(October 2010) World-wide the tourist branch faces a common problem: wind and weather erode information, which the boards seek to convey, beyond recognition or at best oxidize their surface and make them unsightly. French company Empreinte has found a solution and achieved international acclaim: Empreinte uses lava stone plates, into which messages or diagrams are burnt in enamel. Company speaker Laurence Navez quotes 3 decades as the longevity of these boards and points out its natural richness and depth of colour: „The natural aspect of lava gives a unique finish to all visual features, and exceptional depth of colour.“
The medium was not invented by Empreinte. Forerunners were sign posts mostly bearing blue-black writing which can be found along the French roads naming town or direction and distance to the next settlement. They came into their own around 1910 and are still well legible to this very day. They are dubbed Plaques Michelin after the famous tire company with the marshmallow-mascot.
French Pyrenee-based Empreinte uses local lava-stone, more precisely from the Volvic region. The raw blocks are purchased from another company. Empreinte specializes in the enamel technique and design of the information boards. The work is completed by hand.
The company has its own team for setting up signs which can usually be done without the help of a crane. The m² mass of a stone plate 15 mm thick is 22 kg, 55 kg for 25 mm and 66 kg for 30 mm according to Navez.
The foot of the signs, too, is stone or they can be mounted in a steel frame and hung or backed by wood or another material with a steel frame according to customer’s wishes. Boards come in sizes up to 500 x 1000 mm (or as small as 50 x 50 mm) for 15 mm thick stone slabs, 1000 x 2000 mm (min 100 x 100 mm) for 25 mm thick or 1000 x 2400 mm (min 100 x 100 mm) for 30 mm thick slabs.
In some areas companies or hotels have ordered signs privately. The boards also make sturdy lecterns and are well liked to bear the family crest. Two years ago the company was commissioned to produce the information board on the Greek Acropolis.