Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Barcelona Paper Shopping

I'm sure you guessed there would be paper shopping on this expedition. A week before we left, an article appeared in the New York Times with the headline Paper Too Beautiful To Use, going on and on about hand painted paper found in Madrid and made by an artist in Barcelona, followed by a store name and (conveniently!) an address. So off we went early one morning, in quest of the Beautiful, arriving just a few minutes before the store opened. I think the owner has seen this look of longing before; she appeared shortly thereafter and graciously opened the doors for me.

Once inside, I was awash in books and papers. Raima could be the Spanish equivalent of Paper Source here., a nice mixture of quality, mass produced journals, fine writing tools, note pads, pencils, markers, pens and desk accessories and, tucked away on the second story, floor to ceiling racks with large sheets of decorative papers of all kinds. The racks were so tall, you could not see the contents beyond your own height, but there were generously sized, nicely organized samples of each paper on the racks at eye level, and the staff was happy to retrieve any sheets not visible by using the ladder. I browsed all the sample selections, then made some choices of hand marbled papers and some exciting black and white screen print papers that I have not yet seen in the U.S. The handpainted Beautiful was nowhere to be found.

I pulled out my copy of the New York Times article and showed it to the clerk, whose English was very good, and inquired about the paper. He became very excited--it seems that the store owners had heard about the Times article but had not yet actually seen it. I told him he could make a copy of the article (and here come the NYT copyright lawyers swooping down on my blog, even as I write) which made him very happy. He made the copy, showed it to the owners, and came back with the sad news that alas, they do not carry, nor had they ever carried, the Paper Too Beautiful To Use. Had my husband been there at just that moment, there would have been the highly audible sigh of relief, as prices listed in the story said it was in the $25 to $60 per sheet range . So, let this be a lesson to you--just because you read something in the New York Times does not mean they check ALL the facts (and here come the lawyers again.......)

I also found an interesting tool at Raima, a huge wood folder, just like the one you see in the Josep Cambras books on bookbinding. I was hoping to find the spine former tool that he uses to round the backs of books, but no luck here. The lightweight wood folder is substantially larger than a standard bone folder; will try it out and let you know if it makes the next Top 10 Tool List.

Later in the day, we visited a large, covered market where everything looked like a photo in Gourmet or Bon Appetit magazine. Fruits and veggies in wildly saturated colors, fish with bright eyes, and bin after bin of olives, nuts, candies, smoked meats, eggs. Good thing we visited after lunch.

The papers travel with me in a large cardboard tube, about 3" in diameter and 24" long. I found on previous expeditions that I can get 30 to 40 sheets inside; they stay protected, and I can just carry them home on the plane. If I happen to reach the inside capacity of the tube, I can roll the extras around the outside and then place the whole tube in a long plastic bag with a carrying handle.


  1. I looovvvve the black and white papers! Do you know where they're made?

    I also have a paper tube and it comes with me on every vacation. It helps that the size of the tube limits how much paper I can buy. Yes, I have a problem.

  2. Welcome back Pam!
    We've missed you.
    A very wise Lynne Perrella once counseled me - "bring 2 tubes"!
    Best in Life,