Category: feature

Is this the definitive modern office?

 No obstacles: Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California Washington Post

No obstacles: Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California Washington Post (via The Independent)

I was listening to Cortex yesterday and Myke and CGP Grey were mentioning the new Menlo Park headquarters for Facebook and the large, open-plan work space. This space is not a trend unique to Facebook. Many companies and office spaces are transitioning to open-plan work spaces for more “open communication” and collaborating. But is this type of space really the solution to that? Do people really collaborate more and do critical thinking in a space like this or do they end up trying to drown out all the distractions with headphones or go hide away in a closet somewhere to get some actual work done?

I find the interior space of the new Facebook office neither aesthetically appealing nor engaging for working or collaborating. It just looks cluttered, messy and noisy. The fact that no one is given any storage space nor are they encouraged to have personal items on their desk seem to only make it more disheartening and cluttered. The overly high, unfinished ceilings with cables descending down are even worse! I think of something Trevor Noah said about not moving into Jon Stewart’s office after he left the Daily Show… he talked about how the whole point of moving up in the worked and getting out of poverty meant he didn’t want to have to live in a space with exposed brick walls again and what was it with white people and exposed brick? I feel the same way about wealthy tech companies and exposed wiring? You can afford to have that sh*t covered up! This whole space gives me a case of the hibby jibbies!

For a more in-depth view of the new Facebook work space, there is a 3+ minute video tour on YouTube.

I really hope that the pendulum of the open floor plan office starts to swing back the other way because I don’t believe that this much openness is genuinely conducive to non-distracted working and thinking. I believe it leads people to seek out other places to work, or they choose to come into work either early or stay late in an attempt to avoid distrations. I think the myth of multi-tacking needs to stop. It makes people sloppy and tired. We can multi-task for a little while but, in the end, I don’t think its effective, efficient or healthy. I don’t think we, as idea workers, can come up with our best ideas when we are constantly distracted by co-workers, bleeps, or other disturbances. Yes, its nice to have a way to bounce ideas off other people, but we need to find a better way to do it other than forcing people to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with headphones on while they madly type into their laptops and mobile devices. That’s not really collaborating, is it?

Thus endedth the tirade.

When Good Repairs Happen to Good Pens

lady sheaffer gold

I wanted to do a follow-up to what happened to my Parker Duofold in Atlanta. I wanted to share a GOOD repair story that happened at the Chicago Pen Show. I bought a low-priced Lady Sheaffer Skripsert on Thursday night on a vendor’s table only to discover that there was a crack in the nib plastic a couple days later. Now, I didn’t look closely enough when I purchased it to discover the crack so I know this was my fault.

I mentioned the crack to someone at the show on Sunday and was told that Ron Zorn at Main Street Pens was the man to see and that he might have parts to fix a Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. Later, he happened to come by the Vanness table while I was working and I mentioned my broken Lady Sheaffer and he told me to come by he table right then. I followed him into the ballroom and was able to watch him disassemble the complicated assembly of the partially hooded nib from the cracked housing. He had a spare housing and even had new-old-stock nibs and housings so I purchased a spare fine nib as well as having him replace the housing for the original nib.

lady sheaffer gold fine nib

He did the work quickly and talked me through the procedure. He even told me he had a lot of additional  parts for Lady Sheaffers and that if I had any others that needed repairs to let him know.

lady sheaffer gold

I thought it was interesting to see that the dolphin nose angle of the nib is less severe on the X-Fine nib than on the medium nib. They are both 14K nibs and very smooth.

I thought it would be good to share a repair story with a happy ending.

lady sheaffer gold fine nib writing sample

When I got back to Kansas City, I put a turquoise Sheaffer cartridge in it and was actually quite pleased with the color of the ink. I noticed a little bit a a red halo to it which was a pleasant surprise. I plan to use up the ink and then refill the cartridges because finding a converter to fit the Lady Sheaffers is kind of a challenging. The X-Fine writes beautifully and I love it!

the lady sheaffer brigade

The “new” gold Lady Sheaffer Skripsert came with a little carrying case but I thought I’d show the whole collection together — two Lady Sheaffer Skripserts and the Sheaffer Imperial plus the extra nib unit. Now to find some of those exotic Lady Sheaffer beauties in blue and red!

Peek: 10th Anniversary Traveler’s Notebook Mini Size

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I couldn’t resist doing a little unboxing photo peek of the Traveler’s Notebook 10th Anniversary Mini Size ($38) from Baum-Kuchen because the packaging is so spectacular. Full disclosure: I purchased this from Baum-Kuchen and was not compensated in anyway. I also bought my 5th Anniversary Traveler’s Notebook from them and received such lovely packaging and customer service that I was more than happy to send them my repeat business. And their packaging is even more amazing this time around. The little folded card is their business card and my invoice.

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

Once unfolded, there is a hand written note and rubber stamps making it extra special. I can’t imagine how long it must take them to put together each package!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

Wrapped around the tin was kraft paper sealed with twine and a custom Baum-Kuchen wax seal plus a rubber stamp and my name handwritten. Amazing!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I was able to slide the tin out of the kraft paper without having to cut the twine or damage the seal. I’m such a hoarder I want to save the wrap. And I’m not sure I can bring myself to actually unwrap all the contents inside the tin either.

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

There is a little tiny wrapped leather cover in kraft paper with a paper label just like a real Traveler’s Notebook and a tiny charm in a cellophane sleeve and cardboard backer. The bottom container is teeny, tiny paper and covers that can be folded and put into the notebook cover. Seriously. That’s the level of detail. Under the molded plastic are a sheet of full-sized stickers as well.

I put my full-sized Traveler’s Notebook next to the box for size comparison. Pretty funny how little the book is!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I had to put the teeny little Traveler’s Notebook packaging in my hand just for scale.

The tins are available in three different colors, each with a different color leather cover contained inside. I got the new camel colored cover in the blue tin but whether I’ll ever unwrap the package is still up for debate. Right now, I’m going to enjoy the delightful little package with all the tiny details.

I’m totally amused at the 10th Anniversary Mini Size but I realize that it is definitely a collector’s item and is not particularly useful for most folks. But if you’re a diehard Traveler’s Notebook fan it might be hard to pass up this little gem. The tin is embossed and is a good place to store Traveler’s Notebook ephemera and the tiny Traveler’s Notebook can be used as a key fob or charm on a notebook.

Giveaway: World Stationery Day from NoteMaker

NoteMaker Promo

Today, April 27, is World Stationery Day. If you’re wondering exactly what World Stationery Day is, it’s part of National Stationery Week and part of the London Stationery Show. The goal of World Stationery Day is to celebrate the written word and all things stationery.

In the spirit of World Stationery Day, the folks at NoteMaker in Australia want to help you celebrate by offering one lucky reader the chance to win a $250 voucher (that’s a “gift certificate” in American English) to spend in their fabulous online shop. How amazingly generous!

To enter this giveaway, see the info below in the Rafflecopter widget. The giveaway runs through Sunday, May 1 and the winner will be announced on Monday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(All the fine print is in the terms and conditions in the Rafflecopter widget. Please read them. Thanks!)

When Bad Repairs Happen To Good Pens

Parker Duofold

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week trying to decide the best way to talk about what was the saddest part of my Atlanta Pen Show experience. I mentioned to a vendor that I had a beloved vintage Parker Duofold vac filler but that the vacuum-filler didn’t work and he said “Oh, there’s a guy here who specializes in fixes those. You should take it over and have him look at it.”

I was very excited at the possibility of getting my pen in full working order so I hopped over to the repairman and he seemed fairly convinced that for a reasonable fee and a couple of hours he could get my pen in working order. I left him my pen and my phone number and headed off to lunch.

This is where things went sideways and I should have probably talked to people with more experience getting pens repaired to know what questions to ask and what outcomes I could expect.

Parker Duofold

I dropped off my pen around noon and did not hear back from the repairman by 4pm. I started to get concerned but didn’t want to pester him. I know how busy tables can get and the potential to get backed up but I also knew that the show floor closed up at 5pm and if he was not going to get time to work on my pen, I wanted to be retrieve before 5pm and either bring it back next year or make arrangements for shipping.

When I got to his table, he informed me that the prior owner of the pen must have epoxied the vac into the end of the pen and, as a result, when he attempted to remove it, the barrel of the pen melted and warped. In other words, my pen was returned to me more damaged than when I left it with him and I only received a cursory apology and a “these things sometimes happen”.  I was not charged for the mishap but I was not compensated in anyway for the damage either.

As one of my first vintage fountain pens and a thrift store score at that, I have a lot of sentimental attachment to the pen. Yes, most of my love is a result of the pen having a beautiful, slightly flexible gold nib but still!

