Link Love: New Week, New Header!

I got a wild hair last week to make a new header for Link Love. I was feeling all cut paper-y so I got out my watercolors and my craft knife and I went to town. Initially I scanned the header in and cleaned it all up in Adobe Photoshop so it looked like a little banner but at the last minute, I saw the cut letters laying on top of my scanner with the light catching them and decided I liked them way better just photographed than all Photoshopped. So… new header! I hope you like it.

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Paper & Notebook:

Planners:

Other Interesting Things:

Notebook Review: Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box

The Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box is probably no longer a big secret but I’m going to hide the photos of the actual covers of the notebooks behind a “read more” so if you don’t want to have the surprise ruined, you don’t have to click through. Especially since the NEW Vanguard Edition launched last week. So, really… but not many folks have been talking about this edition. I feel like it got lost in the shuffle of the holidays and all the other special releases and I think people might kick themselves if they don’t grab this one since its still available so I thought I’d get my review out now. Better late than never.

Everything prior to the “read more” will not be a spoiler so feel free to continue to read on.

First, the Black Box comes in another one of Baron Fig’s excellent boxes. This one in matte black with gloss black symbols on the cover: an x, an o, a wave and a leaf. It reminds me of a puzzle, something from Welcome to Nightvale or an episode of Lost.

The big news is that its one of the first editions of the Vanguard with dot grid. AND… the paper looks to have been upgraded to the same stock that Baron Fig is using in the Confidant. The stock is  toothier than in my previous Vanguard editions and the color is creamier.

See that texture? Alternately, if you liked that smooth smooth Vanguard stock, then this is not the edition for you.

When I did a side-by-side comparison of the Black Box edition paper and an original Vanguard, the paper in the Black Box handled like the Confidant which was much more to my liking. My fountain pens were well-behaved and the toothiness of the stock meant that pencils and pen nibs didn’t slide around of their own accord.

The photo above is a close-ups of the ink handling of the two books. The bottom two frames are the same pen on the two versions of Vanguard. Fountain pen users will recognize that weird ink resistance on the right as opposed to the left which is just lovely shading. (It’s Oster Fire & Ice ink, if you’re curious.)

Okay… this is it… You want to see the cover details?

(more…)

Review: Plumchester Square Sketchbook

Review by Tina Koyama

When I first saw it, I was immediately thrilled by the rich plum color of the new Plumchester Square Sketchbook – with a yellow-gold elastic and matching ribbon bookmark! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see nearly enough of the purple/gold complement anywhere, much less the stationery world. Let’s take a closer look, outside and inside.

Appearance and Features

The vegan leather hardcover has a smooth matte finish without the vague stickiness I sometimes feel on other synthetic leather surfaces. The corners are neatly rounded. Although I didn’t road test its durability, the cover resists minor fingernail scratches and looks like it would hold up well to daily-carry. The only branding is a white debossed logo on the back cover.

The elastic closure is significantly wider and heftier than what you’d find on a Moleskine – proportionate to the book’s 8.3-by-8.3-inch format. I wish the satin ribbon bookmark were wider – by comparison, it seems skimpy (however, the cut edge has been fray-proofed, so Ana would undoubtedly give that detail a bonus point!).

Other than its color, probably the most distinctive physical feature of the Plumchester sketchbook is its square format. Although an Internet search for square-format sketchbooks yields plenty of results, most are spiralbound or softcover, not perfect-bound hardcovers. The square format is one of my favorites for versatility – you can decide on your work’s format after it’s done, not be forced to conform to the format of your book. It’s also just right for sharing on Instagram, as Plumchester points out: “Snap a photo of your art on a square page and post it to social media using #plumchester.”

All of that caught my eye, but what held my attention was when I opened that perfect-bound hardcover binding – and how absolutely flat the page spreads open. As big a fan as I am of Stillman & Birn’s sketchbooks, I’ve looked askance at their claims that their hardcover books open flat – I have never been able to escape the telltale gray shadow at the gutter when I put a spread on the scanner. (S&B’s softcovers do, indeed, open as flat as any sketchbook I know.) The Plumchester, however, really does open completely flat. Since spreads closer to the middle of a book usually open flatter, I deliberately picked a spread near the back cover to scan the gutter. As you can see from my un-Photoshopped image, there’s no gray shadow. Based on all the hardcover sketchbooks I’ve opened, I had been convinced that it just isn’t possible to make one that opens completely flat – but the Plumchester proves it can be done.

