Print is alive with Arctic Paper
Adam Davison | December 2015
Media moves quickly. In a relatively short time we've have seen a huge shift towards digital. Streaming services like Spotify and Netflix have all but replaced physical media in the music and film industries. Having access to the world's music at the swipe of a finger, for example, is an incredible thing; as important a development as Thomas Jefferson's first recordings of live music on wax cylinders. Now you don't even need a physical medium, just a device to stream on. At the same time, there is value in craft and quality that cannot and should not be replaced for the sake of convenience.
The point of all this? Earlier this year I was invited by Arctic Paper to visit their mill in Sweden. This was a chance to see how some of the world's finest papers are produced, and, luckily for me, visit that beautiful country for the third time.
Once something is no longer mainstream it regains its status as an "artisanal" pursuit. Musicians release special-edition records with lush packaging in special materials. There has even been an underground resurgence of releases on cassette, those artists attempting to capture the nostalgic qualities of a outmoded medium. Our clients are shifting from expensive printing to affordable online content, running their businesses more cost-effectively than ever before. At Rare we welcome the digital revolution wholeheartedly. But when we use paper we want it to be the best.
Arctic Paper is one of the world's leading manufacturers of paper, producing wonderful, high-quality materials for a whole range of applications. The care and craft with which they create their products inspires the designers using it; our sample library bulges with Arctic Paper swatch books and we turn to these materials to see what’s possible. No matter how well-designed, a tactile object like a brand book or annual report comes to life in your hands so it’s important for us to see and feel the materials first.
The colossal machines of the mill are engineering marvels from the 1960s; there is an odd collision of high- and low-tech here, as the most contemporary materials are produced by these town-sized behemoths of buttons and levers. It was refreshing to see so many employees engaged in the process. I expected total automation but there is someone there to press those buttons, guide giant white columns of paper down ramps, cut and stack paper into perfect white cubes. Granted, comedic robots swivel, reach, grasp and rotate – carrying out repetitious tasks faster and more efficiently than people – but they have been given human names by staff made up of generations of families from nearby Munkedal village.
Then there is the incredibly environmentally-friendly way in which they do business. The river which flows alongside the factory is actually cleaner downstream than when it enters the mill. Having been used, processed and intensively filtered, the pure water enters the extremely sensitive local ecosystem with no environmental impact.
The trip ended with that most Swedish pursuit: Sauna. Dripping sweat in a tiny log cabin before plunging into an ice-cold lake is a primal and invigorating experience putting you directly in touch with nature. It's then you realise why Arctic Paper does what it does; working in harmony with nature to protect our planet so we might have beautiful experiences and create wonderful things. As the digital revolution allows us to work faster and communicate better, we have more time to admire artistry and creativity, be that by streaming brand-new music, binge-watching the latest series, or leafing through a beautiful book made in Swedish forests.