Studio AH–HA’s Stationery Collection
We don’t do this very often at Sight Unseen — post about the same subject twice in the span of two weeks — but in this case, we couldn’t help it: When the young Portuguese graphics duo Studio AH–HA submitted their answers for our recent Up and Coming profile, they included eight impeccably styled photos of their personal stationery collection, and we couldn’t bear to let the images go to waste. There are few things more beautiful than old paper goods, as anyone who’s ever perused the goods at Present and Correct, or the mountains of vintage office ephemera available on Etsy, can surely attest. So we asked AH–HA’s Catarina Carreiras and Carolina Cantante to share the stories behind the objects in the photos they shot for us, many of which they inherited from Carreiras’s late grandfather. Says the duo: “He was the master of collections, having a huge library in the basement of his home where Catarina’s grandmother found some of the items you see below. She was going to trash them, but instead we happily inherited all the blank paper goods that he kept for years and years for no apparent reason.”
A good deal of the other items came from a local stationery shop called Papelaria da Moda, where — until it recently closed its doors — the designers regularly purchased “ordinary paper things we would find extraordinary, small sources of inspiration and little treasures that we weren’t sure were in production anymore.” See out the rest of their still-growing collection below, then make sure to visit their website and check out their stunning portfolio, if you haven’t already.
Top: “These small black notebooks are part of a diary that was lost in the sample cabinet of Fabrica’s design department. We’ve borrowed it for awhile because we find it the epitome of annual planners: It has one notebook per month, without any year reference, and all of them can be kept inside a small leather box. It’s so simple and yet so refined that we wish we would have designed it. And we’ve used that same format in some of our invitations and notebooks.”“These red pencils are shared by another collection we keep in our studio shelves, one started by Sam. A couple of years ago he had the idea of having a Christmas red market. Everything we would sell was red — red objects we would collect from all over the world. We started bringing things from our trips and the collection is quite big now, but the market never happened. These pencils are from Brazil. In the picture there’s also another important object: the wood ruler. This ruler has Catarina’s grandfather initials engraved on it, and its fabric case was embroidered by her great-grandmother. It’s a beautiful take on a daily object, and it was the ruler that her grandfather took to his first day of school. Extremely simple but so particular and special.”
“Last year we had a market here at the studio, organized by Sam Baron. It was a selection of some of Sam’s favorite objects made or designed in Portugal. One of his friends from Porto is always on the hunt for precious old things, so when she heard that an old paper factory was closing down, she bought all their stock. Sam asked her to send some of the items to sell in the market, and we fell in love with the envelope boxes — there were tons of boxes containing envelopes with different patterns or colored papers inside, all painted or glued by hand. We ended up spending the money we made selling Studio AH—HA’s notebooks on envelopes.”“Keeping things in alphabetical order seems like such an easy task nowadays, but we guess it could have been one of the most overwhelming ones before times were digital. Address books are also an endangered species, although we wished we kept one still. We don’t know what these paper refills with alphabet letters were made for specifically, but we kind of wish we had a reason to use them.”
“Some of these notebooks or paper pads have numbers and small notes written on their covers. We have no idea what they stand for, maybe an old price or a model of something. But we like to think that they were marked because they were destined for something special.”“We found these old maps too. This one is a tourists’ map of the sea coast that goes from Lisbon to Cascais, following the Tejo river until it spreads out to the Atlantic ocean. It’s quite a historical object: These maps were made before the revolution and are part of some of the first tourism campaigns that aimed to make foreign and wealthy tourists fall in love with the healing sea waters and the busy casino of Estoril. They’re also beautifully designed.”“Ambar is a well-known paper factory in Portugal, on the verge of disappearing soon due to the crisis that hit us during these past few years. Everyone from our generation had these paper refills during our school years, for our A5 dossiers. We’re not sure anymore why we would use A5 paper instead of A4, so we find it quite intriguing.”“Catarina’s grandfather was a Shell inspector, and he had a lot of official paper pads from the company. These old receipt books are quite universal, but they’re full of small graphic details that make us think of how little attention is given to printed paper nowadays. It’s so easy to send these old paper files by email that institutional rituals have lost their beauty.”