William Morris Revisited & Art Nouveau

William Morris Revisited & Art Nouveau

At Figg Street Co., our love of William Morris' designs is constant. However, it really feels fitting as we approach autumn. His motifs, which are inspired by nature, are a beautiful and cozy way to bring the outdoors in when breezes return and the evening air becomes crisp.  

There's an endurance to natural designs. So it comes as no surprise that stationery based on William Morris, the Arts & Crafts movement, and Art Nouveau persist in popularity.

While William Morris has influenced many aspects of design, including the decoration of interiors and textile patterns, we love how accessible and portable his works are on paper. Regardless of the size or style of your home, any of us can experience the magic of Morris through a notebook or card. These forms are also easily shared with others.

The Arts & Crafts movement is closely tied to the name of William Morris. However, his work also gave birth to Art Nouveau.

Art Nouveau is an international style of decorative art and architecture popular during much of the Belle Epoque period, at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

Art Nouveau went by different names in different regions. However, there were common elements throughout, including its link to nature. Floral and plant motifs were often used and graphic designs were typically organic. Curved lines were used rather than straight edges. This made sense, since Art Nouveau was seen as the antithesis of the industrial aesthetic.

However, while the English Arts & Crafts movement was clearly anti-industrial in its origin (and it gave rise to Art Nouveau), Art Nouveau was more of a reaction to historic and academic art. This new movement was about blurring and even erasing the line between fine and applied arts.

Cities that were central to Art Nouveau, and which have architecture in this style include:

  • Brussels (e.g. Hôtel Tassel)
  • Paris (e.g. entrances to the Métro)
  • Turin (e.g. Cit Turin neighbourhood)
  • Palermo (e.g. Villa Virginia Caruso)
  • Glasgow (e.g. The Glasgow School of Art)
  • Munich (e.g. Adam and Eve's House)
  • Barcelona (e.g. Palau de la Música Catalana)

Popular Art Nouveau artists include:

  • Alphonse Mucha
  • Hector Guimard
  • Victor Horta
  • Louis Majorelle
  • René Lalique
  • Louis Comfort Tiffany (for whom Tiffany stained glass lamps are named)

We hope that you enjoy art and design as much as we do, and that you're able to live with what you love every day.

September 16th is Stepfamily Day!

September 16th is Stepfamily Day!

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and to celebrate this, Stepfamily Day was created, and is celebrated each year on September 16th. 

Blended families are more common now than ever.  Chances are high you know a stepchild or stepparent, or perhaps you're one yourself!  Of course, many people choose not to use the prefix "step" when addressing themselves or another family member.  The choice is a personal one.

For some people, addressing a stepparent as their parent or a stepchild as their child is one of the many ways to try to create distance from old, negative stereotypes.  Read any fairytales, anyone?  Folklore is riddled with terrible portraits of stepmothers, in particular. 

Even today, many stepparents do not receive the respect they deserve.  Several polls have found that only a very small percentage of stepmothers receive an acknowledgement on Mother's Day. 

There's no one approach to stepparenting.  Most of us, even if we aren't in such a role, recognize the complexities that may arise.  Therefore, there are many organizations and people who've devoted themselves to providing support to such parents and families.  One resource is the stepfamilies website, which can be accessed by clicking here.

There's an insightful essay (and a wonderful photograph that accompanies it) called 'Three Fathers' by Ann Patchett that gives us a peek at the blended family experience.  She re-wrote this piece for her most recent collection of essays, titled These Precious Days, which was published in late 2021.  She writes about her experience with these three men in her life after they all died.

There are many other stories about stepfamilies in literature and film.  Some classics include:

  • Aristocats
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Cinderella
  • The Parent Trap
  • The Sound of Music
  • Step Brothers

Are you a stepchild?  Stepparent?  Do you know a stepparent who would benefit from some recognition? 

Celebrate Stepfamily Day on September 16th by spending some time with your family, especially outdoors.  Write a card or letter expressing what they mean to you, share a funny or touching memory, and let them experience love through words, gifts, and quality time together.


