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Nature-loving ex-English teacher, Mel, is a self-confessed bookaholic and is now pursuing her passion for all things paper by creating her own handcrafted paper, and binding beautiful books to be treasured

26 November 2021

Designer Spotlight: Annie & Moo Paper

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Nature-loving ex-English Teacher pursuing her passion for all things paper, Mel; ‘For the first time in my life, I followed where my heart and interest led, and that ended up making my own paper, and binding books.

Hullo! I'm Mel, aka Moo, the human half of my shop name, Annie & Moo. Who is Annie, you might ask? Our dog. She's a cavoodle, and the dearest little thing. But I digress. Annie & Moo Paper has morphed over the months it has existed and now exclusively makes handmade and hand-bound notebooks and journals, and – by special request - my own handmade paper.

Detail view of handmade, handbound botanical print journals by Annie & Moo Paper

My books are inspired by nature, and living in the Perth Hills offers a lot of inspiration! Living here has also prompted me to be as eco-friendly and sustainable in my practices as possible.

A source of inspiration and home to Mel from Annie & Moo Paper, the picturesque native bush of the Perth Hills

I've been an animal lover all my life. Our dog Annie and our four chooks - Sybil, Mrs Hughes, Cora and Rose - are testament to the deep care I have for animals, plus I have names for the resident quendas, cockies, and magpies that share our block and street. I am never happier than when I'm amongst trees and silence and birdsong and fresh air. Nature makes me very, very happy. Thus I have a motto: inspired by nature, protecting nature.

Nature-loving ex-English teacher, Mel, is a self-confessed bookaholic and is now pursuing her passion for all things paper by creating her own handcrafted paper, and binding beautiful books to be treasured

In addition to the natural environment, I'm inspired by the stories of strong, independent women who have made a difference to the world. Many of my 'quote notebooks' feature quotes by women like this, and I try to foreground their voices through my notebooks. Joan of Arc, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood...and many more to come.

A range of Mel’s quote notebooks; ‘I’m inspired by the stories of strong, independent women who have made a difference to the world’

I've always loved paper. I love everything made of paper: journals, notebooks, writing paper, and books - we can't forget books. Hello, my name is Mel and I'm a bookaholic. Also, I raise my hand and admit that I sniff books. I love the smell of paper and printing ink.

One of Mel’s notebooks in use as a reading journal; ‘I raise my hand and admit that I sniff books’

That said, you'd think that I would have been working with paper for years and years. Well, you'd be wrong. I was an English teacher for what feels like a thousand years and it's only been recently that I've started dabbling in paper. I'm enjoying being creative. I haven't used this part of my brain in an art/craft sense since high school art class. It feels good, and life is richer for it.

Mel punching holes in lined paper ready for binding

After over 20 years of teaching, I tutored and marked and did all sorts of education-focussed casual work for a few years. I hated it. Finally, I got to the point where I wanted to escape the claws of education but needed something to keep my brain functioning. I'm not good at doing nothing.

Detail of a gold-embossed handmade notebook with a Joan of Arc quote (Go forward bravely. Fear nothing. All will be well); ‘I thought I wouldn’t be able to find anything; Maybe teaching was all I could do’

I knew I didn't want to work for anyone else. I thought I wouldn't be able to find anything; maybe teaching was all I could do, all I could EVER do. For the first time in my life, I followed where my heart and interest led, and that ended up making my own paper, and binding books. Which has brought me here to Madeit.

Coming together; a selection of patterned, plain, lined, and lettered papers, buttons, leather and other materials waiting to be bound into a beautiful handcrafted journal

I decided to open a little shop on Madeit because a) it's Australian, b) it is for completely handmade items, and c) it seems friendlier, more open and transparent, especially when compared to other, more global, craft selling platforms.

