Julie Peeters 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?
What a challenge to choose only one! I love to play with different papers in relation to one another, so if I think of one paper it immediately leads me to another one. The paper that I always return to is called Speedgloss and it’s a coated paper that contains a bit of wood, so it turns a bit yellowish when it ages. It’s distributed by Papyrus and the weight doesn’t exceed 90 g/m2. I usually use it in either 90 or 70 g/m2. It also exists in a Matt variant, Speedmatt. My runner up would be Planopak, which is a very light uncoated paper which is slightly bulky and has a high opacity. I like the 60 g/m2 version.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role?
The book Mechanisms which I designed in collaboration with Scott Ponik for The Wattis Institute in San Francisco (Roma Publications, 2017) uses different paper stocks to emphasise the idea of the mechanical processes that come into focus while making a book. We really wanted the paper to operate as part of the content of the book, so it is more then just a guiding principle or surface to be printed on. Although the book consists of different sections for each artist, the many paper changes have a rhythm of their own, not necessary correlating with the different sections in the book. In the magazine BILL, which I founded in 2017 (also published by Roma) the paper is actually functioning as a navigation tool for the content. The magazine consist of about a dozen visual stories by different contributors that are presented without any guiding text. The idea behind this annual periodical is to investigate the printed image and of course the paper it’s printed on plays a crucial role in this. Every photo story in BILL is printed on a different paper stock, which I hope enhances the reading of the images. The touch and texture of the paper is a big part of the experience of reading the magazine.
How important is the choice of paper in your design work? Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
I always start thinking about the choice of paper from the very beginning of a project. I couldn’t imagine not having thought of the physical manifestation of the design while working on it. A lot of the choices are limited by time, budget and other logistic constrains, which makes it harder sometimes to get exactly the sensorial experience I have in mind. At the same time it’s a fun challenge to have to keep looking for solutions until you find all of the decisions just fall into place. And of course sometimes it doesn’t feel exactly as I had hoped for, although I find that with time I usually can embrace the paper choices I made, even if I was doubting them at first.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
Karel Martens, who was my teacher at Werkplaats Typografie and a mentor in the true sense, both in work and in life, has always inspired me to think about paper as a humble material. He consistently uses uncoated paper in his work but also often makes his “monoprints” on paper or cardboard that he finds in random places. The best example of this must be the slightly padded paper that is used to separate two layers of “pralines” in a chocolate box. He once found a stack of them on the streets in Belgium and loved printing on them so he asked me if I could find him more. I went into nearly every chocolate shop in Brussels to inquire but sadly nowadays they are all branded with logo’s and I only found two lousy pieces… luckily I got one back from Karel with a beautiful print on it!
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
I love printing on coated paper stocks but I miss an extremely glossy paper which is coated on both sides. Can somebody make a version of Chromolux Chromolux® is a white, one-sided cast-coated paper and cardboard with a high gloss and extremely smooth front and white, uncoated back (80-135 g / m2) or light-coated back (180-400 g / m2). Chromolux® has good printability and is suitable for most finishing and finishing techniques. It is the perfect choice for high-quality graphics applications and is therefore widely used by the better quality brands. which is double sided? Another ongoing quest is to find wood containing paper that has a weight that is higher then 100 g/m2. I generally find coated paper to feel quite artificial, which seems to be a lot less so in older books, where the glossiness has a certain ‘patina”, which I attribute to the wood factor…
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
The fact that so many papers seem to be unavailable when you want to order them! I always triple check every paper choice with the printer I work with before getting my hopes up…
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections? How do you see the future of paper?
I find that there is a lot of effort put into sample books and presentations by the different paper suppliers, but I prefer to not buy in to their sale strategy too much. As said above, in my experience often those “speciality” papers are not available or extremely expensive. I usually ask for A4 samples of specific papers that I’m interested in and collect them in a A4 binder. I find that searching for a paper in a sample book usually doesn’t work well for me, I can never find what I’m looking for, or the samples are too small to really experience what the paper feels like.
How do you see the future of paper?
Hopeful! Although so many changes are happening in the printing and paper world, I still believe that there is a big demand for paper. Generally it seems that although our world is turning more and more digital, there is a need for a physical engagement with printed objects. My friends that own bookshops tell me their business is going up, and I also notice that my students are very engaged with the printing of their work, and how paper plays a role in the message they want to convey. I believe that a company like Arctic Paper has set the tone for a more conscious and holistic approach to making and supplying paper and I’m hopeful more companies will follow their footsteps.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Julie Peeters