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The blue-eyed barbarian travels the world to meet some of the most authentic small businesses and brands. His aim is to collect and share their experience with the ones who are only on the beginning of the way.

Cinnober Bookshop Copenhagen

It was 9.5 years ago when Ulla Welinder, a graphic designer at that time, started Cinnober, a stationery and books shop in Copenhagen. Books are meticulously selected among international, visually inspiring editions on graphic design, illustration, architecture, street art, fashion and industrial design. Good vibes are noticeable immediately as you take your stairs down to the basement – you are met by raw white walls, as if you were on Santorini island, Leonard Cohen's calming voice in the background and the owner herself on the counter greeting you. We explored how Ulla Welinder built this sanctuary, how she finds time for excellent mailings and where the business is moving next. 

 
 
 
 

Pick a central space

The shop started 9.5 years ago from this space in the old city center near Trinitatis Church with its grand circular tower. "We have for several years been considering opening a specialized paper shop, but have felt that Copenhagen might be too small for such a shop. Many considerations and even more turnabouts have led us to reconsider, and now we have opened our own version, a paper-and-book-shop." – says Welinder.

The first clients came right from the street windows. Welinder noticed that sometimes people like to come there because they needed to feel calmness in the noisy day-life. Here's what she said about the creation of such a place:

 
 
 
 
 

Tell them you've arrived

Right after Cinnober opened its doors Welinder sent out "a little letter for the press" that she was opening, with books, design and art. The letter headed to local Danish magazines and newspapers. Luckily one of them, a very good one, responded and did make an article about a shop. 

Now some magazines come and ask some books for photo-shootings in Christmas issues. They are welcome. That's very good but unfortunately you cannot arrange that happening when you want. You just have to be there. For the people who open bookshops now it is just good to know that there are magazines that might be looking for your books to use. You can have a good cooperation.

Develop a deep expertise

There are some bookshops in Copenhagen of course. But they do mainly art and coffee-table books. Cinnober is a very carefully selected collection of design and architecture. Every book passes through Welinder's hands: she says that the book has to bring right feelings to her personally – that way it goes to the collection.

The center of our attention will, however, be the books. In our universe a book about visual arts has to be fascinating and vibrant and should send shivers up your spine. For this reason we find it essential to visit the book fairs and to experience the books alive. It is only through this hands-on approach that we can discover if a new book really gives inspiration as well as pleasure.
— Ulla Welider in an interview to geshtalten.com

She travels a lot. To book-fairs biannually: in Frankfurt and in London. She visits London book-fair more often because it's much more fun that Frankfurt. She also travels to Stockholm, Paris and try to see local things that are not in established book-houses.

Regular updates and events

Back at home Cinnober hosts exhibitions of artists and publishers if they are produced in Denmark. Last year there were six events, now there'll be the third one this year. When people come in and tell Welinder an idea, that's how events happen. Next week, for example, there will be an exhibition of a photographer. And a publisher has made a book with his pictures and it will be released at the same time. So there'll be a reception.

How to make events not suck like in large commercial bookshops? Welinder's advice is:

Try to make them personal. Each time there is a person, for example a photographer. So the people who come are from his circle: family, friends. That way it is not very commercial. He comes, says hello to the people and start the exhibition. People have some drinks and celebrate.
— UW

A great newsletter

Cinnober has a monthly newsletter. And the clients are quite satisfied with that. Welinder writes in a very personal way about the books, make personal reviews. They always have a theme. The October, for example, was about the impermanence of life and autumn changes. November was about returning home, having a dinner and a cosy place. Welinder uses a few days overtime to write this. Also people get invitations to the events that way. She has been doing this almost from the beginning – for the 9 years now. There's now 2500 people in a mailing list.

 
 Experience the letter fully  here >

Experience the letter fully here >

 

How do people get in your newsletter? They can get inside writing in a notepad on the cashier desk.

 
 

Go meet the world

Cinnober went to some design fairs in the beginning. "For five years. It was a huge work and really expensive. But it has been a really nice experience as well. Because you get really out. It can be five-ten thousands Euros easily. But it was really nice to experience the people outside the shop. And you also have to make sure you can pass so many books through your desk." – Ulla Welinder.

Online business

Cinnober used to have a web-shop that sold books and paper to Danish customers. But so many tourists has been asking if they can get it back home. So Welinder has invested in a totally new web-shop last summer that can expand Europe wide. She plans to expand the business without going out of her shop: "I like the pace and that I have time with customers."

At the end you don’t know what exactly is effective for the business. You just have to work really hard. And without passion you wouldn’t enjoy that path very much. When I travel and find books I am very very happy. And also when I am here in shop although I’ve been here for so many hours.
— UW
 
the blue-eyed barbarian