An archaeologist is someone who studies old things and finds they’re new.”

-G. K. Chesterton

Welcome to our website! We’re glad you landed here and are interested in Papillon Papers. We are a father and daughter design team, creating original and historical designs and making them available as sheets, cards and notebooks. We like to think of ourselves as design archaeologists, who study and revive long lost designs. Many decorated papers of the 19th and early 20th Centuries were inexpensively produced, not considered works of art, and tossed or forgotten. Happily, many of these decorated papers were used as endsheets in books, where they sat protected by covers and surrounding books on bookshelves. Over the last 30 years in our bookbinding business, we have been handling, collecting and cataloging many of these papers.

Papillon Papers grew from the question that wouldn’t it be great if we could actually buy some of these papers as sheets. As we looked at the many designs, imagining them as full sheets of decorated paper, the idea grew in our minds that we could reproduce some of these. So we set out to transform these relics of the past into designs that could be used in a variety of applications, bringing them beyond the context of study and cataloging, into the reality of a tangible product. The old becomes new.

We are producing these designs in ways similar to how they would have been originally created. Paper production was influenced by design, style and technological trends, so that decorated papers were produced in the context of current technological advancements and design trends. In the 18th Century and earlier, the way to print a paper was to ink up a carved block and press the design onto the paper. This block printing method lasted until new technologies rendered it obsolete. Lithographic printing processes dominated the 19th Century, and block printed paper was all but forgotten. Because of this, in the Nineteenth Century we see many beautiful papers, but very few are block printed.

lithograph press

In the Twentieth Century, change again saw Lithography take a back seat, and four-color process printing dominated. A revival of block printing was also seen, but was generally in small arts contexts and not found in the mainstream market. Since design follows these trends in technological change, there are many forgotten trends and styles in decorated paper. Some of these papers are stunning and cause people to lean in, and are worth reviving. When we reproduce these, we employ the various technologies used over the centuries: block printing, lithography (offset), and letterpress. In addition to historical designs, we are creating some of our own original designs, sometimes based on historical trends, and sometimes the result of our own creative impulse.

In an effort to preserve the gift of this earth, we are committed to producing our products ethically. That is to say we are sourcing our raw materials from companies that are responsible. Our Block Printed papers are printed on Khadi Indian paper. Khadi papers 
are handmade in India using cotton rags from the garment industry, which is a reliable and conscientious source of pure cotton. The company employs about sixty men and women from the surrounding villages. A local craftsman makes the deckle and moulds. They maintain an organic farm which is irrigated from run-off water from the mill. They also support WaterAid, an international NGO dedicated to the provision of safe domestic water. Our notebook and letterpress paper comes from French Paper Company, a family run Michigan company. They are a pioneer in recycled paper production, and their mill is powered by fully renewable hydroelectric generators installed in 1922 (and have saved over one million barrels of fossil fuel to date). They make their green energy on-site, and also produce surplus energy for use by the local community. French paper has the smallest carbon footprint in the industry.*  Our offset printing is done locally by Holland Litho, an FSC certified printer. Our block printed papers are produced in-house with a variety of blocks, including hand carved cherry blocks.

At Papillon Papers we love design, we love history, and we love paper. And we want you — today’s lover of design and beauty — to share in the excitement of connecting to designs and designers of the past. To that end we’ll be adding new designs and products to our website on a regular basis, and welcome you to sign up for email alerts so you know when we do.

* Some information taken from the suppliers’ websites.

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