In the digital age, typing dominates.
We spend most of our time pushing buttons on a keyboard; calligraphy classes have been phased out in favour of typing classes in schools; and, with the increasing prevalence of digital signatures, we may not even have to pick up a pen to sign our names.
What will the place of pen and paper be in the future?
Armed with a vision of reigniting a love for the simple pleasures of pen and paper, Līneae supports small, independent studios and artists with unique creative direction and eco-ethical sense, bringing their artisanal crafts to a wider audience in Singapore.
Learning from the world
In the age of social distancing and self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel doesn’t seem like a great idea.
However, exploring the world has always been, and hopefully will remain to be one of the best ways to get inspired and learn. Stephanie, the founder of Lineae, loves travelling. She shares that one of the key things travel taught her was minimalism — the idea that life can be lived with a lot less.
“When you are living out of a backpack for a few months, you really come to appreciate how much you actually don’t need.”
Stephanie shares that she has had lots of good and sobering learnings from her travels.
“It has been quite upsetting to see how a place has been ruined by the sheer amount of tourists, and how locals are displaced and inconvenienced because of that. I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem, but I think that as citizens of the earth, we should learn to be more considerate of others, and even more so of the nature that surrounds us.”
The importance of penmanship in the digital era
Stephanie feels that being able to write can be a relief. She prefers reading paper books to digital books.
“It is because our daily lives are so intertwined with technology that I believe penmanship is even more important today than it was before. They say that writing improves mental well-being, but that aside, it’s a great skill to have when technology fails you too!”
Stephanie admires people who can write beautifully, especially those who are able to do beautiful calligraphy. She believes that writing is so much more than just a function of translating words to a page.
With handwriting, she explains, you get glimpses of the personality behind it — the shapes of the font and style of writing, the abbreviations used and how everyone’s smiley face and hearts look different when hand-drawn.
“Most of all, I find it all the more meaningful when you give or receive a handwritten note or letter. To this day, I still send physical birthday cards to my friends and family,” she adds.
Love for penmanship and the birth of Lineae
When Stephanie was a child, her Dad would take her to a local bookstore every Sunday. Growing up, she was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s stories.
This passion continued as she grew older and started travelling the world. She buys a book as a souvenir every time she goes to a new place.
“I usually try to find something that relates to my experience or teaches me about the place or culture.”
Stephanie also has a soft spot for stationeries and still has a few items that she used from primary school, including a pair of green scissors, fruit-scented pop-point pencils (now a vintage find) and a pen from Campo Marzio.
She shares that her favourite item is a mechanical pencil that she bought when she was about 10 years old.
Owing to Stephanie’s love for stationeries penmanship and books, the idea to create Līneae started off as a passion project. She was in a very busy phase of her life at the time, juggling full-time work and studies but also quite excited about spending time on something comparatively ‘creative’.
With the full support of her best friend, who gave her the final “push” in going ahead with this (literally – she pushed the ‘Pay Now’ button to purchase the domain name), Stephanie took the first real steps to create Līneae as it is today.
Lineae: A Line of Thought
The name Līneae came about after a few months of coming up with ideas and tossing around names with a little “focus group” of people close to her, Stephanie tells me.
She wanted something minimalistic and simple but with meaning. Although the store is centred around stationery as products, the whole idea of it was to give the art of it the attention it deserved.
“By art, I mean the physical designs, drawings, and illustrations, as well as craftsmanship of the product. In all this, I saw a common thread – lines – straight lines, curves, and loops. Hence, the name Līneae, which is the Latin word for ‘lines’.”
Love for the environment and eco-ethical brands
Stephanie’s compassion for nature and the environment reflects in her work.
Lineae support small independent brands from all over the world that have a strong heritage and are driving new eco-friendly materials.
From the UK, Līneae stocks products from Ola — a growing brand based in Bristol that invests in recycled and sustainable materials, such as FSC certified paper and inks made from 100% recycled fibers.
Katie Leamon is another design-led stationery brand from the UK. The brand is also committed to ethical practices with both ecological and social considerations made on all products and aims to be plastic-free in 2020. All Katie Leamon products are hand-printed in their studio.
Born in Madrid, Walk With Me brand creates products focusing on simplicity, minimalism, and utility. Hailing from Taiwan, HMM stands for Human Mechanic Method, creating objects that not only aim to function well but also strive to connect object design with the human form.
Getting that First Sale: Challenges and Highlights
Stephanie shares that having to juggle work, studies and planning this project was definitely a challenge. When she started, she was not able to do as much as she would’ve liked due to financial constraints.
“Otherwise, Līneae would have more of a physical presence,” she adds.
Another challenge was trying to reach consumers as there isn’t a lot of awareness about who they are or what they do.
As a small business, there’s definitely less bargaining power, and therefore harder to keep costs down. “And that is why I am so passionate about representing other smaller businesses such as the brands I work with! I feel their pain!”
When I ask her about the biggest highlight for Lineae so far, Stephanie tells me that getting that first sale was definitely a highlight.
“But in all seriousness, I’m just really happy when brands we approach decide that they want to work with us. Most of the brands in our store are not available in other stores in the region, whether online or in physical shops. They’re new to most of the Asian market, and we love that because we think that they have much to offer.”
What’s next for Lineae
This year, Stephanie aims to grow Līneae as a brand, making beautiful stationery available to people in the region, and hopefully, introduce these brands and products to people in other parts of the world where they are less known.
For now, she wants to focus on sharing this with stationery lovers in Singapore and making well-designed stationery from all over the world available to them. Stephanie is looking for partners to bring her products to stores in Singapore and around the region.
To Stephanie, designer stationery is a combination of tradition and art, and she hopes Singaporeans will see it that way too.
With self-isolation and social distancing becoming the new normal in the time of COVID-19, penmanship and books can help Singaporeans and the rest of the world to stay positive and creatively engaged.