Interview with Signe Birkving Bertelsen from Danish Stationery Brand NOTEM Studio

, , , , , , , , , , , , By Catherine Lazure-Guinard

Signe Birkving Bertelsen is the creative mind and entrepreneur behind the recently launched NOTEM Studio. She is an inspiring woman who co-founded the brand in 2017 in Copenhagen, driven by a mission to make paper add new value to our daily habits and our everyday tasks.

All products are designed in Denmark, and they are rooted in Scandinavian design tradition – Quality, beauty, functionality. They have a simple aesthetic, making them timeless and elegant. The collection includes stylish everyday tools like notebooks to jot down ideas and random thoughts, notepads to create to-do lists, as well as calendars and planners to keep track of appointments.

With research recently proving that writing by hand is a powerful tool for learning, relaxation, creativity and connection, Signe’s studio couldn’t be more of its time. Here, I wanted to know more about her story and she kindly agreed to answer my questions.

Notem is available at select retailers across North America through Considered.ca.

 

 

Q: Tell us more about yourself. Where/How did it all start?
A: I have always been a true paper lover. When I travel, I always visit new stationery shops and I love the tactile feel and the small design details you can get in a good notebook. I have had the pleasure of working with stationary previously and loved the idea of what paper can do for all of us. There is simply nothing that beats paper when it comes to gathering our thoughts and creating an overview. Having a notepad or a notebook nearby remains one of the most soothing tools imaginable – both for our busy workday and for the quiet moments. That was the fundamental idea and passion, upon which Notem Studio was founded about a year ago.

 

Q: The best thing about being a designer:
A: Being able to actually create something, that has always been a dream.

 

Q: What inspires you?
A: The actual ideas for the products and their function are inspired by small everyday situations. We often find ourselves in a situation where we need pen and paper. Our inspiration comes from textiles and from fashion, but also from so much else, such as the design of a book cover or a fine-looking shirt.

 

 

Q: What is your design philosophy?
A: Our designs are simple, Scandinavian-inspired but with a playful approach to colours and patterns. Besides our design being Danish, all of our products are made in Europe, printed on Scandinavian quality paper, and all hardcovers are handmade.

 

Q: Any special projects at the moment?
A: We are currently working on a collaboration with Koko doko, a pattern, print and textile company from Tokyo, Japan. We are designing three different prints for wrapping paper and greeting cards. It’s really exciting, and I’m already super happy about the results.

 

Q: You, in three words:
A: Happy, curious, full-of-ideas.

 

 

Q: What is the best advice you ever received and from whom was it?
A: A friend told me once, that you should only build a business if you feel like you cannot live without, and I think that is true.

 

Q: What advice would you tell your younger self if you could?
A: That you can live from what you love to do.

 

Q: Dream subject/assignment/collaboration?
A: A collaboration with Comme des Garcons or Mansur Gavriel. I love the quintessence of these brands, and it would be an amazing opportunity to work together with the people behind the brand.

 

 

Q: What can’t you live without?
A: There is no design or fashion item I couldn’t live without, so I would say, my kids and husband, obviously. And in general family and my lovely friends – and actually also my home as a safe base. They give me happiness, security, and encouragement and that’s totally enough for me.

 

Q: If you could invite somebody for dinner, famous, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
A: I would invite Louise Bourgeois, the famous French-American artist. I am amazed by her prints and works, and I would like to hear the story of her life because I think it’s incredible what she did as an artist but also as a woman in that time. People with courage really inspire me – and as a woman she really was special and a role model for what we think is a modern woman today.

 

Q: Best Scandinavian city and why:
A: It’s hard to decide between Copenhagen and Stockholm, but I would say Copenhagen and not just because I live here. I love how the city seems small and big at the same time. Especially in the summer when everything comes alive, there are so many small districts, areas and hidden gems here.

 

 

Q: Something on your bucket list:
A: It would probably be the Tsarkoïe Selo hand-quilted pillow by A.P.C. I wouldn’t mind being able to buy an art piece by David Shrigley.

 

Q: What defines the Scandinavian aesthetic?
A: The Scandinavian aesthetic is really clean and sophisticated, while it also reflects perfection, quality, and quality materials.

 

Q: Is style important in a home? If so, why?
A: My home means a lot, it is my safe base and I really enjoy being home. I am very interested in design and art, and I would say it is a hobby to me. On the other hand, I am not really attached to my things. I am always treasure hunting, and it is very rare that our living room looks the same for more than 2-3 months at a time. I sell and buy furniture at auctions and I am very spontaneous. My husband is really a patient man.

 

 

Q: What is your take on the current trend of “buying less, but better”?Do you find it important and if so, why?
A: I am definitely a follower of this trend, which reflects in my home, my wardrobe, but on the essence of my brand as well. I truly believe in investing in quality products and I love buying second-hand. It is actually rare that I buy completely new stuff for my home.

 

Q: How does design benefits a lifestyle? Why is it important?
A: Design can make life easier and more efficient. A nicely designed notebook can calm you down in the rush of life, and make you feel more organized. Or a nice armchair can please you after a long day and recharge you. Also, a beautiful, handmade cup can be something that makes the Monday morning less painful.

 

Q: What is your all-time favorite design piece(s) and/or design piece(s) that is(are) on your wish list:
A: I would like to buy a good armchair and I have been looking at a Bollo chair from the Swedish furniture maker, Fogia. I also really want to own more art. Landon Metz is great, but I am also keen on Danish artists, such as Mathias Malling Mortensen and Gun Gordillo. My all-time favorite art investment would be a piece from Carl André.

 

 

Notem is available at select retailers across North America through Considered.ca.

 

Photos: Notem

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