To be classed as a ‘stationery addict’ is not such an oddity these days. It seems we’ve all fallen in love with the idea of beautiful desk paraphernalia.
Here, we catch up with Joanne Griffin, founder of a new stationery business bringing beautiful creative design, and practical everyday planning aids, together in one.
I am tempted to yell ‘yep, and me, and me’, when Joanne starts describing her younger self and her excited passion for searching out her next school term pencil case.
She’s one of those women – like many of us these days – who admits there’s always been something rather special about having the free rein to select your next batch of stationery assets.
From a tender age, there are those of us who’ve crazed at our parents for that time when the shopping trip was always about which impractical but oh-so-lovely pencil set or notebook you could embrace for the next academic term.
We were ‘cheap dates’, really – always crazing for pencils and rubbers and matching cases.
And here we are today, that same bunch of girls-turned-into-women who seek out the kind of thoughtfully created stationery brand which 34-year-old Joanne decided to launch last year.
“I’m absolutely the kind of person who looked forward to that trip to WHSmith, and was always determined to get my hands on the loveliest looking pencil case,” laughs Joanne.
“That love of stationery and notepads has never left me, and when you combine that with the fact I’d always wanted to at some stage run my own business – perhaps the combination was inevitable.”
Having worked for Not on The High Street for seven years, Joanne was certainly well placed to understand how a brand could appeal to female online purchasers.
In that time, she saw the hugely successful web-based company go from just 18 staff, to over 200.
“I loved my time there and learned so much about how and why people purchase, and about what made certain products more appealing,” she recalls.
“It set me thinking more and more about running my own product-based company, and about wanting to use more of my naturally creative and artistic skills.”
A graduate in pattern design, originally from Wiltshire but now living with fiancé in Milton Keynes, Joanne experienced life entrenched in small business when she left Not on the High Street to work with a growing retail firm.
From there, it was time to take the plunge, and launch Arnold and Bird.
“So many people want to know the reason for the name,” she injects, beating my curiosity to it. Actually, it’s because my Grampy’s surname was Arnold and my Gran’s maiden name was Bird. Somehow it just fits beautifully.”
She’s right. It’s the kind of brand name you can imagine being talked about far more frequently – particularly when you see her product range and her accompanying services.
“At the heart of the brand is the product stationery, which are made for me by a small firm that I’ve carefully selected within the UK,” she continues. “I’ve got some lovely different designs of notebooks, and some daily planners too, which are just the most necessary tool in everyone’s life if you ask me.
“But by the time I’d set up I knew I didn’t want to only be selling products, and instead to be using my creativity to help others develop their own styles and products.
“Alongside the items I sell – both for wedding stationery and everyday stationery – I now also offer a kind of practical design consultancy approach, to businesses and individuals.
“I consider that I’m empowering ‘design-led souls. I help people develop a bespoke look, be it for their wedding stationery, their business brand, or for a particular product range they’re producing.”
It’s this aspect of her work which Joanne is clearly so incredibly passionate about.
She talks with great animation about being able to conceptualise ideas for people who desire ‘beauty’ for their product or stationery, but can’t quite come up with the right creative magic themselves.
“I just love working one-to-one with people and teasing out more of what they’re all about,” she says. “It makes me feel incredibly satisfied when I know we’ve collaboratively been able to translate what it is that they’re trying to say about themselves, or what they want their brand to represent.”
It’s little wonder, with such enthusiasm bursting from her, that Joanne has got off to a great start since last year’s launch of Arnold and Bird.
She’s got a pretty impressive order book across her commercial and wedding service offering, and her products are certainly being snapped up in good number by those who crave beautiful stationery with which to organise their lives.
“I’m loving how things are unravelling,” Joanne admits.
“It’s a great time for me right now, because I’m engaged, living in a new part of the UK now that my fiancé is training to be a doctor, and then, alongside it all, I’ve got this wonderful little business which I love being wrapped up in.
“Who knows where it might be in a year or two, but I’m enjoying every moment and paying close attention to what my customers say they want.
“Sure, you can say that everyone can make notes on their phones and on their computers these days without having to have a physical notebook, but personally, you’d never catch me turning down a good notebook – and I know I speak of many thousands of females just like me.”
I can’t help thinking she’s spot on.
We have the capacity to note on our tablets, our phones, our laptops and even on the whiteboards of our office walls, but what every girl still relates to, is the moment she can get that shiny notebook and pen in hand, and become a creative, thoughtful, inspired genius.