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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Talented Artist - Su Mwamba from Whirling World - Interview & Giveaway

Whirling World
About Su Mwamba

Obsessive reader, wordsmith & collage artist. I know I'm not alone in my passion for either books or notebooks but I love having found a way to combine some of my ideas. Designing notebook layouts & sharing my favourite quotes is very satisfying!

"I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still." - Rimbaud

Words are powerful things, and those of us who are obsessive readers, writers or 'just' compulsive note-makers are at their mercy. Whether we write our own stories, or just try to keep our lives organised, the humble notebook is quite simply an essential tool. 

I'm a wordy person (you may notice) - but my creativity ventures in all kinds of directions. Most recently, I have been making collages with vintage postage stamps; however, I have found that my ideal canvas is not a canvas at all, but actually the plain old common-or-garden notebook. I mention this to illustrate just how far my pre-occupation with notebooks stretches... (Check out my collaged notebooks here:

My collage artwork and a search for the perfect notebook to use as canvas eventually led me to the possibility of having my very own notebooks printed - at first just the covers, and then - finally! - the inner page layouts, too. I was very happy!

I grew up in a house full of books, with parents who were both avid readers and hoarders. My entire adult life, I have worked as a bookseller. I have thus read widely and somewhat eclectically, discovering all manner of word-filled treasures. I love my postage stamp collages, but the (lack of) winter light is not conducive to getting as much work done as I would like. Notebook design, however, can be done in any light, at any time of year, and so my creative frustration has found a new outlet. It is also the perfect excuse to sit down and read a good book, because now that is just 'research'. ;)

I hope this Whirling World shop will appeal to fellow readers, writers and bookish types. The quotations I have chosen for my notebook covers are a very personal selection that (with one or two exceptions) are a little less common. They're the words that have stuck with me over time, and exemplify (or, in some cases, helped to build) my own world-view. They made MY whirling world stand still. :)



1) Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I'm just a bookish person, with a creative streak. I devour books whole, and savour that moment at the end of a good book when the real world isn't quite real again, yet. I work in a book shop, married a fellow book lover (and ex-librarian), and there are book cases and books crammed into literally every room of our house.

2) What’s the inspiration behind your work?

I wish I could remember all the books I've ever read, but the detail definitely blurs over time. Sometimes, though, a particular sentence or phrase stays with me – whether for its meaning, or sentiment, or the magic of its language. So I make notebooks featuring the quotes that I have connected with personally, and that it makes me happy to see again and again. My designs are simple and typographical because I want the words to speak for themselves. I imagine they paint different pictures for different people, so I try not to get in the way of that.

Literature is only half of the equation, though: the function of the notebook is also really important to me. Sometimes, a blank page is as practical as a notebook needs to get; but at other times, those extra little details really make a difference (a calendar, page numbers, an index etc). Why do you prefer to write in one notebook over another? When I create new page layouts, I'm trying to find a formula that complements the experience of writing in that particular notebook.

3) What does your work place look like?

I'm lucky enough to have a home office/studio which is where all of my creative work takes place. I don't sit at a desk, but work with my laptop on a comfy chair with footstool! The room is in dire need of re-organisation... I have a wall of cupboard space, yet the floor is currently stacked with boxes full of stock, packaging materials, and swimming in thousands of postage stamps (my other love, see below). But so long as I can still get to my work chair, I can continue to ignore it for a while longer...!

4) Where does your love for books come from?

I've always been a reader, for as long as I can remember. I remember pretending to read before I had learned how; and as soon as I could read for myself, it was my favourite thing to do. I have so many memories of going to the library and bookshop to choose books, then curling myself up in a corner at home, or standing in the corner of the playground at school with my nose in a book! 

My parents are both avid readers, so I grew up with nightly bedtime stories, in a house that was full of books, knowing that reading was an intrinsic part of life. Reading really was how I came to know the world.

5) You also have a postage stamp collection which you use for collage artwork. How did you come up with this idea? 

As well as reading, I was always a writer, and as a child I had lots of penpals around the world. I think all the foreign envelopes and stamps that I hoarded must have sown the seed for the stamp art obsession that developed much later in my life. My parents both had small stamp collections which they passed on to me, too. As an adult, I have explored lots of crafty ventures, but my collection of stamps was becoming unwieldy, with lots of duplicates. I wanted a project to use up some of the excess, so a notebook cover was the obvious choice. And once I started, I couldn't stop.

