Let's start off 2021.

Hello again. Daryl here. I hope you’re all safe and well.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, this letter comes to you unusually late for the new year. We've been busy behind the scenes, developing new products and making some changes to our workshop scheduling and operations.

I'll talk about some of these updates in a bit. But first, let's recap 2020 — see where we've been, to inform where we're headed.

A year in review

The atelier had a busy last year, considering the abject circumstances.

We launched our folio notebooks in both Tomoe River and Bank Paper in January, to immediate and positive response. These offerings, meant as the first stage in our new Tomo system of refillable covers and the notebooks that go into them, have been very popular with all of you. They also helped accomplish our long-held goal of adding something more affordable to the lineup for everyday use.

Of course, our line of handbound journals still forms the pride and joy of the atelier, and so we followed this up with our Quechua diary, which promptly broke hearts and wallets wherever it appeared. More importantly, this release helped bring a new community of Peruvian weavers on board our One Musubi programme for indigenous support, expanding our social ambit and its positive impact.

Keeping in line with our promise to release products focused on personal expression and mental health, we brought our new oversized sketchbooks to the lineup — introducing the wonders of Japanese washi for art to a wider frame and an even wider audience.

For folks who wanted to stare at prints instead of make them, we debuted a new series of ad hoc diaries that added fun and playful patterns to the mix. There'll be many more diaries joining this series in the year ahead, so keep an eye out for your favourite animals and motifs.

And finally, we dropped the biggest bombshell of all, partnering with the inimitable Leigh Reyes to produce Overgrowth, a series of hand-painted diaries to benefit autism charities here in Singapore. This collaboration helped raise a substantial sum in support of education programmes for children with autism, and Leigh and I remain eternally grateful for the love and support you showed our charity drive.

I deeply appreciate the support and constancy all of you have given us throughout this pandemic. Thanks to you, Musubi is still standing. Our artisans are safe and employed, and we've been able to plan out our finances and get ready for the next phase of our journey.

This year, the atelier enters its fifth year of operations. I've said from the start that Musubi is not here for the short run. We intend to build and keep you, our customers, on board for life in our quest to ensure that people from disadvantaged backgrounds get the financial support they need and the respect they deserve. I could not have asked for any better partners than all of you for the past four wild, crazy, tumultuous years; with your help and a bit of luck, we will weather the storms together for many more.

But the work continues apace. So, what's happening in 2021?

Diaries, made to order

Over the past few years we've been steadily introducing new fabrics and patterns to our regular lineup. Diaries are deeply personal objects, so from cats to indigo to wool and back to cats again, I've tried to make sure there's something for everyone and cover as many bases as possible.

But we're rapidly running into a problem: there's not much more room to introduce new items to the lineup without having to delete some of the previous releases. The atelier's small, after all, and we can't really keep adding things and keeping their stock indefinitely. However, removing some of our older patterns would also disappoint the significant number of you who have a strong preference for using the same diary every time.

In trying to solve this conundrum, I've decided to implement something that we've been planning for a long time: effective immediately, most of our handbound journals will move to a made-to-order system.

This means that when you place your order, it enters the atelier's work log, and we begin the process of binding it on the next working day. We expect to finish and ship your journals within two weeks.

This change is primarily to our regular lineup of handbound journals. It doesn't affect the specialty materials we offer, such as our beloved vintage kimono diaries, or our One Musubi indigenous range. Our diaries with special paper, including the ever-popular iridescent indigo Bank Paper offering, are also not affected. These items will ship immediately when ordered, just as before.

Other products outside our handbound line, such as our Tomo system folio notebooks and our pen cases, are not part of this change and will also continue to ship right away. You can see each item's shipping status on the product page, near the Add to Cart button: it will either read "made to order" or "ships immediately".

This new made-to-order system will allow us to keep more fabrics in the lineup for longer, reducing the need for you to order immediately upon release for fear of stock running out. It'll also let us introduce a wider variety of choices, since we don't have to keep fully-made stock on hand for each and every option all the time. Finally, it opens up the possibility for more customisation options down the line, which is something I'm particularly excited to look into.

The one downside is that you'll now need to cater a little lead time when ordering a gift for someone's birthday, or for an anniversary. So please leave a little more room in your planning when doing so from here on out.

I'll monitor this new system for a bit to see how it works out. In the meantime, you can expect to see more new patterns make their way into the system, starting with the year's first drop in March.

Boxing up, squaring off

Those of you who've ordered our pen cases before will know that they arrive in a small football made out of bubble wrap. While effective at preventing damage in transit, this wasn't the most presentable of appearances — especially if you were planning on giving said pen cases to friends and loved ones.

So we're introducing a new gift box for our pen cases.

Custom-made right here in Singapore, these boxes feature a black outer shell with Musubi's signature vertical lines — the same debossed design you've come to know and love from our handbound journal slipcases. The pen case itself sits within an inner tray and riser which slides out of the box.

And, of course: the entire box, tray, and riser assembly is made out of sustainable paper from Japan, and can be completely flattened for recycling at your local facility — with no special requirements.

All pen cases purchased from today will include this new box. I hope you find it useful and lovely in equal measure.

Walking the talk

Finally, something extremely dear to my heart.

I've felt for the longest time that we were always making a big ask of you, to put your confidence and trust in us. After all, we're an online-only atelier operating on the other side of the planet from most of you, and in an age of constant marketing spiel it can be hard to ensure that you're truly supporting causes that matter.

That's why I'm beyond pleased to announce that Musubi is now a full member of raiSE, the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise.

raiSE is a Singapore government-linked non-profit promoting and developing the social entrepreneurship sector here in Singapore. Its members must demonstrate that their business models include clear and sustainable social impact goals, and that they have a proven track record of positive social impact.

You can view our new listing on the raiSE website. I hope it gives you even more confidence that Musubi is, in fact, here for good.

Putting it all together

Phew, that was a long one! Thanks for sticking with me to the end.

There'll be another letter soon, with all the details on our major drop in March. (Hint: Cosmo Air Light is here.) Look out for it shortly — it'll be product-focused, with plenty to fawn over and plenty to love.

In the meantime, keep well, and thank you for four solid years of love and support. Never stop lighting candles in the dark.

Much love
on behalf of everyone here at Musubi