What fills you with wonder? When you sit down to write your musings and dreams, where does you your mind go? Who do you know who captivates your attention? What places and experiences leave you speechless?
I love moments of awe. It's as if I can feel new connections forming in my brain that give off a joyful spark that fizzes throughout my body. I feel wiser and mesmerized at the same time. It's a growth spurt.
One of the amazing things in life is that we never know when or where a new delightful discovery will arise. I can get a little thrill from learning of an innovative and beautiful stationery item, and then feel it again when I experience it in tangible form.
Nature is another source of wonder for me. Seeing the first little bulbs of the year: snowdrops, iris reticulatas, and crocuses all connect me to the amazing and humbling cyclical nature of life.
In mid-March, it can astonish me how a simple maple tree can drip sap that turns into a sweet syrup with its own unique flavour.
And although it's easy to take for granted, we have one of the world's greatest wonders right here in our region: Niagara Falls!
Isn't it funny how when you live so close to an international sensation, you often only visit it when you're entertaining guests from out-of-town? Sometimes I have to remind myself to play tourist in my own area.
Of course, I also enjoy being an actual tourist. Travel is another way in which I experience awe and where I get inspired. Our planet's diverse landscapes are stunning. It's invigorating to hike over land and equally so to sail on the sea. Connecting with nature, for me, is a battery recharge for the soul.
In addition to outdoor beauty, I've also found myself fascinated by the many creations we human beings have made. Brilliant architecture, artwork, music and general design fill me with awe.
I can see why some people track and write about moments of wonder in their journals. It seems that those who make a point of noting down such occurrences - for example, seeing a double rainbow - end up having more of these than the rest of us. Is it that they're experiencing more, or that we're just not noticing?
We hope your week is full of wonder and awe-inspiring moments. If you're so inclined, take a peek in the garden and see what may be emerging there. It's amazing what we can discover right under our feet.
What Makes You Happy?
What makes you happy? A warm, sunny day in early spring? The giggle or smile on your little one's face? A cuddle with your partner?
I find so much pleasure in my first cup of coffee in the morning. The aroma, the taste, and simply the ritual of preparing a cup. It makes me happy to savour each sip and ease into the day.
In Bhutan, national happiness has been officially valued greater than national income since the early 1970s. This is when it "famously adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product" as noted on the United Nations (UN) website.
It's no surprise, then, that it was Bhutan that initiated the resolution for the International Day of Happiness, which was proclaimed March 20th by the UN.
On March 18th this year, the 10th annual edition of the World Happiness Report will be released. If you're curious to learn more, you can register to receive a copy by clicking here and scrolling down to the 'World Happiness Report' section.
Happiness can be very personal. It can be a discovery to learn of new things that make us happy. Sometimes we stumble upon new situations or events. It's serendipity. Other times, we find happiness right under our nose just by paying closer attention.
One way to gain clarity around what creates happiness for us is journaling. By writing down our thoughts and feelings on a recurring basis, we develop insights into what makes us tick. We see patterns emerge from our musings and ruminations. Sometimes, noticing what we don't like can lead us to uncover what we do.
Have you unearthed something new that makes you happy recently? How will you celebrate The International Day of Happiness? It happens to fall on the first day of spring - Monday, March 20th.
We don't mind sharing with you that the start of spring makes us happy!
Let's Raise A Glass!
If you've been to Figg Street Co. on Front Street in Thorold, and also checked out our website, you're likely aware that there're many more pleasant finds in our actual shop. We carry several items that you won't see in our web store.
La Rochere glassware and ceramics are among those in-person discoveries.
Isn't it amazing how silica, sodium carbonate and limestone - through specific heating and cooling techniques - can be turned into clear and hard glass?
La Rochere, which dates back to 1475 in France, is Europe's oldest continuously working glass factory. That's over 500 years of operations and experience!
Although La Rochere creates many lines of products, they're well known for their iconic bee symbol, which features on several of their drinking glasses, bowls, plates, and other tableware. Other popular motifs include dragonflies and the fleur-de-lis.
