The spiral bound, ruled notebooks filling “Seasonal” aisles. The gorgeous autumn wedding invitation I just received on heavy cardstock with beautiful calligraphy. The to-do list full of thank you notes owed that I’m determined to get to this week. And, of course, the crazy exciting things happening for Coppertops right now and this sort of amazement at how into my paper products people seem. All of these things are making me giddy.
Despite founding Coppertops, I’m among the first to acknowledge that the paper market is saturate. There are so many paper goods retailers – both brick and mortar and web-based – with countless customizable designs, many of them very, very good. Even the indie space is full; when you search for paper products on Etsy, the obscene number of results can make you want to scoot on over to a different tab – perhaps the open Pinterest one, full of suggestions and inspiration for creating your own professional-looking notecards. And all of those companies and individuals are selling to a population that supposedly isn’t writing letters, is trying to go green, and can make anything at home with the right printer.
But the notebooks and wedding invitations, the thank you notes and even the to-do lists? They say that the power of paper won’t be usurped with a couple (or gazillions) of emails, iPads or Evernote memos. Which makes me the most giddy of all.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with paper, and more specifically with the fact that paper held words, and with those words, entire worlds. It’s not just that I’m a voracious reader who still likes the feel of a hardcover book in her hands, or a sentimentalist who loves opening snail mail – though I’m those things too. It’s something more, an actual awe at how paper functions in our lives and has for centuries.
I took a “Great Books” course in college, and it constantly struck me that I was reading a particular set of key thinkers because they were the ones whose ideas were recorded on paper. There are entire religions that wouldn’t have existed – at least not with the same consistency and urgency – without the invention of the printing press. Characters we would never seek to imitate. True love stories we would have never known.
The right framed quote on a wall in a home’s entryway says more than a pillow in a favorite fabric. It’s more specific; it projects a clearer identity with less room for guessing what this family is about. Putting words on paper brings things right out in the forefront and says who we are; and later will tell who we were.
Maybe some day people will get the same sense of discovery by accessing someone’s iPhone backup or text history, but I suspect in some way that will still feel creepy. Think about the way that you forget that your internet search history will follow you. It’s different with paper. To put words on paper is to consciously, even physically, whether typing or pressing down with felt tip ink, commit those words out into the world.
It’s much harder to rescind (or ignore) an invitation made on a printed card or omit an item on a checklist that you had to write yourself. For better or worse, you can’t pretend a love note (or a vicious bit of gossip) that’s passed in class got sent to a spam folder. Words that make it onto paper create identity and accountability, and give a framework to individual relationships and social activity that is truly profound.
I love paper, and I love so many of the great paper goods out there that already exist. And I love the idea of creating new paper products to find people in different venues; the idea that someone might pick up one of my wine correspondence cards on a whim while paying for their Rioja has me imagining all sorts of things that might be written down on that card.
Coppertops Paperie: The Power of Paper