Casting A Spell with Open Sea Design Co.

Melissa Constandse, creative director of Open Sea Design Co., bewitches us with her magical Papier collection.

Casting A Spell with Open Sea Design Co.

We were bewitched by Open Sea Design Co.’s prints from the moment we first set our eyes on them. Founded by Melissa Constandse, the Brooklyn-based studio is a cauldron of creativity where the designer’s passions and history are mixed together to conjure spellbinding paper gems – which now include her new Papier collection.

We spoke with Melissa to find out what lies behind her design magic – and to discover the spell used to create her Dutch Garden notebook. Prepare to be enchanted.


How did Open Sea Design Co. start?
The Open Sea paper line was born out of a desire to design and make things inspired by the things I love. I spent about 10 years doing graphic design work for clients and felt ready to start designing, in essence, whatever the hell I felt like designing. And it’s the most fun job I’ve ever had!

"Some of the pieces come together like a spell would."

What are you trying to create when you’re designing?
My goal with the line is always to make things that tell a little story, have a hidden meaning, or help transport you to a different time. Some of these pieces come together like a spell would: I pick flowers with specific medicinal purposes (I also love the Victorian language of flowers), animals with a particular meaning attached to them, symbols from the occult, or western esotericism, and mix them all up into prints, greeting cards, or notebooks. My hope is that they are, in fact, imbued with a little bit of magic.

"Salt water runs in my veins. It’s why I called my company Open Sea!"

What are your greatest life passions?
There are several! Old paper with type on it gets me pretty weak in the knees. I can spend hours looking at old books from the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. Anything botanical or having to do with herbs and herbal medicine, which was family medicine at the time, is a favorite.

I also love old books on science and alchemy. I can’t understand anything they say (most of them are in languages not many people speak anymore) but the illustrations and the typesetting are incredible. I try to imagine what the people who wrote them were like, how their minds worked, and what their lives were like.

Nature is also a great big love. I grew up by the beach in Cancun, Mexico, so salt water runs in my veins. It’s why I called my company Open Sea! I don’t get to spend as much time in the ocean these days as I would like, but a small part of me is always there, surrounded by sea creatures.


Spell for Dutch Garden Notebook

Gather a bouquet of Dutch masters inspiration,

Van Huysum, Mignon, Brueghel.

Let it blossom in your mind.

Extract the symbolism,

the ephemeral essence of beauty,

and let it take root in this design.

Plant your personal tribute

to the richness and might of nature.

A rose – to remind you of the power of nature as an ally.

A daffodil – to warn you not to fall into the mirror of vanity.

A datura – to be a master of poisonous plants like Hekate and Ix Chel.

Take the nautilus from the sea,

a reminder of our place in the history of the world

and of your ocean home.

Pull apart the dichotomy of figs –

sexuality ripened by the fruit,

then covered by the leaves.

Fertilise with pomegranates.

Weave all together

for paper rich with meaning.

Be completely charmed by the complete Open Sea Design Co. collection.

Shop Open Sea Design Co.

Other stories we think you'll like