We hope you take some time to honour the loved ones in your life this week.  It's always a good time to give others a lift and express kindness. 

Mushrooms are turning up everywhere!

Mushrooms are turning up everywhere!

For things that grows in the dark, mushrooms sure have been having their time in the spotlight.  Not that they're anything new.  They've been around for ages, doing their work quietly and mostly without fanfare. 

They've played an integral role in the natural world - for example, exchanging nutrients between tree roots and the soil or aiding the ecosystem by digesting various types of organic matter, among other functions.

We may have first discovered mushrooms outdoors as small children: growing on the side of a large tree, clustered in the lawn, or next to a woodland trail.  We may have first seen them as easily on our plate or in a bowl of soup.  Or, we may have learned of them through bedtime stories or picture books.

Even in adulthood, mushrooms do have a certain folklore romance about them.  They're one of several icons that come to mind when thinking of fairytales and adventure stories.  Since there are both edible and poisonous varieties, there's an element of danger to them.  They're mysterious, too, since they aren't classified as plants and grow in dark places, including underground. 

How many varieties can you name?  White button, cremini, enoki, oyster, giant puffball, lion's mane, maitake, shiitake, portobello, black trumpet, chicken of the woods, reishi, chanterelle, porcini... are just a few. 

It used to be more common in our grandparents' or great-grandparents' generation to know how to distinguish edible mushrooms from poisonous ones.  Especially if you grew up in the countryside and went mushroom picking.  This knowledge, which hasn't been much sought after for some time, has recently become more popular.

People have taken an interest in learning how to safely forage for mushrooms.  In Ontario, there are several areas that offer guided tours.  (General information about local mushrooms can be found through a public health bulletin you can access by clicking here.) 

Also, you may have noticed in some restaurants that chefs have been re-discovering the abundance of locally grown mushrooms and the variety available.

Mushrooms have been making a big impact on gardening through the understanding of the role of mycorrhizal fungi.   Gardeners now purchase this powdered substance to sprinkle onto the roots of new trees and shrubs, including roses to help them take to the soil.

Of course, many of us have also read about the ongoing scientific research on mushrooms - including psilocybin - for medicinal and therapeutic uses. 

The scientific interest in mushrooms has also fuelled their appearance in a variety of art forms.

Mushrooms have been an inspiration to artists and creators of all kinds over the years.  From beautiful botanical-type drawings to tales of their magical properties, their colourful, interesting shapes and curious nature makes them a popular subject matter.  They've even popped up in the stationery and gift world!

We hope this little look at mushrooms has inspired you to create a new dish with earthy flavours, a woodland artwork, or to take a closer look at the little things growing on the floor of the forest next time you go for a hike.

One of our Canadian treasures

One of our Canadian treasures

In our fast-moving, increasingly complicated world, many of us look to creativity as a balm. Also, the simple, anything of beauty, and cheerful colours. It's no wonder the works of Maud Lewis connect with people across generations. Her small, whimsical portraits of tulips, birds, cats and scenes of rural life delight those who look at her joy and imagination on paper.

Maud Lewis spent her entire life on the west coast of Nova Scotia.  She was born with birth defects and developed severe arthritis.  Despite her difficulty in holding a paintbrush at times, she went on to acquire fame as a folk artist and painted most of the surfaces of her home.

The works of Maud Lewis have a child-like innocence about them.  They use vibrant colours.  She didn't blend paints.  The subject matter is often repeated and focused on nature, especially flowers and animals, and pastoral scenes.  It's believed that many of her pictures were small both because of the materials available to her and her limited mobility, especially reduced dexterity with her hands.

These physical limitations just go to show us what any of us are capable of when we're inspired.  Maud Lewis' love of painting was stronger than the obstacles in her way.  Her commitment to doing what she loved is what allowed her to connect with so many, even after she died.  There's such a pure and carefree nature to her work that feels peaceful and lovely to look at.  She captures a world that we enjoy entering.

