One of my favorite vendors at pen shows is Curnow Bookbinding and Leatherwork. Unfortunately, they only attend two shows per year: St. Louis and San Francisco. So, if you’re lucky enough to attend either of these shows, I recommend making a beeline to their tables to stock up on traveler-style notebook inserts and handmade leather covers. If you live in the SF area, Curnow does attend many local craft and art fairs so you may be able to shop for delicious paper and handmade leather journal covers in person. Just check out their Facebook page for their next event. To place an order, send them a DM on Facebook or an email. Their email address is on the pinned post with pricing at the top of their Facebook page.
For many years, the Curnow handmade journal inserts were one of the few ways to get Tomoe River paper but as the availability of Tomoe River increased and then the subsequent changes to the paper quality, Curnow has been leading the way in the search for other papers that are unique and fountain pen friendly.
This year I picked up two 3-packs of A5 notebooks. One is the Ayush Paper and the other is Kraft paper (both are $20 per 3-pack). All Curnow notebooks are available in an array of common notebook sizes: Field Notes (Backpocket-Pocket), Passport (Backpocket), A5, A6 and traditional Traveler’s Notebook (A5 slim). Curnow will also create custom sizes on request. The Ayush (and Neenah) paper options are available blank, lined, music, 5mm dot-grid, 5mm cross-grid, 5mm grid, 2.5mm grid and knitters’ grid. The Kraft (and Tomoe) are only available blank
The Ayush Paper Inserts:
I don’t have a lot of details about this particular type of Ayush paper. It’s 29lb cream/ivory paper and is made in India. The paper was created for use with fountain pens and my experience thus far is that it lives up to the claim. Each of the three notebooks included contain 60 pages.
I tested an assortment of pens on the Ayush paper, using a guide sheet under the page to maintain (relatively) straight lines without having to have lines printed on my paper.
The Ayush paper didn’t show any signs of feathering and handled rollerball, gel, fountain pen and marker with no issues.
When paper performs this well, I always throw in the alcohol-based Sharpie marker because that pen bleeds through EVERYTHING. So, when I flipped over the page, I was delighted to see that the Ayush paper did very well with everything I threw at it. Even the Sharpie just had show through, not bleedthrough. There is a little show through along the spine edge where I had colored in the boxes but it is not so visible that I wouldn’t be able to use both sides of the paper.
The texture of the paper is slightly toothy. On the sliding scale of paper smoothness with Rhodia on the smoothest end and Col-o-ring on the toothy end, I’d put Ayush in the middle of the range, maybe a bit on the Col-o-ring side but closer to the middle.
Overall, I am quite pleased with this paper and I am looking forward to putting these notebooks to work over the next few months. That way I’ll know if I need to stock up in SF.
The Kraft Paper Inserts
The Kraft paper inserts won’t be of interest to everyone but if you’re looking for a fun paper for pastel or glitter gel pens, paint markers or other drawing tools, look no further.
Curnow doesn’t list the weight of the Kraft paper but I’d guess its maybe 60# text. If you have the Field Notes Sweet Tooth edition, the paper weight feels similar. The Kraft notebooks are blank and the paper is too opaque to use a guide sheet underneath so they are definitely better for drawing, sketching, doodling or collage. A lot of colored pencils also worked well on the paper.
Posca paint pens, brush markers and opaque gel pens are so fun on this paper. I also think using the kraft notebooks for collage would also be fun. The paper is heavy enough to support layers of additional paper and some glue adhesive. Gouache might be fun too.
I wouldn’t recommend watercolor painting. I don’t think the paper would show the color of watercolor with much effect and the paper is likely to buckle/waffle from the water. But you do you.
When I flipped the paper over to see how much of the paint pen and brush marker showed through, I was truly blown away. Not even a bit of show through. I’m speechless.
The Curnows are such kind people and such great craftspeople that I delight in supporting their creative ventures. I hope you have an opportunity to try some of their products and meet these delightful folks.