A handbound hardcover art journal by Annie & Moo Paper; ‘I love the business of… working out special little details to delight the recipient’

My favourite thing is to work with customers on a made-to-order journal. I love the business of choosing complementary colours and patterns, working out special little details to delight the recipient, and at the end of the collaborative process, holding in my hand a completed, beautiful journal; something that someone is going to use and have with them for a long time. As I said in the opening, I love paper. I hope that love is evident in the journals and notebooks I create.

Neat stacks of card and paper in Mel’s home studio

My creative process begins with observation. It might be a flower on a shrub and I think, 'Oooooh, that might be nice in a petal paper', or I'll see an unusual leaf and experiment with turning it into a botanical print for my notebook covers. As an avid reader, there might be a quote or a word that will prompt ideas for what I call 'quote notebooks'.

These sheets of handmade embossed paper are demonstrative of the influence of nature in Mel’s work

At night when the lamp is turned off, and in the darkness, I think about ideas for new designs, or ways around a design problem. I call these my 'nighttime musings'. I keep a notebook and pen next to my bed to write things down, because as Will Self says, 'Unless it is committed to paper, you can lose an idea forever.'

Mel’s large sunlit home studio in the Perth Hills is open plan with a variety of work stations for each stage of production

I visualise what the design will look like, what colour card stock I'll use, the formatting, the style of font I use. Then I experiment.

Mel in her Perth Hills studio selecting the perfect trimmings for a completed journal

I try different things, seeing what works. 'What works' is, for me, all to do with aesthetics. Everything must look balanced and harmonious, from colours and fonts to layout and other elements of design. I've been known to spend over an hour choosing the cover papers for a journal because I go through my entire stock to see 'what works'.

Mel’s cotton-gloved hand holds bundles of punched pages, ready for binding; ‘Despite being creative, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist’

Once I know something works, I perfect it. That might take one or twenty goes, but despite being creative, I'm also a bit of a perfectionist. This is just as well, because paper can be unforgiving. One wrong move, one measurement slightly out of whack, and it almost screams out 'Look at me! I'm wonky!'

Mel in her Perth Hills studio packaging a handcrafted journal; ‘A human being has bent over the handmade work, using slow, almost meditative care’

Handmade to me means the opposite of generic mass production. Instead of a series of machines slamming and slicing and squashing and packing, a human being has bent over the handmade work, using slow, almost meditative care, at times, to create it and then carefully wrapped it to be sent to the customer.

It’s all in the details; A handcrafted journal packaged in a beautiful white presentation box with tissue paper, handmade paper flowers, hand-lettered card and matching floral wax seal

Handmade also means being more selective about what goes into the product. Being environmentally responsible is very important to me and so even though they might cost a bit more, I strive to use eco-friendly materials and follow sustainable practices. I choose biodegradable, recycled mailing products, ethically sourced materials wherever possible, non-toxic glues and biodegradable tape, and recycle my paper scraps into handmade paper.

A bundle of beautifully wrapped ‘little extras’ ready to be shipped with a customer order from Annie & Moo Paper is all part of the handmade experience.

Supporting small, independent businesses that are Australian owned and selling Australian made products, is a conscious decision. Likewise, seeking fair trade products is a way that I can support ethical businesses.

Annie & Moo Paper’s eco-friendly and sustainable inclusion card details the brand’s efforts towards sustainable production.

Integrity is something I value highly. I make sure the product customers receive is exactly like the images, and if the final product doesn't meet my exacting standards, it doesn't get sent. As I see it, people are entrusting me to create something beautiful and good, so I don't want to let them down.

Handmade personalised Christmas notebooks by Annie & Moo Paper

The joy of creating a notebook with beautiful covers and full of fresh, clean pages to write on is a constant inspiration. I've always loved that sensation, and I like to provide it for my customers. After all, one can never have too many notebooks!

Mel is offering Madeit’s community newsletter subscribers 10% off at Annie & Moo Paper for a limited time. Subscribe below to get the coupon, plus weekly handmade shopping guides, designer spotlight stories and discounts:



Visit Annie & Moo Paper to find more heartfelt handcrafted & handbound stationery: AnnieAndMoo

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