The Sense of Smell

WARNING: This is Bret... I was asked to write today's blog. This is not full of frill and projects. Just a little something from my heart about the importance of quality...

Of the five well-know senses, I would not say the sense of smell is my most keen. Oddly, this business has renewed my sense of smell and the way quality can not only be seen and touched, but smelled.

I grew up in a small town where the sweet aroma of orchards and gardens were overshadowed by the stench of pollution from one of the largest steel mills in America. My grandfather and two uncles worked at the mill. It was strange attending the family's outdoor-summer-dinners, harmonizing the sweet smells of my grandmother's home cooking with the gross smell on the skin and clothes of the men that spent their days at the steel mill.

To top it off, my father was a chemist for a refinery plant that sold pitch to makers of aluminum. I probably took years off my life playing with liquid mercury and running up and down the railroad tracks near his plant inhaling who knows what?

My dad would come home every night smelling like creosote oil and coal tar. I think I probably worked more on "not smelling" things, than I did "enjoying smells" when I was young.

One of my best friends had a father who owned a mink ranch. As a very young boy, I would help on the ranch and even make a little money on odd chores. As a teenager, I split summer work between the mink ranch and a local chicken farm. The smells emitted from these two animal plants were, at times, unbearable.

There was one very good thing that came out of my time at the mink ranch... the free mink oil they would allow me to have. I would use the mink oil on my baseball glove, often spending hours working it into my "mitt." I would place a baseball in the palm of my glove, wrap it to "break-it-in," and sleep next to it.

At about the age of 10, baseball was becoming my passion. The smell of mink oil, mixed with leather, was the first smell I associated with success. It became an obsession - a superstition. I believed the time I put into caring for my glove made me better.

I became an all-star, played in three little league world series', watched my brother win a World Series title as a pitcher, went on to play college baseball and tossed in a year of professional ball, where I quickly learned baseball was meant to teach me more about life.

When I was asked to get behind the formation of Authentique Paper and we started building the business and printing papers, I quickly remembered how much I missed the smell of paper. I love going to the printings of our papers and soaking in the unmistakable smell of the print-shop we use. The smells have been there for over 100 years. The sons and grandsons who run this business grew up around printing and understand this smell. Our paper mill has also been at it for over a hundred years. Their papers are amazing and have the smell of quality as they are loaded into the presses.

I have heard that some of the papers released into the industry actually stink (the smell... not the designs... okay, maybe a little bit of both). I didn't hear of this during my first stretch in the paper-crafting industry. Now, at a time when others are cutting back on quality, we have emerged with custom paper textures and finishes. As a result, many people have reached out to us thanking us for our quality. They even tell us they love how our papers smell. The first time I heard this, I was a bit surprised, but I have come to discover what they mean. The combination of poor paper quality and ink just doesn't work. We don't do things that way.

I find it amazing how smells can instantly create emotion and link our minds to memories. If I were open a bottle of mink oil today, it would transport me back a few decades to the baseball field where I learned to chase my dreams and stabilize my fears.

So, while I've had a love-hate-relationship with smells since childhood, and don't rely on smell as my sense-of-choice, I certainly don't want to create papers that stink (in any sense of the word). I don't like the smell of cheap things and neither do you.

Bret Cornell
Authentique Paper


  1. Great story and I was just discussing with a friend yesterday how the smell of cow poop automatically transports me back in time to my childhood and my days growing up next to a farm. Others I know are disgusted by the smell, but it just brings me "home". And your paper does smell great! I have come to notice that often times some sort of glue or the glitter companies are using on paper are causing them to have horrible smells!

  2. Hi, Bret. I enjoyed your story and like you, my smell isn't my first sense either. Next time I will have to stop and smell your paper! LOL!!

    All I know is that I love the designs you all come up with and the quality of the can be misted/inked to being dunked into a hot melting pot full of UTEE (aka Sam's ring) can withstand any kind of creative challenges :)

  3. Bret! I am so impressed with the Authentique's (and your team's) dedication to quality and to designs that appeal to our sight, smell and touch..(My dog enjoys the paper scraps..what can I say! They must be tasty too!)I use Authentique as the standard by which I measure so many other paper companies. Thank you for your committment.
    PS: Loving the CHA releases!
    Yours Truly

  4. Love this post!!! I also grew up near a steel mill and can relate to the "lovely" smell that it creates ;) Authentique does truely have the best quality of paper (and in no way stinks). I am always telling people about the technique I learned on your blog a while back where you can split the paper in half and get use out of both the double sides (thats just how good Authentiques quality is!!) So thanks again for making such amazing paper with great quality, patterns and scent ;)

  5. You are sooo right. And to be creating an AWESOME Page you have to love the product you are working with. It is hard to make a fantastic page if the paper does not look, feel and smell right!!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. Scent brings back memories for me too and Authentique Paper certainly does NOT stink. In fact, it smells awesome and thank you for paying attention to the finer details of quality.

