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MEET YOUR MAKER: HOW THE CRAFT OF EXPERT PAPER BOX-MAKING IS HONED OVER DECADES

4th January 2021,

AT POTTERS BOX MAKERS, IT ALL STARTS WITH THE TEAM’S HANDS. FROM THEIR EXPERT ‘FEEL’ OF THE WEIGHT, QUALITY AND RECYCLABILITY OF THE CARDBOARD PAPER TO THE CLEVER HANDMADE PAPER-BOX PACKAGING AND CUSTOM FINISHES, POTTERS IS A HANDS-ON,
MADE-IN-ENGLAND EPICENTRE. CALLING ON MORE THAN A CENTURY OF EXPERTISE AND IMAGINATION BETWEEN THE CLOSE TEAM, THEY DEFTLY PIVOT BETWEEN CRAFTSMAN-LIKE RUNS OF BESPOKE BOXES OF A FEW HUNDRED AN HOUR – WHETHER FOR JEWELLERY AND GIFTS OR COSMETICS AND FOOD – TO LARGER INDUSTRIAL-STYLE ORDERS IN THE THOUSANDS. NOTHING, AS THEY SAY, STARTS BY SIMPLY ‘PUSHING A BUTTON’.

Love vegan glue for your cosmetics’ packaging? Tick. A box secure enough to hug a high-end £10,000 vase perfectly? Tick. Need probably the world’s smallest ring box? Tick. For Adrian Todd-Wood, it’s been a lifetime’s passion in the packaging trade to achieve such agility. Today’s Potters, put simply, will boldly cut and fold where boxes haven’t been cut and folded before… Throw in a design or size challenge from a partner, and the Innovations Manager will call on 50 years’ expertise to reimagine the solution and bounce around ideas with the 10-strong team. “There’s a heck of a lot of work that goes into our packaging,” he enthuses. “It’s fantastic to get stuck in.”

 

However, nothing happens at Potters, Adrian insists, “just by pushing a button on a computer.” From working out the style of cardboard to the size required – which will depend on the fit of the lid in some cases – before being sliced by a giant guillotine, it’s “often hands-on all the way down the production line,” he continues. Relying on meticulous hand-eye coordination honed over 40 years, factory operatives Tracy Weaver and Carol Waldron act as ‘spotters’, knowing exactly how to place the handmade boxes to keep the creative process flowing right. “Hand-box-making is an interesting and involved process,” explains Carol (pictured below), whose sister Linda has also worked at the factory for four decades. Then they could be mitre-ing the two sides together at 90 degrees, hand-scoring the box with two lines before ‘staying’ it (applying a pre-glued strip around the edges) by hand or machine for less bespoke runs on a conveyor belt. Beyond this, there are endless possibilities: inserts; printing; hot foiling; embossing; lining it with a silk frame… “We gather it like pastry all the way round to get it all to sit together,” Tracy, Potter’s expert bespoke box-maker, says. “There’s nothing off the shelf about what we do – it’s all made by us.”

For larger creations, Adrian is also the go-to person to tweak a parade of machines that help achieve the packaging desires of myriad customers. Most likely to be seen on the 5,200-feet factory floor with a tool-box loaded with spanners, grease guns and a set of Allen keys, he’ll rework an innovative Heidelberg – where cardboard can be handfed before being cut-and-creased against chunky steel plates – or a larger Crosland Platen cutter. Think of him as the “Q” of the box world: he’s even invented a self-ejecting spur so machines spring-eject finished boxes on to a pile after a completed cycle. “You really get to know each individual piece of kit,” he says. “Even above the din of the factory, I can pick it up the slightest change in an operational noise.”

All this personal touch in manufacturing is in Paul Glazzard’s DNA, too. Bringing an efficient, modern twist to the company is important to Potters Box Makers’ Plant Manager, who spent decades spent at a high-spec cereal-box company before joining five years ago. He sees being able to offer samples and custom, hand-built creations – from cosmetics and candle boxes to chocolate boxes and gift bags – as a rare moment in today’s highly prescriptive and automated packaging industry. “Potters boxes are frequently handmade and hand-crafted in a British factory – how special is that?” he asks. “No one wants traditional skills to die. We love standing on the shoulders of past, tried-and-tested craftsmanship to meet the demands of cutting-edge designs for the next generation.”