Behind the scenes at Life Stationery
When I was a child, one of the most exciting places I visited was my grandparents’ industrial laundry in the country town of Ballarat. It was filled with huge machines, massive coal-fired ovens, rows of old Singer sewing machines to repair overalls - steam, noise, smells….so much excitement! Oh, and the biscuits. There were always biscuits.
The ‘industry’ of the place fascinated me – real work that you could see being done by real people. Which is perhaps why I so loved seeing these behind-the-scenes images of the Life Stationery Workshop located just outside Tokyo in Japan. This is fantastic quality stationery that is truly made by hand (and then sold at ridiculously reasonable prices). These photos demonstrate that it actually doesn’t get much more ‘hand made’ than Life Stationery – hand gluing, hand trimming, hand sorting, notebooks compiled by hand.
What was to become Life Stationery was founded in 1946 by Yasuhiro Saito, after working as an apprentice to a paper manufacturer. In 1949, after wartime rationing ended, the founder wanted to recognise the new opportunities and future of his country and business by calling the company LIFE.
The stationery products were initially sold on the streets of Japan, from bicycle-drawn carts. (We’re very sad not to have a photo of those!) As the business and brand gained recognition, it was then sold via Japanese department stores and other established retailers. Today Life Stationery is sold around the world – not just in Australia but in the US, across Europe and throughout Asia.
We asked the Life Stationery team to share a little more about the Life Stationery story…
Q. Who is a typical Life Stationery customer?
A. All sorts of people love Life – from university students to doctors and lawyers.
Q. Do your customers share with you what they love about Life Stationery?
A. They tell us it’s the high quality of the paper, the binding and the cover designs.
Q. How do you believe being hand-made affects the quality of your products?
A. As we are a small company, with a small range, we are able to focus on the products we do make to ensure they are the best they can be.
Q. Who ‘designs’ Life Stationery?
We don’t have a single designer. Our employees work as a team with our paper supplier, book binders, printers and more to develop our range.
Q. Why do you think the Japanese are so renowned for quality stationery?
A. Personally, I think the Japanese focus on KAIZEN is the reason. KAIZEN means “continuous improvement” and it’s a concept that is now understood worldwide.