Ethical printing happens when green technology and environmentally friendly paper coincide. These were among the last things I thought about when I accepted the invitation to help the Spirit of the Streets Choir produce a book to celebrate their tenth anniversary in May this year.
Yesterday, however, I spent a few hours with my brother, Peter Stone, at his ‘factory’ in Rivervale, Western Australia. I put that word in inverted commas because I can’t think what else to call The Big Picture Factory, unlike the factories of my youth. Stone’s Publishing is one aspect of this enterprise.
Peter, a green technology guru, will publish the book for the Spirit of the Streets. I went to watch our manuscript begin to turn into a book.
We grew up in a paper/cardboard/print environment. Our dad, a cardboard box maker, really did own a factory in Fitzgerald Street, North Perth. With a staff of about twenty men and women, he made nothing but cardboard boxes. The boxes came in all shapes and sizes. Manufacturing industries in Western Australia depended on them.
In those days, no one used plastic for packaging.
For the duration of the World War II the Australian government declared him, and his factory, ‘manpowered’. They precluded him from serving in the defence forces. Instead, he made boxes for everything from socks and bully-beef, ammunition and comfort bundles. See here for more.
Before and after the War, Dad crafted boxes of great beauty and delicacy. He often lined them with gem-coloured velvet. He made uncovered boxes for shoes and shirts and lingerie. Chocolates and lollies manufactured locally were packed into decorative paper-covered boxes.
In the factory, men cut cardboard and paper on manual guillotines. Women glued or stitched the cardboard into shape. Finished boxes were delivered around Perth in a horse-drawn cart.
The factory was a busy, noisy place. It was also dusty. Cardboard dust gets in your nose, mouth and eyes. Dad, and his father before him, were adept at making the machinery they needed. Some of the machines were inordinately noisy, especially to the ears of a child.
The smell of glue still haunts me. That’s probably because, unlike the other members of my family, I never got the hang of keeping my index finger out of the glue. They used that one clean finger to make intricate folds in paper. The women ridiculed me for my messiness.
After stints at university elsewhere, Peter finally settled into the factory. He followed in the footsteps of our father and grandfather. Not many people know more about the publish-and-print trade than him. From print-runs of four to four-thousand, he enjoys making books. He also distributes them.
Plastic has overtaken cardboard for most packaging, but Peter’s work shows vestiges of those early days. Although paper and print still play important roles, the technology bears little resemblance to Dad’s old factory. This new place is clean and quiet. Massive modern printers hum rather than roar. The air is clean, cool. Modern machines fill the spaces.
Stone’s publishing uses green technology, utilising solar power from panels on the roof almost exclusively, as well as feeding excess electricity back into the grid. The staff concerns itself with environmental issues. Books are printed on ‘ethically certified, environmentally friendly paper’.