Tonik visits the
GF Smith HQ and factory in Hull
Last week, Philippa and I were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the GF Smith HQ and factory in Hull. Lovers and appreciators of finishes and paper, we took the opportunity to take the day away from the screen and let the guys themselves show us a thing or two.
Here’s a little history about GF Smith:
George Frederick Smith was a man with a singular passion for paper. Both he and his son were driven by a belief in its beauty and possibilities and shared an admiration for the craft of the printers and publishers that used it. In 1885 George founded G . F Smith & Son as a paper merchant. It was his vision and ambition that steered the company through challenging times; his belief in the business saw him expand its horizons.
George travelled with an almost obsessive energy, by land and sea, to seek out the very finest paper manufacturers of their day. From an office in London and a warehouse within a stone’s throw of the docks on the Humber in Hull, he won business in Europe, found partners in America and gathered a loyal and industrious staff. G.F Smith was a merchant company in the truest sense.
The Hull factory remains today; a family focused business and facility. I had an idea in my head, of a very clinical, white-walled factory floor filled with clean modern machines, shifting sheet after sheet along the process. The reality was something quite different and I’m so pleased I saw it!
I was taken aback by the quantity of original Heidelberg presses and original 1920s oily, mechanical machines still grafting to this day: all manned by a smiley G.F Smither. (Decked out in sweet branded uniforms too. Where can I get me one of those sweaters?!)
We refer to the ‘brick’ as the bible of paper, we touch it daily, often multiple times (thank you Made Thought!) But seeing sheet after sheet… ream after ream, all bundled up in branded paper, stacked high into the rafters, palette after palette, showed us the other, ‘real’ side of G.F Smith.
The envelope room… What a dream that was! Again, original, 1920s industrious machines from Glasgow and one from Germany, worked tirelessly to create the perfect envelopes that we expect from G.F Smith, each machine taking a lush fresh piece of Colorplan and carefully transporting it into a glued and folded envelope. (Each machine also air dried each envelope; carefully designed so that the glue never stuck to the one adjacent.)
I have to give a shout out to Glenn, who taught me everything I know now about envelopes, and it was a JOY to meet someone who clearly cared so deeply about paper, envelopes and the beautiful machines that he works with.
The highlights of our day included Philippa being invited onto a fork lift, and being transported into the sky, the envelope room, of course, and the overall feeling that amongst those who work for G.F Smith, there was a feeling of real care and appreciation. Clearly at G.F Smith, corners are not cut, people are placed first and a real happy, family feeling is so apparent.
A very special thanks to Catherine who hooked us up with the day out, we had an amazing time!
We recently used G.F Smith as part of our ongoing work for local coffee roaster, Forge Coffee. You can check that project out here!