Journaling is good for the soul, and with another lockdown many people have been turning to the traditional hobby. For trained geography and crafts teacher, Tamas Gál, it was no wonder he would combine a love of nature and craftsmanship to help create one of the most luxurious journals on the market.
Bark & Rock, a small Surrey-based company has been handcrafting journals and books from natural wood and stone, ever since its inception in 2018, including the Walnut Burr that is used in the interior of Bentley’s.
Mark Gosling started the business after seeing a gap in the stationery market when designing notebooks for another personalisation company he owned. His son, Luke is now heading up the bespoke stationery company, creating the books using over 40 handpicked different luxury wood veneers. Luke’s role covers anything from dealing with clients’ enquiries, working with suppliers and stockists to making books and designing packaging. He spent the first six months sanding wood and learning everything from scratch.
After considerable time spent on research and development, Bark & Rock is now one of the only workshops in the UK making high-end journals from natural material by hand. Director Luke, 25, explains: “Concentrating our journals and notebooks on the world’s best and unusual woods and stones not only increased the material costs but the craftsmanship and time it took to make one. I can make a book but then we found Tamas, he’s better than me, he’s a true craftsman!
“We spent the first 18 months refining our process and ensuring quality was key, this included making sure the pages didn’t slip down, as that can be annoying; ensuring the spine could move easily but be sturdy enough to last a lifetime and engineering our own fittings to integrate the refillable paper together with the cover that can be as thin as 2.8mm.
“Working with these wood veneers is like working on a piece of art. It is challenging because no two pieces are the same. The craftsmanship all comes down to the detail and we now have something that we are really proud of.”
During the pandemic, Tamas and Luke have been busy with a steady stream of orders from clients that include UK consumers and international retailers from Russia, the USA, Japan and even Monte Carlo.
Master-trained wood technician Tamas, 26, who is originally from Hungary, was interested in crafting from a young age and left college with qualifications to become a primary school and craft teacher before graduating in geography. While studying in Ukraine, he learned wood surface treatment techniques from various local masters, he went on to work for an exclusive parquet flooring company in the UK before coming across Bark & Rock where he could put his wood and carpentry skills to the test.
Bark & Rock won Tamas over when he first heard about the company. He comments: “I was captivated by the books when I first saw them, it seemed unbelievable that it was possible to make these out of wood and stone. We have had challenges and it took us several months to get the process right. The important thing now is to ensure every book made, is made with patience and care.”
It can take four days to make one book and because of the wood or stone patterns no two journals are the same, making them completely unique. First Luke and Tamas select each bundle of veneer to find the best grain patterns. With the bark, for example, each bundle has 24 leaves, from which 12 books can be made. The first stage is to avoid the bark from splitting, so the veneer needs to be soaked and left under pressure to dry.
The process then moves from cutting and bonding together to sanding, laser cutting and spraying with very specially sourced, ecological oils before final drying then the internal papers and engineered fittings are assembled.
Bark & Rock is now creating notebooks, journals, photograph albums and guestbooks. Special editions include silver and 24-Carat gold personalisation and wood inlaying or those with covers that include personal, intricate carvings, cut out by Tamas in the workshop. “The inlayed books are my favourite to make because they are totally unique,” adds Tamas. “I am old school and in my free time I often read and take notes, so do appreciate a great notebook over an e-book or iPad. I think the culture of traditional books should be made fashionable again.”
Prices for the refillable journals start at £260. For more details see www.barkandrock.com or call 0208 941 3481.