The feel of working with old stamps is almost like the book lover's affinity with second hand books – everything about them speaks to me, from the feel of the paper, to the faded colours, to the sense of forgotten history encapsulated. I love blending the stamps together to create impressionistic imaginary landscapes (although I also have a fondness for a very contrasting geometric style). Collaging notebooks is now at the core of my (other) online business. It hasn't helped decrease my stash of stamps, by the way. That just continues to grow and grow...

6) Can you tell a bit more about how you started your store?

When I first started collaging notebooks, I used simple, store-bought books with blank covers. But when I found a company that could print my own notebook designs, all sorts of new options opened up to me. At first I only customised the inside covers of the notebooks, leaving the front blank, to be covered in stamps. After a while, though, I realised that I could also have something printed on the cover, and offer two variations for the same product: an original collage or a simple kraft notebook with a literary twist.

My first quote notebook was actually a diary, and I sold both stamp and quote versions in my other shop. The success of the text-cover diary gave me the confidence to start building a range of quote notebooks. As my ideas started growing, the quote range soon outgrew a sub-section in my stamp shop, so I created them their very own space. 

Over the last year, in addition to new notebooks, I've also started to add more different kinds of products. While I could theoretically 'stick a quote on anything', I want to limit myself to items which are thematically complementary: bookmarks, ex libris book plates, tins for storage of notebooks, bags for carrying books, and - of course! - mugs & coasters, because really, is there anything better than settling down in a cosy corner with a good book and a hot drink?

7) What do you like the most about having your own shop?

I like having an outlet for the things that I would absolutely definitely create anyway. And I love being surrounded by the things I love: books and notebooks, and the words that inspire me.

8) What are your plans for the future?

I've just made the first steps in setting up a new website, so will be fine-tuning that for a while. I'm also getting started with a Whirling World blog, and planning a printed newsletter to run alongside it. In terms of the shop, I would really like to set up some kind of subscription box for the future. I have lots of ideas which currently still need a lot of fine-tuning, but watch this space... 

Otherwise, my plan is just to read more books! Between my two shops I spend a lot of time designing, making, photographing, packaging, and posting out orders; but I'll be squeezing as many new books into the inbetween-times as I can!


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive The Ultimate Bookish Gift Set for Lovers of Literature from Su Mwamba that contains a hinged storage tin with a quote on the lid, a reading journal with the same quote, a matching ruled notebook, a stainless steel fountain pen, 4 mixed quote ex libris bookplate labels and 4 mixed quote bookmarks.

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. The quality and design look amazing. Unique, fun and quirky too.

  2. I really like your notebooks and tote bags! :)

  3. Great quotes, wish I could remember them like you do. These are really nice products that anyone who's a book lover would enjoy.

  4. I love all of the beautiful items in your shop.

  5. Love the stuff in your shop - hope it goes from strength to strength xx

  6. Your products are gorgeous - such wonderful quotes!

  7. I love your work - it looks classic (& classy) yet also bang up to date

  8. I absolutely finding new creative art. I love the mug. Wonderfully creative

  9. I adore the quotes you choose for your notebooks etc. ... nothing beats the classics, right? :-)

  10. I love the classic touch, looks fabulous.

  11. I really enjoyed reading your amazing interview, thank you!

  12. Frases e pensamentos, fantástico, obrigada pelas sentidas palavras durante a entrevista

  13. Your items are beautiful. Thank you

  14. I love quotes from amazing pieces of literature,lovely items

  15. What a fantastic items!
    They are amazing! :)

  16. I always need a notebook with me,these are lovely

  17. I love the enamel mugs and notebooks!

  18. Very good quotes and genius design

  19. I love things with quotes on them. Makes things feel more special.

  20. I love your store, Su! I love the quotes that you use.

  21. Great idea and creations. Simple but on point. I love the quotes you use. All the best and thank you for the giveaway.

  22. Wow, what a lovely prize. They are simple but yet very effective. :)

  23. love, love, love your tote bags, well all things really, love to win, thanks for the chance
    carole eaves

  24. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  25. Your work is so fabulous. They are definitely a must have for any aesthetics junkie. Good luck for your future!

  26. Love the mug and notebooks. Thank you so much for this amazing giveaway.

  27. These look great! Creative and practical ♥