Close up of paper edge showing paper fibers

Photo credit: ChP94 on http://commons.wikimedia.org/

I have had a love affair with paper since I was old enough to scribble on it with crayons. I don’t mean I like paper because I can write on it or draw on it or fold it into some interesting shape. I do like those things, but that’s not why I obsess with paper.

I mean I love paper. I love the feel of it, the smell of it, the amazing variations in texture and color. I love that it’s made from so many different materials – cotton, linen, hemp, wood, rags, and banana leaves – and that each of those papers has a different look, feel, and weight. I’m sure there are more materials paper is made from and I just don’t know about them – yet.

I would go into paper shops just to look at the racks of possibilities and end up buying some kind of paper solely because it looked so neat or felt so luxurious. Then I’d go home and add it to the stack of other possibilities waiting for me. I realized that one of the aspects of paper that I love is that each blank sheet could be anything. While I’m the first to admit that scares the hell out of me when I have to come up with an idea, I still find a blank page without any expectations a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, if all the paper around has no expectations attached to it, it tends to remain there, unused, taking up space. I realized my mom had a point about my paper obsession when I had to clean out a closet and most of what I took out of it was blank, beautiful paper. If I wasn’t going to do anything with it, she argued, why keep it? Point taken. I stopped myself from going to paper shops or picking up the tablets at conferences, but my love of paper didn’t abate. I just put it on hold.

Now I’m learning about paper from a designer’s perspective, which is very different from a layperson’s. Designer’s actually do things with paper and (yikes!) have expectations of paper. I’m having to conquer my fear of the blank page, although I still prefer some sort of structure on which to begin.

My class visited PaperPlus this week. We got to see first hand what a paper supplier looks like and ask questions about the process of working with a supplier and print shop. The process of speccing a paper for a project and working it into the budget seems daunting right now, but I’m sure by the time I graduate I’ll have a pretty good grasp on it. I do know the first thing to do now, though. Form a good working relationship with a paper supplier.

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