POEM FOREST Prize Partner Spotlight: Introducing Corban & Blair


Corban & Blair is a female-owned Australian design business that “pursues profit and purpose”. Their mindful offering includes beautiful art, design and gifts, along with made-to-order marketing products, that emphasise Australian stories, culture and values. As a prize partner for POEM FOREST, they are offering their beautiful poetic writing journals as part of this year's prize packs.

We caught up with partner and co-founder Gillian Corban to discuss her long-term support of Red Room Poetry, her passion for small business, and the intersection between poetry and sustainable design.

Welcome, Gillian! First of all, tell us a bit about Corban & Blair – unlike a lot of businesses that approach sustainability as something to add to their existing practices, Corban & Blair seems to take sustainability as its starting point. What does it mean to “pursue profit and purpose”?

Corban & Blair have created an awareness that
beauty & pleasure exist
in the imperfections of recycled materials.

Clever design & manufacturing
can give raw materials – even refuse – a new life.

Environmental responsibility demands we
explore innovative solutions to create products
that are beautiful as well as useful.

Partnerships with leading edge customers, suppliers
& collaborators are key to achieving this goal.
This attitude informs the very essence of our company.

The above is the philosophy we started with in 1988 and we have maintained this over the years. In 2023, we are more on-trend than ever, and we have become a B Corp certified company, meaning we meet high standards of social and environmental performance and transparency to create a better economic system where businesses can benefit people, communities and the planet.

And can you tell us a bit about your work – as co-founder, how does your role fit within the business’s overarching mission?

Corban & Blair is a business that designs and makes products that could loosely be called stationery, although we do more than that. My role is to keep us focussed on our agreed purpose and values, to understand what drives people, and to share knowledge by harnessing our collective wisdom, explaining things from different perspectives, and listening to co-workers and others we collaborate with. Listening is very important. Being open, agile and courageous is important in a small creative business. One must always SHOW UP.

Corban & Blair is generously contributing prizes for Red Room Poetry’s POEM FOREST Prize in 2023. What makes this partnership important to you?

We have worked with Red Room Poetry for a long time. We love the way they approach their purpose and the creativity and diversity they bring into the realm of poets and poetry. They inform our culture. As a for-profit business, we are inspired when working with other creative organisations like Red Room Poetry.

The marriage that POEM FOREST forms between poetry and trees seems to make a lot of intuitive sense – at least to our team. What, to you, is the connection between poetry and conservation?

To me poetry is about the soul. It is intuitive, emotional, experiential. It is about life and how we feel about it, how we live it and protect it. Words have such essence when selected and put together for powerful effect. There are many ways to communicate about how we need to care about our floral environment – poetry has a way to get to the soul and emotion and alerts understanding as well as curiosity.

I feel like beautiful stationery can serve to foreground the inherent tactility and materiality of writing, which is sometimes easy to forget in the digitally-mediated world. What do you see as the relationship between your products and poetry, or other creative practices?

Our products are made from materials that respond to design ideas, touch and smell. They are mostly made by hand, by skilled workers. Organic materiality is very important – we communicate with our hands, mind and senses. Mind, hand and print can come together as single words, sentences, drawings and doodles on different kinds of paper – recycled papers, reused papers, coloured papers – with a myriad of writing implements.

What advice would you give to young people and emerging entrepreneurs who are interested in sustainable, creative business ownership?

GO FOR IT. It’s a challenging and a rewarding journey. You can create and make things happen. It is important, as we need to save our planet from ourselves. Be open, curious, try things and don’t give up when things don’t work out. Reflect, learn and keep moving your passion forward.

Learn more about the exciting 2023 POEM FOREST Prize Packs to which Corban & Blair are contributing, and view their full product offering on the Corban & Blair website.