My calligraphy classmates repeatedly mentioned purchasing calligraphy supplies from FLAX in San Francisco. Still being unfamiliar with the go-to places in the Bay Area, I asked what FLAX was. My calligraphy teacher described this art supplies store fondly and suggested if I went with a friend, he/she had to be interested in browsing art supplies because hours can easily pass browsing the shelves at FLAX Art & Design. Here, I expected FLAX to be similar to Michaels, but with a wider selection of calligraphy pens and fine papers.
I drove up to San Francisco for a day, expecting to arrive at FLAX at 9:30 am opening time, spend a couple hours shopping leisurely, then drive into the city centre for a nice lunch and end with shopping around Union Square before heading back to Silicon Valley to beat the 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm rush hour traffic. Immediately upon stepping into FLAX, I knew I was in trouble! I have always loved arts and crafts, and trying different art mediums and types of art – from painting in acrylic/oil/watercolor, lettering calligraphy, creating animal figurines using clay, bead works to origami and gift wrapping. FLAX nearly carries everything you need for art supplies. It is a shopping paradise for crafters like me, and to professional artists like my calligraphy teacher or budding students mastering in Fine Arts.
When you first enter FLAX, the store opens to a display of fine pens and an array of calligraphy supplies. In the adjacent section, you’ll find all sorts of paint mediums and canvases. Just beyond there extends to shelves of journals/sketchbooks, stationery, photo albums, artist pens/markers/charcoal/pastels and useful artist knick-knacks. As you walk further, you’ll find yourself in another room dedicated to gifts and arts-and-crafts sets for kids. Finally, you’ll make your way into the large open space of stamps, ribbons, wedding products, card making supplies, picture frames and art gadgets. The Paper Room lies in the heart of the store layout. FLAX itself is a great adventure, but its room of fine papers should not be missed.
Except for arriving at 9:30 am opening time, my day did not go according to plan. (A very good thing in this case 😉 ) I spent 3 hours just browsing the first two sections up to the journals and sketchbooks, breaked for lunch, then went back and browsed the rest of the store until an hour before 7:00 pm closing. Yes, there is that much to see and enjoy! Apart from tired feet, my 8 hour shopping day at FLAX felt like a blissful day at the spa.
The Paper Room is particularly beautiful. The gallery of papers include those made from all around the world, made from various fibres, commercially produced to handmade ones. The varying textures, colors and shades available is beyond compare. The Paper Room houses fine papers in rows of drawers that are 25 flat tall, papers displayed on shelves and up the walls. You’ll find …
• marbled paper from Italy, hand silkscreened papers from Japan including Tatyana, Hanakurabe, Takeo, Chiyogami, Washi and Mokuba, Lokta papers from Nepal
• fuzzy, vinyl, metalic, embossed, crinkled, rippled, corrugated papers
• smooth to super smooth papers
• papers representing every color in the rainbow to super white papers
• papers for gift wrapping – like tissue to rolls of brilliant wrapping
• papers made from fibres of yarn, wool, bamboo, rice, fabric, cotton, cork, papyrus, Araca tree trunk, Batik, rayon, hemp to Mulberry
The most exotic papers I found were transparent oil papers, varnish papers, wood veneer papers and lace papers.
Just when I finished browsing the catalogues and displays of paper, their staff informed me of a basement, even larger than the Paper Room, where fine papers from previous seasons are stored. (What there’s more?!) The basement only opens during their annual Paper Palooza Sale, which sounds dangerously fun.
Dr. Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Wishing you incredible discoveries throughout the year!