There're many things about these timeless French pieces that people love: each object often include a sturdy base, which means the glass sits more securely atop any surface. The elegant designs are beautiful enough to use for a formal occasion, yet durable enough for everyday use.
Elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary and cherish the little moments in life.
Many people also love La Rochere glass for health and environmental reasons: since glass contains no lead, it's a kind way to still enjoy a sip from a stylish vessel. And unlike plastic, glass can be endlessly melted down and made into new objects.
In addition to glassware, La Rochere also makes ceramics. Their Bee Collection uses the same bee motif displayed through its glassware.
These Provence countryside inspired bowls and plates come in two gorgeous colourways. Ecru is a versatile and stunning off-white, which strikes the perfect balance between yellow and grey undertones. The Bleu dishes are a sigh-inducing pale blue that evokes the calmness of water under summer sunlight.
La Rochere is a line we find delights so many customers at the Figg Street Co. shop. There's a romance and a robustness to their pieces that you're sure to appreciate when you hold any of their creations in your hand... and raise it to the light! Cheers! Cin Cin! Santé! Skål! Kanpai!
What's your type?
Here's something you may not know about me: I've a very specific preference when it comes to the letter 'a'. I like an 'a' that's a circle with a short, vertical line to the right of it, with the centre of the line touching the circle. Like this one: a. It's how I was taught to print this letter, and other versions I find difficult to read.
Clearly, typeface and fonts are something I think about a fair amount. Although some people use the terms interchangeably, they're actually two different things.
Typeface is a broader term than font. Typeface refers to a specific set of design features for letters, numbers, and other characters. For example, Copperplate is a typeface.
Although the origin of serifs is unknown, some believe it comes from the marks and end strokes produced by brushes and quills during handwriting. Penmanship evolved to include creative ways of writing, and the use of decorative strokes.
It's also been widely believed that sans serif fonts are preferable for digital display, since they've been easier to read on screens over the years. Serif fonts are often preferred on paper. That said, today our screen have such high resolutions that reading serifs are largely no longer an issue.
Some people have very particular taste when it comes to typography. Others enjoy a variety, often having preferences for time and place. For example, cartoon fonts would likely feel inappropriate for an obituary and child-like sans-serif fonts are likely to get a pass when it comes to wedding invitations. However, either may be a great fit for a birthday celebration.
What're your favourite typefaces and fonts? Do you like serif, sans serif, or both?
We hope you enjoy noticing all the various typefaces around as you go about your day.
Until next week, happy reading and writing!
For the Love of Letterpress
In some ways, I could say that there'd be no Figg Street Co. without letterpress. You could say letterpress was my gateway into stationery. I adore letterpress!
Letterpress is a printing technique invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s. It revolutionized the world by getting information to the lower-income classes by replicating text, diagrams and imagery faster than handwriting. Where would we be without it?
In the 15th century, letterpress was the way to efficiently copy information. Over time, other methods became available, notably photocopiers and computer printers. While these new techniques have demonstrated advancements with respect to colour and speed, they're 2D in nature and lack the human nuances that make letterpress items unique.
Letterpress uses a printing press, in which one can arrange wooden and metal blocks with metal plates on them depicting letters and images. Ink is applied to rollers and spread over the plates before pressure is used to connect the plate and paper, which creates a coloured impression.
I love this art form for its tactile nature. Letterpress is best experienced in person. The paper's texture needs to be seen; it invites you to touch it. The impression of the press and the ink used in the process offer depth and colour. When you feel letterpress, the cotton fibres of the paper reveal its elegance and refinement. It's a beautiful luxury that keeps on giving in a way that's not possible with digital printing.
If you're like me, and have a deep appreciation for quality and craftsmanship, you'll understand the appeal of letterpress. The process to design and print is extensive. It involves mapping out the artwork, typography and ink colours. It takes experience, skill and a lot of patience as the press prints one product at a time, and one colour of ink at a time. Presswomen and pressmen call it a labour of love.