Parker Duofold nib

So, from my cautionary tale, I want to provide some advice to anyone seeking pen repairs, nib tuning or other manipulations from someone, either at a pen show or online:

  • Be sure to ask is there a possibility that the pen might sustain additional damage?
  • If so, whose responsibility is it? (Go into the transaction knowing ahead of time if the repairman is not held responsible for someone else’s janky repair work like epoxy so you are not taken by surprise like I was)
  • Does the repairman have spare parts on site should the pen need to be modified due to breakage or damage? At a show, he might not have all his spare parts but might be able to take the pen back to his shop and finish repairs and mail the pen back to you.
  • Get good cost estimates up front. If the repairman want payment up front, verify what refund policy he has should he be unable to complete the repairs.

In the end, it can’t hurt to ask all the questions and if a repairman (or person) is unwilling to answer them, feel free to share my experience as the reason you’re asking. Not that you distrust them but you know that bad things have happened to good pens.

Parker Duofold

Fountain Pens for Sketching

Fountain Pens for Sketching

I’ve been spending a lot more time lately using my pens and inks for sketching, so I thought I’d put together a post about which tools pens I’ve found work best for these tasks.

Whenever I go down one of my creative rabbit holes, I do a great deal of research. One of the best pieces I found was Liz Steel’s 7-Part Fountain Pen Sketching article. Part Two: Why Draw With a Fountain Pen was my favorite!

To that, I’d like to add my own personal experiences, though I don’t have nearly Liz’s experience and authority from the drawing perspecitve.However, if you are hoping to do more drawing and sketching with your fountain pens or wanting to purchase (or set aside) a pen in your collection specifically for drawing, these are my recommendations. You don’t need all of these, one or two will more than suit. You may want to have one filled with a waterproof ink and one with a water soluble ink or one with black ink and one with brown or blue ink or your favorite color for sketching.

What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the best sketching fountain pens are not necessarily the most expensive fountain pens. You may already have several of these in your collection that have been set aside as your collection has expanded and repurposing these pens as “sketching pens” may give them new life and new purpose, and you, a new hobby.

Fountain Pens for Sketching
From top to bottom: Lamy Joy, Sailor Desk Pen, Rotring Art Pen and Platinum Carbon Desk Pen

Pens
Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (or Sailor Desk Pen)
The Platinum Carbon Desk Pen ($9.60) is available with a super, fine Japanese nib and ships with one cartridge of Platinum Carbon Black ink which is waterproof. I used my PCDP almost daily and it took almost six months to run through the first cartridge. Because of the fine nib, it uses ink very economically. I even used it to fill in areas, write notes, doodle and sketch but since the lines are so fine, the cartridges last a long time. So, this sub-$10 investment will last you quite awhile.

Because of the fineness of the nib, the pen performs on almost any paper stock from lightweight sketching paper to heavier weight watercolor paper without a lot of feathering or bleeding issues. I occasionally ran into issues on toothy paper as the fine nib can pick up fibers in the tines. This causes some momentary clogging but a wipe with a tissue will usually remove the fibers. This usually only happens on cold press watercolor paper, at which point its best to switch to a felt tip pen or wider nib that is less likely to catch on the fibers.

The PCDP was designed to accommodate the waterproof ink and its a budget-priced pen so if it did get clogged beyond repair, it would not be the end of the world. So far, mine’s been a little trooper and it really is the one pen that is almost always in my bag.

The longer length of the pen is a little challenging for portability but I’ve seen that some people have trimmed down the length a bit and filled in the end with epoxy or putty. The cap was not designed to be a long term solution so its an aesthetic mismatch but the functionality of this pen outweighs its looks.

If you prefer to use bottled ink with the PCDP, be sure to purchase a Platinum Converter ($6) or a Platinum Cartridge Adapter ($2) since Platinum uses a proprietary cartridge system.

I also have a Sailor Desk Pen which is similar in design with a weird, peachy cap that doesn’t match as well but was also designed to be used with Sailor’s Nano permanent inks. The Sailor Desk Pen is harder to find these days but if you already have one and were wondering what to use it for, it would make a great sketching pen. Sailor Nano cartridges are available packs of 12 ($10) in UltraBlack and Blue-Black which could potentially last you six years if you draw as often as I do, maybe only three years if you’re more prolific. Or you could buy a whole 50 ml bottle of the Nano Ink for $33 just be sure to grab a converter too ($8.25) because Sailor also uses a proprietary cartridge and converter system.

Rotring ArtPen
The Rotring ArtPen ($21+) was one of the first modern fountain pens I ever bought. I found it in an art supply store and used it for years before I knew that there were other options available. I just kept going back and buying the Rotring black cartridges and using the pen to draw and write with until it ran dry. I still have it and I still fill it regularly since it takes standard European cartridges and converters. I’ve filled it with both water soluble and permanent inks, I’ve let it sit for months so inks dried in it and then soaked it for days to try to resuscitate it. It has continued to survive for decades now. It has proven much heartier and durable than all the Rapidographs and Isographs I’ve had put together.

It has the same long tapered shape as the PCDP so it has that arty “paint brush” feeling. Mine has the EF nib making it great for sketching and probably is responsible for starting me on my love affair with fine nib pens but its available with a variety of nib sizes including calligraphy nibs.

The cap has a firm click to close it and was actually designed to be capped unlike the PCDP and the Sailor Desk Pen so while its a bit more expensive, its a fully thought-out pen. The Rotring is probably the most universally usable option since it take standard European cartridges and/or converters and the nib sizes are based on the European measurements with the widest range of nib sizes available of all the options I’ve listed.

Lamy Joy
The last option on my list of traditional fountain pens is the Lamy Joy ($28) available in white and black. It too has the long tapered shape of a paint brush but can only be purchased with a calligraphy nib (1.1mm, 1.5mm or 1.9mm) initially so it you like the look and feel of a classic Lamy Safari but would like to have a long, tapered shape for sketching, you’ll have to purchase a separate nib (approx $11) making the Lamy Joy the most expensive option.

Lamy also requires either proprietary ink cartridges (none of Lamy’s inks are waterproof) or a Lamy LZ24 converter ($4.70) in order to use bottled inks. If you’re like me, you have a stash of Lamy Safari fountain pens and can probably liberate a converter but if you’re planning to use waterproof inks in your Joy, you may want to be sure not to mix the converter you use with the Joy with the one you use with your Lamy 2000 with the 14K gold nib… just in case.

I recently purchased a Joy and replaced the calligraphy nib with an EF steel nib and filled it with Platinum Sepia Pigment ink. I purchased the still-available, limited edition white model from last year but its also available in black with a red clip or a slightly higher priced black with aluminum cap.

I had not been a great lover of the Safari in the past. Its a good solid pen but not one that made my heart palpitate. The Joy, however, touches me on another level. I think the longer length gives it better balance and weight in the hand making it feel a bit more substantial and using it more like a drawing tool than a writing pen made me less bothered by the grooved grip. I find the Joy more comfortable to draw with than I’ve ever found the Safari to write with. I may go back to the Safaris and consider them as drawing pens at this point. Honestly, I haven’t touched another pen since I started using the Joy. I want to buy another one just to have two different ink colors loaded up simultaneously. I have never felt this way about a Safari before. I am a changed woman.

Fountain Pens for Sketching
I did a few quick sketches with each pen on Stillman & Birn Alpha paper using waterproof inks as labelled.

Inks
Platinum Inks
Platinum Carbon Ink has become my go-to ink for permanent black ink I’ve been using my PCDP almost every day for six months and found the Carbon ink to be a well-behaved, dark black. I had little issues with it drying in the pen, even with the fine nib and it being tossed around in my bag, used on all sorts of paper stocks from copier paper to toothy cold press watercolor paper. I had more issues with the pen getting jammed with paper fibers on toothy papers over waxy pencil or other materials than I did with the ink drying in the pen. I’ve gone ahead and purchased a bottle of Platinum Pigmented Sepia ink which is also permanent and I think will make a lovely alternative to black for drawing. As mentioned earlier, Sailor’s Nano Inks are an excellent alternative as well if you are looking for cartridges to match a Sailor pen or find a good deal on the Nano black bottled ink.

DeAtramentis Document Inks
Liz Steel is very fond of DeAtramentis Document Inks for the range of colors available and she has had great success with flow in some of the less expensive pens using the DeAtramentis Document inks so they are definitely worth a look. Jane Blundell has some amazing mixing charts using DeAtramentis Documents Inks that make me want ALL THE COLORS. I’m hoping to try some of them out and pick up a few bottles when I’m in Atlanta.

Several other brands make permanent inks worth experimenting with if you have some around. Diamine has their Registrars ink and Noodlers has several Bulletproof inks. Though I’ve read through some blogs that have found the Noodler’s inks to be troublesome in some instances for drawing. But if you’ve got some, why not give them a whirl?

Fountain Pens for Sketching
I watercolored over my drawings to show the waterproofiness of the inks.

Any water soluble fountain pen inks
For everyday sketching, any standard (water soluble) fountain pen ink will work on just about any drawing paper. Most sketchbook paper starts at about 60lb and should handle a F or XF fountain pen nib loaded with just about any fountain pen ink just fine. On slightly heavier mixed media papers like Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media, Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook or similar paper that is labelled for ink, light washes or mixed media, you can add a little water to your drawing and move some of the water soluble ink around to create some wonderful watercolor-like effects without a lot of tools. Citizen Sketcher has some amazing examples of this in action and totally makes me want to try this myself.