Media Tests

OK, let’s get to the nitty-gritty – the 48 pages of paper. The smooth, bright white paper is 160 gsm (108 lbs.). Since I’m familiar with it, and it has a similar texture, I compared it to Stillman & Birn’s Epsilon series, which is 150 gsm (100 lbs.). While that weight difference is hardly noticeable in thickness, where it really shows up is in opacity. On an Epsilon page, the ghost of the image on the page underneath or on the other side is clearly visible, but I saw no ghosting at all on Plumchester pages, even when scanned.

I had a ton of fun throwing just about every medium I own onto those pages. Many sketchbook papers have a toothy surface that’s nice for art media, but the tooth is unpleasant with a fountain pen (my favorite writing tool), so I don’t enjoy writing on the same page I’ve sketched on. But the Plumchester’s smooth surface is a joy to use with everything from fountain and gel pens to fat, juicy brush pens.

The only media that bled through were an alcohol-based Zig Kurecolor marker, a Higgins Black Magic marker (wherever I stalled when writing, but not a scribbled line where I was moving faster) and a scribble of Liquitex ink where I sprayed it with water.

Plumchester says the paper is ideal for “graphite pencils, pigmented ink, colored pencils, paint markers,” so it was no surprise that the paper buckled under watercolor or wherever I sprayed or washed the page with water. While I expected the buckling (most papers lighter than 140 lbs. probably would), I was a little disappointed that the sizing allowed most of my water-soluble marker and brush pen inks to sink in rapidly, which means that giving them a swipe of a waterbrush didn’t bring out a rich wash. Papers of equivalent weight such as Stillman & Birn’s Alpha and Canson XL mixed media do a better job of that.

Still, my pear illustration shows off plenty of bright, blended colors from Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens, so I can’t complain. My other fruit sketches show conventional colored pencils, watercolor pencils (activated with water) and watercolor paints, and the colors all look brilliant on Plumchester’s paper. As expected, the page buckled wherever I applied water, but nothing seeped through.

With all dry media the paper is pleasant to use, especially plain old graphite. I thought it might not have enough tooth to use with charcoal and other chalky drawing pencils, but even those look beautiful. With colored pencils I tend to prefer surfaces with a bit more tooth to pick up the pigment faster, but I still like the results on this smooth surface.   

Final Impressions

I think the Plumchester sketchbook would make an ideal art journal. The page spreads are generous, and the flat-opening binding is unsurpassed. The paper takes nearly every medium beautifully, as long as you don’t get carried away with water, and the pages are heavy enough that they could support collage, too. A bonus is the smooth surface, which is a delight to use for drawing and painting as well as writing.

The A5 square size is a bit too large for me to carry in my everyday bag, so I am really hoping Plumchester makes a smaller book in the same square format – 6 or 7 inches would be ideal. With the same purple and yellow color scheme, please!

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

Fashionable Friday: La la land

Seems only fitting that this week’s theme be LA-centric with the LA Pen Show being in full swing (pun fully intended) and Lalaland up for 14 Academy Awards and the Oscars are next week. So, the walk of stars are on my mind.

I haven’t gotten to see the film La La Land yet but if there’s ever been a movie made “just for me” this is probably it. I love musicals and the fashion in the film looks right up my alley. As much as I think this film looks fabulous, I am secretly pulling for Hidden Figures to bring home the big Oscar prizes because at our house a film about NASA is always going to be “best picture.” And I still get sassy, smart talking ladies in vintage clothes so I still win.

  • Oscar Bingo Cards Downloadable PDF, free (via How About Orange)
  • Pelikan Souverän M400 fountain pen tortoiseshell white, 14k nib €315 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Visconti Michelangelo White Marbelized Venus Fountain Pen with Fine Stainless Steel Nib $179.40 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen – Gun Metal Gray with Rhodium Trim, Broad Nib $148 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen – Aluminum Gold Body with Fine Nib $95 (via JetPens)
  • GOLD Morning Field Star Pattern MT Washi Tape $3.50 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Hidden Figures, nominated for 3 Oscars (via IMDB)
  • Diamine Shimmertastic Golden Sands Ink (50ml Bottle) $20 (via Anderson Pens)
  • La la land, nominated for 14 Oscars (via IMDB)
  • Midori Brass Pencil $16 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Cross Stitch Washi Tape Chugoku $2 per roll (via CuteTape)

Pen Review: Weight of Words Fountain Pen (Fine Nib)

This morning I noticed several other people posting about their YStudio The Weight of Words Brassing Portable Fountain Pens so it must be in the air this week. These somewhat rare little gems from Taiwan seem to be making their way around the world and ending up in the hands of many fountain pen fans. Dries at The Pencilcase Blog in Europe posted his pure brass COPPER version today and Leigh posted one she got in Singapore today as well. So… around the world in brassing pens!

The packaging is fantastic and normally I don’t care much about packaging. However, if the packaging can have secondary use for storage later and doesn’t look too overly branded then YEAH! for good packaging. The Weight of Words pen comes in a deep stained wood box with paperboard lining that can be removed  making the outer box fully reusable. There’s a thumb hole to remove the lid and the only branding on the box is the company name and the characters for what I assume is the name of the pen in Chinese on the lid in gold foil. Very simple and elegant.

Under the lid is a piece of fine grit sand paper and an instruction booklet for the pen, including on how to use the sand paper to weather and age your pen to look more worn. I’m not sure I can bring myself to do that as I like how my pen looks as is at the moment but I’ll hold on to the sandpaper for now in case I change my mind.

Inside the box is the die cut layers of recyclable corrugated cardboard (not foamcore!) to hold the pen, wood carrying tub and lanyard in place. I got the black lacquered copperBRASS version of the pen.

The carrying tube is wood (I think) with a slit at the top to  allow the cap of the pen to stick out of the top. Its a clever design element. The leather lanyard ties can be threaded through the cap of the pen and then looped on to a bag loop, key fob, or whatever else you can think of. The pen cap clicks into place rather than a twist mechanism making it a nice option for everyday quick writing.

Its a smaller pen so its probably not something a lot of people would want for long writing sessions and the cap does not post. For my small hands though the brass added enough weight to make it comfortable to use for note taking and on-and-off use throughout the day.

The nib is a standard Schmidt fine nib. Pretty and scaled to fit the pen overall.

When the pen is wrapped up tight in its carrying case and with a leather lanyard attached it looks pretty unique.

The Schmidt nib means its a good writer and it comes with a converter.

Since this pen is quite hard to come by I won’t torture you with price points and availability. If you’re in the EU or Asia, keep an eye out in your local stationery or pen shop for YStudio products because they are worth taking a look at. If you’re in the US and planning to travel, leave some room in your shopping budget for the possibility of seeing one of these in the wild. Maybe they will wash up on our shores sometime soon.

EDIT: Thanks to Dries for catching my errors. I really shouldn’t write my reviews at 6AM!

Letter Writing Call To Arms!

I have two big news items I wanted to share and they were too important to wait.

The first is the new Love Letter America web site. Artists are creating postcards you can download and send to you representatives to tell them the reasons you love your country and the values you want them to uphold. The first artist to submit designs to the project is one of my favorite artists, Oliver Jeffers the creator of The Day the Crayons Quit.

The second item is a local Kansas City event this Saturday. It’s a letter writing event to show support for the immigrants and refugees in the Kansas City community at the KC Library’s #ToImmigrantsWithLove open house event. The event will be held this Saturday, February 18, 2017 at the Kansas City Public Library Central Library at 14 W. 10th Street downtown in the Helzberg Auditorium on the 5th Floor from10 a.m. – 1 p.m. The library will provide postcards at letter-writing areas in the auditorium along with a photo station where you can snap a selfie with your letter. Postcards and letters will be collected and delivered to local immigrant families through Jewish Vocational Service.

There will also be activities for children and families in the Children’s Library (2nd Floor) with coloring sheets available, and two special themed story times at 10 a.m. and noon.

RSVPs are requested so the library can anticipate the number of attendees. RSVP or for more information, email Hannah Johnson at hannahjohnson@kclibrary.org.

Link Love: Two Sides of a Lamy 2000

Pens:

Ink:

Pencils:

Notebooks and Paper:

Planners:

InCoWriMo & Letter Writing:

Other Interesting Things: