Making Paper Part 1: The Lab

Last week we were invited by our Paper supplier GFSmith to join them on a visit to the paper mill James Cropper, to see how the ColorPlan stock we use for our packaging is produced. Located in the heart of the Lake District in the North West of England, James Cropper has been producing paper for over 160 years and is widely noted as one of the best manufacturers of specialist paper products in the world.

With an early start scheduled for the Friday morning we stayed overnight in Windermere with fellow paper enthusiasts Paul from F E Burman a local printer, Aneel a graphic designer from Wallpaper magazine and Alyson and Aimee from GFSmith. After a hearty Cumbrian breakfast we traveled to Burneside where we were met by Stefan from James Cropper who looks after the paper GFSmith produces at the mill. After an introduction to the history of the mill, Stefan explained about the strict environmental code they follow which is represented by the ISO14001 rating for the business. As well as producing specialist papers Stefan talked through another side of their business called Technical Fibre Products, which utilises paper making technology with advanced materials for companies ranged from aviation to F1 Teams. Something we may explore for future products!

Heading out of the meeting room our first port of call was the colour laboratory where the colour recipes are mixed, calculated and tested for new variants and clients. We were met by master colourists Mark Starrs and Alison Rigg who explained the various stages of colour mixing and how the process is scaled up in production. As a reference they currently have 4000 shades on record and have produced 14000 shades since they began making colour in 1865. After a live demonstration of the mixing process Alison introduced the final step of testing for the presence of Metamorism, the degree the colour of paper will change under different light sources. It's this final step where you can fully understand the skill it takes to mix a new paper. With only an order of 2 tons of paper (or two pallets) needed for a unique colour we are more than tempted to start exploring our unique AJOTO shade.