Other resources:

Ask The Desk: Supply Organization

This Ask The Desk question is actually a follow-up from the Pen Addict Podcast Episode 197 and a question that started with June Thomas and was then there was a follow-up question in the Pen Addict Slack channel by clairelin. Both wanted to know how I kept my copious collection of supplies organized so I thought I’d pull back the curtain and reveal how I squirrel away all the supplies.

I live in a teeny tiny house so clutter is a big issue and space is at a premium, not to mention that both my husband and I are are collectors and pack rats, so we are a great risk of being buried under our hobbies. I try pretty hard to keep all the supplies organized and tidy so that I can find what I’m looking for and so that it doesn’t start piling up everywhere.

art supply storage

First, if it wasn’t for Ikea, The Container Store and other such places, I’d be buried under my own clutter. All hail Ikea! The first item that has kept me tidy is the Raskog utility cart. I filled the top tier with an assortment of glass jars that each hold a type of pencil, pen, brush or marker.  Some of the jars are Mason or Bell jars and some are jsut old salsa jars. I scavenge any straight-sided jar that passes through my kitchen now as a potential holder of pens.

The lower tiers store bottles of paints, spray bottles, gesso, towels, heat gun, etc. All handy and the cart rolls easily around my workspace so I can have access to the items when I need them and move them out of the way when I don’t.

ink and field notes storage

Along the top of my bookshelf, I keep surplus ink and Field Notes (and books of similar size). Grey boxes are ink, white boxes are Field Notes. The white boxes are photo storage boxes from a big box craft store and the grey boxes are from Ikea. The inks are bottles I’ve tested but are not favorites so I don’t need regular access to them.

storage wall

Along one wall of my workspace is the storage mecca. From the left, a vintage metal cabinet that I purchase at an antique shop (I keep meaning to repaint it but I want to take it to a powder coater and get it done right so it hasn’t happened yet) holds the notebook stash, camera equipment, excess pencil inventory and miscellaneous art supplies. The center wooden cabinet holds vintage fountain pens in the top shelf, stationery in the large left cabinet (yes, I have that much letter-writing material) and the right side is shop inventory. The steel drawers on the right are older versions of the Ikea Helmer units which are made much better now. I added magnet labels or Dymo labels on the front of the drawers so I would remember what was in each. Its an array of mechanical pencils, fountain pens, ink, electronic cables, tape, scissors and other daily office necessities. The smaller unit on top is a Bisley drawer unit from Container Store that stores an assortment of printer paper, label stock, photo paper, etc.

tackle boxes for storage

One of my favorite ways to stash collections of items is with old tackle boxes. This pile usually sits under my desk, each one with a specific task: one filled with acrylic paints, one filled with extra art supplies, one actually filled with tools, etc. One is empty and is used for events and craft shows to tote out a portable kit of supplies.

ikea storage

Behind my desk is the Ikea Alex Unit. Its a decent small sized flat file. The top two drawers hold rubber stamps and washi tape (yes, one whole drawer for each) followed by drawers with rolls of paper for shooting products, flat papers and some larger drawing pads and palettes. On top of the Alex is an old library card catalog I store more rubber stamps and stamp pads inside, my giant whale tape dispensers, my ticket spike (all those shipped packages!) and behind that, the daily use pen and pencil collections.

jars for pencil and pen storage

Ta da! Here are the pens and pencils that get used in all my reviews and paper tests, each divided by type into another jar or can: highlighters, gel pens, felt tips, pencils, rollerballs,and miscellaneous. The nice thing with the jars is that I can grab a whole jar and move them to my desk as I need them and then put the jar back when I’m done. Or just pick one or two. It keeps my working surface relatively clutter-free unless I grab all the jars at once. Then its chaos and I have to spend an hour putting everything away.

So there you have it. A tour of my storage solutions. Its not easy keeping it all contained and often times my desk is a big pile of mess when I’m in the throes of reviews but I feel like I’ve developed a good system where everything has a place.

I also make a point to cull through the stash regularly to keep it from growing out of control. I try to give things away to friends or charities before I get too overwhelmed.

Do you have any tips for storage and keeping the stationery clutter in check?

Dark Lilac (Lamy) Festival Time

1931: A bevy of princesses serve Alice LaFetra (right), the 1931 Lilac Queen. The tradition of selecting a queen and court began a year earlier. — Courtesy Lombard Historical Society / Handout, Sept. 16, 2014 (via Chicago Tribune)

I grew up in a Chicago suburb known for its lilac festival so I was tickled by the Dark Lilac Lamy Safari offered this spring as part of its limited edition color series. I remember the whole town ends up smelling like lilacs by the end of April which I always liked. Its goofy and quaint and I’m glad to see that they still have the festival and crown a Lilac Queen, even a Little Lilac Queen. Some things never change. The new Dark Lilac Lamy Safari will forever remind me of the Lilac Festival so its release date is perfectly timed.

Frank over at Fontoplumo has generously offered readers of The Well-Appointed Desk the chance to win one limited edition Lamy Dark Lilac Safari fountain pen plus a pack of matching Dark Lilac fountain pen ink. The winner may select nib size (EF, F, M or B).

The Dark Lilac Safari series also includes a rollerball and ballpoint pen. Just so you know.

TO ENTER: Please leave a comment below and tell me what event signals the arrival of Spring for you. Oh, and READ THE FINE PRINT!


FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your 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 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Parcel is shipped directly from Fontoplumo by standard first class post. If insurance or other delivery is request, winner will be required to pay for additional shipping charges. Winner is responsible for any VAT, taxes or import fees. This giveaway is open to all readers.

 

OMAS: Last Hurrah

Goldspot Pens is hosting a last hurrah for OMAS pens. They’ll be adding new OMAS pens to their shop all this week – some are rare pieces that haven’t been in production for years. There’s also a rafflecopter giveaway to win an OMAS Milady ballpoint pen. Also, there is a free gift with purchase of $150 or more with promo code (OMASPARTY good through4/15/2016) for a bottle of OMAS violet ink. Check out their blog post for more details and check in with the shop for new OMAS items. Say farewell to OMAS with a new pen.

Rock Your Handwriting Challenge

In an effort to use both pen and paper supplies this month AND get into a regular habit of writing and drawing, I started participating in the Rock Your Handwriting Challenge started by BohoBerry and her compatriots. This is the second month of the challenge and many people I know are doing both this month’s prompts and the previous month’s or choosing the prompt they like best. I didn’t mention it at the beginning of the month because I was a bit concerned that like so many other challenges, I might flake out after three or four days. But, lo and behold, I’m on Day 19 and still going strong!

Day 10 of #rockyourhandwriting : my supplies.

A photo posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

I decided to set the bar for the challenge very low, using just a Field Notes and whatever pen or pencil I had handy to compete the challenge for the day. I would use whatever 20 or 15 minute of time I could find to do the practice and I was amazed how much I started to look forward to a chance to doodle my little rectangle of lettering.

#rockyourhandwriting Day 16: notetaking where I invoke the genius that is @rohdesign and sketchnotes.

A photo posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

The challenge is designed to help get some much-needed penmanship practice in each day and, for me, a chance to do something creative that is not for anyone but me. I’ve been sharing my pages on Instagram and some are better than others but I felt it was fair to show when things worked and when they didn’t — even when I misspelled something!

The best thing about this challenge is that is has re-ignited my desire to make more art the way it has recharged other people to write more in their journals or just write more in general. So if you’re looking for a way to help get you back into a regular habit of putting pen to paper, than maybe just practicing your handwriting is a good place to start. After writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” you might just want to write a story about that fox or draw a picture of them and off you go!

If you would like to see all my Rock You Handwriting posts and all the other sketching and lettering doodles its inspired me to create, you can follow me on Instagram.

Building a Better Penxo

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

I have had my Penxo 2.0mm Leadholder in green since sometime in October when the Kickstarter orders shipped but I’ve been sitting on it. The color is beautiful and the pencil itself is beautiful – even the packaging was lovely –  but I was a little disappointed. The pencil shipped with free lead which was complete crap and that probably tainted my experience. The lead pointer that shipped was also not worthy of such a fine looking tool either.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

So, my first order of business was to upgrade the accessories. I ordered a Uni pocket lead pointer ($10) which is the tiniest, most portable lead pointer I’ve ever seen and it makes the most wickedly stiletto point. Then I ordered a packet of Koh-i-noor 2.0mm colored leads ($7.90) and another of Uni Field 2.0mm red leads ($4.95).

