My penchant for blotters, especially vintage French ones

[Alyson Kuhn] I have just decided to start using my old advertising blotters from France, purchased at an ephemera show in Paris in 1997. For a long time, I thought I might frame them, but then I wouldn’t be able to touch them and enjoy their blotteriness.

The Sanogyl blotter is the only one in my assortiment that actually has a blot on it, but I consider this more of a beauty mark than a blemish. Either way, I think this blotter has great bones. I find the shadows cast by the letters irresistible.

The French for blotter is buvard, literally someone or something that drinks … in this case, ink. The French for chatty is bavard, and at the Parisian ephemera show in 1997, I chatted with the author of a then-newly published book about blotters, cleverly called Buvards Bavards: Mémoires du temps passé. I love the idea of blotters as cultural artifact. You can see (and buy) about 2000 vintage blotters on Price Minister alone.

I can easily and logically imagine getting a free blotter at the stationery store, but for some reason, the idea of advertising mineral water on a blotter seems drôle. I wonder if people have tried using their blotters as coasters. Probablement pas. And I wonder where you would have obtained such a blotter — at the grocery store? If I had the blotter book, I’d probably know.

This calendar promoted the Bottin Adresses, or yellow pages, as a great place for businesses to advertise. I’d love to think that companies received the blotters in the mail month by month, but this doesn’t seem very likely. And I’m guessing that July and September were the only months available when I bought them.

This blotter advertised Leroy brand wallpapers and their availability at a shop called Rivoli Lino at Métro St. Paul. Presumably, the Leroy people came up with the idea and ran the blotters with the names of various distributors. I wonder if the wallpaper hanger, in his immaculate white ensemble — a sort of Art Nouveau Pierrot — used a blotter to dab his brow.

Voilà a pair of kuhntemporary blotters, produced in conjunction with the xoxoxhibit of Valentines, love letters and heart art, which I co-curated with Michael Osborne in 2003 at the SF Center for the Book. Matteo Bologna (with whom I had then been working on Words at Play) designed the blotters using the Tables feature of Adobe InDesign. Bologna (whose anagram moniker on the project was Tomato on Bagel) suggested that I (whose anagram moniker was Hanky Loan Ruse) insert a couple of small text differences into the two half-hearts, which I wholeheartedly did. Bologna’s border borders on the divinely obsessive. Judith Berliner at Full Circle Press letterpress printed the blotters with feeling! And I am still grateful to both of them.

Alyson Kuhn extends a whole blotta thanks to Wm. M. Senkus for photography.

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Comments (3)

  1. Posted by Words and Eggs on 06.11.10 at 7:50 pm

    Holy merde. I am COMPLETELY, 100% jealous of you & your vintage French blotters.

  2. Posted by une Française on 06.14.10 at 11:01 am

    damned, j’avais complètement oublié que quand j’étais petite il y avait des buvards publicitaires … jolie collection !

  3. Posted by A Kuhntributor on 06.14.10 at 3:56 pm

    Whole blotta bilingual love going on here! Make me ravie!

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