In the country of my birth, greeting cards are big business. Walk into any specialist card shop (of which there are A LOT), stationers, or supermarket and you will find funny cards, “cute” cards, kid-friendly cards and all the rest. Not just for birthdays, either. Get well soon, congratulations on your baby/new job/engagement/release from prison, happy anniversary, and so on. So, when in Portugal the people closest to me have birthdays, for example, I find the abysmally short supply of totally unimaginative and, frankly, a bit rubbish cards available in Fnac, to be a bit of a disappointment.But what can one do?
Well, as it happens, quite a lot. Some friends of mine visited Lisbon to see me and experience the city for the first time, during the middle of May. Of course they fell in love with the place – who wouldn’t? But anyway, one of my friends had been talking to an art photographer friend of hers, prior to coming out here. He’d told her, as she has an interest in alternative, quirky art and street art, to check out a small print shop/book shop in São Bento, just along from Estrela. He knew the owners and artists who run the place personally and told us to go and have a chat with them.
We arrived in the early afternoon to find one of the couple who run the place, Inês, working on some prints. We introduced ourselves and, as she’d been told we would come in during the course of the week, she took some time out to how us around the place. Inside, there was a wall with a library of books, some regular books from a variety of publishers that they stock but others were made in the shop, written by the artists themselves, with interesting, quirky topics such as the extremely cute little mini book, written by Inês herself, ‘There are cockroaches in the house,‘ which featured a host of lovely artwork and funny lines about the insects’ lives.
There are also a variety of prints and cards available, of all different sizes from large scale framable pieces down to tiny bookmarks. And this is where the place gets really interesting. They print on vintage printing machines (as well as using freehand paints and drawing pens, where appropriate). Some of the machines are a century old and more and, again Inês took the time out to show us how they worked, which was really fascinating.
It’s a wonderful, curious little shop and the owner are really friendly people who clearly have a huge passion for what they do, so I’d certainly recommend popping in for a look around and definitely to take a look the next time you need a greeting card!
You can find them on Facebook here.