By Lara Copeland, writer, PostPress

A ritual symbol used in a variety of traditions dating back thousands of years, the mandala, in its most basic form, is a geometric configuration of symbols. Given their vibrant appearance and roots in meditation, it is no surprise mandalas have entered into pop culture – especially in adult coloring books, which have been touted as tools to help adults reduce stress and anxiety. “We do a fair amount of coloring books and see a lot of mandala designs on our floor,” said Patrick Choquet, president at Gravure Choquet, located in Montréal, Québec, Canada. “We have been wanting to create one for us and our customers for some time.”

The trade finisher works with printers throughout Canada and the Northeast US. Serving a number of industries – including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food, clear packaging and security products, such as postage stamps, trade cards and mintage products, to name a few – the company also does application of holograms. With 24 hot stamping presses, Gravure Choquet also engraves its own stamping and embossing dies and does foiling on a variety of special substrates. “We have a prepress department that analyzes every file before going in production to maximize the stamping
and embossing results and effect,” Choquet added. 

One day last fall, a request on the company’s website came from a designer, Dominique Cloutier from Mandala Universe. The self-described passionate artist creates work that aims to “elevate vibrations, joy, unconditional love, tenderness, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and creative power.” Her research helped her discover “the power of colors and mandalas on our vibrations,” and she plans “to bring happiness to the hearts of people, one mandala at a time.” Thus, Cloutier approached Gravure Choquet wanting 50 units of a mandala, but there was one issue: Producing such a low volume would be costly. 

Yoan Robitaille, technical sales representative at Gravure Choquet, explained that its processes are expensive and become cost effective in larger quantities. The team at Gravure Choquet told Cloutier they’d like to use the
design for a production of a much larger quantity. 

The design for this piece was generated in October 2020. Cloutier prepared all the files in Adobe Illustrator for the production, the stamping and embossing tools, “and she did a great job,” Choquet said. 

Starting production in December 2020 for 2,000 units, Gravure Choquet enlisted help from several companies. RL Lamination supplied the Invercote paper stock and the matte black
soft-touch lamination that was completed on a Billhöefer laminator. The UV coating and thermochromic UV was produced by Super Lustre on its SPS coating line. MMD supplied the diecut tools (die and stripping jig) and Découpage BM used a Heidelberg cylinder machine to complete the diecutting. “Choquet did the stamping dies and stamped on the Bobst Foilmaster and embossed on our high-tonnage Sheridan press with heat and dwell,” Choquet said. Metal Magic did the multilevel embossing die, and Kurz Transfer Products supplied all the foils. 

With its vibrant appearance and roots in meditation, the mandala symbol has become a pop culture icon.

The most challenging part of this project was keeping everything in register. When foiling started, Choquet said it was important to make sure all six foil passes – the orange, green, pink, gold, silver holographic and lavender – all were precisely in position. “We usually use the embossing die to fit everything perfectly, but the die was not ready, so we used a position film,” Choquet explained.

Next in the process were the two UV coating runs and two stamping passes for the logos in the bottom section, done in black and clear holographic foil (the seventh and eighth foil). “One of the UVs is thermochromic, so if you press on the black UV over the lavender foil, you will notice that the UV becomes clear,” Choquet remarked. Additionally, the diecut and stripping were completed after the last UV coating pass. The last pass, the multilevel embossing, was produced on a Sheridan embossing press. 

Gravure Choquet endeavored to complete production before Christmas, but it was finished in early January of this year. Cloutier was given 350 units for fundraising purposes, and the remaining mandalas were distributed to Gravure Choquet’s customers, prospects and suppliers. The mandala poster was extremely well received. 

“They told us how unbelievable it is; that it’s a piece of art, mystical, and some even said it was the best piece ever produced,” Choquet shared. Honored by the recognition, Choquet said he, too, was quite pleased with the piece. 

Gravure Choquet entered the mandala into FSEA’s 28th Annual Gold Leaf Awards in 2021 and won not only Gold in the Best Use of Foil and/or Embossing – Self Promotion category, but the judges also awarded it “Best of Show,” which is presented to the overall best entry from all the Gold winners in more than 35 categories. 

“We are very, very proud, and it’s clear to us that the jury knows about foil and its challenges,” Choquet stated. He shared that the company is entering the mandala piece into two other contests and “we are confident to win further awards.”