A visit to Schöning Verlag
Earlier in December last year, me, Paulo and a couple other postcrossers were invited on a special mission. We brought the Little Mail Carriers' cousin along for the ride, and he wrote this lively report:
Hallo from cold and snowy Lübeck, once capital of the Hanseatic league! You might have thought the reason we came all this way was to tour its UNESCO worthy architecture or try their worldwide famous marzipan... but you'd be wrong! We visited Lübeck because Schöning Verlag, one of Germany's top makers of touristic postcards, has a factory here, and invited us to come see how postcards are made! Isn't that exciting?!
Turns out, Bernd and Jana, two of Schöning's employees (and our hosts in this visit), discovered Postcrossing not so long ago, and embraced it wholeheartedly! Look at the wall of postcards they've set up in their office:
Neat hum? How nice it must be, to do Postcrossing when you have literally thousands of postcards to chose from! :D
But how are they made? We've learnt that there are many steps involved in the process... and huge machinery!
Before printing, postcards must be designed, and Schöning has a team of designers in house to cover that task. Something we've discovered on our visit, is that a specific postcard is never printed by itself, but as a part of set postcards currently in demand. A technician groups these postcards together in a large sheet, and checks it for mistakes. After that, the fun begins!
Here is a picture of Paulo, holding an aluminium printing plate - you can see the outline of what they're currently printing in there! Schöning has to make several of these plates for each set of postcards, one plate for each colour that their big machine prints in... here it is, the Heidelberg Speedmaster!
It is huge, filling up a whole section of their warehosue, and paper flashes through its several colour sections at an incredible speed! The sheets are constantly checked and adjusted, so that the colors have the right brightness and contrast every time. Then, they are fed to another machine, which gives them a shiny coating. Again, sheets whoosh past so fast that if you blink, you'll miss them!
In the end, a technician cuts the individual postcards using a very sofisticated (and scary) cutting machine, and they're wrapped in sets, which are then stored in Schöning's huge warehouse. It was postcard-heaven!
They also have neat old machines, like this Heidelberg press, which at the time was being used to cut out heart-shapes on some postcards - cute!
In the end, there was still time to tour Lübeck's Unesco historical center and drink some glühwein in the Christmas market with friendly postcrossers turtles and mondkind, who took the time to show us around.
Coming back at the end of the day, we were all exhausted, but incredibly happy, and felt like we learned a lot in this exciting trip. Thank you Schöning for inviting us, and showing us the ropes! :)
PS - Schöning Verlag offered Postcrossing an advertising opportunity on their paperbags, and we're asking members to vote on a design to print. Check out this forum thread for more information, and to cast your vote!