This post summarises the key points from the meeting yesterday to discuss recent changes to Fabriano watercolour paper between a number of leading (and disappointed) botanical artists and representatives of Fabriano at the offices of the paper wholesaler and distributor RK Burt & Co. My role was joint organiser and recorder of what happened.
Overall the meeting was very positive and productive. While it didn't provide any immediate answers it has provided good quality information for making progress to resolve the issues relating to the recent changes that artists have identified and reported.
|Blind testing watercolour paper at yesterday's meeting between artists and Fabriano at RK Burt|
- Fabriano, R K Burt and St Cuthberts Mill - and fine art watercolour paper for precision painting
- UPDATE: Fabriano Paper
The meeting with Fabriano
The purpose of the meeting yesterday was to try and understand better why so many artists have been experiencing problems with the hot press papers (Artistico and Classico) produced by Fabriano Artistico.
After pursuing the issue earlier in the year (see above), the Marketing Manager offered to meet up with artists who have been having problems.
Clifford Burt, Manager of RK Burt and I organised the meeting so that both artists and Fabriano could explore the different perspectives on papermaking and the issues encountered by artists. We would all like to thank RK Burt and Company for hosting the meeting at their offices at RK Burt at 57-61 Union St, London SE1 1SG
Those attending the meeting were:
- Giuseppe Prezioso - Head of Marketing for Fabriano (School products, Art and Paper)
- Chiara Mediolo - Marketing Director, Fabriano
- Clifford Burt, Manager, R.K. Burt and Company (UK wholesale distributor for Fabriano)
- Professional Botanical Artists:
- Sandra Armitage - President of the Society of Botanical Artists
- Gael Sellwood GM - Tutor and Vice President of the Society of Botanical Artists
- Billy Showell - Author, Tutor and Council Member, Society of Botanical Artists
- Dianne Sutherland - Tutor and Council Member, Society of Botanical Artists
- Ann Swan GM - Author, Tutor and SBA member
- Sandrine Maugy - Author, Tutor and SBA member
- Polly O'Leary - SBA member
- Elaine Searle - Tutor and Course Director, Diploma Course, Chelsea School of Botanical Art; member of ASBA
- Coloured Pencil Artists
I'd personally like to thank all the people who travelled a long distance and for very many hours to get to the meeting. The effort I think was very worthwhile.
The agenda for the day was as follows.
Introduction to papermaking
In the morning Clifford Burt provided an introduction to:
- how watercolour paper is made and why/how problems can arise (I'll be doing a separate blog post about this)
- why 90% of problems are generally found to be self-inflicted by painters due to how they handle/soak etc.
As a result the artists attending had a much better understanding of:
- cylinder mould paper production and
- why no two paper production runs will ever be the same
- plus how to avoid damaging paper (see my past blog post How to avoid contamination of watercolour paper).
- how to spot damage invisible to the naked eye.
The changes at Fabriano
Giuseppe Prezioso then explained the Fabriano perspective and
- the place of the art papers within the total portfolio of the company
- the recent changes at Fabriano and the quality tests they run
The key issue that artists need to understand - in terms of how long it will take to address the problem - is that productivity and profitability is affected by how long a paper run is. For art papers which only produce a small tonnage in relative terms a paper run might only be done once a year.
- Fabriano want to try and identify the specific factors which are making a difference to the paper and the smoothness and quality of the surface and causing the issues identified by artists.
- They also need to know which factors in terms of paper characteristics are most important to artists (see below)
- There are three cylinder mould machines which can make the fine art watercolour paper and the money paper they produce. However the differences in tonnage produced for the different types of paper is immense. The cost of changing over from one to another are significant in terms of downtime and efficiency and means that the paper runs for art paper are basically done once every 12-18 months.
- Consequently it may take up to 18 months or so to get new paper into the retailers - assuming that Fabriano can test and identify what factors have changed the surface and performance of the paper.
- They are doing a major test at the end of July. In effect they will now reverse engineer and work out how to reproduce the previous surface with a view to creating a new paper run. This test run will now be informed by:
- the samples brought and shown to Fabriano with respect to the problems.
- the blind testing samples (left with Fabriano to take away)
Other information about the paper:
- the change made in the machines for the new contract for money paper and its requirements are very small and should NOT make a difference to the art papers produced ( more will be explained in the post about papermaking )
- Artistico paper is made from cotton lintners. These are fine, silky, very short fibres which cling to the seeds of the cotton plant after ginning. They are needed to help create a smooth paper with strength, durability and permanence.
- problems with supplies of cotton linters influence papermaking in a major way (eg the 2010 flooding in Pakistan and the drought in the southern states of the USA). Fabriano decided to limit the colours they produce on the basis of the supplies which are most consistent.
- the paper in the pads is exactly the same as the paper in sheets (the pads are made up by R.K.Burt)
Samples review and blind testing
After lunch we started to look at issues to do with different types of paper.