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

Now, the Penxo is loaded with Uni Field red lead with a wicked sharp point and looks a bit like a martini. Much better.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder writing samples

Once I was using the Uni Field red lead which was a soft waxy lead that absolutely glided on the paper, I could focus on the actual experience of using the Penxo rather than my initial reaction to the pencil when it arrived which was all about the crappy graphite. The Uni Field lead did dull very quickly which allowed me to test the Uni Pocket Lead Pointer at regular intervals and it is smooth and efficient. It also meant I had to finagle the mechanics of the Penxo for extracting the lead far enough to insert it into the lead pointer and then pull the metal apart again to re-insert the lead back into the housing without stabbing myself, catching the lead in the pencil framework or breaking the lead. This is not as seamless as it should be which is sad.

As I continued to play with the various lead colors from the Koh-i-noor set, I was given more opportunity to practice threading lead into the Penxo housing, sharpening and aligning the lead. I found it awkward to try to pry the pencil apart to slide the lead down. I confess, the clutch mechanism in standard leadholders are easier to control with a greater degree of accuracy. They aren’t as aesthetically appealing but I feel more confident that I’m not going to impale myself with the lead either.

In the end, I found the Koh-i-noor leads to be more scratchy and graphite-like overall but I liked the bright yellow color a lot and all the colored leads looked good with the green Penxo body.

The Penxo really is a beautiful design but its not as functional as I’d like it to be and it saddens me since this is probably most people’s first (and probably last) experience with a lead holder. Generally artists, architects and draftsmen gravitate towards lead holders and they are looking for a level of control with the point length and the lead hardness and the Penxo just makes that really challenging.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

I’m not giving up on the Penxo but I think it will be more of a conversation piece than a daily writer. The Uni Field leads and Pocket Lead Pointer however are new staples!


DISCLAIMER: The Uni Field Leads and Uni Pocket Lead Pointer were sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. All other items in this review wee purchased. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Van Gogh 12-Color Travel Watercolor Set

Watercolor travel set mess

Upon request, I decided to come clean about one of my other obsessions: travel watercolor sets. I’ve been compiling sets for about a year, not including super budget (sub-$20) sets, and have included the picture above as proof of my collection addiction. I just love watching the colors bead off a brush onto paper. And those little individually-wrapped pans of watercolors are like candies to me. I can’t resist them.

However, I sort of hit the “watercolor set overload” this fall and I didn’t do much with them for a couple months. Then a couple weeks ago I got a wild hair and bought a new set. Why? Buying a new travel set of watercolors is not unlike buying a new fountain pen, and sometimes its just the pick-me-up I need to get me back into the habit of using the ones I already have. I bought a relatively inexpensive Van Gogh 12-color set (approx. $25 from my local Blick art supply shop).

Van Gogh Travel Watercolor Set

The Van Gogh set comes in a locking, white plastic box that is about 4×6″ in size and maybe an 1.5″ thick. Its a bit larger than the more commonly used Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box but what I discovered once I started using the Van Gogh kit was that it contained, not one but, two layers of mixing trays.

Van Gogh Travel Watercolor Set

The paintbrush that comes with the kit is a pointed #6 synthetic travel brush which I originally dismissed as likely to be an inferior freebie brush but it turned out to be a very good little brush. The point is quite good and makes it easy to get a good crisp edge. Also the end of the brush can be used to wrench out the mixing tray to reveal the open well below.

Van Gogh Travel Watercolor Set

The end of the brush can also be used to wrench out the individual pans of watercolor should you wish to remove them or need to replace them. That alone is reason to keep the brush, even if you are not inclined to use it for painting. I ended up loving how much water it held and how fine a point it has maintained. I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts.

Van Gogh Travel Watercolor Set swatches

In swatching the paint colors I was quite pleased to see how clean and vibrant all the colors were. The twelve colors included really are quite sufficient for most painting needs. I love that the set includes an opaque white  for mixing and adding highlights. I know adding white to watercolor is heresy but sometimes its the shortest distance to the color I want. I also love that the set includes Payne’s Gray instead of a black.

Towards the bottom of my swatching, I did some color mixing in an effort to test how cleanly the Van Gogh paints would mix and what range of other colors I could get. I was actually quite pleased at how easily I was able to make many of the colors, often mixing just two colors together. I do plan to do further practicing with mixing and color theory but I think the nicest thing about the Van Gogh set was that it is not overwhelming. I like trying to mix my own colors and the Van Gogh set does the mixing nicely.

All the watercolor color swatches

After doing some successful painting with the Van Gogh set, I was ready to pull out the whole mess of watercolors again to see what else I have and figure out if less is more or if more is more.

So I spent some time swatching out every pan and palette of watercolor that I had to see what I had. I have an array of Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Winsor & Newton (pan and tube) and Winsor & Newton Cotman (student grade). I also did some research online about what more experienced artists recommend for we are more novice with watercolors. In the end, I’ve decided to put the Sennelier paints aside for the moment as the colors tend to be darker and, when I swatched the colors, they looked almost opaque and a little streaky sometimes which I think would frustrate me as I’m painting, especially being as new to watercolor as I am. The Daniel Smiths, while lovely, are a little funky (some have sparkle or will dry two different colors so they are probably a bit too experimental) so I shelved most of those colors for later as well.

Van Gogh + supplemental set

In the end, I pulled out a few of the additional Winsor & Newton colors like the Opera Rose, Permanent Magenta, Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Green Gold, and Burnt Sienna plus a black, and a couple Daniel Smiths and made my “supplemental palette” to have some additional colors to play with. I’ll probably keep these on my desk to experiment with in the coming weeks and depend mostly on my Van Gogh palette to get me practicing with color mixing. I have gotten so spoiled working on the computer over the years that I feel I’ve forgotten a lot of my color mixing and color theory skills. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to mix that Opera Rose.

Supplemental Watercolor Set

If you’re considering a foray into watercolor painting, I think the Van Gogh set is a great option. The combination of good colors, a good assortment of palettes and a good brush make it a perfect starter set.


The Van Gogh swatches were done in a Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media Art Journal and the large page of swatches was done on a Fluid 100 hot press watercolor block.

Extended Review: Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor 36-color “set”

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor

A couple of months ago, I got the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor 18-color set and I really liked them so I set about acquiring the remaining 18 colors to have the full 36 color range available. Luckily, JetPens sells individual full pans of the Gansai Tambi Watercolors for $2.50-$3 (depending on the color) so I was able to slowly add the additional colors. It was a bit more expensive than purchasing the full 36-color set but it tends to be sold out more often than not so buying the individual pans seemed like the only way to complete my set in the next year. So that’s what I did. Even so, $3 for a full pan is still much less expensive than many other brands of watercolors.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor 36-colors

I placed the new colors in the lid of the original 18-colors box and tried to align the colors in the same spectrum as the original palette with the metallics at the bottom. Without the paper dividers like the original set, the pans slide around a bit but I’m thinking I might get a little OCD and make cardboard dividers for the lid to make the whole set-up a bit more stable.

You’ll see that, of all the individual pans I ordered, only one yellow was damaged in shipping. It shattered but it still works just fine. I think if I wet it really well I should be able to get it to sort of mold back into the pan but it doesn’t really bother me that much.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor Color Swatches I swatched all the colors in the order in which they appear in the palette on two pages of an A5 140gsm Seawhite of Brighton softcover sketchbook paper.I love the Pale Aqua though it is definitely a more opaque color than a traditional watercolor.  The Dark Pink is definitely more of a warm purple color when applied thickly which provides a wider range of violet colors. The Deep Violet is also a lovely addition to the palette as its a very deep, rich indigo violet. I was also very happy to add the dark brown to the palette as it added a deep neutral to an otherwise candy-colored palette of colors.

The metallics are a lot of fun. The silver mixes well with the other colors to create a range of metallics and the two shades of gold will be good for details and lettering.

I am definitely glad I have the full 36 colors because who doesn’t want ALL THE COLORS?

Overall, I find the Gansai Tambi paints to be a strange hybrid of traditional watercolor paints and a more opaque gouache paint. I can pick a good deal of paint and create an almost opaque color or thin with water for a more traditional watercolor look.

The prices for the Gansai Tambi paints is incredibly reasonable for the large pans, beautiful presentation and decent range of colors available for the prices. However, if what you are looking for is a traditional transparent watercolor than I recommend trying the Winsor & Newton Cotman set instead. While the set is not as broad, I think the colors will blend more easily to create a wider range and are more transparent. Also, the Gansai Tambi pans are definitely NOT a portable set. Between the paperboard box and the large size of the box, this set is definitely something to keep on your desk but is not convenient if you are looking for a set to use for traveling and/or urban street sketching.

If you like the idea of having both gouache-like painting abilities and watercolor effect, than the Gansai Tambi paints are a great option and the large pans make it much easier to use larger brushes. Because the sets come in cardboard boxes, you’ll have to devise your own mixing trays for blending colors and thinning the paint but an old plate or pan will work if you don’t want to invest in a watercolor mixing tray.

