Julia, the proprietress of Choosing Keeping, refers to herself as an “amateur shopkeeper.” Since opening her small stationery shop on Columbia Road in east London last year, she has been learning the tricks of what many would say is a dying trade.
“Actually," she explains, "according to the trade magazines I read, stationery sales are on the rise. This may be strange given that everything is getting more digital, but I think stationery makes people feel safe. Nothing weird is going to happen with a pencil. Also it reminds people of their childhood – people get sentimental about stationery."
Scissors from Italy, German glue, Finnish crayons, pen clips from the UK, French notebooks, and Julia’s favourite, Japanese pencils – the stationery items at Choosing, Keeping, may be somewhat “fetishistic,” as she says, but they’re also practical; everything you need to create a beautiful workspace. "But it’s not like I’m trying to push Cristal ballpoint pens. A lot of what I stock are things that people have been looking for and couldn’t find.”
"I think stationery makes people feel safe. Nothing weird is going to happen with a pencil."
Julia grew up in France but lived in Tokyo when she was a child, where she developed a love for all things miniature. “Really cute things,” she says. “I had a big collection of novelty erasers and lettersets as well. I also studied history at university and I find that stationery is actually an interesting starting point to find out about the history of design and manufacture. It’s a creative thing, and I didn’t want to sell something that was useless to people. Stationery has good core values.”
Choosing, Keeping receives many returning customers across the arts, architecture and transportation – all looking for the same pen or pencil they’ve been using for years. “Some people don’t use what they buy though,” Julia explains. “They just collect stationery, which is not what I encourage. I hope the people who come here will actually use their pencils!”
Choosing Keeping is located at 128 Columbia Road, London, E2 7RG. The shop is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11.30am – 7pm and Sunday, 9.30am – 5pm.
Text by Ananda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and regular contributor to anothermag.com.