heartache + handmade paper: a story about tea packaging


Even though it may reach 90 degrees here in the city today, I can feel autumn sneaking in. We spent two days last week at Early Girl Farm on Long Island checking our bees and getting our hands dirty, and the angle of the sun felt so different. The scent in the air, too.

This has been one of my busiest summers I can recall. It wasn't necessarily something I was prepared for, but it's been wonderful. I also never, ever thought I'd be thinking about the holiday season in July, but alas. This year, it has been a joy to take on so many new stockists and to share my work with even more of you beautiful people. I've been working on a website update that should go live next week-ish, if all goes well. And Autumn Getaway kits are nearly ready, too, full of gorgeous seasonal skin + spirit food for the months ahead.

You'll also notice a shift in our tea packaging. That wasn't really something I planned for either. I've been a regular customer at the Pearl Paint store on Canal Street since I moved to New York twelve years ago. My walk there was always punctuated by stops throughout Chinatown for dumplings, coconut buns, and exotic vegetable ogling. The building is pure magic, one of the old cast-iron factory loft buildings. Two buildings, in fact, connected by crooked little ramps and stairways on each floor. Paints, pastels and paper from floor to ceiling. And the main staircase, the beamy wooden banisters, the wide creaky steps, and the paint sample charts lining the walls. The scent of all that old wood, that I now recognize as belonging to the same fragrance family as the scent of the stairs up to my loft studio, not far away.

It's a place that has always been drenched with feelings of freedom and possibility for me. I've been there alone, with friends, with lovers. When I designed Marble & Milkweed's library card tea packaging, I went to their once-flourishing paper department to source the handmade Japanese paper that I cut out by hand and affixed to the front of each of my bags of tea.

I could hardly believe it when I heard that the store was to close this past spring. I made one last visit while the rumors were flying around, just to be safe. I bought too many bottles of my favorite Sennelier inks in gold, silver and sepia. And sure enough, within a week, it was gone.

Certainly Pearl Paint had seen livelier days, the neighborhood has changed so rapidly that artists can hardly afford to live anywhere near the old cast-iron district these days (I won't use the S-word here, out of respect for Donald Judd, who hated it, and saw it only as a ridiculous fabrication of real estate developers). Also, Pearl is/was a chain (!), a cursory online search indicates that they may be in the midst of closing their two remaining stores in Florida. It's also not the only place that sells lovely handmade Japanese unryu paper, as I was reminded by a recent visit to the rightfully well-regarded paper department of New York Central Art Supply.

Somehow, it wasn't actually about any of that. I went to Pearl for the nostalgia and the romance. And without it, I felt as if I couldn't simply resume buying my handmade Japanese paper elsewhere in the city, or (heaven forbid!) on the internet. So while my heart heals, I've decided to streamline a bit, to find something that's perhaps sleeker, simpler, a bit sturdier for traveling. It's still entirely compostable, and the outer box is recycled and recyclable. I do hope you'll like it.

I'll always be inspired by beautiful papers, though (and the spirit of old New York). So even if now seems like the right moment to take a little break from the handmade paper, you may see it pop back up somewhere else in our packaging in the coming months. And thank you, dear ones, for letting me explain myself.


  1. Beautiful story, beautiful packaging.

  2. How did I not know Pearl Paint closed?!!

    On another note, you write beautifully, Briar.

    1. Oh, thank you, Christine! It was all a bit sudden this spring. I read a few neighborhood blogs obsessively, so that's how I heard...xo

  3. Another loss for NYC. So sorry!



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