A few days ago we talked about the paper mill Capellades as one of the best and best-known craft paper. The truth is that we wanted to know more about this centennial mill, so we decided to visit it. Today, in Labois, we talk about this famous town of Barcelona, its past and present, and the realization of paper.
Craft paper of Capellades: tradition and know-how
This story began 150 years ago, when Capellades became one of the main paper mills in the country. There were ragpickers, carpenters, mule drivers, workers of all kinds and families from rural areas in search of a better job. This past has been immortalized in the cabinets of the Capellades paper museum, where this tradition is collected and illustrated.
The way of producing the nineteenth century responded to a social demand increasingly pressing, driven by the printing and modernity. No wonder, that this production followed an industrial criterion.
Today, the major paper producers of Capellades are on the outskirts, following the old waterway of the aquifer that flows from the mountain. This same waterway, which for decades has moved the wooden blades of the mills, now runs through other much more ambitious flows. The silence of the blades, presses and mills are the crudest and most obvious sign of the advance of the machines. 100 years ago it took more than 50 people, including boys and girls, and a hard work day to produce 9 ream, or what is the same, 4500 sheets. Nowadays, with the electricity and automated machinery, we are able to produce more than 50,000 sheets per minute.
Perhaps more efficient or less human, the truth is that the craft paper of Capellades is synonymous with quality and know-how. Brands such as Guarro-Canson or Smoking produce here an important part of their products. Even paper money is made. The specialization of this Barcelona villa is the fruit of decades of development and perfection at different production scales.
The Capellades paper museum
Located in an old mill, it is a living testimony of the town and one of its main attractions when it was converted into a public museum a few years ago. Here you can learn about the past of this town and how the paper was made in the past. Walking among the different floors gives us an idea of the effort and dedication involved in doing something as mundane and everyday as a sheet of paper.
It is surprising that the raw material used to make the handmade paper was not cellulose, was cotton. This was collected by a ragpicker, who after visiting villages and farms, sold the rags and fabrics that he got to the mills. Here, the workers cut by hand each piece of clothing to get small scraps of cloth. The next step was to shake the fibers of these remnants in a drum, a task that often fell on girls because of their height. Subsequently, the pieces of cloth were poured into a tank with water and bleached with ash (the detergent of the time). The mixture passed to the water mill, where it was beaten and crushed until a lumpy mass was obtained. Filtered by hand by the master papermaker, each sheet was pressed and prepared for drying.
If you go up to the highest floor of the museum, you can know how this drying was done, in the final phase of its elaboration. Here you will understand why these mills had so many windows, some openings in the four sides of the building that allowed the passage of air and control drying. This room, open and diaphanous, today is also an exhibition hall.
In addition to the collection of machines that is kept in the museum’s underground, you can not miss the store. It is impossible to resist seeing and touching his wide collection of handmade papers. Today the mill continues to produce custom paper, maintaining the same quality standards but with a more efficient production. Proof of this is that cotton has not been used as a raw material for some time, but cellulose.
Among the papers we can find, we recommend the most traditional ones. They are made in different grammages and are very absorbent. If you are a lover of painting, you should try this craft paper because it is ideal for techniques that require a lot of water, such as watercolor or ink. In addition, there is also germinated paper, suitable for domestic printer. As in the role of Sheedo, it is also made by hand and can be planted. Chamomile or violet flowers come from its seeds, depending on the type of paper we choose.
Also, we recommend you visit its bookshop, specialized in crafts and handmade. You can find all these products in your online store.
The museum is open from Monday to Sunday and admission for adults costs around € 6 per person. For € 2.5 more you can participate in one of its interesting workshops, such as making a sheet of paper by hand yourself.