Meet Cafe Analog’s Desiree Oude Groothuis

A deep love for journaling, writing to penpals, and Japanese culture inspired Desiree to bring the best-curated stationery to the Netherlands. Today, she continues to make this analog dream come true for herself and many makers of crafts and lovers of paper around the globe.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Desiree Oude Groothuis, female, 58 years old, married to my best friend, mother of a daughter (29 years old, and first-time mommy to my first grandchild, Emi). I am also the owner of a successful business in children’s entertainment since 1998: Alles Kids (www.alleskids.nl). I live 20 minutes from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in a small village called Huizen (43k inhabitants). My whole life, I have had a big interest in Japan and its culture. As a child, I loved all the Kawaii stuff, and as an adult,

I read books and watched every film and documentary available. This went further than Memoirs of a Geisha, by the way. I was mostly intrigued by their culture, spirituality, and perfection in everything. So I watched all the Ghibli movies too.

My biggest dream came true in 2017 when I traveled to Tokyo in April with my daughter Kelli for two weeks.

How did Cafe Analog start?
Around 2008, I started Postcrossing as one of the first in the Netherlands. It became huge, as you may know nowadays. I liked the fact that you could meet people all over the world by merely writing a card. Not much later, I met different Japanese people online through the Postcrossing Forum and Bulletin Boards. I took on pen palling and wrote hundreds of cards and letters.

I built up fantastic pen pal relationships that way, especially with women from Japan, and I actually met some of them, and they have come to visit me in The Netherlands already too.

Around 2011 I discovered the Travelers Notebook. I have had a diary since I was 12 -18 years old, and afterward, I forgot about it, life and motherhood got in the way. But this brought me back to where I had left my heart: in writing, drawing, cutting, and pasting. I loved how customizable it was! How I could make it my exclusive life carrier. Since then, I have it with me wherever I go.

I journaled about my trips and vacations, but also my daily planning, and many lists were in there. Not many people knew about it back then. Through many different Facebook groups that I started about journaling, I met other likeminded people. Meanwhile, I discovered the different worlds about paper, pens, penmanship, covers, inserts, and stationery that evolved around it, too; I was mesmerized. Especially impressed with Japanese stationery and the love for paper, the quality, and the authenticity.

I can totally lose myself in letterpress stationery, handmade washi paper, beautiful fountain pens, and gorgeous leather products, and I feel the need to share it with people that appreciate it too.

Thanks to my dutch business, Postcrossing, Facebook, and my first Instagram account @cherishedbydees in 2017, I started to have a bigger network and the know-how and contacts to start something new. I have stopped my @cherishedbydees account because I lacked time to keep up with both. Now, @cafeanalog17 is my main IG account.

How was your first time to visit Japan? What was it like?

When I was in Japan the first time, in 2017, I had interesting meetings and talks with people there and met artists, designers, and shop owners. One day I met with other stationery lovers in Bunbougu Cafe. I was so impressed with everything after these two weeks that I went home with a head full of ideas. A week later, one night, I couldn’t sleep, got out of bed, sat down with a notebook, and a pen, and that’s when Cafe Analog was born. I wanted to pioneer one more time and start-up something new that I so strongly believed in.

Two years and 14 Stationery Cafes later, we have a lively IG and FB community, a Webshop that sends out numerous packages a day all over the world, and we reached the point that Baum-Kuchen is ready to do a collab with us. The Baum-Kuchen I had always looked up to in a big way!

What are your most significant considerations in running a stationery business?
I am very enthusiastic and passionate about my work, my beliefs, and my hobbies. I can totally lose myself in letterpress stationery, handmade washi paper, beautiful fountain pens, and gorgeous leather products, and I feel the need to share it with people that appreciate it too.

I noticed I lack time to write and journal as much as I did before. Running two businesses is kind of overwhelming at certain times. We are trying to sell the entertainment business so that I can go on with Cafe Analog full time.

Another big thing for me is to support and buy from female entrepreneurs/designers and support small businesses. Just to be able to stand up against the big guys with cheap mass productions and because I believe we women should support each other!!