What do you think of letterpress? Do you share our love of it? We love talking all things letterpress with others in the shop.
Next week, we'll delve into an aspect of letterpress further: typography and fonts.
Until then, enjoy your week and Happy Pancake Tuesday to those who are celebrating!
Stationery for Animal Lovers
Do you remember those first few weeks of the pandemic? When the world went quiet and suddenly, wildlife started appearing on city streets? One of my friends in downtown Toronto looked out her window one morning and saw an owl resting on a tree branch in her back garden. She phoned her next-door neighbour who went to her window to share the experience. Her neighbour had been living there for over forty years and said this was only the second time she'd seen an owl in the neighbourhood.
Fortunately, it doesn't always take a world-wide event for us to stop to smell the roses and hear the birds chirping. When we pay attention as we walk about, we can observe and hear many things. The soft tapping sound of woodpeckers, the sudden game of tag between two squirrels, and soon, we'll hear the first bees buzzing as they collect pollen from crocuses and other early spring bulbs. (A few days ago, one of us saw a garden with many blooming snowdrops!)
Of course, in addition to wildlife, there are many of us with pets. Here at Figg Street Co, we have cat lovers, a dog owner, and one of us even had a pet turtle growing up, amongst various goldfishes. There were many visits to the petting zoo to see the adorable bunnies, farm animals and swans in the pond. Feeding the ducks was another favourite childhood memory.
Animal notebooks are also fitting as places for us to doodle or sketch our pets or a silly squirrel outside. Use watercolour, pencil or pastels to capture those sad, yet endearing eyes of our pup looking up at us or our kitten nestled on top of a blanket. Precious moments like these are also worthy of an entry in a gratitude journal.
Have you spent any time with animals this week? Do they make you laugh? Comfort you? Creatures of all kinds get into shenanigans. We hope you witness something ridiculous, tender, or both(!) that brings you a deep sense of joy.
Love is All Around
Love. It's one of those words that's so big, it eludes definition. Describing it in a few words feels reductive. It's something to experience. And yet we all recognize it when we do. We can discern between someone acting from love and when they aren't. There's an openness, an ease and peaceful calm. There's no judgment or agenda. It's accepting of what is.
As Valentine's Day approaches, I feel grateful for love in my life. I'm reminded of the early days, when I first met my husband in Ottawa. We've been through a lot together over the years since then. I feel incredibly lucky to have a partner with whom I've shared so much life. It's nourishing to me to stop for a moment and really take that in.
I've often thought it's so sweet when I see older couples whose love is so deep it's palpable to any of us around them. A simple act of tenderness toward the other can melt my heart. I enjoy observing them looking out for one another, much in the way small children do - there's a purity, simplicity and innocence about caring for our partners that showcases humanity at its best. It's refreshing to be in the midst of it.
Are you lucky enough to know what I'm talking about? Maybe it's you and your partner or perhaps you've been witness to other demonstrations of love in your life. We can never seem to have enough of it - it's the clean air we all want to breathe.
Over the next little while, look around you: where do you see the warmth of loving kindness in action? Who seems to radiate openness, understanding, and tolerance? Wherever you find it, you're bound to find more. I've noticed that these traits seem to cluster together. Love attracts love.
At Figg Street Co., we wish you a sweet, joyful Valentine's Day filled with love!
When we experience a heavy snowfall, one of the things that warms my heart is seeing kindness in action. You know what I mean: neighbours shovelling the driveway, walkway and sidewalk for others. Checking in on those who are ill, incapacitated, or vulnerable to see if they need anything. The smiles, banter and jokes shared with others walking by.
And while I can't say that winter is my favourite season, the advantage of snow is that it brings with it the possibility of additional outdoor activities. Like sledding. Who doesn't love a great toboggan ride? Especially if you're lucky enough to have access to a nice, big hill. Like Stamford Collegiate High School in Niagara Falls. Some other fun spots are Burgoyne Woods in St. Catharines, Marlene Stewart Streit Park in Fonthill, and Chippawa Park in Welland. In Thorold there's the Battle of Beaverdams Park and Mel Stewart Lake Gibson Conservation Area.
