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Pen to Paper. All we want from Copenhagen-based stationery brand, The Brown Paper Movement are running circles in the sustainable, Scandinavian market. Self-confessed paper addict and founder, Olivia, tells us about her journey.


Let’s face it – being well immersed into 2019, the pace of life has rapidly increased. And we often find ourselves dispersing our plans; notes and ideas across multiple landscapes. To cure the chaos; we invite symmetry, balance and soft-focused design into our everyday life through stationery experts, The Brown Paper Movement. Uttered from the wise words of Marie Kondō, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart.” With these reusable paper pieces, we’re sure it’s a surface you’ll look forward to using each day.


So where did it all begin?

Brought to you by a self-confessed brown paper addict and maker of calendars. The story starts in 2010, it was halfway during my studies of Interior Architecture and working as a candle-maker at The Candle Factory, in The Rocks. Beeswax was always delivered in crisp, beautifully textured cardboard boxes, particularly of the tan coloured variety, sometimes embossed and printed on. I started to develop this affinity for the boxes, and as a young creative studying design, it was a perfect new medium to experiment with.

And so the collection of brown paper boxes began. It was literally stored anywhere I could keep it, under the bed, in the garage, pressed under books, and the list goes on. Tanya, my manager joked and would send me photos of when she found ‘clean’ boxes on the street and embarrassingly so, where I could source my next batch from, since I had run the shop dry of them! It wasn’t ever about buying new cardboard, it was up-cyling the otherwise perfect pieces and finding similar ones elsewhere.

It evolved to seeking a new medium to present my work whilst studying Interior Architecture, and this is where I transitioned to using brown paper. At the time I also loved writing and marking down the days to my final presentations, here my original calendar design creeped in. I remember designing it at the beginning of the year, but not starting the year when I needed it to as it was March. I procrastinated to get it finished instead of studying, so the idea was born. I started selling them a few years later on Etsy and still do on this platform today.

What is is about The Brown Paper Movement that you think people find most intriguing?

From the get go, it was using paper that otherwise seen as for wrapping and cardboard boxes which drew people’s attention, definitely that of my university classmates and tutors. The brown paper is a sensory experience, beginning with the visual aspect and intrigue, followed by the sense of touch and its texture. This is where people can’t quite believe its brown paper. It’s all about making an overlooked material, beautiful and generating a knowledge around recycled papers.

How do you think your surrounding impacts the production of The Brown Paper Movement?

The business and I are based in Copenhagen, however it all started back home in Sydney. Since relocating to Europe it has made us closer to a big cohort of new customers and this is something that really excites me. Saying so, we’ve been able to expand into the Scandinavian market, which from Australia isn’t easy to crack. With the production our location doesn’t impact the process so much, as the calendars are made in my home-studio.

This has been the case since the beginning, with the odd calendar being made externally. Our location also puts us in a great position to find suppliers and reach out to a production facilities, which I am sourcing in Poland specifically. My family roots began there and it would make me so proud to bring production essentially back ‘home’ and celebrating the Polish industry which is so overlooked.

If you could give any advice to young entrepreneurs or artists out there, what would it be?

Experience the process, don’t miss it just to crave things quickly. Live it. Breathe it, and slowly. Be curious. Take every opportunity.

Why do you think its so important to be sustainable in everyday pleasures such as paper?

As time passes and technology ‘tries’ to take over, paper will seem more unsustainable to some, yet even more of a pleasure to others. I’ve always sat in the latter cohort. Maintaining the notion that paper brings us closer to nature, the more textured it is. The paper I am drawn to, and end up selecting must evoke an emotion through its texture.

With sustainability, its important to up-cycle and then recycle where we can. This year we offered customers a chance to up-cycle the backs of their calendars for jotting notes, for kids to draw on, etc. It is through customer education, in turning a used page around, and using its back, that’s how we learn to be sustainable. And from there, its all about recycling, to give back to the earth. This is something I need to educate myself more in, and then share this knowledge to our customer base.

“The human eye is triggered by beautiful and visually pleasing objects. Combine this with writing; using our hands, the second tool we use to describe ourselves after speech. I believe a goal, milestone or event becomes more real the moment it is on paper.”

Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspiration began to flow from the texture of the candle wax, the cardboard boxes, everything sensory. I would say this has continued today in my career as it guides me on a tactile journey, where I’m drawn to finishes, textiles and details mostly. Of course travel and making a point to always visit a stationery shop in every new city I visit is a must, but at random points in the year I have the urge to be inspired by the highest mountains of the world.

I remember my late Tatuś (Father in Polish) always looking up, being in awe of sights as ‘small’ as the Sydney Harbour Bridge (he thought) and as large as the Tatry Mountains. With this, I make an effort if not to visit the mountains, then to watch documentaries about them. Recently I watched Meru and attended Mountains On Stage, a travelling film festival. To continually create bigger, and what I call ‘unrealistic’ dreams, to never sit in the crowd of the realistic. My beautiful Mama, she inspires me to lead, not follow. And my brother, he grounds me and reminds me in positive ways, that everything in this life is temporary.

Why do you think humans enjoy planning and visually seeing their year on paper?

The human eye is triggered by beautiful, and visually pleasing objects. Combine this with the second tool we use to describe ourselves after speech, using our hands and writing. I believe a goal, milestone or event becomes more real the moment it is on paper. Humanity has been keeping diaries for centuries, and the act of writing has always solidified a story and moment in time. It’s no different to planning your year on paper. We relish in excitement when we can countdown, cross off and embrace the suspense before something on paper happens.


Best advice you were given?

Create your own opportunities and be patient. Trust your gut instinct. Have humility, invest in others and give back.

Stuck on an island with 3 things, what are they?

An English/Italian dictionary, a hammock and swiss-army knife.

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Innovative, ambitious, driven

“We relish in excitement when we can countdown, cross off and embrace the suspense before something on paper happens.”

Words | Annalise Shaw

Photography | Sam Rose

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