I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while now, and as it’s a personal history, finding all the bits and pieces of stationery that I’ve collected over the years and documenting them for this has been pretty difficult & time consuming mixed with a bit of procrastination.
Having Asian heritage and being a girl, this combination makes for a genetic predisposition to stationery obsession, called the S.O. gene. It’s dominant and hereditary, passed along the X chromosome, there is no cure and this gene can’t be turned off. Boys can get this gene too, but there tends to be less pink involved. It can also evolve into a contagious airborne virus, particularly affecting females of non-Asian origin. Anyway, if you come into our shop you’ll most likely catch it. Don’t worry, it’s not really a bad thing.
Hello Kitty, My Melody, KeroKeroKeroppi, Kiki & Lala (Little TwinStars), BadBadtzMaru: Sanrio Japan
These are some of my oldest and most precious pieces, circa 1990. I saved up my allowance for a long time (these were pretty expensive for a little kid), spent hours deciding in the little Sanrio store that used to be on Granville Island, and then took these home and held them in my hands and just stared at them. I’m pretty sure I never used them –if I did, it was only once or twice. At the time, Japanese stationery was the ultimate, the best. Just being inside the Sanrio shop was like pink heaven. I haven’t been able to find it yet, but I have a small pink suitcase that opens up into Little TwinStars home with pink furniture and pink bedrooms (I will find this and discuss in part 2 of the series).
Well, if I remember correctly, the world of Sanrio was my introduction to stationery and was the epitome of quality stationery. In the 1980s, South Korea was where Nike and Reebok made all their running shoes and socks. There were socks and running shoes everywhere in Korea, on the streets vendors would sell them by the truckload and everyone in my family just had the most amazing quality sports socks. Korea was still a developing country at this point, and you couldn’t even buy the Nikes that were made there. This is one of the earliest items of Korean stationery I own, from the mid-late 80s:
I’m not sure if this company even exists anymore, GumSong Munhwa. I think I might have used one or two of these papers: written notes to friends, but then probably never gave them away because I was too selfish.
The paper goods industry was just starting to heat up, and for the most part, Korean stationery was a mixture between romantic Americana and Japanese copies (eeek I hope I don’t offend anyone here). Here is an example of romantic Americana from the late 80s-early 90s:
This is a little notebook by Barunson Fancy, which was one of the first hugely popular stationery companies in Korea. Inside is a soft vellum secondary cover, and then ivory notepaper. This notebook was so precious to me that I never used it. This was just before the era of strange English sentences used all over the place, with vaguely romantic sentiment. Here you can see this sentiment written in Korean, it says something along the lines of ‘I wished to have something filled with light. In the end, expressing my mind’.
This one below, ‘Communication with dream’. The next few are a bunch of letter-writing sets, which used to be huge until email was invented.
the heart of sun
makes me happier than
any rich and
makes me growing
Spirit of harmony with carefulness and tenderness
the result that is full of happiness for the purpose of
green nation for those refreshing ehviroment
Yes, this was Korean English in the early 90s. If anyone has excellent examples of their own, please submit and we will post them here!
Here are a few Christmas cards from the early 90s, as you can see, I never gave these away:
and finally, some of my favourite post-its ever, from Morning Glory in the late 90s:
At one point, Morning Glory was the best stationery brand in Korea, slightly before ArtBox burst onto the scene. It started losing ground as it licensed its name out to many inferior quality products, and now you only see a handful of Morning Glory shops in suburb locations. I don’t have any photos of ArtBox items for this post, but will save that for part 2 of this series. Before 1999, there was no MMMG, O-Check, JStory, etc. Korean stationery is currently experiencing its golden age.
- thank you for reading