 

Chic Sparrow Creme Deluxe A5 Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

Chic Sparrow is known for making some of the finest quality leather traveler’s notebooks. Her business started on Etsy but she’s been so successful that she now runs her own site and limits the number of orders accepted each week in order to keep up with demand. Chic Sparrow offers her notebook covers in an array of sizes and finishes, including a full line of “deluxe” covers which include pockets inside the front and back covers with beautifully executed contrasting stitching. I purchased the Creme Deluxe in Black Beauty in the A5 size ($109.99). I wanted to be able to accommodate some larger sketchbook and drawing books as well as writing and planning notebooks and was hoping that the A5 would give me the space to do so.

All of Chic Sparrow’s notebook covers include four elastics inside making it easy to slide in four notebooks before you have to get creative with additional elastics to add more. Since the A5 is already a larger book and the Creme Deluxe is double layered, thick leather, I am trying to limit myself to no more than four books at a time so I don’t feel like I’m carrying around a brick in my bag.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

Okay, I lied. At present, there are five notebooks in my Black Beauty but cut me a little slack since some of these books are specifically in here for review purposes. (Reviews to be posted in the near future!) But from the side view, you can see the thickness of both the leather, the smooth finishing of the edges by Chic Sparrow and the massive amount of books I have crammed into the notebook cover with room to spare. The middle two books are A5 sized sketchbooks, the front book is my Moleskine large planner and the back two are the Moleskine Volant and Cahier in large size from my previous notebook cover.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

As I’ve only been using the Creme Deluxe for about two weeks, I have not yet filled the front pockets with cards but have slipped some notes and papers into the secretary pocket behind. You can also see the large pen loop on the right hand side that accommodates my Uni Style Fit 5-color gel pen easily. Its a large loop so any pen smaller than the Uni Style Fit needs to have a good clip or it will probably slide out.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

One of the notebooks I’m using for drawing right now is the Fabriano EcoQua Staplebound Notebook. It has 38 sheets (72 pages) of 85 gsm paper and is available in blank, lined or dot gird for about $4.50. I found it in my local art supply store. Its not great for wet media but for pen, pencil and sketching, its a good option for the price point. )I reviewed the larger Dot Grid version of the EcoQua awhile back. Needless to say, I much prefer the blank version.)

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

In the back of the notebook cover is another secretary pocket to hold extra loose sheets and you can see more of the beautiful stitching details.

All in all, I am blown away by the quality of the craftsmanship from Chic Sparrow. The leather is beautiful and the notebook is expertly assembled. I was a little hesitant initially because of the price but I realize it was truly worth every penny I spent.

A Safer Way To Sit

I keep hearing people talk that they sit too much and that they know its bad for them. I know they are right but I wanted more details on exactly why it’s bad. So here are a few articles:

The health hazards of sitting (via The Washington Post)

The “Sitting Is Killing You” Infographic Shows Just How Bad Prolonged Sitting Is (via Lifehacker)

Most experts, including Cornell University, recommend that for every 20-30 minutes of sitting, you get up and walk or move around for two minutes. Getting up and moving is considered as effective as a costly (and often less work-efficient) standing desk and its free. Add in 30 minutes of brisk activity each day (which can be broken into 10 minute segments) and you might just live a longer, healthier life.

I’m going to try it by using the Pomodoro Method. I’ll work for 25 minutes and then walk around for five minutes. I also used to sit on a yoga ball and I have to say I’ve been missing the bounciness. I think I might reinflate it and try that again as well to help improve my posture too.

Do you worry about how much you sit? Are you using a standing desk or trying any techniques to walk, stand or move more? Any tips?

Podcast: Freakonomics “Who Needs Handwriting?” Part Two

Oh, yes… its time to listen to and discuss part two of the second part of Freakonomics “Who Needs Handwriting?” podcast called “How Can This Possibly Be True?”

I listened to the episode this morning and it went into more detail about the making of pencils and that no one person or country can actually make a pencil nowadays… or maybe ever… and less about handwriting. So, I really couldn’t get too riled up about this episode.

Here is a video version of the I, Pencil essay that they talk about in the podcast which is quite interesting.

In the end, I don’t think that Freakonomics came to any clear conclusion in the first episode about the importance of handwriting (or necessarily took a strong stance on the other side of the argument either). I have listened to the first episode three times now and have decided that it is decidedly rabblerousing, neither making a case for or against handwriting but rather just stirring the argumentative pot. I still feel that the act of writing helps develop cognitive skills and fine motor skills. But I also realize that typing can increase overall speed, editing and collaboration. As an artist and designer, many things start on paper and then are finished digitally and have been done that way for well over 30 years. Since visual creatives work this way so frequently, combining analog and digital tools seems like an obvious pairing. Maybe to others it needs to be an either/or proposition.

An example of how both analog and digital are needed to make the creative process happen.
An example of how both analog and digital are needed to make the creative process happen.

In the end, like so many other things in our modern world, I think you need to learn to use both analog and digital tools as a child and then choose the best tool for the job along the way. And sometimes BOTH is the correct answer.

Field Notes Paper Reveal

Field Notes Colors Edition Shenandoah

During a recent bout of caffeine-induced insomnia, I was on the French Paper Co. website, looking through their blog section, marvelling at all the beautifully designed screenprint posters and other designer-y goodness when I stumbled across an entry that would be of particular interest to the readers of The Well-Appointed Desk. I found a listing for the printing notes for the Field Notes Colors Edition: Shenandoah. While Field Notes describes the paper stocks used for their covers as “the Sweet Birch, the Chestnut Oak, and the Red Maple” on their web site, we now know that its actually French Paper Construction Green laminated to Construction Red, Pop-Tone Gumdrop Green laminated to Pop-Tone Lemon Drop and Pop-Tone Jellybean Green laminated to Construction Safety Orange.

And, of course, the classic Kraft cover Field Notes and the Dry Transfer Edition use French Paper Dur-O-Tone Packing Brown Wrap cover stock. Now you know the secrets too!

Planner Review: Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

Last year, when I first started dabbling in planners, I downloaded the Marcy Penner’s Hello Forever printable inserts for my planner. Since then, Marcy Penner has started designing her Hello Forever planning products for Studio Calico including a line of A5 planners (8.25″ x 9.5″ x 1.375″).

While Studio Calico is most known as a company that create products for memory keeping and scrapbooking, over the last few years, they have started moving into the creative planning world with a planning subscription service and the Hello Forever line of planning products. What I love most about both of these products is that, even if you are not into the decorative planning stuff, the designs are clean and well-designed. I’ve been a subscriber to their planner kit for several months and its one of my favorites offering clean, simple planner add-ons like stickers, washi tape and rubber stamps. When I saw the planners, I couldn’t resist.

I purchased the Hello Forever Planner in Clear Sky blue ($54.99) with a decorative floral pattern on the inside. I think of it as my “Missouri Compromise” — business on the outside, party on the inside. The simple, grey vertical elastic closure kept the exterior of the planner clean and simple and unfussy. The floral design on the inside is bright and cheerful and my little secret.

The overall construction of the binder itself is very good. The material used on the exterior of the planner is a smooth faux leather and lightly padded. Inside is a screen-printed pattern on white fabric. There are three pockets on the inside front cover and a secretary pocket. On the back cover, there is a loop of grey elastic for a pen loop. I would have liked a slot or pocket in the back for a notepad but, for the price point, I’m not too upset.

The ring placement is standard A5 6-hole and the rings are very tight. This means that the binder can accept inserts from any other A5 planner system or can use printables and a standard 6-hole punch.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The planner came with a complete set of undated inserts for the year, two clear decorative plastic dashboards, a black striped plastic movable bookmark, monthly tabs with pockets, half-sheet perforated to-do lists, two page protector sheets for holding photos, cards or paper ephemera, four pages of kiss-cut stickers, half-sheet perforated photo-a-day list sheets, month-on-two-pages undated calendar pages, undated week-on-two-pages weekly pages, monthly reflection pages, future planning pages, a year at a glance for 2016 and a perpetual planning booklet that can be tucked in the front pocket. There is also an additional sheet of sticker tabs tucked in the front pockets.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The front acetate sheet has a floral design, the second dashboard acetate has the red fishnet pattern and then under that is a cover page that reads “Today is the day”.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

I can see the appeal for some of the photo-a-day perforated sheets but I’m not sure I’d have much use for these. I do like that they are perforated and can then be moved to a specific month in your planner.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

I love the clean, simple typography for the days of the week and the diagonal stripes on the moveable acetate bookmark. Striking design that could be embellished or kept clean and simple.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The tabs are color coded and each one already has a pocket on the front of each month to hold receipts and other papers which is very handy.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

In the back are handy perforated half-sheet to-do lists like the photo-a-day sheets. I think these will be much more useful and include check boxes.  Perfect for grocery lists and other errands.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

And of course, the big question everyone had was how does the paper perform. And I was a little worried because this is such a make-or-break issue and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I was THRILLED to discover that the paper far exceeded my expectation. Our best guess is that its about 70lb smooth and there was no bleed or show through with any of the pens I tested. If Studio Calico keeps using this paper for all the refills they make for this planner series I will buy everything they make for it. The Platinum Carbon Black fountain pen ink didn’t even show through! That alone is a reason to try out this planner!

