KOTA KINABALU, March 5 — It takes a leap of faith to move from the big city back to your hometown but for Chrystin Choo and Aaron Lam, it has became a blessing in disguise.
With the opening of their store, Salt x Paper Stationery & Gifts last November in Kota Kinabalu, they now have a strong foothold in the stationery market. They also have their own stationery designed under the Salt x Paper label which is also available online.
In addition, they also conduct various creative workshops that appeal to those who are looking to take their skills up a notch.
The talented couple comes from diverse backgrounds; Chrystin was previously involved in digital film and television while Aaron is a graphic designer.
About five years ago, Aaron started the labels Individium and Amnestee that sold a variety of items such as T-shirts, postcards and button badges which he designed.
Currently both brands are dormant but Chrystin says there are plans to revive Individium later this year. She adds, “Individium and Amnestee are still in demand actually, but we admit that they have taken a backseat for a while since we have stretched our resources to focus on the other brands.”
In November 2014, the couple opened the Supermart Collective store in Sunway Pyramid which housed many local artists’ works. This included brands like Loka Made, Whimsy Whimsical, Notbook-Notbuk and more. It closed last October when their tenancy expired and the couple moved to Kota Kinabalu.
As Chrystin is a huge notebook and stationery collector, about two years ago, they branched out to start own label Salt x Paper Stationery. “We wanted to focus on paper goods that feature our own original illustrations,” explained Chrystin.
The label first introduced notebooks and slowly expanded to include greeting cards and stickers. Later this year, Chrystin tells us they will be introducing a new range of paper goods.
The stationery items are mainly designed by Aaron. He also designed their “Alphabet Blossom” greeting cards that feature classy black and white illustrations depicting alphabets with various florals.
In addition, Salt x Paper also collaborated with other talented local designers like Alyani Fadzil and Nat Andrea Ng. Their criteria for the partnership is if they feel the artists’ style suits the Salt x Paper brand.
“We try not to limit the theme or style of our designs because of the collaborations with other designers. Every designer has their own style which is appealing to different people. The more the merrier!”
To date, Salt x Paper’s bestselling items are their notebooks; designs like Paiseh, Day Dreamer, Ice Cream and Donut. Each of their notebooks is sewn bound, making it easier to be opened flat. The paper is also thicker and smoother which makes them easier to use. The notebooks are A5 size.
Early last year, Chrystin moved back to Sabah. She adds, “We relocated to Kota Kinabalu in Feb 2016 to prepare to welcome our little boy (who came in April 2016), as my husband wanted to raise him in Kota Kinabalu, and also enjoy a more relaxed life!”
The couple soon realised that the city was in need of a stationery shop like Salt x Paper that showcased local artists. “When we first came back to Kota Kinabalu, we felt there was a demand for local designer goods but there were barely any shops of that nature here. And Kota Kinabalu is a tourist destination. So, we thought having a shop that features local designer goods right smack in the heart of the city sounds like a good idea.”
The shop stocks Salt x Paper’s own stationery line and various local artists items like Tinypinc’s miniatures, Loka Made’s pop-up cards and the list goes on. There is also a variety of washi tapes and stickers to create memories in your journal. With their beautiful displays, it’s hard to walk into Salt x Paper and not pick up anything from the shelves.
Being the first of its kind, the locals have welcomed the shop with open arms. “Our customers are happy that we opened such a store in Kota Kinabalu and have lovingly nicknamed us as their ‘stationery heaven’,” said Chrystin.
Their customers range in ages from 15 to 35 and usually discover their existence via Instagram. It’s not only locals but they also get Japanese expatriates dropping by.
As the shop is located in the city centre and conveniently on the same street as cafes and backpacker hostels, they often have tourists dropping by the shop to grab souvenirs to mark their visit to the city.
As the new shop has more space compared to their previous place, they have recently expanded their offerings to include hosting creative workshops for floral watercolour painting, copperplate calligraphy and manga sketching.
The workshops are usually held once or twice a month. Usually, the instructors are Sabahans like Farah Bidin and Iffah Hazirah, who have mastered the skills and are keen to share their own tips and tricks with others. “Response to the classes has been great, as the seats are filled up very quickly,” said Chrystin.
Occasionally, you have special workshops featuring KL-based artists, like an upcoming book binding workshop by Samsiah Jendol, who is popularly known as Little Syam on March 8. “Whenever we know of a friend in the creative industry who is coming over to Kota Kinabalu, we would throw the idea of conducting a workshop with us,” explained Chrystin.
It’s not just limited to workshops but Salt x Paper also organises sharing sessions, like the one held in February. A collaboration with Visual Communication Association, the sessions included a talk about Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, pursuing design as a career and Aaron also sharing his own experience in setting up the brand.
Moving forward, Chrystin hopes that their shop will become a must-visit spot for tourists to Kota Kinabalu. She adds, “We want to bring our Malaysian designs to an international market.” She also does not rule out the possibility of creating a new brand, depending on what inspires them.
Salt x Paper Stationery & Gifts
Lot 18 (2nd floor), Jalan Dewan, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah