November 12, 2017

ELROY OLIVE What makes Artifacts truly unique?

DAVE SALANITRO I want to say that the patterns are exquisite and unrivaled because those of us who worked on them were really in tune to finding beauty in what was otherwise commonplace. It was important that we not force the object to be beautiful but rather that the aesthetic come organically through the product's utility and how we envisioned it in use. We turned our lives upside down, and everything became new. I'd sit in my backyard, staring up into a red maple tree. I immersed myself in its world. A million beautiful things can happen beneath the canopy of a maple in autumn in an hour's passing. But it's the marriage of beauty and utility, that the two can coexist without burdening the other, that makes Artifacts singular. No functionality goes unconsidered. Every detail is there by design; and if something is not there, that too is by design.

EO What element was most important to the success of the line?

DS Once we worked through the aesthetic and the form factors, our primary production concern was paper. Doesn't that sound obvious? There would be no Artifacts if the paper were inferior. One would think that most paper goods manufacturers would be concerned about the quality of the very thing they ostensibly sell, though that is plainly not the case. And the consumer hadn't really been given much choice when we launched our first collection. That year-it was late 2000 when we were in heavy development mode-we looked at dozens of sheets for ink holdout, tooth, brightness, opacity, and show-through. We argued over the most appropriate weight-and everything got a boost. 

Moleskine's pages are 19 lb bond; ours are 80 lb text-that's 71 percent heavier. Whereas typical tissue is 16 or 17 lb bond, we printed on 28 lb Japanese butcher paper, which itself could be used as gift wrap, but more importantly it was sturdy and had body and protected the contents of the box you were wrapping, and it felt and looked unique for its waxy finish. We hosted a big party during the San Francisco International Gift Fair and served up sweet potato fries in colorful butcher paper cones.

Artifacts gift wrap folds out from a book to 22 × 36 inches and is printed with an alternate pattern or solid color on the opposite side of the sheet. The stock is thicker than an otherwise comparable sheet, but with the weight and the intricacies of the patterns it takes on the qualities of a safety envelope: no one is going to see what's behind it until it's unwrapped. Plus, there's the added surprise of discovering the pattern on the inside of the wrap and then the packing paper. The layers are like fanfare: they add something important and lost to gift giving; they frame it in celebration.

EO You have a thing for books.

DS I love books. You could rob me of everything I own, and I'd lament the books the most.

EO Therefore the books of gift wrap and greeting cards?

DS Those books are bound for two reasons. The utilitarian in me understands that keeping your gift wrap organized andundamaged is challenging. I've bound four sets of six designs into a book that takes up a 12.25 × 9 × 1-inch space on your shelf; the sheets are perforated, so after you remove several, the book remains intact until you've emptied it. The same applies to the greeting cards. 

EO What's the other reason?

DS They're books. There is something about that that elevates them. They're not like swatch books; they're more random. There's an underlying repeating pattern of each layer of ink, and then there are the hundreds of details we add to break that up. And then there are the crickets and the snails and the beetles. I like to try to find the anomalies. One day I would like to indulge myself by creating an extravagant book where no two patterns are alike, a book of hundreds of patterns that people could browse like they would a monograph. I'd like to do that one day.

EO Your product descriptions say that the covers for the notebooks and the journals and the dust jackets for the greeting cards and gift wrap are coated with a laminate. I would never have noticed had you not mentioned it.

DS The laminate is matte and lays down a nice, smooth sheen; it's all utility though. It stands up to grime. We made a mess of one of the notebooks and then took Windex to it, and it cleaned right up; for slips of a pencil or everyday smudges, a standard eraser works nicely.

EO The letterforms make mailing easy.

DS I acknowledge that it wasn't all that difficult before, but do they ever look nice: a single sheet of paper that's a pleasure to write on, converts into an envelope, and doesn't require you to lick it.

EO About the tape strips. . .

DS You have to drink the Kool-Aid, Elroy. Clashing is the new matching.

Dave Salanitro has an eclectic 34-year career ranging from architect to accomplished designer cum paper peddler and writer. He ranks among the most talented of his creative confrères, with 254 awards for excellence.

Elroy Olive is a fictitious entity created for what is basically a highlights page. In our minds Elroy has a moppy head of hair and ears like the handles on a sugar bowl.