Sharing the stage: OrangeArt, one class act.

An interview with Carol Mackin of Orange Art, Woodstock, CT.

“Our roots are deep in paper.” ORANGEART has been a family run, wholesale, fine paper business for three decades. Once strictly a distributor of art products and material, OrangeArt now offers its own line of letterpress products.

Through Orange Art, many fine retail dealers have been able to find stationery products from around the globe which are far from ordinary.

 

Why or how did you pick the name Orange Art?

Actually, we bought a tiny rising art paper distribution business in 1983 already named OrangeArt. We have enjoyed the easy marketing the name provided.

You have a direct sales force. Yes? How many states do you cover?

We do the selling ourselves in New England and New York and employ Reps in other parts of the country. John has been personally visiting many of our customers in the last few months. He also has a new Prius hybrid which is a good incentive to get on the road.

Any plans for expansion going forward? Speaking of which, did I understand you now have an online “store”?

We are expanding our trade show presence. We will be in Atlanta Gift in January. We have always been at the NYC Stationery Show and Gift Shows (now called NYNOW).

Yes, our online sales are growing very fast which has changed things. We used to be entirely direct sales/phone/fax. Many of our customers, especially wholesale print paper customers, like our Rossi customers, prefer to order online after working hours. We have an easy online ordering system that sets up an account page for our customers with their order history so they can re-order quickly.

How do you decide what lines/products to distribute? I like how you say, “collect” unique social papers. And speak to the difference between being an agent and a “collector”.

What we did in the fine art paper and materials business for 30 years was “distribute” which we sold in 2010. We were a regional distributor of art products to retailers in New England and New York. That means there was no personal involvement in the product design and choice.

However, since the beginning of OrangeArt in 1983, our stationery business has always been based on our choices. We manufacture and design our own products.

We also represent some European lines in the USA, exclusively. That is what an “agent” is.

How has the computer impacted your business?

Only is good ways. I love the immediacy of it. We can service faster and we can show our customers what is new online immediately

In this economy, do you see a trend that more customers are making their own social items (invitations, etc.) from your papers rather turning to custom designers like Crane or Wm. Arthur?

Digital printing has become less expensive and more accessible. That has changed the way stationery papers are personalized, forever. There is no excuse for a badly done business card or note!

Since we have now being living with technology for some time now, do you see any traditions coming back that once were lost? Any new ones beginning?

A personal, hand-written note or paper invitation is finding its modern place in our lives. It is something distinct from email which has become too banal. It is now communication “etiquette” to write and invite in this “personal” way. It takes time which is a gift in and of itself. The paper, the stamp, are a reflection of the personal taste of the sender.

I think that people are happy to spend more money on a well-designed card, journal, etc. Again, it is a little exercise in design much like their choices of home décor.

How, and when did you find Rossi?               

We have stocked Rossi products since 2006. We travelled to Borgo San Lorenzo to talk to the Rossi’s about our interests and paper background, which included 12 years of experience with another, similar paper also made in Italy. We really know how many ways our customers can use this versatile, beautiful paper. Our experience has taught us how to support sales with thoughtful templates and well versed customer service who can explain an album fold from an A5 sheet, convert metric into inches and always make sure they are ordering the right envelopes!

We appreciate all of the Rossi products. By the way, their warehouse packing is the BEST! Everything arrives correctly and un-damaged. No one appreciates that more than the people who receive, stock and re-ship it.

What does the future hold for Orange Art?

Well, we did recently sell the “big” business and as I said, we are in transition in a good way. The reason we did OrangeArt together, here in this beautiful place, was to control the way we were going to live and raise our two children.Now we can be smaller and more focused.We would like to find just a few more exclusive lines, and maybe tiptoe into complementary products. I keep imagining a beautiful desk we could all use in our lives to keep our “stuff” organized and allow us to write, think and look out the window at nothing at all. What would be on it?

Behind the scene: Joka Belgrado

 

Mrs Joka Belgrado

Anyone who has ever contacted Rossi1931, by phone or through the website has, no doubt, pleasantly encountered the sales, marketing and linguistic wizard, Joka Belgrado.

Joka has been with Rossi since 2007 after she and her husband had moved from Florence to the beautiful area of Tuscany known as Mugello, ( a beautiful wide green valley north of Florence) After commuting to Florence for work for several years, she decided,” enough of commuting!” Her husband told her of a local radio station that had been advertising different jobs. She signed on to their website one day and noticed there was a job very close to home with Rossi. “They were looking for someone in the export dept. with a good knowledge of English and German. I sent in my resume, was contacted and after 2 weeks I was working here.” A lucky day for Rossi, indeed. Not only does Joka speak English and German, but Dutch and Italian as well. She says,” years ago I spoke 6 languages, but when you don’t use a language for many years, it kind of sinks away.”

Joka was raised in Holland and Curacao, Dutch Antilles which was still part of the Netherlands at that time. After high school, she took a “gap” year and lived on a kibbutz in Israel. She liked the idea because she could work 4 hours a day and learn the language during the other 4. When she later transferred to the advanced language class in a different kibbutz near the sea, she met a wonderful young man from Italy and today they have been married for 38 years. After they returned from Israel to Italy, where she began college in Florence, they had 2 lovely daughters. Both out of the nest now, Claudia is an architect and lives in Sardinia and Sylvia, a nurse in Florence.

She loves her time with Rossi; “I handle the US and Canada markets, as well as the German speaking countries in Europe….Austria, Switzerland and Germany. I have daily contacts with customers and reps, research to find additional customers and sales representatives in selected areas, and do translations into English and German when needed. “A lot of potential customers find us through our website and sometimes I find them. Either way, I include them in mailing lists and when we send out warehouse catalogues.”

Her favorite part of the job: “The relationship that I have established with some of our customers and reps, which go beyond work”. She never gets bored. “I enjoy talking to potential new customers, explaining how we operate, encourage them to try our line. When they do and it works out for them, it’s a satisfaction and pride for me. They become a regular customer and I feel that I have made a contribution to the company.”

One would think time differences would be a major problem, but Joka handles it with ease. The internet of course helps, as she can simply email customers while she is at work and they are still sleeping. ” I prefer email by far, as the Romans said: scripta manent”.  (Loosely speaking: ‘spoken words fly away, written words remain’). ”In my previous job we always had to confirm phone conversations in writing. It was a lot more work and they had offices all over the world”.

With all the positive growth in design and products at Rossi, Joka says there has been a lot of challenges, as well: ”The last 5 years has been difficult for many companies, everywhere. Italy is no exception. It has been very hard for small companies to stay alive and many have found it tougher to survive. Basically, I have seen that those who did not export have not made it. Rossi has been exporting for decades and that, in addition to making qualitative investments in IT, has kept the company alive and healthy. I feel very fortunate to work here.”

Outside of the fact that her job is only a 10 minute commute now, the best part of her time with Rossi is that she “is trusted and valued” for what she contributes and has “ a lot of independence in handling the job. I had never handled paper products in my career, so I had to learn the product first. It then became automatic to look at similar products in the shops. Now that I have some experience in the category, I think stating Rossi is at the top quality- wise is not an exaggeration. “

When asked to name the product she loves the most: “The letterpress design called Venice in the navy/mauve version. I like the fact that the design is 500 years old. I also like the idea of a new use of the vintage letterpress machines that Rossi kept”.

letterpress stationery

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Perhaps”, she muses,” I also like it because it’s called Venice, my favorite city in the world!   “

Joka can be reached at: joka.belgrado@rossi1931.it

 

So glad you asked…

There are thousands of thoughts lying within us that we do not know until we take up the pen to write. As Oscar Wilde said in that famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train’

So, “why should I keep a journal?” you ask.

~Your children and grandchildren will want to read it. Perhaps that’s hard to believe right now for maybe your life seems quite ordinary and of little interest to anyone else. But, wouldn’t you be thrilled to find a journal written by your great grandfather about life in the 1800’s or your grandmothers take on her new purchase, the first washing machine? Such a peek at days gone by is fascinating. And so it is with you; when your grandkids or great grandkids are talking to people via hologram, they are going to be absolutely fascinated by your excitement of those ancient things like the I- Phone and Microwave oven. Share your thoughts and emotions of where you were when the World Trade Center was attacked or your experience driving your first hybrid car…… any and all pertinent events. While you may think that you’ll be able to remember everything clearly in the future, you won’t. It is said that by age 80, you will only remember the faintest outlines of the big occurrences in your life. Your journals will leave a legacy for your family.

~It can make sense of issues. After struggling with a choice and thinking long and hard about it, make a decision and then write down how and why you came to that decision. A journal can aid you in these dilemmas.  In time, if you start doubting the choice, you can look back, remind yourself of why you made that decision in the first place, and feel reassured.

It is a perfect tool to use if you find yourself in a funk and can’t seem to get out of it; look back through your journal to find the times when you were happiest.  Old journal entries can help you rediscover the kind of changes you need to make to get your life back on track….or simply to realize what a fool you were in your 20’s. Finally, simply writing about your feelings and frustrations helps you focus on what’s really going on in your life and in your head, so that you can come up with a solution to your problems.

~Journaling grants you immortality. Think of the billions of people who have and will perish from the earth without leaving a trace of themselves behind. They vanish into the ether, completely forgotten in the annals of history. A journal helps make you immortal. It is a tangible piece of evidence to leave behind that you were here! And who knows? Maybe the whole world might be interested in your musings someday. How many men were ignored in their lifetime, only to be celebrated after their death?

~It’s empowering.Philosopher and psychologist William James once said, “If you can change your mind, you can change your life” — and journal-writing can help you do just that. Writing about the ups and downs of your daily life can help you to get perspective on your experiences and find lessons in them. Keeping a journal is a constant and clear way to remind yourself that YOU — and nobody else — are the author of your own life story.

Whether you use your journal as some of us do, to simply keep grocery lists or your “to-do “list, or as a therapeutic catharsis, or to have the printed word to reflect over your past, it is for certain that journaling has become very popular. The most telling statistic on the popularity of journaling comes from notebook/journal manufacturers, who estimate that more than five million blank books are sold each year.