The latest limited edition from Baron Fig are the New York City Softcover Notebooks ($16) which feature three distinctly illustrated covers by illustrator Josh Cochran of city life. As someone who dwells in a considerably less urban environment than New York these days, I wasn’t sure if the latest edition would resonate with me or just make me homesick for city life.
One cover illustrates people on the daily commute on the train, another folks on the beach and the third out walking in the park. As a former Chicagoan, these scenes could easily be the L, the North Ave Beach and along Lakeshore Drive. I’m sure folks in other cities can substitute their own rail system (if you are lucky enough to have one), your favorite spot to lie in the sun and the best place to take a walk (be it park or parkway). So, the books give me a little bit of nostalgia for my hometown but also for warmer days as we all bundle up like sherpas for the blustery winter ahead.
Inside, the “Flagship” medium size softcover notebooks provide the same features we love about Baron Fig’s products already: 72pages of sewn bound 90gsm paper with 5mm dot grid and lovely rounded corners.
The Baron Fig medium still features their own unique dimensions at 5.4″x7.7″ (137mmx195mm). To compare, a standard A5 size is 148x210mm. A Baron Fig medium notebook will fit into a notebook cover designed for A5 sized notebooks but there will be excess space.
The NYC edition is an aesthetic treat and I love that Baron Fig is doing different things with their special edition notebooks than what Field Notes does. The original illustrations are a refreshing change and let Baron Fig shine on their own.
Kyo-no-oto is an ink line from the TAG stationery store in Japan with colors designed to represent traditional Japanese dyes. The latest release from Kyo-no-oto is Sakuranezumi or Cherry Blossom Mouse (maybe the cutest name ever).
From the box, the color seems to be a dusty pinkish purple that shades well. The box is a thick cardstock with the name Kyo-no-oto letterpressed into the material and is one of those boxes that I can never seem to open without a small tear in one corner.
Opening the bottle, the ink seems to be a very dark purple and on the thin side – very little ink stayed on the inside of the lid.
Sakuranezumi is an amazing shading ink. On my swatch card, the shading varies from a dusty rose to a plum with a dark halo and a hint of a goldish-green sheen on tthe edges of that halo.
In very heavy applications, Sakuranezumi can even move towards a violet. This only happened where I allowed a LOT of ink to dry.
As I compared Sakuranezumi to other inks, there was a wide range to match. The lightest areas seemed to be a good match to Robert Oster Claret while the heavier applications looked near the lightest portions of Bungubox Ink of the Witch.
Due to the sakura portion of the name, I was inspired to draw a few flowers. The shading is great here, just don’t judge the quality of the actual drawing!
Another large swatch of ink shows again the leaning towards blue undertones.
The biggest complaint about Kyo-no-oto ink is that the inks are terribly dry. I used a pen that is normally too wet for my taste in order to compensate for the dryness and I was pleased with the results! The flow seemed perfect. I would label Sakuranezumi as a dry-ish ink, although nowhere near the dryness level of Stone Road or Hisoku.
Wide nibs and script writing (rather than cursive) show the shading very well. In writing I would actually say Sakuranezumi is a medium shading ink.
At $28 for 40mL, Kyo-no-oto inks are on the pricy side, but, in my opinion, are worth the price for the original colors. Now I need to find a stuffed Cherry Blossom Mouse for my desk!
This week, the lists (year end, gift guides and favorites) are more predominant than in past weeks. There’s the Pen Addict’s Stationery Products of the Decade, Pencilcaseblog’s Holiday Gift Guide, plus some creativity classes from My Modern Met and more.
December is a good time to plan, reflect and take time to think about how the past year (or years) have been and plan for the future. Certainly, we can pause and reflect anytime and hit our own personal reset button but the new year on the horizon always creates a natural reflection point.
2020 will ring in the tenth year of The Well-Appointed Desk and I’m ready to reflect, celebrate and reminisce. Are you planning to “reset” for 2020?
A few months ago, the Desk was contacted by BB7B, a relatively new company whose mission is specializing in premium stationery and accessories. From the company website:
The name BB7B is text message shorthand for the traditional Irish language sign-off in a letter to a friend or colleague: Beir Bua agus Beannacht, which means I hope you are blessed with great success.
The binder itself is hardcover, covered with dark green book cloth. It has been designed with a lay-flat spine that is rounded. The front cover is completely plain. Inside the front cover is a grey cardstock envelope approximately 3/8″ (1 cm) thick that can hold miscellaneous items up to and including a phone or small tablet. There is a dark green elastic band that holds the grey envelope shut.
