The Great Paper Caper

Once more, my home printer is suffering from a mystery malaise that I am not sufficiently qualified to cure. Although working at a basic level, it really isn’t playing nicely. At all.  This is the third time in 4 years that I have had serious printer issues, so last week, I finally made the (actually quite difficult) decision that it is time to outsource as much printing as I can afford.  I will of course replace the home printer, too, and will continue to print ‘on the spot’ to trial ideas etc.  But I think realistically, I just ask too much of it on a day to day basis to have it print full print runs of zines. Etc. So the outsourcing has begun.

ET illustrationsI’ve posted previously about the search for just the right paper for my different projects, and I still have a great collection of recycled papers to draw upon, from my earlier experiments.  Therefore it’s a little sad to say goodbye to some papers I have loved in favour of the more limited range of eco-friendly papers available from my chosen printshop.  But while I mourn the aesthetic loss of, for example, my newsprint designs, I console myself that they have been replaced by far superior paper and print quality: still recycled, but much thicker, and such vibrant colour reproduction

Tangelope self-mailerLast week I had my Tangelope zine & self-mailers printed on a wonderfully tactile new FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper.  It feels almost velvety, and the reproduction is definitely much higher quality than I would have been capable of by my previous means.  I’ve used the same paper for the ‘Bit of Earth’ seed packets.  This week, I have had reprints of selected Enchanted Times back issues which are still printed on recycled paper, but feel so much more substantial than before!  In short, while there are a few minor aesthetic losses, I feel I have definitely gained both time and quality courtesy of the decision to outsource, so although my arm was somewhat forced, I do think it was an ultimately beneficial decision.

holly bookmarkOh – unrelated to the above, I have been meaning to post this pic for a couple of weeks!  As you can see, it is a beautiful hand-drawn bookmark which I was lucky enough to receive from my occasional illustrator for the Enchanted Times, Holly Mitchell (her work can currently be seen in back issues ‘Frogments’ and ‘Stitched Up’, shown above).  Please ooh and ahh in wonder at its beauty, as I do. 🙂

 

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Paper trials

Once upon a time, the Enchanted Times was but a small part of my creative output, which as a categorical Jill-of-all-trades flitted about from one craft to the next as the whim took me.  Well, to be fair, I do still flit about a bit, but also I appear to have settled so that one thing – the fairy tale theme – has become what I could call a specialism (at least when measured against the bits & bobs of…everything else).  So with that in mind, I decided that I really ought to make sure I was using the materials which best complimented these creations rather than just using what I had because it was there.

I actually really like the thick newsprint-type paper that I currently use for Enchanted Times Mini, but my home printer is less keen, and insists I hand-feed every sheet (otherwise it instantly jams), which can – obviously – be quite time-consuming.  So over Christmas I trialled several different recycled papers to find one that I liked aesthetically in terms of a ‘newspaper’ but also which my printer did not object to so vociferously.  The results:

  • The first was just the right shade of off-white/grey, printed crisply without jamming, but was not thick enough (wrinkled with block-colour areas).  This one is perfect for general office printing, though, and will definitely be made use of.
  • paper comparisonThe next was another pleasing shade of off-white with random speckling for a nice recycled appearance.  It was also a good weight & before it went into the printer I had high hopes for it.  Sadly – as you can see from centre sample (right) – it bled horribly, to the point where the text was almost illegible.  Even in plain black on white areas, the text instantly appeared faded.  Well, I can use it for testing layouts etc.  Or maybe we’ll just keep it as spare drawing paper for our god-daughter to use…
  • I also trialled a lovely creamy coloured hemp paper, which was also nicely speckled and a good weight.  This one printed beautifully in all respects – no problem with printer jamming & nice sharp text/images.  This one lost out only due to the overall colour which was simply not ‘newsy’ enough.  It will definitely be used for other future projects, though.
  • The winner you will see in action very soon.  It had very similar results to the hemp paper, but with a more newspapery, off-white colour & all-over speckling it better suited the task to hand.  And the printer likes it, too – yay!

In the meantime, you can pick up half-price copies of Enchanted Times Mini in the E.T.Printworks & Folksy stores while the old paper-stock is used up – the perfect opportunity to get Behind the Times!

Printing changes & clearance offer

Until now, I have printed, folded & bound all my zines at home, to order.  I love the process of handmaking, from start to finish, however, the more orders I receive, the less time becomes available to develop new ideas and work on new projects, and depending on outside circumstances, it is sometimes easy to become overwhelmed by demand & unable to keep up (not a bad problem to have, but something of a vicious circle!).  So I have been looking at ways to diminish my workload, and the most obvious solution was to relinquish control a little, and allow a printer to do some of the work for me.

I am very happy to have found a printer  that can provide recycled and FSC (sustainable) papers printed with vegetable-based inks, and has very high environment-friendly standards in all business concerns.  This was important to me, as I have always used recycled papers and really didn’t want to give that up.

So I have now done a couple of test print runs, and have decided that this is definitely the way forward for me.  The printing & folding will be done externally, but I will continue to bind & add in all the usual extra elements by hand.  I can’t afford to alter the process immediately for all of my zines, and I will continue to print from home, also; but one by one, over time, the changes will take effect.  And already I can see the difference it will make to the time I have available for project-work.  Yay for more time!

But it has been a bit of a learning curve.  The first print run did not go quite to plan when I cleverly selected the wrong paper option for the first batch of DIY French Knitting zines printed…  The paper used has a high quality shiny finish (but is still eco-friendly, as it is from a sustainable source) rather than the matt, more natural recycled look that I prefer.  It’s just a matter of aesthetics & the content is exactly the same as other versions of this zine you see elsewhere in my Etsy store, so if you’ve had your eye on this zine previously but not yet taken the plunge, now is the time to bag yourself a bargain!