Most of my stamps, for example, are designed/made by women I really believe in, and I love that they can use their talents for a better life! Also, I can share and spread their analogue love around the world this way.

I love to bring people together and share mutual passions.
Interactivity, meeting, learning, and connecting.
It all comes together in Cafe-Analog.

After two trips to Japan, I know of course there is more to love about Japan, apart from stationery. I found a deep sense of spirituality at the temples and shrines and in the parks, I am even genuinely intrigued with Japanese life and culture, and the symbolism behind it all. For some strange reason, I feel so at home and safe there like I belong there. It is like coming home for me.

What is your personal belief?
If you can dream it, you can do it, and where there is a will, there is a way!

What are your creative outlets or sources of inspiration?
First of all, I get inspired mostly by nature, during long walks with my Cocker Spaniel, Zelda, who is now almost five years old. With her, it always feels like we are going for adventures off the road. And of course by traveling, like to Japan, where I went alone by the way last time! That sure was an eye-opener, because I loved every second of it! And saw more than I ever had in a week!I get inspired by people like Wakako and Eunice from @baumkuchenstudio for the last four years; also, @passion_ephemera and @skybambi inspire me with their thought-provoking posts.

I am definitely a collector of paper things; vintage fairytale cards, vintage postage stamps (Japan, England, Scandinavia) vintage written letters, and ephemera like old filmstar pictures, nib tins, and recently antique inkpots and wax seals.

Most of my stamps, for example, are designed or made by women I really believe in, and I love that they can use their talents for a better life!

I followed some online journaling- and multimedia courses, but I miss the contact with other people. Going to workshops is something I like to do. I went to calligraphy classes, and am going to a Kintsugi workshop soon! My big dream is to speak and write in Japanese.

What are your studio must-haves or favorite supply?

1. Travelers Notebook Regular – 2014 Brown Narita Airport Edition (I got it through a friend that went to Japan that year). This is the one with the shiny brown leather that I really prefer above the new ones. It’s well used and bruised, and it has my whole private life in it. It’s going everywhere with me. I use a Vertical Calendar Diary for it (2 x 6 months) and two grid/dotted inserts.

2. Travelers Notebook Regular – 2017 The Tokyo Trainstation Edition ( a Japanese friend sent me this one). This is the Cafe Analog book, and it has info on everything that has to do with the webshop /community.

3. Midori B6 – my book of quotes, simple journaling, little secrets, I love the size of this one for journaling. I have a nude leather cover for it, that ages really nicely too!

4. Leuchtturm A5 in Olive green – for making spreads, writing monthly check-ins for our #PROJECTME, and our Cafe Analog challenges. I like the paper and the size of this for bigger journaling. https://www.cafe-analog.nl/en/project-me-2019-the-start/

5. For my Vacation Journals, I usually make separate TN inserts when I am back home again. I have been doing this for ages, so there is quite a stack of them already! I keep them all in the TN cardboard binders. While on vacation I take a stack of envelopes with me: 1 envelope per day with the date on it, at night I put in there every piece of ephemera I found during that day. On the envelope, I write the highlights of that day. This makes it very easy to create a journal that way, without forgetting why, when, and where it was.

6. Junk Journal, I have a TN insert that was made by a friend (similar to a notebook with different kinds of papers in it) where I glue in all the thank you notes that come with packages, happy mail, or whatever. Yes, there are a couple from Eunice and Wakako in there that I cherish!

What is it about writing or journaling you love?
I need to see things on paper to remember them well. Page through and find what I need makes me happy. And writing them down is actually an extra way to remember. Also, writing stuff down is kind of therapeutic for me. It helps to write away negative feelings, to clear my mind and to see stuff clearer. This goes for typing on a machine too.

Other than stationery, what are you most passionate about?
I love to bring people together and share mutual passions. Interactivity, meeting, learning, and connecting. It all comes together in Cafe-Analog.

If you would like to see more of Desiree and Cafe Analog, you can follow her on Instagram @cafeanalog17

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