Portugal’s hillside town of Porto has long been known for its fine wines and historic churches, but it is fast becoming a centre for contemporary design as well. With the addition of Rem Koolhaas’s incredible Casa da Música, as well the Fundação Serralves that showcases art by the likes of Vito Acconci, Gerhard Richter and Christopher Wool, the whole city seems to be bursting with creative energy. Add to this cultural efflorescence the unique Fine & Candy papeterie, an artisanal brand that mixes the traditions of Portuguese printing and papermaking with a design-led whimsical aesthetic and a shot of colour.
Creative visionary Mariana Tomé Ribeiro founded Fine & Candy five years ago with the help of her boutique communications agency Supply, and an aim to “bring sophistication to the desk, using companies and skills that are part of the Portuguese collective memory”. And while the range of luxurious notebooks, stationery items and hand-dipped graphite pencils is all eye-catching in the extreme, it was the shop’s location – on a cobblestone street in a historic building reimagined by local firm Oitoemponto – that first drew my attention.
Stepping in from the centuries-old street, a visual treat awaits: humbug stripes line sleek walls, and profusions of colour – by way of the paper products as well as an enormous dome light fixture – make for a dynamic environment. Product lines are varied, but most exciting are the small notebooks (€12 to €25) and diaries (€30 to €35) that come in both classic and more modern styles. Using old binding techniques, and handmade in either leather or fabric, each of the books can be customised with gold or inlaid-metal details. Seasonal editions such as the azure Jealousy collection (second picture) are grouped by colour and pattern. There are also photo albums (€80), elegant brass pencil cups (€37) and traditional paperweights – or carranca – which are made of heavy stucco (€15) in the shapes of animal heads and were originally meant to protect mariners from evil spirits.
Favourite of mine among all of Fine & Candy’s vibrant offerings, however, were the bunches of pencils (€10 to €12, for a pack of 12) – simple, sculptural writing instruments crafted in one of the oldest pencil factories in Europe and colour-coordinated with the shop’s various paper collections. For the traveller who wants a mix of history and high style, these just might be the perfect souvenir.