October 11, 2010
Now it’s time to discuss paper or rather stationery. This topic is quite involved and I am not surprised. Years ago, I worked in a printing and engraving factory. The behemoth presses would rhythmically bang out the sheets of business letterheads and personal stationery. Some of the results were stunning. The variables of color, texture, weight, size and imprints are all part of the equation for fine writing material. Let’s start with color…
- COLOR– Makes a statement about who you are and what you want your writing to say about you. Be creative, but remember that you want your words to be readable. “Don’t let the color drown out the words.”- M.S. Some recycled paper has colorful bits displayed throughout, which makes it visually interesting, but that might interfere with the writing and the reading of your letter. Margaret Shepherd in The Art of the Personal Letter offers some classic standards for ink and paper combination. Black ink on off white paper. Sepia ink on white paper. Purple ink on cream colored paper. Blue ink on ecru. Red ink on pale gray paper.
- TEXTURE– Paper can range from fine to rough. The texture is both a feel and a look. As paper is being made, the wet pulp is poured onto a smooth wire screen for an overall smooth “wove” texture, or it is poured onto a wire grid for a “laid” (grid) texture. Next the process wrings out the moisture. “Hot press” rollers make a smoother surface, while “cold press” rollers produce a rougher one. Finally, “sizing” is added, which is a thin coat of transparent gel needed to prevent ink from bleeding through the paper. Most stationary will be “hot pressed” with a thin coat of sizing. Remember, you want the texture to be “pen friendly”. Consider what pen you will write with and how it will relate to the paper’s surface. Ball points write on most anything. Fountain pens need a smooth surface. Marker pens have a tendency to bleed through sizing!
- WEIGHT– How thick is the paper? Will your ink bleed through if you write on both sides? Is it stiff or flexible? Which do you prefer? How will the paper fold? Are you someone who loves to write long letters on one side or both sides. If you will require several sheet per letter, be sure you can easily fold them. Thick paper cracks when folded.
- SIZE– Again, Margaret Shepherd offers us excellent guidelines for choosing stationery size. 1) 8 x 10 inches to 5 x7 inches constitutes “letter-size stationery”. These sizes are “warmer than a business letter” and broader than a handwritten note. They signal that your letter will be personal and leisurely. The smaller envelope sets a personal tone as well. 2) “Note cards or single-fold notepaper suggests that you will cover one topic briefly.” These notes mirror the traditional “thank-you note”. 3) “Letter stationery of exaggerated size and proportions showcase vivid individuality and extra care on special occasions”.-M.S. Large letters are generally send unfolded in large envelopes, as with a wedding announcement.
- EDGES– Here we are given two choices, a straight machine-cut edge, and “deckle” which is a soft frayed looking edge. The “deckle” edge has an antiquated look.
- IMPRINTS– If you feel the blank sheet is too stark for you, you can choose an imprint. Many stores sell stationery with designs and symbols already imprinted. The quill design displayed at the top is typeset by hand on an antique letterpress. You can purchase something already printed or you could order something custom printed, such as your initial, your monogram and/or your name and address. OR, you can add color and pizazz with rubber stamps and stickers. Remember to be inventive!
To summarize, always “test drive” the paper before you buy it. Touch and write on it to see how your hand and the pen respond to the paper. As a suggestion for a beginner, “buy off white smooth not slick paper with a minimum of background texture. As you write more, allow yourself more choices.”- M.S.
“Don’t let a prim obsession with the proper paper keep you from writing on whatever you can find when you have something to say. Paper is beautiful and inspiring, but it should serve, not enslave, your ideas.”– Margaret Shepherd
References : Margaret Shepherd- The Art of the Personal Letter, The Art of the Handwritten Note