Colorful little notebooks await me. There’s a stack of them at home, shining with the possibility encased in their covers — future lists, notes of important conversations and empty lines just waiting to be filled.
If you can’t leave a store without testing empty books, or carnets in French, for their weight, number of pages, and tactile qualities, then you may, just may, be as excited as I was when I realized that some are created in an old brick building right beside Canal St. Martin. The company, Exacompta-Clairefontaine, makes brightly colored, laminated notebooks which are all over France, and often in the US too.
That same logo of the woman’s profile beckons from the side of the factory. Though I tried to get a tour to see the books getting made, I was told very firmly it would never be possible. But you can wander into the cobblestone courtyard, just be careful not to get smooshed by a truck. And if you walk along the side of Rue Louis Blanc, employees sometimes leave the door open to the factory floor, where the paper machines can be seen in dim light. If anyone has ever visited I’d love to hear about it.
The main, older building was a compressed air factory from the late 1800s, when Paris used both compressed air and electricity to run machinery. The air kept the public clocks all over town running on time by pulsing every minute, it pushed beer up through the taps, and performed other tasks. When electricity took over the market, this building went out of service until the paper whisperers company bought it.
And a beautiful image of the front of the building from the patryst.com site:
For industrial architecture/history lovers, two resources:
- Des usines à Paris (fantastic resource in French, full of buildings to discover, with good photos)
- Tour of buildings by Paul Friesé, the architect of the Clairefontaine factory