Meet Rosalind Went, the creator of Harry & Ida!
I met Rosalind when she walked into Figg Street Co. one day. A lovely woman who shared many of the same interests as me, especially journals, notebooks, fountain pens, inks, papers and one-of-a-kind items. It wasn't long afterward that we began carrying Harry & Ida products, a reclaimed and upcycled paper products brand that she created in 2012. Her items include vintage ephemera beloved by many, especially bullet journalers, scrapbookers and artisans.
For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Rosalind, please make yourself comfortable and enjoy reading this recent interview.
What gave you the idea to create Harry & Ida?
My late husband’s family kept daily diaries from the early 1900s. His grandparents, Harry and Ida, specifically, kept the diaries from the 1930s to the 1960s.
In one entry, written at the cottage, where they had to row for over a half hour from the mainland to our island, Harry simply wrote: “After breakfast Maw and I built a dock.”
At a log cabin on a northern lake, with no amenities in those post-war years, I thought it remarkable that it was entered with such casualness and little to no fanfare about the accomplishment.
I liked the fact that they worked with their hands, that their diary entries were all in fountain pen, and inspired, even more, interest in vintage.
What's most exciting to you right now about the stationery business?
I'm excited by the fact that so many young people are gaining interest in fountain pens and their inks, and learning to handwrite, instead of reaching for a computer or a cell phone, and testing new papers and journals. It’s an undeniable return to the basics of writing.
What are your favourite colours and motifs to work with in your creations?
I love greens, especially chartreuse. J. Herbin, a Parisian company that has been producing inks since 1700, has a beautiful selection and I love the fact that they are made with natural dyes. Of their scented inks, my favourite is Parfum Violette. I bought my first J. Herbin scented ink in Paris about five years ago and chose Parfum Lavande. The bottled ink is naturally scented by floral water (hydrosols) from a small town called Grasse in Provence that has always been well-known in the perfume industry. I've been hooked on J. Herbin inks ever since.
Are there any colours or styles you'd avoid using for Harry & Ida products?
I tend to avoid very bright colours, preferring muted shades, unless it’s for children. I also prefer the colours of the era I’m working around.
What's your favourite writing instrument?
My favourite writing instruments are fountain pens, for the way they glide across a page, along with their sustainability. Fountain pens from over a century ago, once restored, are still marvelously unique and beautiful to write with.
I was also introduced to Blackwing Pencils by Antoinette, and I have a few of those. You really can’t go back to everyday pencils once you’ve used Blackwings.
I also use typewriters - vintage manuals and a fully restored IBM Selectric 1 from the late 1960s.
What's the best book or author you've ever read?
I prefer non-fiction to fiction, but the late Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' A Child’s Christmas in Wales and the story, One Warm Saturday, are particular favourites. Also, the late English writer, Graham Greene.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Create and surround yourself with things that make YOU happy! If anyone else likes it, that’s an added bonus.
“Get rid of stuff!” I don’t hoard things, by any means, but I appreciate the books I have, the collection of fountain pens and inks, my now very small collection of important-to-me typewriters, a few nostalgic British childhood items and books I read as a child in Wales and London.
What are your favourite spots in the Niagara Region?
I like photographing architecture, so anywhere that has structures of interest will inspire me to walk about with my camera. There is a lot of history in this region that goes unnoticed.
What are your favourite things about living in Niagara?
I've lived here for the last 30 or so years. I don’t like the cold winter months, but I do love the spring, summer, and autumn in this region and all that those seasons bring.
Anything else to add?
While I love technology and spent years teaching computer classes, returning to all things “analog” gives us an appreciation for the old and the new. The majority of us spend a significant amount of time on cell phones, tablets, and computers, but sometimes we need to step away from it all and appreciate the slowness of the older ways.
We hope you enjoyed this interview and "meeting" another person. At Figg Street Co., we feel very lucky to be able to meet and work with so many interesting people.