International paper people: An interview with Amit Yariv

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That is MeNext up in our nascent series on international paper people is Amit Yariv, an Israeli native and stationery enthusiast of the highest order (seriously, you’ll see pictures).

Introduce yourself! Where are you from and where do you live now?

My name is Amit Yariv, I was born and raised in Israel, and still live here today, with my lovely wife and my 2 kids, Itay (almost 4 years old) and Guy (11 months old).

I am 37 Years old, and live in Petach Tikva, a city east of Tel Aviv.

I am a lawyer, working in the litigation and government relations of one of Israel’s biggest, and by far the best, law firms, where I’m a senior associate for the past 6.5 years. I also write professionally about wine and spirits, cigars, watches, pen & paper issues and the like.

What’s cool about where you live?

Israel is a complicated place to live in: we have, so it’s said, a lovely weather it’s almost always nice and warm (well, the last few winters were kind of an exception, but even so, we rarely see extreme cold here), The people are very open and outspoken, and we do have a lovely selection of geographic scenery from the desert to the sea, from the Dead Sea to the mountains of Galilee.

What got you hooked on stationery?

That’s a tough one. I think it started when I was in the first grade: while I could read perfectly at age 4, I had great difficulty with writing. I knew what I wanted to say, it was just that I could not get it on paper… I finally got the hang of it, but my handwriting was considered terrible. When all my friends were allowed, somewhere around 3rd grade to start using pens, I was required to keep writing with a pencil. I think that’s when I started craving pens.

And maybe it’s something else altogether: ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a grown-up. I waited to be old enough to wear suit-and-tie, to have a briefcase and part of it was writing with a fountain pen.

I got my first FP when I was in the 6th grade, a plastic pen, with what seems to me now to have been a tin nib it was scratchy, and the pen leaked terribly, but I can still remember the white plastic body with green apples painted on it, and the green plastic cap with the white apples on it. Oh, yeah, I can also remember the dark blue ink stains on my fingers opening it.

Then, when I graduated high school, I got a very nice, green-gold colored FP from my parents, which I kept for a long time. It was not very sophisticated, but I liked the smoothness in which it wrote on the fine cream-colored paper I bought, and wrote all personal correspondence with it.

Then I got to know my favorite pen shop, Dana Pens in Tel Aviv, and started learning about pens, brands and the likes. After my military service, I lived in the USA for a while, working for Disney in Florida, and got to know Levenger and Paradise Pen Company, in which I learned to appreciate the fine paper that complements high end pens so well. When I went to Berlin in 2006, I got acquainted to Moleskine journals, and got myself a pocket one, and when I started writing professionally, I started using those to record my wine tastings, winery visits and interviews.

What are a few of your favorite products, and what are you doing with them (i.e., writing, doodling, hoarding)?

Wow. I want to say that I love (almost) all products alike. I am, I you will, an equal opportunity stationary geek. I always have one black A5 hard-cover blank journal a webbie if I can get it, a Moleskine when I can’t (see below…). The Webbie has a better thickness of the paper for a broad writer like myself, who started writing with a Stub nib recently.

Me My Shelf and I

I use those for work: I always carry a black book to meetings, where I take my notes. When preparing for court, I write down my ideas and so on. I used to use yellow legal pads for that, but since I tend to be messy, I realized I never file anything, and then, when needed, I can’t find my notes. Now I keep a shelf in my office with clearly-marked Black Books.

I also carry a small hard-cover notebook (3 by 5 or similar), and a Levenger pocket briefcase with personalized note cards. I use the small notebook to write stuff that’s are related to my writing job, and the pocket briefcase to write short notes in meetings, when driving etc.

Not over yet! For serious thoughts, I have another book (currently it’s the Quo Vadis Habana in blue). I use it to outline professional papers I intend to write, half-formal to-do lists and the likes.

Oh, yeah. I have a thing for pens, have I mentioned that? I always carry at least 2-3 with me either in my pocket of in my bag. My desk seems like a small stationary store (well, the firm, my office is known to have, well… unique character). My favorite ones, currently, are my Stub nib Visconti Homo Sapiens and my medium nib Levenger L-Tech Stylus pen.

The Ink Drawer

I am on a quest to find the best blue ink: I used to write with black ink, but since I got my license to practice law, I started writing with blue, and I’m looking for a solid blue color. The search itself is lots of fun: I’ve tried the 1870 J .Herbin Ocean Blue, and the Noodlers Baystate Blue, and currently working with the Diamine Asa Blue. Actually, I’ve even registered a blog to record my search for the perfect blue…

What’s unique about your local stationery culture? (I remember a comment you left on our blog that suggested it was a small group and a pretty slim selection.)

Israel is a niche market for most things, and stationary geeks like me tend to be a niche-group, so being a niche within a niche leaves very little selection on products that are less then ordinary. For instance, finding high end stationary paper for correspondence, such as the G. Lalo Verge de France paper is almost impossible. When I visited the stationary department in the KeDeWe department store in Berlin in 2007, I was like a kid in a candy store: so many great products, organized by color (Pistachio-colored paper! Imagine that!), oh, the envy… some products are not available here at all, and others suffer from low demand (such as the Webbies).

While getting high end fountain pens is easy enough (especially if one knows the right people, which I do), but finding good paper usually requires online shopping or asking friends visiting abroad. The most frustrating, though, is ink. Only 9-10 different ink brands are regularly imported to Israel, so for all things unique I have to go online. Thank god for Brian and Rachel Goulet

What do you like to do when you’re not putting pen to paper?

My great joy and pride are my two sons, Itay and Guy, and I spend as much time with them as possible. I read a lot, and make it a habit to read at least a few pages each night before I retire. We recently move to a new apartment, and so I sit on the balcony with a cigar (a nasty habit, I know…), and a drink, and read.

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