KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Stationery brand B’Nottee (pronounced be-No-tee) started from a notebook made from washable craft paper. The thing about washable craft paper is it has the appearance of leather, even ageing and crinkling with regular use just like leather.
Chew Ee-Jie’s notebook attracted the attention of her former colleague Edmund Low who was helping to organise a craft market at that time. He invited her to participate... selling handmade travellers’ notebooks, made with washable craft paper, hand stitched and dyed one by one. This was back in March 2015.
Ee-Jie discovered washable craft paper online when she was buying fabric. She wanted to get a Midori traveller’s notebook but it was beyond her budget so she tried making her own, using washable craft paper instead of leather.
“I just wanted to try it out so I bought one metre,” said Ee-Jie.
B’Nottee’s notebooks come in three sizes: A5, Slim and A6. Slim is their version of a traveller’s notebook. Although B’Nottee’s design is inspired by Midori’s traveller’s notebook, the main difference is the washable craft paper cover which is popular among vegetarian and vegan customers.
The best-selling notebook is the Peacock Blue in Slim size. There are six main colours now: Bark Brown, Ocean Blue, Rainy Teal, Olive Green, Coral Orange and Peacock Blue. The colours are seasonal and come in limited quantities.
The Koi Fish Pencil case is also a popular product as well as the washi tapes.
Ee-Jie does the dyeing part and she says depending on the weather, each notebook will have a different result after the dyeing process.
For B’Nottee, even though they find the process tedious, they don’t mind going the extra mile and extra step to make it really unique and original in their own way.
For washable craft paper they cut it to the size they want and then dye it and then depending on each product, some they need to glue first, with two layers then glue it and sew it. Sometimes there is a buckle or eyelet that is the last process.
It takes three days for the whole process from boiling the water and getting the dye ready to sewing it.
The more complicated sewing is actually done by Ee-Jie’s mother. “She said my sewing cannot sell,” lamented Ee-Jie. Since the first day, Ee-Jie’s mother has been sewing the products for B’Nottee but she’s more behind-the-scenes.
Today, B’Nottee sells washi tapes, pencil cases and other quirky knick-knacks that are designed by the creative duo... as well as the notebooks. They aim to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, using 100 per cent recyclable and FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) paper for their notebook inserts.
“To be FSC-certified, it means that for each tree they cut down, they will plant back a tree,” said Edmund.
The washi tapes sold at B’Nottee are designed and illustrated by Edmund and Ee-Jie, and made in Taiwan. The duo noticed that there were no washi tapes featuring Malaysian culture or designs so decided to be the first to do so.
B’Nottee released their first batch of washi tape in March 2016, releasing only 50 rolls. It was based on Malaysian food and sold out very quickly.
“We try to make it very limited edition so we might not come up with it again,” said Edmund.
Edmund explains that washi tapes are very popular among stationery, notebook and planner lovers and B’Nottee wanted to cater to the community. “We call it My Malaysia actually. My Malaysia 01 so hopefully we will have 02, 03, which are like different Malaysian themes.”
Edmund and Ee-Jie are still working at their day jobs as interior architects. “That’s why we can’t open our studio every day. We are trying to make our products more efficiently because we still need to support ourselves,” said Edmund.
How they came up with the B’Nottee name is very simple. According to Edmund it comes from the word notebook so the word “note” and then they add two “E”s at the back as initials for their names. The word also sounds like naughty and when people read it as that, it is fine by Edmund and E-Jie.
Future plans for B’Nottee includes workshops this month on book stitching and stamp carving. Since they have their own studio, people can join in for a casual workshop, have tea and enjoy the time spent, making things they like.
Edmund noted that he felt quite fortunate to bump into Ee-Jie and reconnecting with her. Both of them share the same ideas on how they want to build this brand so it’s like a shared dream. And in case you were wondering, they are not a couple!