For those who dream of jacking it in and starting anew, things often play out in an imaginary blaze of glory. Who hasn’t envisioned a dramatic resignation, quickly followed by total life satisfaction as you set about doing what you ‘really’ want to do? But for Neal Whittington, founder of stationery shop Present & Correct, success has been all about the slow burn. While the store is now a much-loved source of premium pens, pencils and paperclips, as well as vintage oddities, it’s the result of years of careful work behind the scenes.
Whittington had always collected stationery for himself, but while working at creative agency Winkreative, in the early 2000s, he started designing his own notebooks and envelopes, selling them in independent shops around London. “I wanted to do something different,” he says. “I’d been there a while, and it wasn’t that far removed from what I was doing with graphic design, illustration and branding. Stationery is having a moment. I guess we’re tuned into technology all the time, and it’s nice to feel there’s a polar opposite. It’s a comforting nostalgia for a certain age group that, when they were at school, were still using pens and paper.”
Stationery is having a moment. We’re tuned into technology all the time and it’s nice to feel there’s a polar opposite.
A sideline of his own products gradually evolved into a standalone website in 2009, which sold his own designs and other found pieces. In 2014 he opened a bricks and mortar shop, tucked down a side street in London’s Clerkenwell – found when Whittington was searching for a studio after leaving Winkreative. He still occasionally manages to fit the odd bit of design work around packing parcels, and tending to the shop’s steady stream of stationery enthusiasts.