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

This is the reverse of the paper and trust me when I say I did not manipulate this photo. No show through at all. I didn’t abuse it with a Sharpie marker or anything but the black Staedtler Triplus Fineliner had no issues with show through nor did my Franklin Christoph with Noodler’s Black Swan in English Roses. with a Medium Stub. So, I did put it through a standard pen nerd’s everyday carry.

The A5 planner is also available in a greystone and melon with different interior accent colors.   If you’re looking for an alternative to the more business-y Filofax and Franklin Covey style planners but are finding the Carpe Diem and Color Crush planners a little “too much”, the Studio Calico Hello Forever might be the perfect balance between them. I hope that in the future Studio Calico will consider adding a smaller personal-sized version of this planner to their offerings since the size is the only thing holding me back from being madly, passionately in love with it. I’m not sure yet whether I can commit to carrying around a full A5-sized planner. But for the paper alone, I may try out carrying an A5 just to use the beautiful design and the fabulous paper. Studio Calico and Hello Forever really did make a beautiful planner and I’m looking forward to seeing how it wears over time.

InCoWriMo Stationery Package Set: Bamboo Green

incowrimo kit-4

I swore to myself this year I would skip InCoWriMo/LetterMo because I can get so overwhelmed with too many letters and not enough time. However, everywhere I turn this year, all signs are pointing to a February full of letter-writing. I cannot diverge from the path, not when people are putting all these beautiful things on my doorstep making it impossible for me not to want to write lots of letters! To start, the folks are Goulet Pens have put together fabulous color coordinated Stationery Package Sets like the Bamboo Green Kit ($84.90, reduced from $100.90 retail). In this kit is Original Crown Mill Correspondence Set with 25 edged sheets and matching lined envelopes in lime green, a bottle of color coordinated Pilot Iroshiuku ink in Chiku-Rin and a Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen in Lime.

incowrimo kit-6

I’ve  always wanted to try a Faber-Castell fountain pen and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. The barrel of the pen is shiny, silver chrome with a brush solve grip section. The cap is lime green plastic embossed with the Faber-Castell logo and has a spring-loaded, silver clip. When I’ve seen pictures of this pen the cap always looks really bulbous. In person, its not nearly as noticeable. The cap is a little bit more rounded than the smooth cylindrical barrel of the pen but the cap is not onion-headed. Its much better looking in person. Is it possible for a pen to not be as photogenic as it is pretty in person?

The body of the pen is quite weighty. The whole pen with cap weighs in at 33gms, unposted its 27gms. Comparing it to other low-priced pens, you can see that the Faber-CAstell Loom is no lightweight. Surprisingly though, when I started writing with it, the pen itself is so well-balanced, I did not notice the weight though I did use the pen unposted so it was just a little weightier than a Lamy AL-Star.

Fountain Pen Weights

The Loom is 5.125″ (13cm) long capped, just 3/8″ (1cm) shorter than a Lamy Safari and the grip on the Loom is 3cm long to the Safari’s 3.5cm grip. So they are quite comparable in size but the Loom is a much weightier pen and the nib is much silkier out of the box (comparing F nib to F nib). Both also use snap caps and the Loom snap cap is very tight.

I got the F nib and I was kind of blown away with how smooth it wrote right out of the box. It wrote immediately upon filling and had no hard starts, even after I left it uncapped for 10 minutes.

incowrimokit1-1

The Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin also performed quite well even in the fine nib of the Loom. everything was readable and I got good shading out of the nib. The Loom plus the Chiku-Rin is actually a good match-up I was quite pleased with my results! I did my writing tests on my standard Rhodia Blank writing pad just so my results were consistent with all my all ink and pen tests and I was really happy with how it all turned out.

I haven’t tested everything out on the Original Crown Mill stationery yet but the paper is a nice bright white with some lovely tooth to the stock and I will be sure to do a follow-up about how the stationery performs but I’m not expecting any issues. Original Crown Mill is known for its good quality paper and it looks beautiful! The paper and envelopes came in a sturdy metallic silver box too which seems posh and old world. I miss stationery that comes in a good box and this set delivers! Lined envelopes!

Several other stationery color sets are available as well in navy, fuchsia, royal blue and dark green in a range of prices and each include a fountain pen, matching ink and a Original Crown Mill Correspondence Set if lime green isn’t your thing.

incowrimo kit-2

And the folks at Goulet Pens wanted my InCoWriMo/LetterMo to be completely decked out and totally color coordinated so they included an edelweiss wax seal ($12) and handle ($16) and two matching green wax seal wax sticks ($6 each) too. I love that the was sticks are embossed with “Atelier Gargoyle”.

incowrimo kit-3

I was a bit nervous to try the seals out on an actual letter so I thought I might practice first in case I made a complete mess.

incowrimo kit-7

I’ve never learned how to seal a letter with a wax seal so I looked for some videos on YouTube to learn how to do it. I now know why Brian Goulet was playing with blow torches on the Q&A video this week. I didn’t have anything that extreme so I practiced melting the wax using a long grill lighter which worked great until I ran out of butane. The example above was my first try and I think it turned out pretty good on my desk scratch paper. (The dust in the seal was from my second attempt with a candle and I got candle wax all over my desk. It was not the wax stick’s fault. It was a total user error)

The best thing is the wax his actually quite flexible, its not at all brittle and I think it will hold up well to the rigors of the postal service, even in the cold temperatures of a Midwest winter. I can see why Goulet chose to stock this brand. The wax melted easily, it smelled pleasing and stayed supple. And I’m impressed with the level of detail in the seal design. Wow, I’m officially a convert to wax seals. This was super easy to do. I just wish I hadn’t run out of lighter fluid.

incowrimo kit-1

So, it looks like I’m all set for February! Are you? Will you be participating in InCoWriMo/LetterMo this year?


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Goulet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Van Hook & Co. A5 Fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook Leather Cover

vanhookco-1

I recently found Van Hook and Co. on Etsy and purchased a made-to-order dyed leather, stitched A5 wide cover fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook cover. The cost for the cover an $75 and took about ten days from the time I ordered it until it arrived.

The leather has a warm hue to it and is a heavyweight and firm, not floppy which I really like. There are two short, leather slash pockets in the front and back that add stability and weight to the covers as well. The stitching around the edges is even and bright white. The elastic is black and, by default, Van Hook included four elastics inside for books.

Also, there are two elastic loop along the righthand side for a pen. My Sharbo-X fits snugly in the loops and coordinates nicely with the cover but the loops aren’t wide enough to fit the Pilot Metropolitan without a bit of effort. A Sharpie Pen fits in the loops fine though not as pleasing to look at. If I were to order another cover from Van Hook, I might skip the pen loops just because I tend to carry a whole case of pens with me anyway.

vanhookco-2

I filled mine with the Moleskine large notebooks I reviewed earlier this week which fit perfectly. First, is the planner, then a cahier for my knitting project planning, then a Volant for sketching and notes. I have some other A5-ish notebooks on order that I may swap out along the way, but for now I wanted to see how these fit and how well the cover worked with the various thicknesses. So far, so good.

vanhookco-4

I never thought I would buy a larger fauxdori cover but I got a wild hair and I am so glad I have another size option in my ‘dori arsenal. I also absolutely love the unusual turquoise color. I cannot wait to see how the color will patina over time.

I will definitely be ordering another cover from Van Hook very soon. The craftsmanship and quality is excellent and I love how thick their leather is. I prefer the hardier leather as an alternative to the more traditional Midori floppy leather covers. I think a traditional, slim chartreuse leather stitched is next on my wish list!

Digital Pen Review: Wacom Intuos Draw

I spend a good deal of my time thinking about and talking about analog tools, but I also spend a good deal of time using digital tools like computers, an iPad and an iPhone.

One of my go-to tools for work is a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. Its a large pen-based tablet for image editing that is not necessarily a tool I would recommend to someone who was just dipping their toe into the digital pen world. However, for Christmas, I received a new Wacom Intuos Draw tablet for home use and I think it is a great starter device for someone who might want to try out a pen-based tool for computer work.

Wacom Intuos Draw

Even if you don’t think you’ll be doing a lot of image manipulation, a pen tool is a great way to help change up your hand position while working. I use my Wacom pen all day for tapping, selecting, clicking, highlighting and scrolling because I can hold the pen tool gently compared with how I might grip a mouse or trackball or other input device. I seriously believe I’ve saved myself from years of repetitive stress injuries because I use a Wacom pen on a daily basis because its such a natural, comfortable hand position.

Wacom has recently refreshed their digital pen tablet line. There is now the Intuos consumer-based products under the Intuos umbrella as well as the Intuos Pro. Technically, the consumer line offers four different packages which seem super-complicated but really boil down to two different units: the Draw unit ($69.95) which is just the pen-based tablet. Then there’s the Intuos Art/Comic/Photo units which include touch capabilities on the tablet as well are bundled with different software options depending on your interests.

