Paper, Paper, Everywhere: Two Recommendations for Quality Mixed Media Papers

August 25, 2011

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Above: Paper from the last paper tear of 13 sheets of Magnani Annigoni Designo. I was able to make signatures for five 6.75 x 9 inch books (some with 4 signatures and some with 5 signatures) and two 7 x 7 inch square books (one with 5 signatures and one with 6 signatures). And all I had left over were the two strips you see in the front. I love it when a plan comes together.

It's nuts here right now. I've been ill all summer with what my doctor calls a "mystery virus." (We tested for all the "normal" infectious things that matched my symptoms, including Lyme Disease and other tick related stuff—even without the girls around I still go out with dog friends into the woods.)

I'm pleased to say months of exhaustion seem to be behind me. I've made an effort to keep up on my bike though my season total of miles is woefully low (Sunday it was 1,316). My doctor knows I live in a household where you skip your workout only if you have a gaping wound. She encouraged me to keep up with whatever I could. Some of you may have noticed I moved to shorter blog posts. (I know it doesn't seem like that but trust me, they were shorter!)

While recovering, when I did have energy, I would be very antsy, yet not able to focus. That is the only way I can explain all the paper I've been tearing (that and a need for more journals for 2012 for course).

I just finished tearing this batch on August 12. I knew I wouldn't have any time to bind any books because of other deadlines, but I needed to get the paper out of the way so I could clear the studio out to make room for new projects. I was just making a binding schedule up last week when I stopped by Wet Paint in St. Paul.

I wanted to give you a heads up. Their back to school sale is on and just about everything is on sale. But the really cool thing is that Stonehenge paper is on sale. You can get 50 sheets of the same color paper at the 100 sheet price break! When Liz told me about it my mind stopped working because all I could think of was Stonehenge Kraft (I seem to be on a more intense than usual toned paper kick). (And the usual disclaimer—I'm not fiscally connected with Wet Paint, I'm just an avid fan of my local independent art supply store. I've amended this paragraph to reflect the sale info Liz provided in the comments.)

I know what I'm going to be doing this fall and winter! I'll be making decorative paper and binding books, all sorts of books. It seems a good thing to be doing as we move through fall and into winter, because yes winter will get here soon enough, and I'll have a project. I'm looking forward to pacing myself. In the meantime I have to tear down all that Stonehenge Kraft. I have no idea, since I haven't tried to tear any of this down yet, if this batch cracks a bit when folded with the grain like my first batch did—but it's such a lovely color and surface for gouache and pen work that I was willing to let that need go. Now there really is paper everywhere. 

Note: Since composing this post for posting today I have had a chance to tear down 35 sheets of the Stonehenge Kraft. I'm sorry to say this second batch (which is different from the first batch I had, i.e., the store had restocked) is also prone to severe cracking when folded WITH the grain. This is a bit of a problem for bookbinders so I have to mention it here.

Am I going to give up on this paper? Nope, I've got 9 books of it to bind. However, I will keep you posted on how those books hold together, once I start working in them (I hope to use one in September). I have had no problems with the other colors of Stonehenge. There is sometimes some cracking when folded with the grain, but not to the same extent. In those test books with other colors of this paper the bindings have held together very well when worked with under my normal "rough" working conditions. Just keep this "characteristic" in mind when you are deciding whether or not to purchase the paper.

I would definitely NOT RECOMMEND this paper for OPEN SPINE structures like coptic stitching, or even for sewn on the spine structures. The first situation is obvious—exposed spine edges, already cracked from folding, will be exposed to additional stress. In the second situation the signatures are treated individually and so they don't get the additional support of gluing and lining that happens when you make a traditional western case binding. I would recommend you only attempt to use this paper in traditional western case bindings.

(I would also not recommend this paper for Japanese 4-needle structures as the tension required to sew the signatures will be problematic on the already cracking spine fold.)

I'm making a test exception for myself, creating a sewn on the spine 8 x 10 inch journal with fold out pages, because I can't help myself, and I have to test the breaking point of the paper. But going into that situation I have to tell you that ALL fold out pages will be reinforced at the fold with some sort of strong Japanese paper, before I work on those pages. It will be interesting to see how the spine fold holds up to the constant wear of work and viewing without any additional reinforcement.

UPDATE February 10, 2012: Since writing this post I have bound one of the Kraft paper books and used it. It cracks horribly when folded with the grain. It is not suitable for any binding structure that requires folding. I have since trimmed all the "signatures" I folded and will use them as "cards" to be saved in boxes and portfolios. You could stab bind such cards, but the cracking was so severe I would not recommend even that because such a binding would necessitate some bending as you leafed through the book. The surface is an excellent one for working on and I'll continue to use this paper for paintings (gouache) outside of the journal.

If you want to know more about the papers I enjoy binding into my visual journals see my two part post on "What do Visual Journalers Want" which starts here.

I wrote a post earlier this week about a Mixed Media paper I did NOT like (Canson Mixed Media). If you are interested in a true mixed media paper and like to work on a toned surface I suggest you seek out Magnani Annigoni Designo (pictured at the start of this post).

