Every morning that I go to work I pass the same stretch of water. Belfast Lough leads in from the North Channel of the Irish Sea and brings commercial shipping in to the City's harbour. On a very few special days, early on, when the water is very still and there's a slight haze; when the sun is trying to burn through the low hanging cloud, the view can be astounding, often forcing me to stop. Some days it's hard to tell where the sky meets the sea and there's just a cool blanket of ethereal mist. These days are the best: when the sun pushes through the white curtain to highlight the corporate colours of a shipping company's livery as the freighter cuts through the glassy water.
Having spent most of my life in largely land-locked locations, a daily dose of salt water, I find, nourishes the soul. It's been five years now since we moved here and while there are aspects of English life that I miss, our coastal location goes a large way to compensate me.
Working near the harbour means we get to see all sorts of things coming in and going out again and I think I'm unlikely to tire of it.
Well this has taken me weeks to get right. I've been trying to photograph Andy Babb's superb poster for his Polygon typeface since it arrived but whatever I did, wherever I took them the resulting photos just didn't do the piece justice; in the flesh it's lovely: silver and red inks on pink board. You can find out much more here and see what other things Andy's been up to here.
And I must say many thanks to Andy for sending it over!
Last week our rep from Robert Horne Paper came in. A nice chap, he did his best to sell their products to us, some of which we specify anyway. Mostly he was showing us Munken papers, Robert Horne now being the main agent for them. Munken papers are nice. During the chat, he asked if we ever use GF Smith paper and I laughed. "Well, yes, of course", I said. "A lot of our papers are very similar", said he and I laughed again. "But GF Smith swatches are so good and your's, forgive me for saying, are sooooo bad". They are really awful: on the whole we've found them to be inconsistently designed, missing fundamental information and (these are things aimed at designers, so it's almost criminal that they) are distinctly unattractive.
GF Smith swatches are, on the other had (I was compelled to point out); beautiful, informative, comprehensive and easy-to-use.
He skirted the issue and I might have been more persistent had I not spotted something tucked at the bottom of his pile of samples. "That's lovely", I said pointing. Wood on Wood came out about 5 or 6 years ago and was mailed out directly from Arctic Papers, when Howard Smith were representing them in the UK. I remember it distinctly because it was a stand-out piece.
Designed in Sweden by Happy Forsman & Bodenfors (who do lovely work), the book is amazingly simple. Each sheet of paper has a particular wood grain image printed either side and is incredibly convincing, giving the impression that the book is made from super-thin slices of wood. On their website, F&B explain:
"The Wood on Wood book makes us realize anew that paper is thinly-sliced wood and uncoated paper retains a hint of wood's rough properties to give printed images a deeper dimension. In designing Wood on Wood Happy went the additional step of using pencil lettering to add an authentic whiff of the woodshop to the book design."
That last point was one of the details that really did it for me, With the exception of the brand on the back cover, the book is devoid of typesetting; featuring only hand/pencil rendered lettering. And even that brand is treated nicely, printed dark brown and embossed into the sheet, it feels like it's been burnt into wood.
Overall, it's a beautiful piece which, importantly, works; showing the characteristics of the paper with exceptional simplicity and clarity. Perhaps you've got a copy, I don't remember it being particularly rare or precious, but if you've not seen it, you never know, it may well be sitting on a shelf in your studio somewhere, covered in dust. Go and have a look.