Snowfall also lends itself to snowboarding and skiing: both downhill and cross-country. Although there are a few ski resorts in southern Ontario, cross-country skiing is more widely accessible here. There are some beautiful trails along the Niagara escarpment. And where there are trails, there's also snowshoeing. Both of these are easy to learn, great exercise, and a romantic way to connect with nature in the wintertime.
An activity that doesn't require snow, but does require cold is skating. Outdoor skating can feel like a real treat if you're lucky enough to have access to a safe spot. Indoor skating is also a lot of fun and can include a few added conveniences such as heated areas, washrooms and consistent availability.
Perhaps not as physically intensive, but as expressive and creative is outdoor photography. Taking photos may lead you to any number of places, as you explore wooded areas, trails, waterfronts or whatever is nearby. Wintertime activities may draw your attention, the way sunlight sparkles through an icicle, or the fresh, pink cheeks of a little one.
Of course, after some outdoor skating, skiing or sledding, you'll no doubt want to head indoors for some sipping... a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or apple cider. It's so rewarding to have a shower and snuggle up with something warm.
What're your favourite cold weather activities? We hope you have a chance to enjoy several in the next few weeks.
A Visit to Jardin Majorelle
You may have noticed the Pont Neuf Garden notebooks named Majorelle Winter, Spring, Summer, etc. and wondered, what's Majorelle? Or perhaps you're fashion savvy and the word brings up memories of the late Yves Saint Laurent.
Jardin Majorelle is located in Marrakesh, Morrocco. The garden was created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle, who started in 1922 and continued adding plants from around the world over many years.
In the 1930s, a Cubist villa was added on the property. Jacques Majorelle lived on the second level and used the ground floor as his art studio.
In addition to the garden and his paintings, he's also known for the vibrant cobalt blue paint colour he had trademarked as Majorelle Blue. The colour was inspired by the city of Marrakesh and the Berber community.
The bright blue paint was used to paint tiles, fountains, walls and the villa on the property. It's perhaps the feature that makes the Majorelle Garden instantly recognizable.
The garden is walled. Therefore, although the garden is located in the city itself, it feels very otherworldly and peaceful once inside the property. It's home to a variety of exotic plants, succulents, vines, bamboo and is known for its cacti collection.
There's also Paradise garden features, including most notably the use of water, but also includes symmetry and its enclosed structure. The secret-courtyard-in-the-city experience can give it an element of mystery and delight.
By 1980, many years after Jacques Majorelle had died, the garden fell into a tired state. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought it and went about restoring the garden and property as a whole.
The result of their work has been showcased in fashion publications and documentaries, and through public tours of the garden. The property includes a collection of Majorelle paintings in the villa and a Berger museum. In October 2017, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech (there's another one in Paris) was opened a few feet away.
We love it when the story of a notebook transports us into another world. Has this issue got you thinking of travel? Gardening? Spring? Painting?
What are your favourite qualities in a notebook? Let us know!
Paper as material
Running a stationery shop means that I see a lot of paper. Many paper products are used for writing and drawing. However, I also handle paper that's used as an instrument, as material, even as a tool. These creative uses of paper captivate my imagination.
Paper comes in so many shapes, colours, textures and weights. It's a wonderful way to express ourselves and to experiment with our creative ideas and desires. Its ability to be cut, torn, creased, moistened, crumpled, and molded into shapes means that we can use it for a variety of purposes and projects.
Tissue papers can be made into fluffy flowers. Decorative and textured papers can be used to create hanging mobiles. Colourful origami papers can be used to make small boxes, paper clip holders, pencil cups or other vessels.
If you find yourself mesmerized by colour and pattern, paper makes an accessible option. Whereas damask silks, chintz and brocade fabrics are lovely, it's far simpler to get your fix of any design you desire in paper format. It's also a great way to experiment with something new: try out an idea in paper first.