This paper (Magnani Annigoni Designo) has the weight to take heavy collage and acrylic paint and media attacks. At the same time it will let you float your watercolor or gouache washes. It has enough tooth to accommodate the pencil artist, yet it is smooth enough to do pen work (though it might be a little soft for some pen artists—I successfully use dip pen on this paper without clogging my nib with fibers, but it takes a little bit of finesse). I recommend you buy the paper in sheets as the padding process tends to flatten the lovely surface of this paper a bit. That said, I have made books using this paper from the very largest of pads (before I could get my hands on sheets) and it is also lovely to work on, and pen artists might appreciate a bit of "flattening." Here's just one example I've posted where I've thrown a lot at this paper.

So now you have two mixed media papers you can try out—Stonehenge Kraft Paper Brown and Magnani Annigoni Designo. Just remember to pace yourself!

  1. Reply

    Hey, Roz,

    I don’t check in as often as I probably should, but I read your blog daily and really appreciate your tips and recommendations.


    • August 25, 2011

    I love both those papers too Roz! F.Y.I. The paper sale is JUST for Stonehenge, one sku of a quantity (no splitting colors, maybe go in with someone?). Prices will vary with the colors. All pads are 20% off. We have pads of both these papers. 😀

    Have fun at the Fair this weekend! Hoping to make it next week with Justin and/or Tim!

  2. Reply

    Liz, thanks for the clarification on the paper sale. I hope you and Justin and Tim have a great time at the Fair!

  3. Reply

    Kraft paper is my favorite, but I can’t ever find it in a journal! I really am going to have to seriously consider binding my own, aren’t I? Darn it…

    I’m on the last signature of my current journal (about 16 pages) and my plan was to try the Fabriano Venezia journal or the Hand Book journal next. My current book doesn’t really like watercolor, so my painted pages aren’t what they could be.

    • Linda
    • August 25, 2011

    Roz, Thank for the paper info it will come in handy for me. I hope your feeling better and my thoughts are with you. I’ll carry you softly in my daily thoughts,

  4. Reply

    Roz, just to confirm what I think I read … does your recommendation to stick to western case-bound bindings apply only to the kraft colour, not to all Stonehenge colours? I have some sheets of white and fawn Stonehenge, and I’m more likely to use it for exposed spine or sewn on the spine structures than case bindings unless I have a good reason to do otherwise.

    I’ll second what Vicki said – I really appreciate your tips and advice. Thank you for sharing with us readers!

  5. Reply

    Jenny, Yes. I’ve used the original colors of Stonehenge for all sorts of book structures with little or no problem. Sometimes the problem I’ve had is that the glue join between signatures delaminates on any of the colors when bound in a traditional Western Case binding. This is common with a lot of art papers (because of the sizing used) so it isn’t a deal breaker for me and I have a video about what to do to reinforce this area if you want, search the blog under “glue seams” and you’ll find it.

    Different batches of Stonehenge have cracked more than others, but in the past 18 months or so that hasn’t been a problem with the original colors.

    The light blue which is new has some cracking (folding with the grain again is what I’m talking about). So I would suggest you avoid that for any exposed spine structures too until you have worked with it for awhile.

    Have fun.

  6. Reply

    Thank you Linda, I’m feeling better everyday.

  7. Reply

    Arika, well besides being Kraft paper Brown, the Stonehenge paper isn’t just a normal kraft paper—it’s Stonehenge, so it has a lovely working surface. Yes you are just going to have to start making your own books!

    The two you’re considering for your next commercial book are both good choices. I have friends who watercolor in both of them. If you check my commercially bound books reviews page in the pages list (left column) you’ll find links to the reviews.

    I would lead a little more towards the Venezia simply because the last Hand*book I had seemed to have a slightly different surface than the ones I’d tested originally—things do change over time.

    Good luck.

  8. Reply

    Darn, I was leaning towards the Hand Book b/c I bought one at a local store a few weeks back. But Wet Paint is having that sale on journals right now…you enabler, you!

  9. Reply

    Thanks for the reassurance about the Stonehenge colours I already have, Roz! Last time I checked, my UK supplier didn’t have the new colours, and anyway I need to experiment with what I have before I buy any more.

  10. Reply

    Arika, I hate for you to spend more money. Just test the inside last page of the HandBook if you’re going to keep it but aren’t sure if you’re going to use it for watercolor. The difference may amount to nothing based on the way you work.

  11. Reply

    Jenny, you may have some problems with folding the paper depending on the humidity conditions in your home. It helps to let the paper rest in your home a bit before you tear it. But it’s so variable (how people keep their homes) that I can’t do more than mention it.

  12. Reply

    Roz, I’m still learning how I work, so I’m kind of all over the place. Until recently, I worked with acrylic paints and did heavy, heavy collage. A month or so ago, I decided I wanted to try my hand at drawing and watercolors, so it’s really a whole new world for me!

    I thought I didn’t like watercolors at all…until I tried them on a sheet of a watercolor paper and realized it is my current paper that is the problem, not the watercolors!

    So it’s definitely a learning process. I know I’m going to try the Venezia book eventually. I’ll probably do a few test pages in the Hand Book first, since it’s right here, and then go from there.

    Thanks for your input!

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