By Evelyn Heis, Film & TV Editor
Bristol is bursting with creativity; with its thriving art scene illuminating the streets, to the array of independent businesses, it’s a city that is as artistic as it is animated. Many of the shops that sit in the heart of the city are local businesses, providing a homey atmosphere that grounds Bristol as a hub for all things artisan, indie, and crafty. There is something exceptionally endearing about the local community’s support of independent businesses, with many members of Bristol’s community steering clear of large chains and online enterprises, choosing solely to shop local.
It was exactly this sentiment that helped to propound sales for one of the latest independent shops that has opened in Bristol this November. Located at 11 Christmas Steps, Bristol’s community welcomed brand-new visual arts magazine and stationery shop Rova Editions with open arms last week, as they celebrated their grand opening. Full of independently published magazines, high-end and design-led stationery, cookbooks, coffee table picture books, and artsy prints, Rova is a store that encompasses every aspect of visual culture and is as aesthetically pleasing as it sounds.
This design-driven space was founded by Paul Baxter, who kept creativity and innovation at the heart of Rova’s ethos, placing significant thought and attention on the details and interiors of the premises. One of the store’s many charms is Paul’s championing of all things independent, utilising the works of local artists, such as Bedminster-based Tozer Signs, whose vibrant typography creations helped to bring the store to life. Rova also features Arc Makers’ custom-made tables, Easton’s Fyahfly’s branded tote bags, and The LetterPress Collective’s hand-printed and meticulous gift vouchers. It’s lovely to see the all-around support within Bristol’s indie circle, with Rova’s neighbours, Fancy Plants, adding a finishing touch to the store with their houseplants.
When I approached Paul to ask what drew him to open such a unique store, he warmly responded that he was filling a vacuum he felt in Bristol’s independent scene: ‘Shops like this exist in other places. They are grand and look lovely, the products in them are fantastic, and they are the type of places to discover things. Bristol didn’t have a shop like this, and it should have; it’s as simple as that.
'A lot of the magazines we have may be hard to find. Some of them are easier to find than others, but to find them all in one place is a different thing altogether'
‘All the main cities around Europe have magazine shops. In Berlin, there are four! Even Bath, which is so close to us, has a shop. But Bristol didn’t, and that didn’t seem fair’.
From the moment you step into the store, you’ll find that you are immediately transported into an extensive world of arts, culture, fashion, design, architecture, nature, and all things business and automotive through the range of independent magazines from creatives around the world. In conversation with Paul about the products prospective customers can expect Rova to stock, he reiterated that ‘Everything here is independent. Absolutely everything we sell is. There is nothing here that you would find in other stationery and magazine shops, like WHSmith, or supermarkets. A lot of the magazines we have may be hard to find. Some of them are easier to find than others, but to find them all in one place is a different thing altogether.
‘All the magazines are really well produced. You’ll notice if you pick them up, the quality of the paper, the ink, the writing, the photography—the fact that most of them don’t have advertising in—that’s a sort of common thread’.
Indeed, alongside the impressive titles, customers will find stacked on bespoke tables and shelving a carefully curated selection of stationery and lifestyle products such as calendars, journals and agendas from Southeast London’s print-tastic paper aficionados, The Completist.
'[I]t’s been a great opportunity to have conversations with people as well, which is part of the reason why I wanted to open this shop. I wanted to have these interesting conversations with people'
As anything but a stationery expert, I was intrigued by Paul’s diverse selection of stationery products, ‘The stationery that we sell is a special, collectable, interest. Most of it, you can’t find in any high street shops. I won’t claim to be the only stationery shop in Bristol, because there are other shops which sell good quality stationery, but people love to support their indies. Some people are really into gorgeous stationery; there are bits and bobs from Japan and Germany. A lot of it is well designed, and some of it has been around for a long time, like the fountain pens which were designed in the 1930s. People are really into that, and it’s been nice to have people come in and tell me that they collect these types of things’.
Having had the privilege to visit the store one evening, I browsed the selection of eye-catching and dynamic publications, completely enamoured with the products on display. Giving into my impulses, I simply couldn’t leave Rova empty-handed, and I took home a cookbook I had contemplated purchasing for quite some time. To my surprise, Rova had one sitting on the shelves, and I took that as a sign that I just had to have it for myself. The Latin American Cookbook (2021), published by the renowned Phaidon publishers, was one of the many prized items that Rova has to offer. I can only encourage you to take a look for yourself.
Paul is overjoyed with the support from the community, ‘We opened a week ago, and these first few days have been absolutely amazing! I had no idea if anyone was into this locally, and I’ve had many people show an interest! It turns out there are quite a lot of fans of print, in general. Some are knowledgeable, some people are just curious, and there are a lot of them. It’s a great location, too. I think that there is an appetite, particularly for the magazines but also for the stationery as well.
‘It’s been a really positive response, and it’s been a great opportunity to have conversations with people as well, which is part of the reason why I wanted to open this shop. I wanted to have these interesting conversations with people, and I am learning quite a lot from others, which is exactly what I wanted’.
Boasting a huge range of books, stationery, wrapping paper, magazines, greeting cards and more, Rova is opening just in time for Christmas. Without a shadow of a doubt, those in Bristol can find something for family and friends both near and far—the possibilities are endless when Rova has so much to offer.
Featured Image: Epigram / Evelyn Heis