Always described as the flagship store, though it is actually the only store, the London Graphic Centre has been selling fine arts and graphics materials to Londoners since 1973 in the heart of Covent Garden. Originally located on Long Acre, in 1996 it moved to bigger and better premises just up the road in Shelton Street. It was much loved by local art students from Central Saint Martins (now moved to Kings Cross) and the Soho design agencies who would order up art board and spray mount to be delivered by bike.
Sited on a corner site in an old market warehouse, the entrance is spacious and impressive with a large staircase in the centre of the store, sparkling with fairy lights on our recent visit on the run up to Christmas. The colour blocking of the products looks enticing and the displays of pastels and pencils are an art display in their own right with their strange numbered flags to identify the specific shade.
At heart it is an artist’s store with everything you could want for your art project from a huge selection of paints, pencils, pens and canvas to supplies for modelling and crafting. Lightboxes, easels, marbling ink, glass paint and aerosols – all stocked in every possible colour and size.
Of course there are stands dedicated to Moleskine and Leuchtturm as well as MT washi tape, Lamy, Kaweco and all the other lifestyle stationery brands. But where this store differs from most other art suppliers is its designer stationery offering which is impressive and extensive.
Brands that caught our eye when we visited included Octaevo, the Spanish design company from Barcelona with their eclectic range of bookmarks and notebooks. Highlights include their Creative Notes series with contrasting patterned first page, the Blue Notes pocket set, and the brass lobster bookmarks.
Also rather eye-catching is the Before Breakfast brand where sadly only the notebooks are currently stocked, but they are decidedly different from other notebooks with their risograph print. And that is really the point – these are not the top selling books which you can get everywhere but the more unusual designs for those who like a point of difference and don’t want what everyone else has.
You’ve also got Danish design house Nomess with their vacuum-packed scissors and staplers and cork notebooks as well as Japanese brands Penco and Midori with the Traveler’s Notebook stocked here. Add in a nice selection of Taiwanese brand Tools to Live By, some beautiful Italian Fabriano books and the amazing Blackwing pencils and you have a rather fine selection of stationery to browse.
These days the LGC is owned by Rymans who bought up the business in 2016 but it still retains the old London Graphic magic. Despite the corporate ownership, they’ve retained a good relationship with the artistic community which can be witnessed through their blogs with articles on charcoal drawing and interviews with artists as well as a regular programme of workshops. Most are low cost, typically around £6 and cover subjects like brush lettering, painting and Kirigami (like Origami but with cutting allowed) card making.
Stationery is everywhere these days with most upmarket gift shops getting in on the act and there sure is a lot of good stuff out there. But for any stationery lover, the London Graphic Centre is an unmissable London stop-off with its huge range and spacious setting, mixing the niche with the popular and catering for the stationery tourist as well as the dedicated artist.