Posts Tagged 'Journaling'

Softcover Leather Sketchbook from ToBoldlyFold

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a paper or pen object!

Behold— the Softcover Golden Brown Leather Sketchbook from Etsy bookbinder ToBoldlyFold.

Handwritten thank-you notes and homemade packaging: the perks of buying handmade.

I haven’t had the time to bind my own books lately, but buying someone else’s handmade book is the next best thing. I put in some long research hours on Etsy, the handmade equivalent of ebay, before settling on this beautiful leather book from ToBoldlyFold’s Cyprus collection. Alas, if you do decide to shop Etsy for a journal or sketchbook, keep in mind that most Etsy bookbinders don’t provide detailed information on the type of paper that they use– for these sellers, I recommend messaging them to ask about their paper.

I’ve been dreaming of a leather sketchbook for a few months now. Not one of those Wiccan-looking leather sketchbooks (although they are friggin’ works of art) or one of those fake-wilderness, rugged-leather-but-I-really-live-in-downtown-LA sketchbooks. Just a simple, well-made, hand-bound leather book.

Oh, and I need the paper to take both watercolor and fountain pens (which, as it turns out, is no easy task).

A handmade leather sketchbook on Etsy is going to run you anywhere from $25 to $90, depending on the dimensions (and quality) of the book. Tiny books make my hands cramp so I ruled those out, but there’s no way that I can drop $70 for one of the beautiful journals from Moonbindery. But! Huzzah! ToBoldlyFold announced a birthday sale, which dropped her (already mid-price) books to an “Affordable Splurge” level for me.

So that’s the tale of how I found my newest book. But, as with any journal, the search is only half the battle. So let’s talk specs— and please feel free to ooh and ahh over this sumptuous piece of work.

I was hoping for a warm brown leather cover, but I was intrigued by the 170g “artists” paper, which only available with golden brown leather.

Ain’t no tragedy. The golden leather with turquoise stitching makes a stunning combination.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the button at first (I preferred the look of a wrap-cord), but it’s definitely growing on me. It reminds me of an old-fashioned pair of good leather boots, or a briefcase. It also reminds me of this adorable art print from Etsy seller Eva Juliet.

Many bloggers in the journaling/fountain pen community tend to dislike bulky covers, or covers that overhang the pages (check out this comparison from Notebook Stories). This is definitely not an issue with this book: the covers are cut square with the paper. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer much protection– but leather sketchbooks are meant to be worn in, so maybe it’s okay if the edges of your pages get dirty.

Journal: unwrapped and exposed

When unwrapped, the soft pages easily fold under for compact writing, or spread out in an artsy fashion on a table. If this were bound with a thin paper, the soft leather cover wouldn’t provide enough support for writing– but the thick paper and sturdy long-stitch binding make it easy to write on laps or in trains. (Doesn’t it seem like one should be traveling on a sepia-tinted train when writing in this book?).

(The long stitch also means that every page lays perfectly flat. No exaggeration.)

But let's talk about the paper. 'Cause, uh, damn. That's some nice paper.

As it turns out, ToBoldlyFold mainly uses two papers in her books: 115g Rives BFK Lightweight paper, or another paper that she only describes as “High-quality, acid-free 170g artists paper.” I know from experience that the Rives paper is excellent, but I was intrigued by the heavier 170g paper, and hoped it would hold watercolor.

I still don’t know who makes this paper– I’m going to ask the seller and I’ll get back to you all with her answer. We know at least that it is cream-colored and 175 g/m². I tried to convert that to lb paper weight, but the internet is telling me that it translates to only 65lb, which seems awfully thin. This paper is definitely thick, creamy, and hand-torn for fashionably rugged edges.

Like all good handcrafts, this one is stamped by the maker.

two different italic/stub nibs

I did worry that the paper might be too porous for fountain pens and water-based inks. A quick test of all my fountain pens did show some feathering, but far less than I expected. In fact, dry-writing nibs performed pretty swell on this paper. The sample above compares my Pilot 78G italic nib (filled with J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche) with my Parker 45 stub nib (filled with J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage). The dryer combination of the 78G/Bleu Pervenche definitely out-performed the wetter Parker/Lierre Sauvage.

Lamy Safari EF with Aurora Black ink

By far, the best combination of Pen&Ink on this paper was my Lamy Safari (EF nib) filled with Aurora Black (at the top). This is kinda interesting because Aurora Black is a super wet ink, compared to Bleu Pervenche, which is quite dry but performed the second-best on this paper. It’s well known that Aurora Black is a super-lubricated ink, though, and I wonder if the greater surface tension kept the ink from soaking in and feathering on the paper. I’ll have to try some other lubricated inks and see if it’s a pattern.

