Paul scraping at William Cowley
On a recent trip to Europe I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit two parchment/vellum manufactures, Bodin-Joyeux in France and William Cowley in the United Kingdom.

Both of the manufactures have been producing exceptional parchment and vellum for over 150 years. Visiting a tannery/parchment works has a quality of ‘stepping back in time’, they are pretty magical places to visit for those of us who work with skins and hides.

Being able to see the processes, inventory, equipment, building structures and meet the artisans who make the skins is an extraordinary experience. I have great respect for parchment makers. It is hard, stinky work that takes accomplished experience, patience and attention to detail to address each skins idiosyncrasy through the multi-step time consuming process.

I went to the tannery/parchment works with the intention of selecting skins for projects for Thomas Pheasant, chairs and a sideboard are next up on the project list. Selecting skins is like reading huge pages of grain and subtle color.

Parchment stretched for drying at Bodin Joyeux
Parchment stretched for drying at Bodin-Joyeux

I look at the surface for consistencies in color and grain, hold the skin up to the light to look at the translucent skin fibers for density and character and then consider how one skin to the next or previous would match. Working with beautifully made skins is a pleasure. Each skin is as unique as the animal that it came from, age, gender, pasture, nutrition, flaying all effect the outcome of the skin. In selecting skins for furniture, where I tend to want large usable areas, I need to cull through four to five times the number of skins I actually want in order to complete an order. It is a deceptively complex procedure.

I am sincerely appreciative to Patrick Couteau of Bodin-Joyeux and Paul Wright of William Cowley for allowing me to visit.

Interested in learning more about Vellum/Parchment? Click here to visit my vellum/parchment page in the resources section of cinchonline.

A Visit to Bodin-Joyeux & William Cowley Parchment & Vellum Manufactures