The Zany Blog

Clairefontaine - A Tradition of Quality Papers

Clairefontaine was established on the site of a paper mill built in 1512. The mill is located in the Meurthe River valley in the Vosges, an area known for the production of paper. This region has always had abundant resources for paper-making: clear, flowing water, vast forests and skilled craftsmen.

In 1858, Jean-Baptiste Bichelberger chose the small town of Etival-Clairefontaine to set up his paper mill. Taking advantage of the rags supplied by the local textile industry, Clairefontaine grew to become one of the most important factories in the region.

Clairefontaine began to manufacture notebooks in 1890. It is currently the only European manufacturer making its own paper for its own products. The company is now managed by sixth generation family members.

A Canvas Story

An interesting aspect of innovation, despite advances in technology and engineering, is the reliance on the successes of the past. Nature’s unflagging way of providing the most effective solution to a design problem continues to amaze.

Canvas is a heavy, extremely durable, closely woven fabric with a very simple weave - the weft thread just goes over one warp thread and under the next; a plain weave as opposed to a more complex weave, like denim. It is very hard-wearing and generally water-resistant. Duck canvas is a tighter, stronger weave, incorporating linen.

The word canvas is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French word canevaz, itself derived from the Latin cannapaceus for "made of hemp”. Hemp is thought to be the oldest fibre-yielding plant. People in China were making cloth out of hemp fibre around 3,000 B.C. Hemp fibre has great strength and makes good ropes and cordage. By 1500 B.C., the natives of India were weaving cotton into fabrics. The Saracens and Moors brought cotton from North Africa to Europe in the eight century.

All canvas can be measured by weight or through its reverse numerical system where a number ten canvas is the lightest and a number one, the heaviest.

Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, although historically it was made from hemp. It differs from other heavy cotton fabrics, such as denim, in being plain weave rather than twill weave. Canvas comes in two basic types: plain and duck. The threads in duck canvas are more tightly woven.

It’s all a bit sketchy!

The range of Clairefontaine sketch papers – from recycled 80gsm to beautiful heavy weight 180gsm grained drawing paper, is truely a range ‘par excellence’.

In terms of paper quality, the sketch papers on offer start with the Zap Book range.

These chunky perfect bound books have a whopping 160 sheets of an 80gsm recycled paper and come in an assortment of brightly coloured covers. They are available in 3 sizes – A4, A5 and A6+ (11x15cm)

Clairefontaine’s recycled papers are all acid and chlorine free, and are produced without de-inking, bleaching or the use of optical brightners. They are made from 100% recycled fibres. About as good as recycled credentials can get!

The next step up the food chain are the Graf-it bloc pads. The pads come in 5 sizes from the midget A7 to the generous A3. They have a sturdy backboard for use on the run and microperforated sheets that allow clean removal of each from the pad. Again, available in an assortment of different coloured covers, whats really important is what’s inside.

The 90gsm paper is a crisp white paper with a matte texture and feel. Its medium tooth lends a degree of resistance to your pencil strokes and while the weight and texture of this paper means it could be used for light watercolour work, at 90gsm expect the paper to buckle slightly when using a wet medium.

Sourced from sustainable forests and processed in an eco-powered paper mill which has an on site water treatment plant, the archival quality 90gsm stock is acid free.

At the top of the pile sits the 180gsm Dessin a Grain range.

This paper is available in a wide range of sizes and formats from A5 to A2, square pads, wirebound and glue bound.

The natural white colour is not to bright and the light grain allows colours to adhere well and give great depth.