It's always a special day at Figg when someone pops in to showcase a beautiful object they created from one of our papers. Whether it's an ornament, lampshade or sculpture, we love seeing your imagination at work! It's a beautiful way to connect with others and evokes the joy of childhood play and discovery.
Planning on a project but not sure what paper to use? We're happy to discuss options and ideas with you. Sometimes an indoor paper project hits the spot at this time of year!
Let's Take a Winter Walk
Although outdoor excursions are enjoyable any time of year, there's something special about winter walks. I find them invigorating. When the warm air inside feels heavy or stale and I've found myself looking at a screen for hours, a walk outside is a tonic. It clears my head and feels refreshing.
One key to a great walk is to leave the phone behind... or at least turn it off. It's amazing how connecting to nature and taking in the sights and sounds all around me is incredibly grounding. When I'm in an area with trees and shrubs, bare branches make birds and dangling bird feeders more visible at this time of year. The cardinals are especially beautiful.
I love the sound of my boots crunching onto packed snow. Even the feel of my cheeks growing chilly and pink is pleasant, so long as there's none of those painfully cold winds that are more common further north.
Walks are a gentle, yet great way to exercise. It doesn't require all the organizing and planning of team sports or the equipment requirements of other activities. All I need are my winter outer layers and a comfortable pair of boots.
It's a mood booster, too.
When ideas aren't flowing or I'm stuck in an unpleasant thought loop, getting outside to reconnect with myself and nature does the trick. It's a great source of inspiration and makes me feel like I'm more in touch with my community. Sometimes I'll run into neighbours or delight in a funny discovery, like a hilarious snowman or snow angels on someone's front lawn.
Also, winter walks make great meet-ups. Rather than inviting someone over or finding a café that doesn't mind it's patrons sitting around for a long time, a walk works. It makes things easy for us both when I can ask someone to meet me down by the canal, lake, or a specific intersection. We can meander our way wherever we like and even pop into places of interest, if we choose.
In addition to the pleasure of walking itself, I experience a lot of benefits afterward. It's such a great feeling to walk back into the house and feel the warm air. It makes me appreciate central heating and gives me a general feeling of satisfaction that I've done something good for myself.
Perhaps we'll see you during one of our winter walks sometime soon!
What are your intentions?
Recently, I've taken some time to sit with myself and really consider what I want. It's a time to take stock. To look at things as they are, right now, and think about how I'd like them to be. What are my intentions?
An intention is different than a goal or an objective. It's broader in that it can guide any goals we want to create. For instance, when I know my intention is to be healthy, I may create a goal to exercise four times a week to align with my intention.
Intention is also more constant than objectives, which I set from time to time. Intentions are with me throughout my day, whether I realize it or not. It's behind every one of my many, tiny (and not-so-tiny) decisions.
Start here, now.
Before I go about setting new intentions, I take time to observe my current ones. It just requires me to be willing to notice myself with honesty. So I consider the past few minutes: when I sent that message I just wrote, what was my underlying intention?
Was it to get something off my to-do list? Was it to get my point across? Was it to honour my truest self in a respectful way? Was it to take the next step forward toward a mutual goal?
How was I feeling and thinking when I wrote the note - calm, frustrated, annoyed, happy, resentful?
Even my decisions on when and what I eat and drink have an intention behind them. I may be seeking something to quench my thirst or looking for something to distract or numb me from an uncomfortable feeling. My intention may be to get away from processing sadness, anger, loneliness, anxiety or envy.
It only takes a few seconds, but I find noticing my intentions very eye-opening. I realize I can make a positive impact in my life through small, quiet decisions. For example, when I'm about to reply to a message, I take a couple deep breaths and think about what I want my intention to be before I respond.
To make my intentions stick, I write any little discoveries and wishes down in a notebook. There's something about the process of handwriting that feels grounding and calming to me in a way that typing doesn't. It's just me and the page.
What intentions are you setting for yourself? Whatever they may be, we wish you much success in becoming more of who you want to be. It was Maya Angelou who said, "success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."
Wishing you conscious intentions in 2023!