  7. I worked for a printing company for several years, and was often in the press room. I still love the smell of good printing ink, and papers.

  8. Great story - I think I could pick out your paper blind folded - by the scent and even more importantly by the feel. The texture and weight of your paper is the best quality I've ever run accross. Keep up the good work!

  9. Having been in the paper room... The smell is heavenly!! Loved the story, keep them coming!

  10. thanks for sharing your story......
    and yes i'm one of the ......... who likes the smell of papers : )))

  11. What a nice and well written blog post. I truly appreciate this post. I too am a lover of the smell of paper. I am in love with your products. And will be purchasing them as often as I can. Which unfortunately isn't all the often due to living in New Zealand and not having a good supply of them. But I will be on the lookout for them. Thank you for creating such a great product.

    1. Lydia,

      I lived in Auckland for a while and have very fond memories of my time in New Zealand. One of our international distributors is in New Zealand and has invited us to visit. He wants us to enjoy some fishing on his chartered boats, so we are actually planning a possible visit.

      A very fine retailer in Howick, Jodi, owner of Scrapaholics, placed a nice order with us that shipped a couple of weeks ago. I am sure she would ship to you directly. Thank you for your reply.


  12. This post was very articulate and I enjoyed reading it and being caught into the smells you experienced growing up. I am grateful that you seek excellence and that part of that means making quality paper products that don't off-gas stenches. Paper should smell pleasant. I have paper-related memories because my mom worked for the newspaper and would take my brother and me in to see the huge presses. I remember the speed the presses at which the press operated and I recall watching pressmen load huge rolls of newsprint onto them. Even though it was just newsprint, not the fine quality paper used by Authentique, it didn't stink, and the visits were always fun. Thanks for sharing!

  13. I appreciate the time and effort that the Authentique team puts into their blog posts. The posts are so detailed and tell such great stories. I really enjoy reading them. Thanks!

  14. Really interesting post Bret. It's fascinating to get an insight into other peoples childhood memories. I teach at Scrapaholics, for Jodi, and I can't wait to get my hands on some Authentique! Have been eyeing it up for ages!

  15. So fun to read this post. I had just returned from Paper Creations with a stack of new Authentique paper and had mentioned how much I loved even the smell of it so this post was very appropriate for that moment. Besides, the only other hobby I love as much as scrapbooking is baseball. (or wathcing my boys and husband play anyway)

  16. What a wonderful post Bret! Thank you. I truly love Authentique paper and its quality. I also happen to be a chemist. And we recently suffered terrible headaches from a shipment of horrific smelling paper at the store. So I understand and can relate and appreciate your commitment to quality - and smell!

  17. Love this post Bret!! And your photos are killer!

    Yes, I love the smell--it is pleasant and earthy, like the air after a good rain. I love getting my boxed and prepping for classes with it :)

  18. I love the texture of paper and the quality.I hold the paper in my hands and love on it dreaming of the beautiful layouts I am going to make with your papers.

  19. I love old books as well...musty, dusty, old books....I wonder where they have been...who read them....what they must have looked like new.

  20. How true . Smell can jolt memories long forgotten and transport us thru time. I love this story. Brett you sound like a man cut from the salt of the earth. Awesome post and your photos ate great.

  21. How funny you tell this story about how paper smells. I just told my son today "smell this scrapbooking paper is smells so good!!!" He just looked at me like I was crazy.

  22. Really interesting article. I never really paid attention to the smell of scrapbooking paper. As a young teen, I helped my girlfriend fold brochures at her uncle's small printing company and your story has helped me recall the smell of the brochures. I will now certainly pay more attention to the scent of scrapbooking paper. I personally look at the construction of the paper as well as the feel of it.

  23. I noticed the smell right away of your papers, and honestly, did associate it with great quality. You can sense it in every sense of the word as soon as you touch them. Loved reading your post, and as someone who is very in tune with her sense of smell, I know all too well what you mean when you say it can evoke memories and emotions. And may I just say, I loved and appreciated the photo of the Heidelberg. I so enjoyed my time in the printing world and I, too, remember the aroma of paper and ink meshing together in the print shop. Nicely written Bret, looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  24. I'm with that other owner who received paper and along with it headaches. I received just a sample pack, of three new lines, and well, after airing it out - it's been MONTHS - the paper still just reeks. I'm glad I chose to not bring it in. Keep up the great work.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts