Élodie Boyer on paper
Since 2011, De Monsterkamer interviews designers about paper. What is their favourite paper, what are their sources of inspiration and how do they see the future of paper? The questions are always the same, the answers are surprising.
What is your favorite paper, why?
This is very hard to say because it is actually the diversity of papers and the contrast between papers that I enjoy the most. I can tell you the paper that we use often, as a basis or as a starting point, which is Munken from Arctic Paper. Regarding colours, I used to prefer Munken Polar The uncoated, smooth surface of the Munken Polar and the fresh white shade provide a characteristic image reproduction and an exclusive, natural look. because of its extra white but these days I prefer Munken Lynx The uncoated, smooth surface of the Munken Lynx and the natural white shade provide an exclusive and at the same time authentic look, with a natural paper feel. because it is softer on my eyes, easier for reading. I would say that I tend to prefer Munken Rough The uncoated, highly tactile surface of the Munken Polar Rough and the fresh white hue ensures a beautiful image reproduction in combination with a natural paper feel. Thanks to the high bulk, you can use a lower grammage while maintaining the appropriate thickness and rigidity of the printed matter. lately, although I used to love when paper was really smooth (Conqueror CX22 Conqueror CX22 is a wood-free uncoated text and cover paper and board with a very smooth surface, in various shades of white. The smooth surface of Conqueror CX22 ensures very sharp image reproduction. was my favourite).
Then I can talk about extraordinary papers, like the Curious Matter The Curious Matter paper is produced with potato starch, which gives the surface a sandy touch. Because the surface is covered with microscopic spheres, it leaves an unforgettable impression. from Arjowiggins, or even more impressive, the papers from Takeo, a Japanese manufacturer. Some of their papers really are national treasures, such as the Edo Kosome range, which is pure beauty. Fedrigoni is also producing wonderful papers that we use a lot, so is G.F Smith… Ohlala so many great papers, this is a chance, I love them all. Because what you do with papers can completely change your perception of them. When you go against the flow, it makes things so interesting. For example, when I was young, I refused glossy papers (as a stupid principle), but I completely changed my mind. Actually if you force me to name my favourite paper, I would say the paper used for maps, especially the pedestrian maps. Once, we used a paper made for IGN (French National Institute of Geography) by Papeteries de Vizille, I just can’t stop caressing and smelling this paper.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role?
Everytime paper plays such a crucial role, what else can I say? In printing, in binding, in weight, in opacity, in bulkiness, the role of papers is obsene. People tend to ignore it but paper is the silent master. Just one example: it is thanks to the so dense LuxoMagic that we could make our first book Lettres du Havre as we wished (804 pages). LuxoMagic enabled the book to be less than 6 cm thick and thus Patist could bind it.
How important is the choice of paper in your design work? Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
Yes. First we warm up by thinking of the type of papers, to guess what would fit the project best. Ususally we easily consider all the extremes (not as a principle but as a fact), from very gloss to super rough, very light, very thick. Thinking of the papers actually help us to define what we do, what we want to say about the project we make: is it precious? Is it very accessible, very ordinary, very low key or super premium? Is it completely unexpected or is it very familiar, etc. etc. Then we start making white dummies and print tests with Lenoirschuring [Zwaan Lenoir since 2019], our sole and unique printer, and so many new information comes out, especially considering transparency/opacity. On this matter as well, we can completely change our mind for the project. On one book for instance (Rococo), we did so many mad attempts to fight against transparency, including trying to print white over the paper (ridiculous with a step back, but sometimes we can be so blind and stubborn); in the end, the paper is slightly transparent and this is the thing we love the most in this book. Everything depends on how we look at things; we should work to open our brain and welcome the unexpected.
Once we have chosen the paper and we’re looking forward, the question of availability can sometimes be a big frustration… but we always find a way. It can happen that the rescue solution is even better than the initial plan.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
For sure Karel Martens. He keeps surprising us by turning away the usual use of paper. He usually picks very simple, very innocent papers and he makes them look so sensitive. Also the way he folds papers. His last book Tokyo papers is a typical example. I envy this paper so much, the texture is gorgeous and so perfect for a book related to Japan.
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
It’s the same with fonts: the offer is immense, but, sometimes, the one you need just doesn’t exist. For paper, in theory, I would say there aren’t any gaps. I don’t have enough time/enough projects to use all the wonderful papers available, since there are so many. But in practice, when you want something very specific, the choices narrow down and it definitely happens that I miss a paper. Maybe papers similar to Opakal Opakal is een mat gekalanderd houtvrij dundruk met een zeer hoge opaciteit (ondoorzichtigheid van het papier). Hierdoor is Opakal in het bijzonder geschikt voor de realisatie van (woorden)boeken, handleidingen, catalogi, dienstregelingen, bijbels, agenda’s, een bijsluiters., very thin and quite opaque. Or paper similar to tracing papers but different. Here the choice is limited. Indeed, I would love to have an extremely thin and extremely bulky paper.
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
Probably not to be able to use a paper we love because it is not available in the right format or not in the right grain direction (long grain/short grain). Or sometimes when we choose a specific binding, we cannot use a certain type of paper (like glossy paper in combination with cold glue). In fact, it is all the dilemmas that occur when you have to choose between several things you seek but you cannot get them all at the same time (super thin and super opaque, this paper and this binding, this thin paper and this thick book, this paper and this colour, etc. etc.)
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections?
Thanks to my cherished printer it is quite easy. I am also in direct contact with Fedrigoni and Arctic Paper in France and they are very helpful. It depends on countries as well. For example, I would love to use G.F Smith papers but in France they are not so accessible.
How do you see the future of paper?
I just hope the paper manufacturers hold on, like the good printers and the good binders. They have an amazing know-how but most people don’t want to pay for quality anymore. I hope the fight for quality and non standard printed matter will go on. We just must.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Élodie Boyer