In general though, this is a paper for dry nibs and inks. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to stick to fine nibs– one can still use a dry-writing italic nib with great results. Check the image below for other pen and ink combinations, with varying degrees of feathering.

Oh hey there, messy handwriting.

Of course, if fountain pens aren’t the biggest priority in your life (let’s hope not; they’re just pens, after all), then this is a fantastic paper for basically every other type of pen, as well as both wet and dry media.

watercolors and Pitt artists pens

Although this seems to be a fairly porous paper (i.e., it’s not coated like Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers), it’s definitely not fibrous. It won’t catch on your nibs or disintegrate with wet media. You can see in the above image that Pitt artists pens didn’t feather at all, and watercolors also performed well.

Watercolors did absorb into the paper almost immediately, so you won’t be able to blend anything on the page itself. This is a paper more suited to glazing techniques.

Overall, this paper seems like it would make a perfect art journal: lays perfectly flat, strong enough to stand up to acrylics and pastels, sturdy enough for watercolors, and smooth enough for pens and fine nibs. Combined with a beautiful leather cover and beautiful stitching, this is a killer book and I’m excited to keep y’all updated on how I use it.

Artist/Writer Stranded Without A Book

I’ve written before about the importance of journals, art journals– whatever you want to call the Blank Book that causes you to stop, reflect, and articulate. Art journalers may not use text the way that a ‘traditional’ journaler does, but art journals still offer the same benefit; instead of articulating in words, the journaler is visually articulating his or her experiences, thoughts, feelings. The important thing is the reflection and processing of the, um, ‘external’ world.

So basically, I’m Without A Book.

Right now.

–> Look, no panic mode! (Okay, maybe a little panic mode). I finished a wonderful Fabriano Venezia art journal right before leaving on my road trip. (For the record, the Venezia journal was reviewed by Biffybeans as “glorious,” and I have to agree). But now it has been three weeks, and I’m still without a Book.

It turns out that this is quite the interesting experiment for an artist and writer. I’ve found that all my journaling energy has been redirected onto many different projects. Not only have I been using several different sketchbooks, but I’ve also begun some large-scale paintings, which I don’t do very often. As for writing, I’ve been directing a lot of that energy into poems, which I’m mostly composing on half-empty Rhodia pads around the apartment.

In general, it feels a lot more productive. Maybe it has been valuable to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just CREATE, no matter the surface and no matter the medium.

But, I do have a fancypants new journal in the mail, so look for an upcoming review.

In the meantime, here are some sketches: (as always, click for full view)

A picnic lunch at Manitou Springs

10 minute sketch of our tent, just as it got too dark to draw.

A College Career in Journals

My senior year of high school, I carried a moleskine notebook with me at all times. I was slowly (and painfully) detaching myself from high school, and I didn’t speak much that year– everything went into the book. It was sort of a compulsion, really: I had this tiny, meticulous handwriting, and I wrote in complete, cohesive sentences, often in essay-style. I copied down every quote that was meaningful to me, every conversation I overheard, nearly every unique thought that passed through my mind. And I neatly pasted in every receipt, ticket stub, every scrap of paper that I came across. My doodles were always photo-realistic, never imaginative. Looking back on it now, I see that year as a process of collecting the disparate scraps of myself before leaving for college.

So then, the turning point: I went to see a film with my dad, and my bag was stolen from under my seat. With my journal in it.

…and I learned the very important lesson, that you should always keep yourself whole enough to survive a stolen book.

Catharsis

I think my mistake was trying to make it honest and beautiful at the same time. I remember writing down horribly secret things that I had never spoken or written before: mortified, and brutally protective of the book afterwards. That honesty was necessary, but I had to set a lot of very restrictive boundaries for writing at the time: I only wrote in pencil, because I didn’t want to see any crossed-out mistakes. I would erase and re-erase until I had accurately articulated the feeling, event or thought that I wanted to convey. If I forgot to paste a ticket stub in, I felt furious– like something was missing and the book was incomplete. And I never allowed myself to go back and read my earlier writing.

After that book was stolen, I didn’t journal for my entire first year at college. It was too painful, and I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to put my life together so compactly again.

As it turns out, that painful transition was a Seriously Great Thing. For the first time in my life, I really embraced the place that I was in (which is to say, college). I explored it. I introduced myself to people, I put myself out there, I took risks. I cut my hair off. I got straight A’s, fell in love, twice, and began to see myself better, and more clearly. Basically, I put my energy into my life instead.