These physical limitations just go to show us what any of us are capable of when we're inspired.  Maud Lewis' love of painting was stronger than the obstacles in her way.  Her commitment to doing what she loved is what allowed her to connect with so many, even after she died.  There's such a pure and carefree nature to her work that feels peaceful and lovely to look at.  She captures a world that we enjoy entering.

While many of us adore the works of Maud Lewis, there are also many who are inspired by her to create their own pieces.  At our shop, we carry sketchbooks, paints, watercolour paper, blank cards and envelopes, among other supplies.  With these, you can create your own drawings, paintings, and personalized greeting cards. 

We hope you find some joy and inspiration in one of our beloved Canadian artists.  No matter what's going on around us, we have the ability to create beauty on the blank page.

Soon, it'll be time to hit the books...

Soon, it'll be time to hit the books...

Although it's been a while since I was in the classroom, I still get a little thrill from back-to-school season. It marks the beginning of autumn to me, even though September is still pretty hot and there's plenty of sunlight to be had.  

In our store, I see many students appearing at this time of year: university and college students returning from their summer break. Younger students often visit with a parent, looking for something special to use this fall.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines...

Making Hay While the Sun Shines...

Even though we still have a few weeks before the official change in season, there's something about August that makes many of us feel like our summer days our numbered. There can be a little voice in our head that tells us to enjoy each moment while it lasts - soon, it will be back to school.

Perhaps this is one of the times of the year when we most notice the blue sky during the day and the feeling of still-warm air in the evening.

A lot of us get a boost of creative inspiration during the summer. The warm weather lures us outdoors, where we observe and connect with nature and outer space. It's a time for spreading out a blanket or towel onto the grass or sand and being quiet. There's the familiar sound of cicadas, bumblebees and crickets. There's the smell of herbs growing in the heat of the sun.

Being outside also means many simple pleasures: walking, cycling, frisbee, reading, and eating juicy watermelon that dribbles onto our arms and legs. This is the time of pool parties, barbecues and walks along the boardwalk or the Port Dalhousie pier. Drives through Niagara reveal row upon row of ripening fruit in its many orchards.

Those of us with screen or scroll fatigue use our last precious weeks of summer to squeeze in that novel we've been wanting to read for ages. There's something about flipping paper pages in natural light that's so soothing. We may draw or paint in the garden or at the beach or park while the bright, cheerful colours of plants, waterworks, children playing, and kites are there to inspire us.

Although I enjoy reading poetry throughout the year, there's a special pleasure to reading it outside in the summertime. After all, so much of what delights us outdoors are the same muses that propelled poets of times past to put their pen to paper.

What are the summertime activities that you want to get in this month, while the days are long and bright, the weather warm and plants are growing all around us? At the shop, we've been talking to people pursuing their artistic projects, entertaining on a large scale, and those snapping up napkins for simple gatherings, like local picnics.


Soak it up, we say! Enjoy the sun this week and as many summer pleasures as you can muster. Next week you may hear bells calling you to class as we revisit the back-to-school season.

Just The Ticket

Just The Ticket

Aah, August. This is the time of year when many people devote some time to relaxing and vacationing. It can be as simple as a couple of days away, even a weekend, or an extended trip.  

Chances are high that either you or someone you know is taking some time this month to unwind. Are you planning a trip? If so, where to?

Part of the joy of travel begins before you leave. Just the idea of a trip can bring us pleasure. Daydreaming and thinking about our favourite spots to visit, or the excitement of exploring somewhere new to us. Perhaps you've been inspired by places you've seen in photos or video footage, or read about.

Of course, another thing we all do before heading out the door is pack. There are many clever tips people come up with on how to go about this task smoothly and easily.

Some items we've found that help with packing and arriving at our destination feeling a little more organized are pouches.

Pouches, like the leather and cotton canvas ones by The Superior Labor, make it easy to group our items by category.

A leather utility pouch is perfect for holding cards, passports and travel documents. There are internal slots and a zipper along the edges to keep everything in place.

While we don't typically travel with our full assortment of scrapbooking items, we still like taking some notes and making quick sketches. Some of us keep a dedicated travel journal which only comes out on trips. Others incorporate travel notes into their existing notebooks.

Traveler's Notebooks are ideal for note-takers and sketch artists. With the use of connecting rubber bands, you can keep several slim notebooks together and dedicate one for your writing and another for your artwork. There are also stickers and sticky notes you can add, as well as a small travel size ballpoint pen.  

For those of you traveling this month we hope you feel restored and revitalized during and after your trip. And if you aren't traveling, we hope you find joy in daydreaming, writing about and/or sketching the places, people and things that inspire you.


Tomato Time!

Tomato Time!

Aaah, tomato harvest time! It's a funny thing. Many of us who grow tomatoes take a little white seed and sow it in the spring. Others may buy seedlings. In either case, these small things, with soil, sun, water and lots of love, turn into big things, producing an abundance of fruit - sometimes what feels like - all at once. It's magic!

A friend of mine who doesn't garden is even aware of tomato season. She knows it's that time of year again when co-workers who do garden arrive at the office with baskets of tomatoes to offload.

Tomatoes are a special crop. I love tomato red, that orangey-red hue, as a colour. I also enjoy the visual delight of the rainbow selection of heirloom varieties: green, yellow, orange, white, purple, red and even black. Some are solid colours, others are striped and marbled, which reminds me of the decorative papers in our shop.

There's also the smell of tomato foliage that connects me to nature. It's familiar and reassuring. Then, of course, there's the taste. Anyone who's bitten into a still-warm-from-the-sun tomato fresh from the garden knows these treasures simply don't register as the same food that's grown in a greenhouse and sold chilled at the supermarket.

My Italian heritage also means that I grew up with fresh homemade pasta and sauce. Cooking with tomatoes is another great way to enjoy them.

Thinking about tomatoes reminds me of the other wonderful companion plants in the garden: basil, peppers, oregano, corn and other vegetables and herbs. And in Niagara, there's plenty of fruit coming into season, such as peaches, plums, and assorted berries.

In addition to inspiring many chefs, the imagery of these plants find their way onto stationery and gifts. At the shop, we carry tea towels decorated with images of vegetables. There are napkin designs devoted to the harvest season. Posters, journal covers, greeting cards and tableware. Decorative papers, too. So many brands look to nature for inspiration.

What aspects of vegetable (and fruit, and herb) gardening inspire you? Does it bring out the creative floral designer in you? I know someone who grows particular varieties of tomatoes not for eating, but to use for table arrangements. Others use some produce, like beets, for dyeing fabric and yarn. It's incredible to think of the number of creative uses for each plant.

A couple of art forms that lend themselves well to capturing the flourishing kitchen garden are watercolour and coloured pencil sketching. Both mediums are quite portable and quick. It's easy to take a seat in the garden along with a sketchbook and draw or paint for a minutes. Seeing fruits and vegetables in situ also mean that the beauty of their foliage is captured, like the curlicue tendrils from a sprawling cucumber vine.


We hope you have a chance this week to take part in nature's ongoing harvest: whether it's tending to your garden, experiencing the farmer's market, cooking local produce, or painting or sketching en plein air!

Through Thick and Thin...

Through Thick and Thin...

Life is an adventure that brings us many surprises and challenges. One of the gifts we receive to make all experiences more bearable and enjoyable is friendship.

At the shop, we sometimes see friends coming in together to spend time looking through stationery and over objects. Other times, it's someone shopping for a friend.

To me, friendship feels like home. That feeling of a favourite warm blanket. Friends are the uplifting voice of reason and encouragement. They're a forever dance partner and backup singer. They're the ones who carry us through the happy and sad times and make us smile for no reason.

In recognition of this treasured gift, the UN has declared July 30th as the International Day of Friendship. And why not a day to celebrate such a joy-filled relationship in life? After all, friendships build bridges across national, language, cultural and other group barriers. World peace will only be realized when we experience camaraderie, mutual understanding and reconciliation between individuals.

Who are the treasured friends in your life? What qualities and behaviours do you appreciate about them? When was the last time you told them so?

