Best of Bri­tish

How a pas­sion for sweet peas launched a sta­tionery star

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENT - pa­

A per­son­alised-sta­tionery busi­ness

AT 17, TAYMOOR Atighetchi be­came the youngest art dealer on Por­to­bello Road in Lon­don – the world’s largest an­tiques mar­ket – and at 18 he be­gan a his­tory of art de­gree at the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge. The art busi­ness, he says, runs in his blood. ‘Gen­er­a­tions of my fam­ily have been art deal­ers, so I’ve al­ways been ex­posed to a lot of art.’

Yet he went on to work as a man­age­ment con­sul­tant – un­til two years ago, when he quit, at the age of 26, and started Pa­pier, a per­son­alised sta­tionery busi­ness, in­spired partly by his art-world back­ground and partly by hi s love of do o dling. ‘ When I was young, I used to draw fire en­gines, sign the cor­ner of the pa­per – as I’d seen artists do – then sell the draw­ings to my rel­a­tives,’ he says.

Pa­pier started in a tiny of­fice in south Lon­don with two em­ploy­ees, but sold more than 150,000 note­cards in its sec­ond year and now has 10 il­lus­tra­tors, work­ing out of a paint-spat­tered stu­dio in Soho. ‘It’s like an artist’s stu­dio, ex­cept with no easels,’ jokes Antighetch­i.

Un­like the many sta­tionery de­sign­ers who cre­ate il­lus­tra­tions on com­put­ers us­ing de­sign soft­ware, Atighetchi prefers to paint, draw and cut out pat­terns by hand be­fore scan­ning the re sults on to a com­puter. This, he ad­mits, can be time-con­sum­ing.

His best­selling note­cards, printed with a wa­ter­colour paint­ing of sweet peas, took weeks to cre­ate. Atighetchi fille d the stu­dio with bou­quets of blooms, then laid out pal­ettes of wa­ter­colours and set his il­lus­tra­tors to work. ‘They painted sweet pea af­ter sweet pea,’ he re­calls. Roughly 100 paint­ings later, he de­cided on his sig­na­ture de­sign.

Once the de­sign for a note­card is fi­nalised, it is sent to a fac­tory in Bark­ing to be re­pro­duced by an inkjet printer that turns out 2,800 note­cards an hour. Some are then sent for per­sonal en­grav­ing at a fac­tory in Es­sex . Atighetchi em­ploys thre e en­gravers, who use a burin – a spe­cial­ist steel in­stru­ment so sharp that, as Atighetchi puts it, pa­per cuts are the least of their wor­ries. ‘A quick slip of the fin­ger could com­pletely flat­ten the thumb,’ he says.

Re­flect­ing on his first years in busi­ness, Atighetchi is proud of how far he has come. There have been col­lab­o­ra­tions with de­sign­ers and in­sti­tu­tions (in­clud­ing Matthew Wil­liamson and the V&A), but he is most proud of the tra­di­tional il­lus­trat­ing process he fol­lows, which ap­peals to his artis­tic roots. He adds, ‘Two years on, it still feels amaz­ing to see some­thing that be­gan as a pat­tern trans­late into a piece of beau­ti­ful sta­tionery.’

In­ter­view by Rob­bie Hodges. Pho­to­graphs by Joseph Hor­ton

Right Taymoor Atighetchi at his Soho stu­dio, wa­ter­colour de­signs in progress, and sweet-pea note­cards.

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