Exercise 1: Paper Ephemera

Updated: Mar 2

Similarly to my collection of paper samples that I did for a research task for Part 2, I was asked to gather more paper ephemera. Where the previous research task had me gathering similar weights and finishes with the focus on their suitability for traditional book printing, for this task I needed to diversify my search to include an expanded variety of materials with unusual patterns and textures. I searched through some of my previous omissions from the first exercise as well as purchasing some packs of new paper types to add to my catalogue.

I trimmed and assembled these into another sample swatch with a binding screw and added newly labels on each both swatches to make my notes on each piece clear and concise to reference later on. For each sheet of paper, I could quickly fill out details for the paper names, weight, finish and any keywords that could help describe it, including suitability for printing using my home printer. I know that my printer can handle paper weights of up to about 300gsm, so I could make informed estimates on what materials would get chewed up by the rollers or not, indicating this with a small P/Y or P/N note in the weight section.

An expanded and updated collection of paper types.
Collecting unusual textures of unprinted paper types

This time I used a larger maximum size of A5 per sheet rather than A6 size I had chosen before. This was so that I could get a better understanding of the differences in the tactility and overall feel of each material as it was important for me to consider the experimental potential of these samples for potential use in future exercises.

Paper Examples

The next step was to do a short analysis of some of the new papers and write about their properties, associated uses and any personal connections I made with them. In my labelling I've made notes on various keywords, but I noticed that a few of them had some overlapping themes, so I've split these into a handful of groups to talk about below.

This first group contains paper that reminds me of an academic setting, reminding me of the cheap and accessible papers used in schools and offices. I find it interesting that with only a simple change to the line pattern, a blank sheet of paper can evoke so many different meanings and provide me with plenty of nostalgia to workbooks from my years in education.

The graph paper is akin to subjects such as maths, architecture and product design where charts and diagrams need to be made out of precise units. Lines paper, both with or without a margin, is the classic material for keeping neat notes of any kind and is something I saw the most of in English lessons or creative writing. Tracing paper on the other hand is rarely seen for any use outside of drawing, though it can offer another layer to a document for additional notes that still preserve the original.

I purchased a set of holographic paper expecting something similar to the cheap static image metallic card that I would often use in craft activities during primary school, but I was instead surprised to find that they were very thin sheets with a variety of well animated holographic patterns. The glossy surface refracts a lot of light which puts these papers as decorative features rather than suitable for normal printing, as most inkjet inks would slide right off.

Holographic papers were all the rage in the 90's and early 00's and foiling holographic effects is still used in trading card games and children's media frequently, but I was impressed by how effective the process to make these has become. Each one of these samples also evokes a different feeling from each other and in the three examples I am reminded of art deco wallpaper in the green, 90's science fiction in the silver spiral patterns and the reflections of light in car break lights with the red.

This last set includes materials that are not usually considered as suitable to be printed on normally. The transparency of greaseproof paper brings up imagery sepia sheets glued to baking trays using butter, but as I have found in the past, this paper can also make an excellent substitute for tracing paper for large projects. Another commonly seen cooking item is aluminium foil. As an easy to manipulate heat conductor, it's the last thing I would think of putting through a printer, but it could make for some interesting effects using block printing.

The last item is a sections of printer friendly acetate most commonly used in projectors for its high transparency. At first, I didn't think that this material could be used in printers as I had only every seen it paired with freehand notes using specialist pens, so I was surprised to find this marked as printer friendly. When it arrived, I discovered that curiously even though I can't tell the difference by eye, only one side can be printed upon permanently, whereas the other can be wiped clean. I find myself interested the idea of using this material to make something futuristic to emulate the common science fiction trope that anything that isn't holographic will be printed neatly on sleek, transparent surfaces.


Additional paper collection

The last part of the exercise mentions that I should also collect any paper ephemera that I find interesting or appeals to me in some way, and this is actually something I have already been doing regularly for a while. I've mentioned in previous exercises my box of collage materials which has been a great resource for helping OCA projects in the past, and this is a good opportunity to talk about my collection process in a bit more detail.

Collected miscellaneous paper ephemera.

My collection of materials can be divided into two main areas, the bulk of which is made up of discarded magazines that would have been otherwise been thrown away or recycled when read. These are often monthly volumes that feature a wide range of stock images and text that I don't have an emotional attachment to and only use opportunistically depending on what type of collaging I need to do for a project.

The other set of loose papers I have includes items such as cards, tickets and leaflets as memento's from events that have a design quality that I enjoy. Reasons for keeping items like this can be something such as it having an effective layout that I admire, carrying a memory of an event or something more tactile like a texture or recognising a particular printing process that I'm interested in. These items are less likely to be used in a collage when they hold some sentimental value, but still serve a useful purpose as paper materials that can inspire and influence my work.