Friendship Day is a great excuse to celebrate the people who've improved the quality of your life. Spend the day with them doing something you enjoy. Send them a gift. Write them a card or letter. Or make something for - or with - them: friendship bracelets, a scrapbook, paper crafts, or cook a meal.

Of course, such commemorative dates can always also be used as a journal prompt, or ways to learn more about yourself and grow. What kind of friend are you? Consider your own behaviour - what you like and what you'd like to change. After all, friendship has more than one side to it.

As I look at my experiences and those I've known, I believe that women have a particular need for friendship. So you may notice that several (though not all) of the books, films and Reverie links below are presented through the lens of female friendship.

If you're in the mood for a good summer read about friendship, consider a few classics and modern bestsellers: 

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Perhaps a great way to celebrate this Sunday is watching one of these flicks together with a friend:

  • Beaches (1988)
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
  • Waiting to Exhale (1995)
  • Peter's Friends (1992)
  • Steel Magnolias (1989)
  • The First Wives Club (1996)
  • Sideways (2004)
  • Frances Ha (2012)
  • The Half of It (2020)


Wishing you a wonderful week filled with heart-warming moments, laughter and friendship!

New Calligraphy Inks in the Shop!

New Calligraphy Inks in the Shop!

One of the fun parts of working at a stationery shop is unboxing new items and displaying them on our shelves. It's especially exciting when brand new products arrive and it's our first time seeing them in the flesh.

Just a few days ago, we brought out bottles of Ferris Wheel Press Calligraphy inks!

These 28ml bottled inks come in four opaque pastel colours, which are formulated for legibility on black paper stock: 

These colours and their names evoke bridal showers and weddings, and their use with a dip pen, calligraphy nib or brush would allow for invitations, envelopes and menus to be written in the calligraphy script of your choice. This is a wonderful way to personalize any special occasion writing.

The calligraphy inks are lightfast, smudge resistant and waterproof acrylic. Each bottle has a silicone stopper to prolong the life of your ink.

Please note that calligraphy inks are designed for use with calligraphy writing instruments only. This includes dip pens, pens with calligraphy nibs and brush pens. They're not intended for use with fountain pens or rollerball pens. 

As it so happens, we have several options for you that are perfectly safe to use with your Ferris Wheel Press Calligraphy inks, including:

J. Herbin Glass Dip Pens

This hand-blown glass pen is made in the Venetian glass making tradition by the oldest pen ink company in the world. The glass and its design makes for a very tactile experience, unlike any other writing instrument. You will feel the texture of the page and its direct connection with you. The choice of material also means the nib will never rust or wear out, so as long as you take care of it, it will last a lifetime.

Glass dip pens write a very broad, wet line. To use the pen, dip the tip partway into your bottle of calligraphy ink. You may gently remove any excess. The only ink remaining should be held inside the small capillary grooves that spiral around the tip. As the ink starts to run dry when you write, turn the pen slightly so ink from the next groove can be used.

To see a glass pen in action, see our Reverie section below.

Brause nibs & holders

Brause is a German company with over 150 years in manufacturing experience (it was founded in 1850). We carry their classic, natural wood nib holders, which are compatible with Brause and other calligraphy and comic nibs.

At Figg Street Co., we carry several Brause steel nibs. The shape and size of each nib will determine the type of line you'll be able to create. Currently, we have the Rosefedern NR 76 nib in stock. We're always happy to order any particular nibs you'd like, so feel free to talk with us about options.

To see a nib and nibholder in use, see our second Reverie video below.


We hope you take delight in giving calligraphy a try, if you haven't already. It's a special writing experience, unlike any other. Perhaps one you might enjoy with a friend.

Friendship is another special experience in life, and we'll be talking more about that next week. Until then... enjoy this summertime!

A Fresh Lick of Paint

A Fresh Lick of Paint

We've got something new in the shop that's made right here in Niagara: Blue Rock Paint! This clay mineral paint is sparking all kinds of ideas for home and studio projects.

