Artist and illustrator, Fin Fellowes, has been obsessed with wrapping presents since childhood. As she launches The Kensington Paperie, an emporium of wrapping paper and materials from her studio, she tells Sophie Goodwin why stationery is the most enduring aspect of any event.
BY SOPHIE GOODWIN | 4 OCTOBER 2023
Fin Fellowes in her London studio © Chris Horwood
London-based artist, Fin Fellowes, is entirely hands-on and driven by detail. The illustrator and maker uses hand-mixed inks for the perfect calligraphy, makes her own hand-stitched booklets and hand-dyes ribbons. She manages all her projects from conception to execution, and works exclusively with a family-run printer in London to ensure the final product best encapsulates her creative vision.
Her diligence has paid dividends, with her work gaining a cult following over the past decade. Fin's hand-painted, one-of-a-kind creations for high profile global events - from elaborate weddings in far flung places for Zoe de Givenchy and her step daughter, Gabriella, to bespoke menus for the Cabana x Houghton Hall collection - are much coveted. "Being able to combine the free-flow of the creative with the practicality of an invitation, menu card or placement is something I find very satisfying," she says. "It might look pretty, but it has to communicate and inform the reader’.
After all, the most enduring aspect of any event is the stationery, Fin tells me. "It appears through the letterbox months in advance, and (if I have anything to do with it) will remain on the mantelpiece for years to come. Clients understand this more and more, and it’s exciting for me to set the scene for these occasions."
Along with fine stationery, Fin has always been obsessed with wrapping presents, seeing her efforts as an act of love - as important as the act of gift giving itself. As such, she has elevated gift wrapping to something of an art form. "Wrapping can’t be done in a rush, the process requires time and care and effort," she says.
Her newly-launched business, The Kensington Paperie, is a one-stop-shop for any and every gifting and stationery need - essentially, everything you'd need to wrap the perfect present. Her wrapping kits contain exquisite raw silk ribbons, Japanese washi tape, matching swing tags and stickers, you can even add her handmade Italian scissors. The papers are hand-made too, combining Ikat, Marble, Delft and Stripe prints in a range of elegant colors, including mustard, chocolate, azure and cornflower.
Fin Fellowes in her London studio © Chris Horwood
Like many innately creative people, Fin never trained formally, aside from spending hours in the “life-enhancing” art department at London’s St. Paul’s Girls’ School, where she was given the freedom to explore her creativity far beyond the standard curriculum. “I was fortunate enough to have an art history teacher who still shapes the way I look at things today,” she says.
She does come from artistic stock, however; her great uncles on both sides of the family were visionaries. “One in particular, Uncle Matty, was a watercolorist and taught me to draw. He would write the most beautiful letters to my father every week with a different historiated letter at the head. One week the D in ‘Dear George’ would be heralded angels sounding trumpets, the next ‘Dear George’ would be an illustration of the queue at the bus stop. They are a family treasure.”
Although design and lettering have always been a part of Fin’s life, it was only when her best friend, Collagerie co-founder, Serena Hood, asked her to design all the paper for her 2013 wedding that a new path opened up. “The event was featured in US Vogue, and from there I had a deluge of enquiries,” Fin says. “Wedding stationery was becoming a ‘thing’ that was really taking off.”
Fin Fellowes' London studio © Chris Horwood
A traditionalist at heart, Fin admits to spending an inordinate amount of time in London’s V&A Museum gazing at its collections. She loves to look, and advises any aspiring designers or illustrators to “look, stare, and become completely immersed in anything that inspires them, until they can’t see it any more. Then stop, and sleep on it and see where it takes them”. Fin herself finds inspiration everywhere, from a motif on a plate to a railing on a London street.
For many years she toyed with the idea of launching a business to make her designs more accessible. Gift-wrapping seemed to be the obvious choice. "I was always on the hunt for rolls of wrapping paper," she says. "Don’t you hate that annoying leftover bit you get at the end of a sheet? It’s such a waste."
Papers and ribbons, The Kensington Paperie © Chris Horwood
The results of her endeavors are elegant, printed papers on three-metre rolls, lovely paper that feels weighty but also cuts and creases like a dream. "It seemed like such a basic ask, but I couldn’t find it anywhere’ she says, ‘That was my lightbulb moment, and The Kensington Paperie was born."
Rolls of beautiful wrapping paper can be purchased on their own or as part of the kits and the website includes tutorials on creating the perfect bow, and measuring out the right amount of paper and ribbon. "Watching wrapping videos really gets me going, and I think that there must be a few more fetishists out there!" Fin laughs.
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