In this special edition of Face Behind the Workspace, to celebrate Mark+Fold's 8th birthday, we quizzed Mark+Fold founder Amy Cooper-Wright. A notebook fanatic from a very young age, Amy has a collection of personal journals that dates back over 30 years.
She shares a rare glimpse into her daily rituals, most treasured desktop items, and the best things about running a stationery company.
Amy at her desk in the Mark+Fold studio, London
What is your earliest memory of paper?
I remember painting on what we used to call “sugar paper” in nursery school. It was so thick that a 3-year-old could slather paint onto it liberally, without it tearing. It has a great texture and came in a sort of muted shade of deep pink and blue.
I also remember being shown how to fold a stack of A4 sheets in half, and staple them together to make a booklet. The marvel of creating a simple book like that has never really gone away, and when I can find time I still like to bind small batches of Hand-made Exercise Books for Mark+Fold.
What makes a good notebook?
Funnily enough, I've written about this before! You can read my long answer here but essentially the things that really matter are paper quality (opacity for me is almost more important than surface texture), and binding (it has to fall open flat effortlessly on my desk and of course never fall apart, which mean thread-sewn sections and — crucially —cold glue used in the binding).
Do you have a favourite stationery guilty pleasure?
I really love my Lamy 2000 fountain pen, it is so elegant and beautiful. But honestly I quite like to scribble down notes with a uni-ball pen (my everyday go-to) or even a really cheap black biro. It’s funny because I am very fussy about paper, but I enjoy the stickiness of the ink, I think it reminds me of my prolific note-taking at school.
What inspires you?
All kinds of things. Walking in the woods and seeing something new every day even though I tread the same path; hearing my kids come out with weird and wonderful ideas and new perspectives on things; seeing artists and designers whose work makes me go “ah, I wish I’d done that!”
What frustrates you?
What helps you concentrate?
Either silence or the 'right’ music (what that is can vary day to day), good lighting, a comfortable chair and being alone.
Mark+Fold desk scene at Amy's home
Do you have a favourite workspace smell?
I love my Perfumer H ‘pine’ candle. I love the smell of fresh coffee. I love the smell of freshly printed paper that’s just arrived from press, ready to be bound.
Do you have any routines or rituals that make you feel organised?
I have lots of routines and rituals, and I really rely on them to feel organised. I like to surround myself with objects that are well-designed and good quality — my Tamsin Arrowsmith coffee cup, my miniature brush & pan from Iris Hantverk, and of course my japanese paperweight from Mark+Fold.
I'm a really keen list-writer, and once I've written out everything I have to do this week, I will read back through and mark the high priority things with an asterix. If I have a particularly busy week, I might even work out time slots for different tasks and plot them into my digital calendar (that helps me stick to my timings). But every single week I have more things on my list than I will have time to do. I have to force myself to wind down on a Friday and accept that some things just have to wait!
I also really enjoy the process of tidying up. It's as if organising objects in the real world into neat little boxes, helps rearrange things in my mind. I also get into a kind of flow state and often have my most creative ideas while I am tidying up. And I like systems, so all my boxes in the studio are clearly labelled and everything has a home.
What’s the best workspace you’ve ever had?
It's really hard to choose actually, because different ones have been great at different moments in time.
When I was at Oxford, I got to use the Taylorian languages library, which has spiral stairs upto these amazing desks, each framed in a perfect semi-circular window overlooking the street below.
One of my first jobs in London around 2008 was for a map design agency called Applied, which is where I met my husband. That was a very cool building on Great Sutton Street in Clerkenwell, with beautiful wooden floors and industrial windows. And a ridiculously expensive and brilliant coffee machine. We were really spoiled.
The building is on fire — what single item do you grab from your desk?
I'd like to think I'd leave all the expensive tech behind and grab something sentimental, but who knows what would happen when the adrenaline kicks in!
It might have to be my fog "snow globe" from San Francisco, with fine glitter that mists the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, before it settles and clears the view. It really reminds me of our time in San Francisco, where the daily fog really does that. We were there in 2016, during Mark+Fold's second year. It was the first time I was forced to hand over the reigns and let go of some of my control-freak tendencies! I was blessed with the most incredible employee called Grace, who was just amazing in the face of our first really busy Christmas, getting orders sorted out til 1am!
Now I've mentioned Grace, I must say a special thanks to all of the wonderful people who have been part of the Mark+Fold team over the past 8 years: Oskar, Rhianna, Ros, Bina, Becky, Minseo, Anh, Rosie, Jen, Darren and Helen. And our many partners who share our perfectionism and love of good stationery: James, Silvan, Martijn, Patrick, Vicki, Sally, Leanne, Gary. Without you lot, we simply would not be where we are today.
What do you love most about your work?
I’ve loved being around paper since I was really little. The acts of folding, sorting, wrapping have always given me great joy and when I get in the flow it’s like a sort of meditation. And preparing gifts — I honestly used to dream of one day having a company where I got to send people lovely parcels in the post that they’d be delighted to receive, I was about 15!
I love it when people write to me to say they’re enjoying their notebook or diary, and that all the little details we put so much thought into, have been noticed and appreciated. That really makes it all worthwhile.
I love taking photos of paper, and styling stationery for shoots. I find it really satisfying to look back and choose the best shots, then share them with our community.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, film-maker, notebook-designer, … and so so many other things at various times.
What career advice would you give to your teenage self?
Go and find what you love, don’t worry about status, money or what anyone else thinks.
What aspect of your work are you most proud of?
A few years ago we did some brand strategy work for Mark+Fold where we spoke to customers. I spent about an hour on the phone to each of them, and it was so wonderful to hear that we had created a space where they felt good. So many of them spoke about quite an intense emotion of calm they get from stationery, from creating order from chaos, and being on top of things. I’ve always felt this and often been teased a bit my friends and family, that I’m someone who likes to colour code my pens and that sort of thing. So I felt really proud to hear that for some people, Mark+Fold had given them a feeling that it’s ok, or perhaps it’s even kind of cool, to love stationery.
This month celebrates 8 years since our launch party on 24th November 2015. Join us online on Friday 24th November 2023, for the Mark+Fold Quiz and a chance to win a bundle of 8 Mark+Fold Favourites.