Back to the Book

But let’s face it, I’m a creative writing major: I need some paper in my life. I transferred schools, feeling infinitely grateful to my first college and peaceful about leaving it. This time, when I returned to the habit of writing things down, I began using a pen. Which meant I crossed things out, a lot, and my handwriting was larger and looser. I also discovered how inferior moleskine paper is.

And this time, I tried to be okay with leaving things out. I sought a balance between living my life, and distilling it onto paper. I reconnected with the art of writing itself, received my first fountain pen from my dad, and began to think more critically about the environmental impact of being a writer…

I can’t say that my three years of living at Kenyon were more meaningful than my first year at Hollins. But I can say that (slowly and consciously) I began to integrate writing into my life in a healthy way– a way that I could see playing into my future and my profession.

And shucks, it does feel nice to look at that stack of notebooks and know that my tumultuous, rewarding college career is messily contained within it.

An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review

In this post, I outlined my initial impressions of four different Clairefontaine papers, which I received generously from Exaclair and bound into a short-term, multi-purpose book (what some people call a “journal”). I used this book during the last weeks of classes, as well as through the madness of Senior Week, and Graduation itself.

And it felt good (really good) to put this book aside after graduation– to start brand new, on a blank page. (What a handy metaphor, no?)

As it turns out, my blank page was on the other side of the country. But now I’m here in Colorado, and yes, I promised fuller reviews. So here we go.

Digital Color Printing Paper

Pentel Pocket Pen and ink on DCP Paper

First, to clarify: this paper isn’t meant for traditional writing and media. It’s for machines, and I’m sure it works superbly that way. But I’m not interested in machines (except, maybe, Leo Marx’s). I wanted to test a loose-leaf Clairefontaine paper– one that could be used for bookbinding!

This has perhaps been one of the few drawbacks to Clairefontaine products– they’re more like, well, office supplies than art supplies. So I really appreciate trying out some loose-leaf paper, which can be used as a raw material for a variety of art projects. The DCP paper is also available in a variety of weights (90 to 350 gsm), which allows for even more customization.

The short version: Use your fountain pens, markers, brush pens, and crayons on this paper; leave the paint and wet media alone. Water-soluble pencils/crayons/pastels have the potential to work well (perhaps if they’re more oil-based) but don’t overdo the water. Stephanie at Biffybeans did a review of this paper, and had similar findings.

Also, this is the time to experiment with bright colors. So channel your inner pop artist.

However, for whatever reason, I found that I did less art on this kind of paper. When I did draw, I used my Pentel Pocket Pen, which left beautiful, clean, high-contrast lines. Writing (in ink) on this paper was pleasurable, but the paper was too glossy to use a pencil, and the thinness also encouraged more minimalist approach.

Stamped! Notice the wet spot to the left; that's bleed-through from the drawing posted above

Continue reading ‘An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review’

Combined: Blank Habana and Pelikan M400

This combination must be the personal “grail” that they talk about in the pen world: a large BLANK (!) Habana notebook by Quo Vadis, and a Pelikan M400 in (limited edition) white tortoise, with a fine flexible nib.

The Pelikan fountain pen was a joint graduation gift from four of my aunts. I don’t come from a family with a lot of disposable income, so this was a big gesture for all of them to purchase together. And when I came home from my graduation luncheon, I had a package with a large blank Habana notebook waiting for me– which I’m going to call a freebie graduation gift from the ever-generous Karen Doherty at Exaclair.

Now, before I start the, ahem, Very Official Review, I’ll give you my totally unprofessional, 100% emotional reaction:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I actually love this combination more than words can express. Okay, that’s not totally true– I’m an English major, and I do have the words to express. For example:

The large blank Habana has all the qualities that moleskine-lovers love about moleskine– a streamlined and elegant design, opens flat for writing, includes a ribbon bookmark and handy pocket inside the back cover– except for one small thing: the Habana notebook is far superior.