I've brought in primary colours (red, blue, and yellow), black, white and green. They're lovely shades with evocative names like Egyptian Sun, Forest, and Kiss Me. If there are other hues you're looking for, just let us know.

Clay Mineral Paint is thick and matte, and used to paint wood, bare plaster, MDF, stone, and terra cotta. It can also be used on top of a painted surface, since it will stick to it. As its name suggests, it includes clay in its composition. It's also environmentally friendly and easy to use.

Blue Rock Paint's clay mineral paint is water-based and free of acrylic and oil. Its thickness means a little product goes far in regard to coverage. However, if you prefer a thinner, more transparent look, just add water and stir.

Is clay paint different from chalk paint? These paints do have some similarities, but also differences. Unlike chalk paint, clay paint doesn't require a wax sealant. It's also thicker. Clay mineral paint absorbs moisture, which makes it a great choice for places like kitchens, where it can help dry out a room.

Summertime is a great time to try out clay mineral paint. In addition to furniture pieces which can be painted at any time of year, you can experiment on garden furniture, decor and containers. If you like certain pieces, but not their colour, try painting them!

In addition to adding a solid coat of colour, you can try your hand at something more decorative. Either freehand draw motifs, a pattern such as stripes or dots, or consider stencilling. It's a great excuse to spend time outside and stretch your creativity, even if you don't consider yourself to be artistic. It's also a fun activity to enjoy with others of all ages.


We hope you're inspired to try out a little summer project with fast-drying paint. There's something about it that brings out a child-like sense of play in all of us.

Have a wonderful, fun week!

A Little Piece about Peace

A Little Piece about Peace

Well, summer's finally arrived and the days are bright and warm. When it's pleasant outside, I like to open the door to the shop and let the fresh air flow and light shine in. Simple gestures like these bring me a sense of peace.

This Friday, July 7th is International Peace and Love Day. It was introduced by the Beatles' drummer Richard Starkey. It's a day about appreciation, friendship and love. A time to stop for a bit and feel the presence of life.

What puts you in a state of peace? For some of us, something as simple as taking a deep breath can do the trick. It can come from seeing beauty, like looking up and seeing sunlight dappled through trees or refracted through a crystal that creates rainbow effects on a wall or table. I feel a sense of peace when I'm a witness to small acts of kindness, like a child sharing their crayons or toy with another.

When we create the conditions for peace and love, feeling good is the wonderful effect. This can involve adding sounds that are calming, such as soft music, wind chimes, or bells. It can also mean the removal of noise, in many senses of the word, such as turning off the tv, wearing earplugs, or signing out of social media for a few hours.

Of course, when we find ourselves in situations and environments that aren't ideal, maintaining peace can be challenging. However, it's also when we can make the biggest impact. By practicing our ability to stay loving and calm even when others around us are not, we plant the seeds for peace. After all, as Gandhi said, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

Peace and love don't cost anything, yet they have incredible power. They can go beyond the barriers of different languages, culture, background and status. We can all feel it when it's real.

Part of cultivating a peaceful planet is practicing acceptance. It starts with accepting ourselves as we are, faults and all. From here we can expand this acceptance to others, including their faults. So much disruption is created when we're unable to be at peace with someone else's decision or preference being different from our own.

Sometimes these challenges are best worked out on paper. As a stationery shop owner, I see this time and time again: the miracle of journal writing. People experience a real sense of personal power when they're able to use a pen and notebook to write out their thoughts and examine them. Just the act of getting those pesky things out of our body can be healing. And a personal diary provides a safe place. No one's tracking you when you write on paper.

There are several suggested ways to celebrate Peace and Love Day: 

  • Send positive messages - think about those in your life whom you'd like to thank or compliment; perhaps someone you know would benefit from a few uplifting words
  • Practice forgiveness - if someone is difficult or unkind to you, give them grace and refrain from retaliating 
  • Listen to the Beatles - songs like Let It Be and All You Need is Love send out good vibes

We hope you join us this Friday in celebrating International Peace & Love Day, in whatever way feel good to you. The more of us who make peace, the more peace will multiply and expand for everyone.

Have a lovely week!