The Intuos Draw tablet ships with ArtRage Lite software trial. The Intuos Art tablet ships with Corel Painter Essentials 5 ($199.95 for tablet + software), the Intuos Photo tablet ships with Corel PaintShop Pro X8 for Windows and Corel Aftershot Pro 2 for Windows and Mac. Macphun Creative Kit (Tonality Pro, Intensify Pro, Snapheal Pro, Noiseless Pro) is also available for Mac users ($99.95) and the Intuos Comic ships with Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio Debut 10 ($99.95). Some of the software offered are limited trials and may require upgrade fees for full versions after trial periods.

All the tablets have a working surface of about 6×3.7″ which works with well with most average laptops and doesn’t take up a ton of desk space.

There are four action buttons at the top of the tablet that can be set to specific actions based on application or globally in your preferences. There are also two buttons on the pen itself that can be set to be application-specific or universal controls for things like opt-click, cmd-click or anything else using the Wacom driver preferences.

You can set preferences for left- or right-handed so that it reacts accordingly and adjust the speed of tapping, clicking and pressure in the preferences as well. Overall, you can fine tune the tablet to work best with your way of working.

Many folks who end up choosing one of the Wacom tablets with touch sensitivity end up investing in a glove of some sort to keep their hand from triggering the tablet or turning off the touch capabilities to avoid accidentally triggering the touch capabilities. You can use one the hot keys as a toggle for the touch capabilities if this is a feature you want to use as an option on the Intuos Art/Comic/Photo or Pro models.

I do find that there’s a bit of a learning curve to getting comfortable with input on a pen tablet. When I first started using a Wacom, my co-workers took my mouse away and told me to give it two weeks. They said it would be frustrating initially trying to highlight text or click on an email but to use it to develop those motorskills and, if after two weeks of regular use, I didn’t get adept at using the tablet, I could go back and forth between mouse and tablet. But they felt strongly that with two weeks of daily use, I would be a convert. And they were right. I’ve never had or used a mouse since.

(photo via SLRLounge)
(photo via SLRLounge)

Under the cover on the back of the tablet is three extra pen tips as well which is a nice addition. I thought since these tablets were so budget-priced that Wacom might skip including them but they did not so you’ll have enough to keep you drawing, writing or editing for a good year, even with a heavy hand. There are also specialty tips that can be purchased to simulate different writing and drawing experiences. I usually just use the plain black professional tips and a replacement set of 5 retails for $4.95. A pair of smooth pliers will remove a worn tip easily and then just insert a fresh tip. I only need to change mine about once every 6 months to a year depending on abuse.

That’s a lot of options. But you know what? I got the Intuos Draw. The simplest one because it does exactly what I need it to do. I don’t need a bunch of extra software I may or may not ever use. I just wanted a good tablet to help edit photos in Adobe Photoshop, draw in Adobe Illustrator or experiment with apps purchased in the App Store like AutoDesk Sketchbook, Pixelmator and others. The Intuos Draw tablet provides a pleasing range of pressure sensitivity. While it does not explicitly list on the site, I expect the range of sensitivity is the same as the other tablets at 1024 levels of sensitivity which is honestly more than enough for most folks. My Intuos Pro at work has 2068 levels and its not noticeably more sensitive for most activities.

Some pen tests using the Wacom Intuos Draw tablet and Kyle's Brush Presets
Some pen tests using the Wacom Intuos Draw tablet and Kyle’s Brush Presets for Adobe Photoshop

The biggest difference between the Intuos Draw pen and the Pro version is the size of the pen. The Intuos Draw pen is shorter than the Pro pens and does not include the “eraser” tip. I don’t think that’s a make-or-break feature since I’ve broken two Pro pens this year and replacing the Pro pens are about $80 each. I’d just assume use an undo step or erase tool in an app than flip the pen over to use the “eraser”. In all my years of using Wacom pens, I never really flipped my pen over  anyway. The Intuos consumer line pens also do away with the silicone covering on the grip section which I find an improvement as well because the heat from my hand has caused the silicone to stretch and warp over time. Eventually I just have to tear the rubber off exposing an unsightly ridge anyway. One of my co-workers actually made a little felt cozy wrap to cover her pen for the exact same reason so I actually much prefer a plain plastic casing.

All four tablets can be upgraded to be wireless with an accessory kit for $39.95. This makes it great for working on the go or on the arm of the couch. Then when you are at a desk, just plug in the USB and it will charge while you are working.

Overall, I think the Wacom Intuos Draw tablet is a great investment and will be a solid performer for years to come.

Have you ever considered using a pen tablet?

Looking Back and Moving Forward

I say this every year but I love the start of the New Year. Its a chance for new beginnings, opening that brand-new planner, journal or notebook and starting on a new path, or course-correcting the one you set last year. I hope that 2016 will be a year of great adventures and great joys for everyone, myself included. I know a lot of us had rocky moments in 2015 but I know there were also some great triumphs as well.

(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)
(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)

For me 2015 was filled with wonderful ups and some hard downs as well. The Atlanta Pen Show was the absolute pinnacle for me and was my saving grace in what turned out to be a rather tumultuous year that followed with work- and health-related stresses. Brad and Myke and all the pen community welcomed me so warmly and openly in Atlanta and the whole world over that I felt like I had the whole world at my back this year and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

As I move forward into 2016, I want to stay committed and actively involved with the pen-and-paper community and be a resource and asset to the wonderful people that are a part of it. Expect to see more ink, paper, pen, and pencil reviews here as always. Holler, if there’s something particular you’d like to see more.

This summer, I started taking drawing and painting classes to try to be more creative and its something that I’d like to continue to do in 2016. I hope that in spending more time making art, I’ll also add more art material reviews to the site as well with the occasional watercolor, colored pencils, and other art material reviews for people who may want to try their hand at more sketching, drawing or mixing of media in their notebooks. By no means, will I be changing the focus of the site but I want to help people feel comfortable using pens with other materials. To be brave and to experiment! Even the most expensive piece of paper is still cheaper than a pizza from the take-out joint down the street, right?

why

One of the most meaningful pieces I wrote all year, for me anyway, was the post Why Does All This Matter? which came hot on the heels of devouring half of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic book (I promise there will be a review of the whole book in a week or so!) and it still resonates in my mind. All these pens, pencils, notebooks and accouterments are all a means for us to be thoughtful, creative, to remember, to relive and to explore our ideas. However those tools help you do that is good but we have to remember not to let them impede the acts themselves.

This is something I plan on tackling quite a bit this year. The nature of doing product reviews is that I acquire a lot of samples. Its not that I have anything that is not good quality, its just that I am buried under a lot of it and it often leads to indecision and fretting over which ink to use, which pen to pick up or which notebook to write in next. One of my goals for 2016 is to pare down the stash dramatically. If anyone has a good idea about redistributing the wealth without breaking the bank, please let me know.

So, my goals for 2016:

  • Make more art
  • Daily journaling in my Hobonichi Techo A6
  • De-stash the pen/paper/ink/supply clutter
  • Take some personal time for little luxuries (30 minute coffee shop stop, a quiet walk, read for pleasure, etc)
  • Don’t work so late at the jobby-job

My keep-on-keeping’ on:

  • Reviews and more on the blog
  • Atlanta Pen Show 2016, look out!
  • Put all those planners to good use
  • Keep knitting (maybe finish some of those half-baked projects?)
  • Keep biking, and maybe more regularly than I have the last few months

Do you take the end of the year to re-evaluate and make plans? I never think of this end-of-year planning as “resolutions” but as a chance to re-tool, re-focus and start fresh. What do you want to accomplish in 2016? Let’s do this together!

Local Pride: 10 Things to Love about Kansas City

(3-color, 18″ x 24″ screenprintposter of Kansas City. Print is signed and number in an edition of 100. 2nd edition. $25 via Tad Carpenter)

I’m feeling a little sentimental today about my adopted home, Kansas City. We’ll be spending the holidays here this year and we have a friend coming into town so I’ve been mentally preparing a list of things to show him, places to take him and food to feed him. I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe it’ll inspire you to stop in Kansas City some day. Be sure to let me know if you’re in town and I’d be happy to buy you a coffee or a beer and talk pens with you. So here goes, ten things to love about Kansas City:

This list is in no particular order, especially since anyone who knows me will know that I am actually a Chicago Fire MLS fan. However, the enthusiasm that Kansas City has put behind its professional sports teams this year, including its soccer team and, in return, the awesome support the teams give to their supporters make KC a great place to be a sports fan. The post-World Series parade and celebration for the Royals was EPIC. This town knows how to throw a party.

(PS: You can spot my pal Madeline and her black Scottie in the video if you don’t blink!)

Christopher Elbow. This man makes chocolates that make you cry because they are both delicious and beautiful but he also created an ice cream shop called Glacé that elevated ice cream and sorbets to new gourmet heights with a rotating assortment of flavors. I just noticed the seasonal ice cream flavors like Peppermint Flake and Jude’s Rum Cake. I might have to pop over over a taste this week. Yum!