Here’s why:

  • The paper in the Habana is 90g “Clairefontaine” paper. (I’m not sure why “Clairefontaine” is in quotes on the label, but I think they’re just making sure we know what kind of paper is inside). It’s responsive to fountain pens and refuses to allow bleedthrough. There is some show-through, but not enough to bother me (which is saying something– usually I’m a stickler about show-through). Compare this to– well, we all know how moleskine responds to fountain pens…
  • Clairefontaine makes their own paper, which is SO rare in a globalized world. This cuts down on exploitation (both environmentally and in terms of human labor). They have an amazing documentation of their paper process: made from from sustainably managed forests (certified by PEFC), they don’t use any bleach, and they compost their factory waste? Holy crap. On the other hand, basically no one knows where moleskine paper comes from… although they have started a new line of “earth-friendly” products (a phrase that I don’t trust at all).
  • The large Habana notebook is definitely larger than the regular size moleskine– in a good way! When I used moleskine notebooks, I remember my hands would begin to cramp about halfway through, and I had to abandon any chance of good handwriting. The large Habana is definitely still slim and compact, but large enough for an artist who likes to draw and design in her notebooks.
  • The blank pages are a new thing for the Habana notebook. This was the one reason why I never purchased a Habana notebook before– because I need some blank pages to draw! And now– well, now they’re seductively blank…
  • Did I mention that it opens flat? Or has a pretty sexy color scheme? And a handy pocket? And a ribbon bookmark? Alright, I’ll just let the pictures talk from here.

Handmade Book with Clairefontaine Paper

In this post, I hinted at a new Book that I was binding using several different sample Clairefontaine papers: Graf It sketch padDCP Digital Color Printing Paper,Calligraphy Art Pad, and the Ingres Pastel Pad.

All the papers serve very different functions, so binding them into one journal is a way for me to provide a more extensive review of each type of paper. And, a way to keep me artistically on my toes! (Sure, we’ll go with that).

I used a simple long stitch and then glued the bound signatures into the cover. To make the cover, I used leftover mat board from an art project, and covered it in some blue ribbon.

(Making a new book without buying anything new = so rewarding.)

I’ve already been using this book throughout the exam season, so that’s why there are already some extra papers sticking out of it.

I think the order of use is: DCP copy paper, pastel paper, Graf It sketch paper, and then the calligraphy paper. I’ll try to post more extensive reviews as I finish each section. However, I have played around with all four papers already, so I can at least provide some preliminary thoughts…

  • So far, I’m loving the paper from the calligraphy pad— especially the off-white color, which I’m not used to seeing in Clairefontaine/Rhodia products. This paper is SO smooth, but less “slippery” than regular Clairefontaine paper. Plus, it’s a bit heavier which means it can handle wet media (sort of).
  • I was actually surprised how much I liked the Graf It sketchpad: it seems like a similar product to those “all-use” sketchbooks that you can buy at craft stores, with the rough-ish paper, but the quality of the Graf-it paper is a huge step up.
  • I love the DCP printing paper because it seems like basic Clairefontaine paper, but has the benefit of being available as loose sheets. I think when I bind small books for gifts in the future, I’ll use this paper instead of regular computer printer paper to fill them. Like the paper in Clairefontaine notebooks, though, it doesn’t offer the same versatility that the calligraphy paper and graf it paper do– it’s definitely more light weight, and not compatible with wet media. My guess is that it’s best used for writing and inking (and of course, printing. I’ll get to that in a later post)
  • The paper from the Ingres pastel pad seems really, really similar to the paper in the Exacompta sketchbook: it’s off-white, laid paper. And hey, I love the Exacompta sketchbook, so this just may be excellent paper. I found that it takes both wet and dry media equally well, and pastels are buttery smooth when used on this paper. This will be my first extended paper review, in the next few days.

Binding A New Journal, Courtesy of Exaclair

Exaclair Papers (except the blue)

This title is a bit misleading: I don’t really “journal,” in the traditional sense of the word. I use to write my thoughts, yes– but also for my creative writing and to write articles, and also as an art journal or sketchbook, and also for boring things like to-do lists and academic planning. Whew.

I always emphasize this to my friends ( it’s a BOOK, not a “DIARY”) who have this image of me sitting down, probably in Victorian clothing, to write, “Dear Diary, today I…”

So. I finished my Kunst & Papier Book with a really awkward amount of time left before graduation. I kept thinking, “Oh, of course this Book will last me until I graduate! and then I’ll make a lovely clean new one for my post-college life! Blank slates all around!”

But oh, no. I finished my Book with four weeks till graduation. So, what, should I start a new one that begins four weeks before a major life transition? That seemed really unbalanced and strange, so I decided against it. Instead I’m going to make a short little Book that I can use for the next month.

And how perfect! I received a lovely assortment of papers from Exaclair to review. Along with a Rhodia dotpad and some stationary, I received a Graf It sketch padDCP Digital Color Printing Paper, a Calligraphy Art Pad, and the Ingres Pastel Pad. So, I decided the best way to test them all would be to bind them into one multimedia writing-art-planner Book.

Clairefontaine Generosity

I’ll update when the book is bound!


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