Alexa Dilla, painter on board of cruise ships, author and lecturer, made a stop-over at our paper mill and had been impressed by process of artist paper making that she likes so much. Read her guest contribution about her visit to the oldest German artists’ paper factory.

“An opportunity I hoped to be offered for quite a while as I regard it as very interesting to witness the production of the materials I like to work with, live on site. Hahnemühle has been accompanying me throughout my life as an artist.

For more than 430 years, since 1584, Hahnemühle have been producing paper at the same site and this huge experience the company harks back to when it comes to manufacturing watercolour and artist papers. Here, the first papers were manufactured just 100 years after Johannes Gutenberg – in those days it was paper to write on. And until to  the present day, Hahnemühle keeps on developing and enhancing new ideas for artists – such as the Watercolour Book I already filled several of on my journeys. Or the Digital FineArt paper ‘William Turner’ for the ink-jet print I can use for reproducing my watercolours. Thank to its watercolour surface, its tactile properties and its brilliant colours, seeing a difference between my original and the edition print is difficult.

Rana Ardal-Altun, Product Manager and Bettina Scheerbarth, PR, welcomed me really cordially. We discussed ideas for new products and I could witness the entire manufacturing process:

Exciting: How paper is made

From the pure spring water for the paper manufacturing (it had been a paper mill in former times) via the different drying and testing stages up to the numerous application possibilities. And I could ask questions and learnt a lot of new things.

For instance on the paper’s fibres: I assumed that the cotton papers are made of the soft fibres of the cotton blossom but far from it: the fibres used are linters, soft, short fibres taken from the cotton plant’s seed vessel. Other fibres are extracted from bamboo plants. They are processed in large barrels with the spring water, chalk and farina to a pulp.

The next step is the paper machine. Here, the paper also is provided – if desired – with a watermark.

Afterwards the papers are dried. Truly slowly and carefully. And of course I was allowed to – and had to – touch (almost) everything!

Inside Hahnemühle: Why Hahnemühle artist papers are vegan

For instance, I didn’t know that Hahnemühle don’t size their watercolour paper with an animal gelatine like a well-known French manufacturer (therefore the slightly strange smell when the French paper gets wet). So, Hahnemühle paper is vegan. And also offers a slightly more open surface that is positive when it comes to the colour vibrance.

My new favourite paper is the mould-made paper ‘William Turner’. I could test it. It always felt so soft but in Venice, where I traveled on a painting trip every shade of light up to the slightest shade of colour counts, I just couldn’t have had a better paper. It feels so soft and makes my pictures even more beautiful than I could have imagined

Also interesting were the large cylinders with the different watermarks for the sheets of mould-made papers. All the watermarks of the past decades – if not centuries – are stored there. You can breathe the Hahnemühle tradition in every where in the prodution facilities.

Every sheet of paper leaving is painstakingly screened. Are there irregularities? Are the painting parameters as desired? Is the surface-feel fine? Only when the papers successfully have passed all the tests they will hit the road to their destinations all over the world.

Love for paper and art – that’s something we artists sense in the Hahnemühle papers

I could visit every area of the paper manufacture and I could talk to the people working there. While doing so I realised how proud the employees are of their papers.

It’s just great if things come full circle and we can work with materials that really were made with love and pride. This also represents an appreciation for the works of art we already created as well as those we still are going to paint

I had the feeling that art was couching in every corner, during every production step: isn’t the clean folding of the left-over paper alone an artwork? Aren’t the filter papers for technical applications Hahnemühle also produce gorgeous paper subjects.

I love to paint on papers I ‘know personally’ and that’s the feeling I had when I said farewell with to the Hahnemühle team after this exciting and sincere morning. A big thank you for the time, the cordiality and all the information. They will accompany me on my journeys by land, by sea and by air.”

Alexa Dilla is an artist and author with a passion for watercolour painting. With her motto ‘Paint yourself happy’, she paints with participants in her work shops, painting trips and as official painter on a cruise liner.  For more subjects, tips & tricks and her painting travels please visit the Website of the artist.

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