The Story of a New Watermark.


Before the invention & adoption of the paper machine (circa 1800) all wallpaper was made by hand. The individual sheets were either pasted onto the wall surface, one sheet at a time or joined together to form a roll .

Fragment dated C.1750

One of the most common sheet sizes was a size known as Elephant which measured 22ins x 28 ins. Having received an order for Elephant size sheets  we needed a new paper mould since the majority of the moulds in the mill are more suitable for printing & bookbinding papers. 

When a mill orders a laid mould the mouldmaker needs to know how many laid lines to the inch are required, their thickness & the positioning of the chain lines. The thickness of the paper will influence the depth of the deckle & the gauge of wire used in the sewing.

In addition ,decisions have to be made about the design & placement of watermarks. As the paper would form part of a historic conservation project it was felt important that the paper itself provided clues to its origin .The easiest  & traditional method of providing traceability was to watermark each sheet:The obvious choice of watermark image was an elephant with the GM for Griffen Mill  below.

So that the mark didn’t slide around or its outline become deformed we needed to choose an image where key points of his anatomy such as his trunk, head & legs could be anchored securely. Should he have a tail & what about his ears & his mouth?  

Finally, the design also had to be open without fussy detail to prevent pulp getting trapped within in it leading to a blurred image. 

The  initial drawing sent to the Mould maker. 

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of watermarking the mould was the decision to orientate the elephant at right angles to the horizontal edge of the mould ie. the elephant appears to be sitting on his bottom waving his legs & trunk in the air. This was against tradition but made sense when you knew that the sheets would be jointed length ways to form a roll before being decorated & hung.     

Note that the watermark was deliberately placed away from the edge of the sheet  so that the seam edge of the paper would not be weakened by the watermark.                 

Mould in the normal position with the elephant apparently in a sitting position & positioned well in from the edge.

The final elements of the design were the letters GM below to identify Griffen Mill as the manufacturer. In keeping with mill tradition, an affectionate remembrance in the form of the initials AW was attached above.  AW quietly supported us with words & deeds over many years & we are delighted to be able in a small way to publicly acknowledge our gratitude to a remarkable man.

Copyright Griffen Mill Handmade Paper