Blogger, trendsetter, podcast host, author, platform founder, there’s many words to describe what Olivia Purvis does. Now we can add illustrator and stationery designer to that already impressive list.
Having launched her What Olivia Did blog nearly ten years ago, Liv has built a large community of followers eager for her lifestyle advice and style tips. Last year she founded The Insecure Girls’ Club, an online platform for women to empower themselves by sharing stories of vulnerability, and is now putting these stories to the page in the forthcoming The Insecure Girls’ Club book.
As a self-declared stationery addict, she was the perfect partner for us to collaborate with and her new Papier collection charmingly captures her effervescent spirit and inspiring attitude; she’s drawn cute illustrations of some of her favourite things and written quotes to inspire grand plans.
We visited the home she shares with photographer husband Joe to chat notebook designs, drink tea and eat cake.
Olivia, we love your illustrations on the notebooks! How did you decide on what to draw?
Ah, thank you so much! I pretty much started by writing a list of things/places/items I love and feel represent the blog (from travel, beauty, style, etc.) and started flicking through magazines, the blog archives, books that I love and just seeing what would stick and made sense altogether!
How do you want people to feel when they pick up your diary design and read the quotes on the cover, ‘every day is a new beginning’ and ‘what’s for you won’t pass you by’?
I guess that every day is the chance to turn over a new leaf – as cheesy as it sounds! I also love the saying (however it goes) ‘a bad day isn’t a bad week’, so kind of like a reminder of that too. That if you have one bad day, it doesn’t have to shape that week, or month. I don’t remember where I first heard ‘what’s for you won’t pass you by’ but I remember writing it down and sticking it above my desk and it’s a lovely reminder that life isn’t a race and things will happen for you at their own speed. Deep!
What do new beginnings mean to you?
I think they’re as big or as small as you need them to be, if that makes sense? Sometimes it might be the start of a new week, and the chance to feel inspired or motivated again, the chance to leave a crappy week behind you. Or sometimes it’s a new, bigger chapter, which might mean a new move, a big ol’ wardrobe sort out or a new job. It’s never too late to make yourself one if you think you need it!
How did your blog begin?
I started it 9 years ago whilst I was studying at sixth form! To think it’s nearly ten years old is quite surreal! I started it as a kind of portfolio for a budding music journalism/photography career and I shared everything from album reviews to photos I’d taken of very willing and patient friends in the park near my parents' house. It was also somewhere to practise my writing (no matter how brief, or silly it sounded). I remember once a journalist at an early work experience placement saying I should start a blog to work on my ‘tone of voice’ and I remember, cockily, thinking (at 16), ‘ugh, like I’d have time for that,’ but it was arguably the best thing I ever did.
What’s it like having been a professional blogger for basically the whole of your adult life?
Brilliant and very, very surreal. The industry has changed tenfold since I started and blogging has had so many micro-evolutions that it’s still pretty unpredictable where it could go next. When I started ‘influencers’ and Instagram wasn’t a thing, so the way the whole system has developed has been really interesting to watch. It’s certainly a lot more fast paced than it was in 2010!
What has been the most amazing 'pinch me' moment from your career?
Oh so many. This is definitely one of them! My own stationery – how bloody cool! Also, having the opportunity to start a community with The Insecure Girls’ Club outside of the blog and then turn it into a book is an enormous privilege too.
In another life, without What Olivia Did, what would you be working as?
If it was up to my 7-year-old self, I’d probably be somewhere between a vet/ice skater or fashion designer. But if my UCAS application had anything to do with it, I’d probably still be writing in some capacity, and trying to make it in journalism!
If you're feeling anxious about a big day/meeting/task then what are a few things that you do to give yourself a confidence boost?
Talk it out to people that I trust. If I’m feeling wobbly, having reassurance from people that know you well is always reassuring and often they can rationalise any fears you might have! I also have a series of Spotify playlists that I’ll turn to if I need a bit of a power strut into a situation.
What are 3 non-negotiable wardrobe items that you can't live without?
A great pair of jeans, my Superga trainers and probably a cardigan because I am actually 80 years old.
"It’s funny, because no matter how digitalised things become, I’m never, ever without my paper diary."
How do keep your desk inspirational?
I love to keep a noticeboard above my desk of some of my favourite things, from postcards, photos, magazine clippings or even words or phrases that I like. I buy magazines pretty much weekly, so am always tearing things out that jump out at me. Whether that’s an outfit I like, a quote pulled from an interview that I know will inspire me later on, or the way something has been shot.
What will you be using your Papier notebooks for?
Everything and anything! I currently am halfway through my Elvis one by Luke Edward Hall that I got for Christmas and it’s been used for everything from interviews, packing lists, ideas, blog post ideas, to to do lists. Give me a notebook and I’ll find a use for it – trust me!
Do you have any other secret talents along with drawing?
Honestly, not really! Although I am quite good at remembering song lyrics and doing accents. But don’t test me on that.
What role does writing play in your life?
WHAT A QUESTION! It’s a means of connection and communication and has meant that throughout my career I’ve been able to connect with so many like-minded women because of it. Whether that was writing to pen pals, or friends I’d met on holiday growing up, to blog posts or messages to friends faraway now. It’s cathartic at times, creative at others and I’d be completely lost without it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To treat people as you wish to be treated.
What was your favourite thing about working on the collaboration?
Aside from the fact that I am the biggest stationery fiend in the world, it was probably getting to flex my drawing muscle for the first time in forever, and also working with a ridiculously creative team who could beautifully translate a moodboard and a cluster of inspiration and ribbons I pulled out of a tote bag on our first meeting.
What place does stationery have for you in our digital world?
It’s funny, because no matter how digitalised things become, I’m never, ever without my paper diary. Despite everyone having calendars on their phone, I’ve never moved making plans onto digital, and I’m not sure I ever will. I think it’s so much more satisfying pencilling things in and jotting down, and crossing out lists. It’s the same feeling with reading a book and feeling the pages, and feeling like you’ve accomplished something.
What’s your earliest stationery memory?
Scented gel pens, trips to Woolworth’s for stationery and cutting out all of my mum’s magazines to scrapbooks and design outfits. I think she still has them somewhere...
Complete this sentence: ‘New stationery makes me feel…’
like a strong, independent, organised woman.
Are you a doodler or a neat notetaker?
Both! At the beginning of a notebook my handwriting is like calligraphy, and as the year goes on it normally becomes completely illegible.
What’s your go-to testing a pen sentence?
Something incredibly dull, like ‘hello’ as the pressure of coming up with something creative on the spot might mean the pen would dry out...
What’s the to do that never gets ticked off your list?
Get. Photos. Printed.
Inspire yourself with all of Liv's notebooks, planners, diaries and notecards right here.
Pink or yellow?
Brighton or London?
London but closely followed by Brighton.
Chips or cake?
Podcast or book?
Brunch or dinner?
Brunch foods but dinner time.
Drawing or writing?
Winter or summer?
Trainers or heels?
Disco or Rock n’ Roll?
Depends where the mood takes me!
Gingham or not gingham?
Pen or pencil?