Neal Whittington is the man behind cult stationery shop Present & Correct in Angel, North London. A true stationery addict, his space is a beautifully curated collection of design led paperclips, desk trays, staplers, pens and bizarre organisational tools you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Many of which are vintage finds that have caught Neal's eye in large part thanks to their amazing graphic packaging and nostalgia-inducing boxes. Features which have also attracted a legion of wooden ruler loving fans to P&C's neatly arranged Instagram account.
We had a quick Q&A session with Neal about his love of stationery and the most bizarre vintage pieces he's uncovered.
When and why did you fall in love with stationery?
I’ve enjoyed stationery since I was small, so there was never a reason for falling in love with it – it has always made me happy. I collected it and used it too. A birthday WH Smith voucher back in the late 80s presented me with so much choice! You could get a lot for £10 back then. As a kid I always coloured and painted and made things, I guess it ties in with that love of doing things.
Where do you find the vintage items for the store? How do you decide what to stock?
We travel to places in Europe, mainly, to markets and old stores to look for the vintage things. But we also get stuff from collectors we have met over the years. New work comes directly from designers and then we produce some things ourselves as well. So it’s a real amalgamation of sources. As far as decision making, if we like it, and the price makes sense, then it’s in!
Do you find things that you just can't bear to part with?
Always, but in a way the shop feels a bit like a home! So I’m surrounded by nice things and when they go to someone who appreciates them too then thats good. Occasionally I keep things but our flat is quite minimal these days, possibly because I'm surrounded by stationery at work!
How much of what you personally have, do you actually use?
My day to day stationery requirements are pretty old school utilitarian. Scissors, stapler, diary, notebook, pen and pencil, tape and glue. I’m a big fan of pen trays so do stash stuff into one of those. I never use my phone for dates etc. – always a paper diary. I carry a notebook everywhere too.
What's the most bizarre piece of vintage stationery you've ever found?
That is an excellent question! We have these four hole training scissors, vintage, which are pretty nuts and slightly terrifying. I have a couple of giant paperclips which I love, they’re around two foot long. Also a chalk holder for drawing music staves on a blackboard, it holds 5 pieces of chalk at once and is quite unique. I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything more bizarre than those things.
You've got a nice artistic touch when it comes to photographing stationery for Present & Correct's Instagram. Was this something you've always been interested in or has your style developed?
I think the style of the photographs comes from that fact that I’m a graphic designer, so arranging things in a graphic way is not new to me. Being on Instagram and having a web store definitely means you have to hone those aesthetics, and over time you get to know what people like and respond to. Also its something I enjoy doing and hope that shows. Arranging things is fun.
What is it you love about the paper and physical stationery in the digital age?
I like its physicality and with that all of the variety when it comes to paper, print, textures etc. Even smells. I do think that if you come from a design background then this love is part and parcel because we work with paper stocks, books etc.
Also people are getting increasingly bored of being on their phones and computers all the time, so we are seeing a reversion to physical things. Book sales are up and it feels that stationery is having a resurgence.
The other thing worth mentioning is how stationery has become a lifestyle accessory, in that it compliments interiors and is often trend based. Those trends usually come from interiors. A nice notebook is affordable and feels like a treat too. Downloading an app is never going to have the same resonance.