Boulevard Beer. Rieger’s Whiskey. Dark Horse Distillery. Why stop at chocolate and ice cream? Kansas City has a great assortment of booze locally made. Boulevard is our flagship brewery offering an array of seasonal and limited edition brews. Rieger is a small batch distillery recreating pre-Prohibition whiskey, gin and vodka. Their whiskey has been a staple at The Desk but I’ve yet to try their gin and I’m itching to. And Dark Horse is another local liquor staple in KC best known for their white whiskey though they also produce a rye whiskey and a bourbon whiskey.

Joe’s BBQ. Joe’s KC, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s and still referred to by locals as Okie Joe’s is a KC classic. Its a BBQ joint started in a gas station that still has a line out the door on most nights. Their BBQ (in all its forms) in to die for and even ended up on some pretty fancy foodie bucket lists. Even my vegetarian friends go, if only for the “crack fries”.

(Country Club Plaza Lights Mini Hanging Banner $16 via Tammy Smith)

The Plaza. There is a more official name for The Plaza, its The Country Club Plaza or something like that but locals just call it The Plaza and everyone knows what you mean. Its an outdoor shopping area designed to look a bit like a Spanish courtyard with fancy clock towers and fountains galore. On Thanksgiving night, there is a holiday lighting event where the whole place is lit up and it looks beautiful. There are lots of fancy, upscale shops like Tiffany, Kate Spade, Sephora, Apple and more and lots of restaurants and bars. There’s also a creek that runs down one end that people run and walk along. Its just a nice place to watch people, window shop and eat a nice meal.

The Pen Place. Yes, Kansas City really does have its own pen shop. Its not very big and its tucked back into a dark corner of the very touristy Crown Center Mall but we have a pen shop. The staff is very pleasant and they stock a wide variety of brands of pens and inks that they are happy to let you hold and will even swatch out inks on paper for you to see before you buy. They also have a wide variety of pen refills and have patiently helped me with my refill guide on occasion. So if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely pop in and say hello.

The World War I Museum. Kansas City is lucky enough to have the only and official World War I museum in the United States and it is a moving and memorable experience to visit this museum and surrounding grounds. I work in a building across the street and often walk the grounds on bright days at lunch admiring the amazing views from atop the hill. As a history buff and knitter I have also enjoyed attending the regular lecture series Mrs. Wilson’s Knitting Circle which will enter its second year in 2016. It’s an extraordinary place and an amazing opportunity to learn more about a singular event that changed the course of history. There are also many other amazing museums in Kansas City like the Negro League Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, the Truman Presidential Library, and the Toy & Miniature Museum just to name a few.

The local art scene. Not only does Kansas City have an amazing art museum in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, but there is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and several areas that feature a thriving local art galleries like the Crossroads, the West Bottoms and Brookside. There are many art festivals, craft shows and first Fridays (third Thursdays and other open studio events and the like) all over town, plus there is the Kansas City Art Institute training new artistic talent as well as other local colleges and universities that are helping to develop new creative talent. Add in the music and performing arts in Kansas City from the new Kauffman Center for Performing Arts shell featuring the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony to the local bars and clubs hosting bands and open mike nights. When I moved here, I didn’t think Kansas City was a cowtown per se but I had no idea how amazingly talented it was.

Coffee. This town loves its coffee. We have local coffee shops and local roasters and all sorts of combinations of the two. Some of my favorites are The Filling Station, Benettis, Messenger Coffee, Kaldi’s Coffee and the king of the coffee bean hill The Roasterie. If you’re a tea drinker, I recommend Kaldi’s Double Vanilla Tea Latte or the London Fog from either the Roasterie or Kaldi’s. Delish!

Hallmark Cards. I feel silly plugging the firm but if it wasn’t for Hallmark, I never would have come to Kansas City and discovered what a cool place it is. I would not have met some of the most amazing, talented and special people I’ve ever known and I might never have started this blog which gave me the chance to meet all of you.  I once read an interview with a Hallmark employee (colloquially called a “Hallmarker”) who described working at Hallmark as grad school and it really is. So many of us refine and hone our skills surrounded by people who are so incredibly talented in everything they do. And everyone is willing to share their knowledge and encourage other people’s success which is unlike any place I’ve ever worked. So, thank you, Hallmark for all the opportunities.

Analog Products/Digital App Makers Round-up

I’ve noticed a lot of analog tool makers are also making apps. I thought I might take a look at a few of them and see if any of them might of use with or in combination with your favorite analog tools.

moleskine app icons

Moleskine:

Moleskine offers several apps at the moment, the latest being the Moleskine Timepage Calendar for iCloud, Google Calendar and more (iPhone and Apple Watch). Its a paid app that claims to be revolutionary. It looks like a clean, simple calendar app that is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing calendar tools like iCloud, Exchange and many others. It is a $4.99 paid app so I’ve just downloaded it to give it a try. I have been using Fantastical for years on my phone without complaints so I’m trying the Timepage as an experiment. The app has beautiful typography and a very simple design. The default view is the week-at-a-glance and if I swipe to the left I get a monthly calendar view with each of the days with activities highlighted with “heat circles” indicating activities from various calendars – i.e. work, personal, birthdays, holidays, etc. The method to build individual events in the app are a little different than other apps like the default Calendar app or Fantastical but I quickly figured it out. It is actually pretty elegant and uses a built-in weather app and a lot of natural language elements that make it feel very friendly. My work meetings are all scheduled through digital calendars and I don’t always get them moved to my paper planner so having an aesthetically appealing interface to view these makes having work meetings a little less painful. If you haven’t invested in a calendar app beyond the default app that ships with your iPhone, the Moleskine Timepage is actually a lot nicer than I thought it would be.

Moleskine also offers their digital Moleskine Journal app (free with in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad) and a Moleskine/Creative Cloud connected app to work the Moleskine and Adobe Creative Cloud notebook (iPhone only). The Moleskine/Creative Cloud Connected App has only one very lackluster review. The notebook was designed to work for Adobe creative products like the Evernote/Moleskine notebooks work with the Evernote app system though it appears most folks aren’t using the Adobe or reviewing the Adobe Creative Cloud version.

There’s a Moleskine Photo Books app for the iPad (free) to help build a photo book through their service. Again, there are very few reviews and I don’t know anyone who’s actually used Moleskine’s photo books as an option so I don’t know about the print quality. But if you’re feeling brave, please let us know if you like the app and the quality of the photos you receive.

Baron Fig app icons

Baron Fig:

Baron Fig has released two digital products to compliment its analog tools: Spark and Mosaic.

Spark ($0.99 + in-app purchases) is an iPhone and Apple Watch-enabled set of creativity prompts. The reviews look positive as quick flashes of ideas to help stir thinking and mindfulness. Think of it as your digital page-a-day calendar with better typography.

Mosaic ($1.99) is Baron Fig’s answer to a digital notebook. While I prefer to write my notes on paper, there are moments when I just don’t have a paper and pen with me but I do have my phone and the Mosaic app lets me capture those little tidbits so I can transpose them later. I do wish there was a way to export projects or share them but they are sort of trapped in the the Mosaic app. Its good for to-do lists and quick reminder notes though.

Exaclair App icons

Exaclair (AKA Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis):

LifeNoted (free + in-app upgrade $1.99 for full version) is a calendaring, journaling and to-do app all rolled up into one. You can add photos and videos as well plus tagging. While it looks like it keeps it all the appointments and to-dos together, I don’t find it to be the most aesthetically appealing app. But if you’re juggling professional, personal, home and family commitments, this might help balance it all. There’s more information available about the app at Life Noted.

ME Journal is the app interface for the Quo Vadis Habana ME (Multimedia Enhanced) Journal. The app is available for iPhone and iPad. I wrote a review last fall about my experience with the ME Journal.

Do you know of any other analog companies that are dipping their toes into the digital world? Or vice versa? Let me know if I missed anyone.I live in both the analog and digital worlds so I won’t say I don’t appreciate efforts to make my digital world as pleasing as my analog world but I do still have some reservations about it. How about you?

Giveaway Winner: Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop from Goulet Pens

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop Giveaway generously hosted by Goulet Pens this week. And thanks for entertaining me with all your color memories and suggestions for future Retro Pop colors. Maybe Pilot will stumble across these posts and hear our requests!

Most entertaining lime green color comparisons were:

  • Guacamole
  • Kool-Aid, Limeade, Jell-o
  • Margaritas and mojitos
  • vintage automotive paint colors
  • lollipops, popsicles and various candies
  • Bugs
  • Key Lime Pie
  • Nail Polish
  • decor from the 1970s
  • Apples, kiwis and pistachios
  • Grass and bamboo
  • Slime
  • Soylent Green

Most Frequent Suggestions for Future Retro Pop Colors:

  • Shades of pink from fuchsia to pastel
  • Copper
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Bright Yellow
  • Navy Blue
  • Burgundy
  • Rose Gold

Now, on to our giveaway winner:

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 7.20.31 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 7.22.35 AM

Congrats, Jackie! I’ll be emailing you directly to arrange everything. And a big thanks to Goulet Pens for arranging the giveaway!