Best of Brussels: Paper magic
From paper dresses to the best stationary stores in town, Jane Goodyear guides you through the wonders of paper in Brussels.
I’ve always loved paper and art supplies. My favorite thing about school as a kid was shopping for the materials – nothing was better than a new notebook and a big box of Crayola crayons. I learned how to make origami figures when I was 8 and still remember how today (probably one of the few things I retained from the second grade). So I was curious to find out more about Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work with paper.
Born in Brussels, Isabelle started out designing fabrics and clothes and developed the idea of making paper reproductions of famous costumes. She has now been creating paper gowns and other clothing for almost 20 years, covering 300 years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel.
Isabelle is multi-talented – she also paints and sculpts and has turned some of her concepts into home décor items like table linens. She’s even made chairs and shoes out of paper! Isabelle also has published a number of books.
She had her first significant exhibition in the US last year, which garnered her attention in the New York Times among other publications. I recently had the chance to visit her studio and gallery in Brussels where she is holding a small exhibition of some new paintings and paper creations. Hidden behind an unassuming building on Chaussée de Vleurgat, the studio is a lovely, modern space with a small garden.
The day I stopped by, Isabelle was having lunch with friends and very graciously took the time to give us a sneak peek into her work space. I was able to see some of her paper dresses, both complete and in progress, up close and they were amazing. The exhibition ends on 13 May so go without delay!
We can’t of course all do what Isabelle does, but it can still be fun to try your hand at something creative. I love wandering around art supply and stationery stores, wishing I had a reason to buy more paper and a glue gun. Over the years I’ve found a few good places in Brussels to buy anything from paint brushes to greeting cards to craft supplies. Here are my top picks.
Founded in 1892 as a picture framing shop, Schleiper tops the list. The store on Chaussee de Charleroi has an amazing assortment of art supplies and paper on 3 floors and very knowledgeable staff. They have recently opened a second location near Place Jourdan that is more focused on craft supplies and offers classes. They of course still offer picture framing. Both stores are fun to wander around for inspiration even if you’re not buying.
149 Chaussée de Charleroi, 1060 Saint-Gilles
Tel: +32 2 541 0532
Open Monday to Saturday, 9:30-18:30
Papeterie du Parc Leopold is a great office supply store located in the EU district. Run by the same family for 75 years, they carry all sorts of fancy pens and agendas, and anything you might need for work, as well as cards and wrapping paper. A bit pricy but friendly and helpful service.
177 Rue Belliard, 1040 Etterbeek
Tel: +32 02 230 69 12
Open Monday to Friday, 9-18
Papeterie Anglaise is a sweet little shop on Avenue Louise and is the best place in Brussels to find English language greeting cards. At the same address since it opened in 1877, the store also has a very good collection of stationary and agendas, and offers invitation printing as well. Ironically their website is only in French.
92a Avenue Louise, 1050 Ixelles
Tel: +32 2 512 18 71
Open Monday to Friday, 9:30-13 and 14-18, Saturday 10-13 and 14-18
Nias, located just off Place Stephanie, is another good office supply store. Also in existence since the mid-19th century, they carry all sorts of office and school supplies, including loose paper, pens, agendas and more. This is less of a specialty shop and thus the prices are a bit better.
4 Chaussée de Charleroi, 1060 Saint-Gilles
Tel: +32 2 544 19 53
Open Monday to Saturday, 9:45-18:15
If you’re looking for something simple, you can always go to one of the 11 Club stores around Brussels, which sell basic office supplies alongside French-language books.
Reprinted with permission from Best of Brussels.
Jane Goodyear is an American living and working in Brussels for the past 10 years. It took her a little while to fall in love with the city but now she can’t get enough. Read more from Jane on her blog - Best of Brussels - where she shares her thoughts and recommendations on the best events, restaurants, shops and much more. Whether you’re a tourist, new arrival or have been living here for decades, Jane hopes to help everyone enjoy Brussels for all it has to offer!
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