Let’s talk about paper and poetry

Monday 5th December 2022

Candlestick Press

Dave Smith is sales director at Ratcliff & Roper Print Group which has been printing Candlestick pamphlets for more than 10 years. Here, he uncovers some of the lesser-known facts about the paper business and reflects on recent factors which have caused the price of paper to rocket.

Paper may not seem the most exciting subject in the world of poetry, but without it, you wouldn’t be able to put your hands on the wonderful Candlestick pamphlets, or any other physical literature for that matter.

Candlestick has always taken care when choosing its materials, with an eye for both the physical appearance and the ‘feel’ of the finished book, as well as the environmental impact of the choice of paper.

All the paper used is FSC accredited, which is something you may have seen on a range of wood-based products (… have a look in your local DIY shop). FSC accreditation means that the paper has the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain of custody, so that every sheet can be directly traced back to the sustainably forested tree that it came from.

Every link in the chain, from the forest to the paper mill, the paper merchants and ultimately to the printer, must be assessed to conform to FSC standards. And every bit of paper has a certificate to show its source and identify the actual tree it came from.

Many people believe that we should be recycling paper and that ‘recycled’ is the best, most sustainable option. Sustainably forested wood (and therefore paper) has a positive impact on carbon output, as trees absorb carbon while they are growing. It also has a positive impact on the environment, supporting a wide range of eco-systems. Recycling paper, on the other hand, can have a negative carbon output, due to the re-manufacturing process involved in collecting and recycling the paper.

Sustainable Forest

The paper market has been incredibly volatile in the post-Covid period, which has meant that some difficult choices have had to be made. There are virtually no paper mills left in the UK, so while all paper is sourced from UK paper merchants, most of it is actually made on the continent and has been for a number of years.

It has been very difficult for paper mills to forecast demand after the significant downturn of the Covid period, and this – allied to massive increases in transportation costs which we all know about – means that supply has been both erratic and increasingly costly.

In the last 12 months raw paper has nearly doubled in price, while even common types of paper have been unavailable. At R&R we’ve certainly been scrabbling around more than once to try to get hold of paper or envelopes.

For the last ten years, Candlestick has used a specialist and very tactile paper for its covers, bookmarks and envelopes. Very sadly, both the manufacturer and the mill went into liquidation a couple of months ago, which means that we have been busy trying to source equally beautiful replacements.

Because Candlestick has great relationships with its suppliers it was able to secure the very last sheets of specialist paper available in the country while a new supplier was being sought. You’ll be pleased to know that a new cover material will soon be in place, and you probably won’t even notice the difference!  We’re looking at options for envelopes now as the cost has increased so much it makes sense to investigate alternatives so that Candlestick can maintain its current affordable RRP.

So, paper… an essential part of poetry, but probably a bit more complicated than you thought!