'Hola!' to ola!

Ola title

In the year that marks the fifth anniversary of their signature Layflat Notebook, we say 'Hola!' to ola!

Unsurprisingly, ola founder Katy Goutefangea is a great fan of the humble notebook. Well, you wouldn’t go to the trouble of creating an object if you didn't really like it, would you? As she puts it: 'a notepad can be used to sketch and write simultaneously… It doesn't need to be powered up to record a passing thought. It can be carried anywhere, dropped and have things spilt on it without much worry…' Being a designer, Katy frequently works across both pages, and ola was established because she couldn't find a notebook that did exactly what she wanted it to do, which was open out flat, preferably without the pages popping out. So she set about creating one herself.

Identifying a style of binding that would allow a notebook to do this was her first priority. Once that was in the bag (with the help of a music book manufacturer), she went on to research the perfect papers to use with this binding. The result was the Layflat Notebook. And the birth, in 2013, of ola.

Ola layflat notebook

But ola isn't just about notebooks that open out flat, useful though they are. There are many notebooks out there in Stationery Land - they're one of life's simple little essentials - so how did Katy go about ensuring that ola stood out just that little bit more?

The answer is the company's whole approach to getting a notebook from being a figment of somebody's imagination to being an actual, tangible thing. They pride themselves on creating items that are 'a quiet celebration of pattern and simplicity' and invest heavily in recycled and sustainable materials. The result of this extraordinary care and attention to detail is a range of notebooks that are produced using traditional skills and craftsmanship, with ethically-sourced materials, and which are manufactured entirely in the UK.

Ola Notebook designThe cover designs are inspired by architecture and geometry, and the work of such artists as Sol LeWitt and textile printmaker Anni Albers. They begin life as investigative sketches and drawings, and are then painted by hand with a pen and Indian inks. The printing process uses 300gsm paper, and vegetable-based inks which are laid using the traditional method of rollers.

All of the paper used in ola notebooks is FSC-certified and comes from sustainable forests. If it's not made from wood it's made using waste from food processing involving such products as almonds, citrus fruits and corn. Some is made using 100% recycled paper fibres.

The pages are then stitched to the spine rather than glued; this is not only environmentally-responsible, it prevents pages becoming unstuck and falling out, and also enables them to lie flat, which was the whole point of the original notebook!

And what about the environment? Plastic being the four-letter word it is these days, ola is committed to ending their use of disposable plastics. The cellophane they use to protect the notebooks is biodegradable and will have decomposed within 10 years. To reduce the reliance on long-distance transportation and the resulting air pollution, ola try to keep as much of the work in-house wherever possible. But in situations where they do need to outsource, it is to companies who are located in the UK. What's more, these companies all commit to the same ethical values as ola, and many of them are family-run.

ola try to uphold their values in everything they do, so they also donate some of their profits to Cool Earth, a charity that is committed to the protection of rainforests by working with local people to halt deforestation and climate change.

So what more could you possibly want from a notebook? They're practical, sustainably produced and easy on the pocket. They're nice notebooks from nice people.

17 February 2020

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