Thursday, June 26, 2008

Life on the Edge: Gilding Crane Stationery

Some of the most elegant Crane papers used for stationery, invitations and announcements feature beveled and gilded edges. As with many other embellishments to Crane papers, beveling and gilding is done by hand; by Crane artisans who train under a master and who will spend up to a year to perfect their craft.

Here's a video of Tom Garvey, a master gilder of 20 years at Crane.

Hand-bordering Fine Stationery at Crane

I was giving a tour to a new employee earlier today, and we had a blast gabbing with all the wonderful craftspeople who apply those elegant borders on Crane's fine paper. I've been sitting on this video for a while and decided it was time to share it with you. It features Deborah Larkin, who mastered her craft at Crane 20 years ago.

Insider Note: More than 15 years ago, some folks wondered if they could figure out how a machine could print borders of the same quality. They gave it their best shot. Not a chance.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Crane's Brand Director Honored

Pamela Eyring, left, is the owner and director of The Protocol School of Washington. She is presenting the school's Dignity, Honor and Respect Award to Crane's Brand Director Megan Kuntze, following Megan's recent presentation on "The State of Stationery" at the school. The award is given to "individuals and companies who are ambassadors to the world, building the bridges that knit cultures together in positive and lasting ways."

The Protocol School of Washington provides professional etiquette and protocol training and certification.

Since 1988, more than 2,100 men and women have been trained, certified, and licensed to use the school's comprehensive training manuals, workbooks, CD-ROMs, and support materials. Located in the United States and 42 other countries, many graduates are featured on major television networks and radio, and in publications worldwide.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tiny Little Hairs to Tree-Free Papers

In a previous post, we talked about the history of Crane and cotton rags as a raw material. I receieved a package today from Mike Brown at Buckeye Specialty Cellulose in Memphis, the company that supplies another of Crane's raw materials for its papers: cotton linters.

Linters, or lint, as they are often called, are the tiny little hairs that adhere to the cotton seed after the staple fibers have been ginned off for textiles. Imagine a brand-new tennis ball and you can understand the fuzz factor. Much of these cotton seeds, with linters still attached, are used as a feed additive for dairy cows. But for many decades, Crane has been using cotton linters to make fine 100% cotton papers.

Linters are a recovered fiber, because they have to be removed in order to efficiently extract valuable cotton-seed oil. The linters act like a sponge, and soak up too much oil. So special machines were developed to remove the linters to better prepare the seed for squeezing. New infrastructures were also developed to recover this valuable source of cellulose for papermaking and other specialty cellulose applications.

I grew up on a small family farm. I have never been able to get my intellectual arms around the enormity of something like the cotton-seed oil industry. Millions of pounds of these tiny little hairs are used each year to make Crane's cotton papers. How big, then, must the cotton-seed oil and indeed the entire cotton industry be? It boggles.

Luckily, every day I can get my intellectual arms around the fact that these tiny little hairs, recovered from such huge enterprises, make an extraordinary paper.

I got a second delivery today as well. An envelope from Ms. Bliss with tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game! So to celebrate the timely confluence of these two disparate arrivals, here is a photo to connect them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stationery Tour with Katie and Rebecca

I've been at this a long time, but I never tire of giving tours of Crane's stationery manufacturing facilities to members of the media and Crane's family of retailers. Yesterday was no exception, as I helped guide Katie Besch and Rebecca Levine from Sam Flax in New York.

The Sam Flax stores in New York are Crane Platinum Stationers, meaning they sell a lot of Crane stationery, and their business is booming. It became obvious early on that it's not just the allure of Crane papers at Sam Flax that account for their success. Selling stationery is a people business - a relationship business - and these two young ladies certainly have what it takes. And now, armed with a little more knowledge of all that goes into making these fine papers - look out!

We first toured Crane's Personalized Design Services in North Adams, where Katie and Rebecca were able to meet all those folks they talk with on a regular basis in Estimating, Order Entry and Customer Service. We toured all the printing areas, including engraving, thermography and foil-stamping, and saw some awesome stationery and invitations in the works.

Rebecca, left, and Katie pose beside one of Crane's envelope machines.

After a quick bite, we went on to Crane's Stationery Division, where boxed stationery is created. Here we chatted with Crane's borderers and gilders, and watched as paper was cut, lined, folded and glued to make a wide variety of envelopes. It's a fascinating process and it never ceases to amaze me the great care, attention and craftsmanship that goes into every piece of paper before it leaves for the stores.

Sharing a light moment with our Stationery Division tour guide Gary Brickle and hand-borderer Mary Ellen Palmer.

We had a great day, and I can't wait for the next trip to New York to visit Katie and Rebecca and the rest of the folks at Sam Flax.

Side Notes on a Tour

As I've mentioned before, I've been at this a while. I've lived in the Berkshires and southern Vermont all my adult life, and you get to know a lot of people over that expanse of time. Every time I tour around Crane's facilities, there are always personal interactions along the way. Yesterday was no exception: a press operator who was about to leave for the hospital to visit his brother who had just gotten out of surgery after an aneurism; an inspector whose brother had been laid off and was looking for tips on a job search; a lot of "How'bout those Red Sox" and "Celtics in Six!"

Just like selling stationery, making stationery is a people business. There are always stories - happy stories and difficult stories. I'm happy to be around to hear them.

The last story of the day came from Paul Gigliotti Jr., who operates an engraving press and who does much of Crane's blind-embossing. (I had known his dad many years ago when he would occasionally serve an ice-cold beer at the American Legion in North Adams to a tired newspaper reporter.) Paul is an excellent fisherman, ties his own flies and serves as a guide to secret fishing holes for a loyal group of customers. He shared this photo of one of his most recent successes.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Crane Museum Opens for the Season

This is one of my favorite spots in the whole world. As you know, I'm a paper geek and a history nut, and the Crane Museum of Papermaking brings not only those two passions together, but the opportunity to share them with others.

The Crane Museum of Papermaking is tucked away along the banks of the Housatonic River a few hundred yards from where Zenas Crane first set up shop in 1801. It's right in the middle of Crane's manufacturing and administrative campus, but it's a place that gives the visitor an opportunity to step back in time in a quiet, serene setting.

The Museum is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. through the middle of October. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by one of our curators - Mary Ward and Charlie Wellspeak, both retired after long careers at Crane. In addition to the permanent exhibits tracing Crane's papermaking history, there will be a special exhibit set up next week focusing on the Colonial Roots of Crane & Co.

The Museum is located at 60 Pioneer St. in Dalton, Mass., for your Mapquest or GPS reference. For further information, you may call Sandy Streeter at (413) 684-6481.