On the opposite side of the binder, there is a B5 sized notepad (6.9 x 9.8″ or 176 x 250 mm excluding the margin), perforated for ease of use, and two-hole punched and held in place by a metal band and two screws. The back cover is embossed with the BB7B logo, and has a light gray colored elastic band to hold the notebook pages in place.
Overall the B5 binder is somewhat bulky. It measures 8.7 x 10″ (220 x 270 mm) and is approximately 1″ (25 mm) thick. With the notebook in place, the full weight comes to about 1lb 1oz (~675 grams) so this isn’t going to be a lightweight EDC.
My feelings about this product are mixed. First, the binder. While advertised as “subtle, stylish, professional,” the binder doesn’t have the clean lines and luxury feel that I had hoped for. The hardcover feels like cardboard which I worry wouldn’t stand up to wear and tear, and I also wonder if the book cloth will fray over time. While I like the inner envelope quite a bit, I don’t feel like the card stock is sturdy enough that I’d want to put my iPad in there safely. I do see it being excellent for storing business cards, post-its, handouts from meetings, etc.
To me, the true hidden gem of this product is the notepad inside! The ivory paper is 100gsm and features light gray dot grid. Originally I wasn’t sure that the paper would be fountain pen quality, but it is and I REALLY enjoyed writing on it. It’s smooth and crisp, and I didn’t have any bleeding or feathering. There’s barely even any show-through on the back side! While I wasn’t entirely impressed with the quality of the binder, the paper is more than I was expecting.
Underneath the notepad there is a note that you can reorder paper from BB7B. That item isn’t available on the website so I reached out to our contact to see what the story is. They are expecting to have the notepad available on the website any day now (darn that manufacturing process!) but they also advise that any B5 size notepad will work and the gap between the holes is the same as any standard two hole punch.
Overall, I have some ideas for how the B5 binder could play into my life. It’s not going in my bag or getting transported as a part of my EDC. I suspect I’ll use it for a specific purpose like my meal planning. I think the paper will be perfect for notes, recipes, ideas, etc. and the envelope will hold all the bits and pieces of that: coupons, recipes from magazines and papers, spare recipes cards, etc.
Now, onto the GIVEAWAY.
BB7B has generously sent me B5 binders for for TWO lucky readers to try!
TO ENTER: Leave a comment below and tell me how you think you’d use your B5 binder! It makes reading through entries more interesting for me, okay? One entry per person.
If you have never entered a giveaway or commented on the site before, your comment must be manually approved by our highly-trained staff of monkeys before it will appear on the site. Our monkeys are underpaid and under-caffeinated so don’t stress if your comment does not appear right away. Give the monkeys some time.
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, December 13, 2019. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Monday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your actual email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 10 days, I will draw a new winner. Shipping via USPS first class/Prioirty Mail is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US and APO/AFO only, sorry.
DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review and giveaway were provided to us free of charge by BB7B for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I meant to publish this review/overview months ago. Then I realized that my Field Notes subscription had lapsed and I had to renew it in order to get the most recent Colors subscription. And for whatever reason, getting Field Notes from Chicago to Kansas City is a Herculean task that takes weeks. I think they arrive faster to the UK than they do to me.
Since it took awhile to get all the editions and then I received the notification for Group Eleven, I just waited. I decided to just do a great big round-up of the currently available editions for 2019: Group Eleven, Autumn Trilogy, National Parks, Mile Marker and Wilco. It’s been awhile since I have talked about Field Notes at any length.
If you subscribed to the Colors Quarterly Editions, all but the Wilco edition would have been shipped to you over the last six months. If not, you can subscribe starting with the Group Eleven edition. As a subscriber, there is often a subscriber “extra” included that is not available with individual purchases. The Autumn Trilogy “extra” was a screenprinted cotton bandana that featured the leaves printed on each cover. Mile Marker shipped with a map of the US and Group Eleven shipped with a 2020 desk calendar.
In the case of the National Parks edition, subscribers received all twelve editions. In order to get all twelve editions in open stock, you have to order packs A, B, C and D at $12.95 each.
After some thought, it seemed that the best way to see the differences between the features of each Color Edition (and the Wilco set) was to put them in a spreadsheet.
