Australia – The Low Down Adventure
Australia has been on our list for years. It’s not just that our Instagram feed is heavy on Aussies – artists, graphic designers, craft-based designers, hand-embroidered illustrators… we also had an open invite from a RAHstr who offered to drive us around to hunt for office supplies! Tania and I connected over our love of vintage office supplies and logos. She even mailed us a package of vintage made-in-Australia office supplies years ago. THIS IS WHY WE LOVE RAHSTRS!
I assumed I’d split my time in Australia hunting down lo-fi office supplies and checkin’ out different designers and shops. But I didn’t go crazy checkin’ out designy shops or finding all the artists and designers I’ve been obsessing over. I didn’t even drink a single flat white. Instead I obsessed about Australia’s newsagencies.
When Tania first mentioned we should hit up the local newsagency, I was confused. What do you think of when you hear newsagency? New York Times? Or maybe a kiosk selling newspapers? Wrong and wrong. Newsagencies are magical – they should exist all over the world. It’s a place that promotes education and encourages self-education (whether people are conscious of it or not). It provides three things – newspapers, lotto tickets and… office supplies. Pencils, paper, erasers, every possible tool you’ll need in school or at work. It’s like nothing in the States. It’s like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. It’s not a bookstore, not a bodega or a mom-and-pop shop. It’s not a university bookstore. It’s a newsagency. It’s distinctly Australian.
So what was our STMT x Australia sourcing trip like? Fossicking. We hopped in Tania’s car every day and drove up and down the coast. Like an archeologist following leads, we hit the newsagency in every small town along the way. My hands were a constant shade of black from all the rummaging and layers of dust, from looking for signs of when the items were made or where. I was deciphering code – printing mistakes, differently shaped pre-sharpened pencil tips, aging colors… It never occurred to me that I had transformed into a stationery archeologist.
Curious newsagency owners were baffled by my obsession with finding Australian office supplies. They told me I was looking for the impossible. Some said they couldn’t remember when and if ANY office supplies were made in Australia. And then I’d find something – tucked deep in a shelf, almost entirely hidden. I’d take it up to them and explain its history. I’d share inconsistencies from one pencil to the next – fonts, logos, colors. One shop owner was smitten. He loved learning about his goods from me and was excited to meet someone who so clearly cared about Australian-made office supplies.
It drove home what we do. We travel the world huntin’ down office supplies that are often overlooked in their own home… but to us their simple nature is BIG. We fossick – pannin’ for gold. Stationery gold.