The beauty that is the paper clip

James Ward has an unusual attachment to paper clips. And when he sees one, he sees “a piece of art, but it’s also a piece of useful art.”

And like any serious art appreciator, he is also a collector. He showed correspondent Suysan Spencer variations from his collection of tens of thousands of paper clips, from the classic design … to “owl” paper clips … to cross-over clips.

Variations in paper clip design.

CBS News

The London-based author wrote a book on the subject, “The Perfection of the Paper Clip,” simply because he felt the need for a definitive work. And at least one paper clip is always on him – a tattoo on his left arm.

Author and paper clip collector James Ward never leaves home without at least one paper clip.

CBS News

That paper clip design is the so-called Gem, which dates back more than a century. Though there have been numerous different styles, it’s that Gem that brings out the poet in Ward: 

“It is quite a beautiful object,” he said. “Almost suggests a kind of eternity, but with each end, in a way, it’s sort of a broken eternity.”

Atria Books

“Boy, you’re reading a lot into a paper clip!” Spencer laughed.

Eternity or not, one thing is certain: The paper clip is an office staple – not to be confused with the office stapler.

Spencer asked, “If you had to communicate one thought about paper clips, as one of the world’s foremost authorities, what would that be?”

“Treasure them,” Ward replied. “Think about them, use them. And reflect on them.”

“This is close to a religious experience, isn’t it?”

Ward laughed. “It does its job and it looks beautiful. It’s like, that’s all you can ask from a piece of design.”

For more info:

Story produced by Amiel Weisfogel. Editor: Carol Ross. 

More from Susan Spencer on design:

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