No. of Editions
Notebooks in each edition
Price for full set (USD)
holographic laser foil
there’s a lot of them
metallic foil edging
slipcase storage box
All the books feature 48 pages per book regardless of whether they have 60# or 70# paper.
When lined up like this, it’s easier to see that over 2019 dot grid has reigned supreme if you don’t count the sheer volume of National Parks edition books. If dot grid and the heavier 70# textweight paper is your jam, then you’ll want to grab the new Group Eleven books.
At this point, this is almost a “which Field Notes of 2019 is your favorite?” post. So, I’ll roll with it.
While the Wilco edition has not clearly been stated as a regular edition or limited edition, it’s still available. From an aesthetic standpoint, its my favorite. But I have to confess, I am not actually a Wilco music fan. Don’t shoot me. The Wilco x Field Notes is still a total treat.
While a 6-notebook set seems like a lot of notebooks, it’s not as big a commitment as the 12-notebook set of National Parks. The slipcase box for the Wilco set provides great storage for the notebooks too for a mere $2 upcharge. The 60# text weight paper is just right for most people and, even if you’re not a Wilco fan, the colorful graphics are fun and who doesn’t like dot grid? I think it would make a perfect holiday gift for the “paper curious” or the music enthusiast.
The National Parks edition is great for the outdoorsy folks. Pick an edition with parks that might be places they’ve visited.
The Group Eleven is almost elegant in its simplicity and the latest edition to feature the heavier 70# text weight stock inside. It is also dot grid so it should satisfy most paper fanatics. Autumn Trilogy also features 70# text weight only with lines instead of dot grid.
In 2019, Field Notes created an edition to satisfy the most discerning tastes or the most ardent collector. Which edition is your favorite?
Since most pocket notebook users are probably writing in them and not drawing, unruled pages are harder to come by than ruled. When I find one, I’m always interested in trying it. The Blackwing Clutch (pack of 3 for $14.95) was next on my curiosity list. (Ana included the Clutch in her review of three Blackwing notebook formats a couple of years ago. Check out her post, if only for the eye candy of her Lady Sheaffers!) The Clutch is also available with dot grid or ruled, all in a choice of black or white covers.
Like Field Notes (and many other competitors), the 5½-by-3½-inch Clutch is sold three notebooks per pack, wrapped with a bellyband, 48 pages per book. The creamy paper is 100 GSM with sewn signatures instead of staples. A notable Clutch distinction is that the book’s format is designed to be landscape instead of portrait. Of course, if your pages are blank or dot grid, it doesn’t matter, but the orientation of the back cover’s logo and inside-cover printing indicates that it was designed in that direction. The ruled-page option is ruled in the landscape direction with a vertical center line that might be handy for list-making. (The bellyband hedges bets: It’s landscape-oriented on one side; portrait-oriented on the other.)
The matte-finish cover is a hard cardboard that is substantially thicker than that on Field Notes or most other paper cover notebooks. It’s also less flexible, so pants-pocket carriers might find it a bit stiff. As a bag-pocket carrier, I like the sturdy cover with a pleasant touch. The cover alone justifies the nominally higher cost compared to competing notebooks. The only branding is a debossed logo in back.
I was pleased to see that the signatures are stitched, since such bindings usually open easily and stay open (as do stapled books). To my surprise, the attractively rounded spine and stiff covers tend to make the book snap shut, and I learned this while trying to photograph page spreads for this review: I had to hold the pages open against the table. Despite that, I could easily bend one side of the book all the way back so that the two covers touch. This is my preferred way to hold a notebook while sketching in it, so it’s an essential quality I look for. The spine recovers completely without visible creases afterwards.
As for my media tests, the only pens that bled through a bit were the Derwent Paint Pen (which bleeds through everything) and my juicy Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen fountain pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink (review available as well), but neither fountain pen I tested feathered. The paper surface is smooth and pleasant to use with all pens and pencils.
Since I like to use a lot of dark, broad brush pens (all of which perform beautifully on the paper), my only disappointment is that the paper is not more opaque. In the photo of my sketch below (made with a Uni Pin brush pen), you can see the ghost of the sketch on the previous page. But for 100 GSM paper, this is typical, so I’m just being picky. And I’m pleased that the Uni Pin’s pigment ink did not feather or bleed at all.
It took me a while to try the Clutch, but I’m happy that I finally did. It’s a great unruled-page option with paper that holds up to most writing and casual sketching materials. The sturdy cover is a bonus.
DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.