in English, staff at Flannagan tried very hard to explain everything I asked. It has no big difference than the last time I visited, but this time I asked more. Except Meister Tools Pen, which is from Japan, all of their products are imported from Europe/USA. The most recent import was from Russia, a 350 yen 2.0 lead mechanical pencil with a sharpener cap, an attractive deal.
Standard Bookstore was relaxing to read, to grab stationery and to have a nice cup of coffee. I got a Apartamento magazine and a book called True Portland. Spent more than the usual time to walk around the stationery and lifestyle product sections and of course a cup of coffee in their cafe. There is a certain rawness in it, kind of organized un-neatly yet organized and motivates a sense of discovery. It is a perfect place to spend an entire day, we need these spaces.
Oh there is another place I stumbled upon, a home/interior shop called Trans-Lankhe, close to Flannagan. I feel that this is a shop managed by Dulton, a brand I love a lot, but I'm not sure. I love their cabinets, far-sight eyeglasses, small things like wooden trays and clips as well as those cans and accessories.
ITOYA, ITOYA! I lost a lot of blood over there, it is a family in stationery business I admire a lot. There are intentions and histories there. Yup, you can spend a full day there and it is not enough. Currently their original building is still under re-construction hopefully seeing light into opening in 2015, a temporary building is used but you still get a full 7-8 floors full of stationery, an annex close by called K.ITOYA hosts finer selections of fountain pens, art supplies and study room essentials. Be prepared to die in this heaven, I got a wooden pencase called AvanWood there, well and many other stuffs too, its a poison.
Angers originates from Kyoto since 1993, it is one of the stores with stronger intentions you can tell from product selection and merchandise mix, things are right beside each other for reasons, unlike Loft and Hands which are more commercially oriented and you would have no interest to find out who's behind them (they are still far superior than many Western stationery businesses IMHO), Angers shows telltale signs in every corner. To put it simply, signage speaks character, as to what character you can perceive from the store, you just have to visit it.
Oh of course there is the Traveler's Factory in Narita Airport. This time I brought two colleagues to see it, every corner of the store speaks of details. You know all the signages there were painted by hands from the original designer, factory only products, rubber stamps, etc all guarantee a few hours of stay even though it is a tiny shop comparing to the flagship factory shop in Meguro.
Why TN is loved by so many? In addition to the flexibility for customization, the leather, the paper etc, I will tell you why: Serendipity. It's a long story by itself of where this TN movement came from, it is other long stories of how things evolved around my life with it. Simply said, I met a lot of friends from around the world because of it, you too have to step out of your zone and meet other users, it changes your perspectives and I mean it.
For a while, Mr. Shigeru follows my instagram and I thought he only plays Ukulele, nothing to do with stationery or TN. Then this July I saw his feed showing Traveler's Factory Narita in construction as well as Designphil's booth construction in time lapsed video, I got curious and asked if he is involved in the same industry. Turned out he is a contractor for Designphil helping to build these things and he has been a TN user for many years. Alright, let's come out when I visit in Sep I said, then dispite the language barrier we met in Nonbei Yokocho for a drink, together with my visiting colleagues. Then Rocketman joined all of a sudden, I knew him only on Flickr liking his photos and he is actually a TN user too, he is probably uploading the most TN photos to the Flickr group and what a surprise I could finally meet him in person. Rocketman sings in a hobby band, catalogs his meals meticulously on his TN, loves photography just like me and tries to visit new places every year.
Aren't we all connected? Yes but if you are connected to people just on the net and never met any one of them, you missed a lot. There are so much more in each of us that's worth sharing and peeking.
Each TN is a conversation starter. Last year I had a great time visiting Korea to join a TN user gathering and we couldn't have enough. So far, users in Korea are way more willing to show and share their TN usage than people in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This year I visited Seoul again for business but at the end of the last day my friend and business partner Mr. Shin said we should head back to his office for discussion, alright we were tired but no problem, a few more hours of hard work will pay off. Turned out it was a surprise gathering with familiar and new faces! I was so happy despite being tired. We swapped TNs to see what's happening lately to each other and how each one added personal touches to their TNs, be it customization or usage.
Who they are? Mathematics teacher in University, fashion industry mercahndiser, fountain pen fanatic with a background in theoratical physics, tour guide, fine art student etc. See the diversity and how everyone enjoys sharing? I learned a lot too.
One unexpected nice gift was from a fine art student who painted in very fine lines my avator onto a TN refill!
Earlier this year, Voloymyr from Ukraine came to Hong Kong travelling with family, we knew each other briefly on facebook only but when he said he was going to leave Hong Kong the next day, I couldn't resist to come out very late a night just to catch up chatting with him. I wondered what is happening in Ukraine, how he can spend 6 months working and then 6 months of vacation with family year after year, etc etc. Stories and life diversity again and again. Well, he didn't really go away, he left for Indonesia with family and filled up 128 pages of his TN and came back to Hong Kong for yet another brief meet up. Amazing, he is back to Ukraine now, hopefully I will meet him again.
August this year, I was in Shanghai for a brief stay to help set up our ¬ [DESKBOUND] campaign (I would love to tell you more about this but maybe later). On the last day I was carrying my luggage walking around the campaign area for a final glimpse, "Breeze in May" came and poking here and there in the TN zone, I was trying to answer her questions as much as possible in such short time. She finally became a TN user, at this moment I think she is working on her USA vacation itinerary on TN :)
I met many new users in Hong Kong too! During the ¬ [DESKBOUND] campaign in Hong Kong in early August, I brought my Kingsley machine to Times Square for a pop-up event, helping customers to emboss their TN with gold foil. A family from Singapore, a secretary, a TN couple, etc etc. We are going to have a great meet-up in Hong Kong soon I promise! How about December when there is a new space we can use?
Alright, I'm writing too long and heading nowhere. Before wrapping up, let me give you a little tip on TN.
If you have bought the brass index clip, have you ever wonder how other people are using it so that it won't fall off from the edge? I did. Here's a simple solution for you, just tape the back of the clip onto the page with masking tape, that's it. Masking tapes are easily removable and you can relocate the index clip very easily. Securing the clip using masking tape also helps to prevent excessible movement of the index clip which can easily damage the paper on the edge. Good tip eh?
Finally, back to the Stationery Landscape topic. I travel relatively more than other people, yet I feel seriously not enough coz most of my trips are on very tight business schedule, leaving me not much time to explore with people and places. But life is like that isn't it? Not enough not enough not enough, when can we start to enjoy more? Let's steal time, find cracks, take moral advantages and be explorers meeting new people and making new friends on those common landscapes, I'm sure through that, we can be lighthouses to other people once in a while.
If you have reached this far of this blog post hahahah, its time to go back to the video and enjoy that one minute fly over with me once again, over the stationery landscape of mine.