Category Archives: Journaling

Reflection: The BEST Pencil, EVER

After getting the weird bendy extruded pencils*** (by empire? eagle?) several years in a row I vowed that when I had control over my pencil purchasing power to buy better pencils. I was also older and used pens as much as I possibly could. That is a whole other story*. Anyway, I think it was 8th grade when I discovered the various colored Eberhard Faber Americans. They came in red, blue, and green. After years of messing around with crappy bendy nasty writing pencils I suddenly had pencils that sharpened and wrote well. It was a miracle to not struggle with my pencil.ECOwriterAs I entered my second year of high school I had been reading about ecology and recycling and though of myself as a budding tree hugger. That school year I purchased my first batch of Eberhard Faber ECOwriters and  the pulpy gray recycled paper that went along with them. The paper was a dull gray had green ruling and a little recycle logo in the bottom right corner. It was terrible paper for pencils, but was great for ballpoint pen. The ECOwriters were briefly available at my local drug store (I think back then it had changed from Welby’s to Rite-Aide) and I could pick up another 12-pack anytime I wanted them. When it wasn’t back to school time they were ridiculously expensive but I always splurged. **

I used the ECOwriters for a couple of years with much happiness. I bought one of my last packages in college and thought nothing more of them, until I ran out. I had squirreled away a few packages of them, but for the majority of college I used art pencils and roller ball pens or various art pens. It wasn’t until I was teaching that I had a need to get another pack of ECOwriters. I went to my local drug store, and found nothing. On a weekend I took a trip to the far away box office store, and found nothing. I went to box stores, nada. I looked for them on and off for a few months before I happened onto another package I can’t even remember where I found them, but I remember being confused, the pencils said “ECOwriter” but it was accompanied by the brand PaperMate.***

I got them home, tore into the package for instant sadness and disappointment. The core was gritty and not smooth. Sharpening them was a painful experience. Back then I sharpened with a knife 99% of the time and that was just an awful mess. My art sharpeners, even new sharpeners left a terrible mess on the pencils. It was as if the pencil that I had loved was crumbling before my eyes. I think I left these in my classroom for kids to steal rather than use them.

Enter eBay, the flea market for champions of 90s nostalgia. A seller on eBay has lots of these beauties, true vintage Eberhard Faber ECOwriters from the 90s! I was surprised to get a package from a friend containing a baker’s dozen true EF ECOwriters, in not only  the traditional yellow but also the color version. Best early birthday gift ever! I immediately sharpened one up and used it all day. It was rad. I’ll do a full review, remember it’s colored with nostalgia.

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Reflection: Not Just Any Pencil Will Do

On the Erasable podcast group awhile ago the question was posed, “When did you first notice that there were differences among pencils?” Since I’ve had far too much caffeine than is good for me* and I can’t sleep I’m going to answer this question with 2 answers.USA BondedBack here I told you about my Grandparents traveling to far away place in the US and coming back with unusual things. One of these trips went south, where my Grandparents toured a pencil making facility, what one I don’t know, but in my head I’m sure it must’ve been Musgrave.** Mostly I believe this because they went to Tennessee. This was back in the earlier to mid-eighties. With 5 grandchildren my Grandmother took it upon herself to bring back a bag of pencils. Not just ANY pencils, but misprints. My grandmother’s thriftiness is well known, and for her misprints or not, these were a good deal.

In this bag there were pencils with erasers and without. There were marbled pencils, pencils with flat paint, and shiny paint. I suspect that she purchased a gross pf pencils. It is likely that she got them for very little money, on account of her thriftiness. In this mixed bag of pencils were a few with no paint or finish at all- round wooden pencil naked and showing off their gorgeous cedar glory. My cousin chose the marbled and the “cool” pencils. When it was my turn I picked  the naked pencils and one of the few marbled my cousin turned down. Eraserless and smelling strongly of cedar I remember these pencils being a sharp contrast to the pencils that I’d gotten for school that year- they smelled good, and unlike the crappy extruded pencils they didn’t bend, the marks were darker and smooth.

After this, not any pencil would do.

There were quite a few pencils left over in the bag and my Grandmother would put a few more into her pen and pencil cup every now and then. I remember once that she was babysitting my brothers and I and we had to sit at the kitchen table to do our homework. She passed us the pencil cup we carefully chose our pencils and started to do homework. I remember putting the pencil I was using back because it was too scratchy. Then picking another with the same issue, then another. Finally, my grandmother said, “Leslie, what is the problem!?! Pick a pencil, any pencil will do! Do your homework!”

Of course there was no lip to be had so I picked a slightly less inferior pencil and did my homework. I remembered to always bring my own pencil after that.

Story will continue tomorrow

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You Might Notice

So the last 2 reviews on here were missing ther images. that was purely my fault. I shot photos, loaded them to my computer and then… Well forgot about them. Yup. So I’ll get photos onto those images… Sometime in the next day or so.

This school year has me fried. I’m getting accustomed to head in to my internship 2 days a week and into class 2 other days and then getting my schoolwork done in the rest. I don’t get out of class until 930pm on Wednesday nights and I can only catch the 1040pm train home. I don’t get home most nights until 1130pm. Of course I’ve had a heaping wallop of coffee so I can’t sleep. As I write this it is 140am. Yikes.

However, I’ve got one class that is blowing my mind. The whole premis of the class is about storytelling, and how to use storytelling as a medium to help the client to heal. It’s an amazing concept backed up by plenty of research. Which I won’t borre you with here, but to say that telling our individual stories is enormously important to our mental health.

Tonight (or this morning) I go out on a limb and ask you to explore your stories in your art journals. How can you explore that story?  When you are finished do you explore your story? Collage, writing, painting, drawing? Patterns? Doodles? By slinging garbage onto the page and seeing what sticks? Torturing the page into submission*? Whatever you need to do to explore your story in your art journal do it.

This is a pencil, I share it for shits and giggles and so that wordpress won’t share the big W on facebook.pencils, because

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New Journals

At the beginning of the summer I made 6 recycled sign vinyl journals. I’ve been making this style of books for years, it’s my most popular handmade journal. It’s friendly to people who don’t want a leather journal, super tough and fantastic for those notes you need ot keep around. I used a similar journal for long term notes for my last 2 jobs. The notebook lasted the duration of each position and longer. I still have them. Though I don’t need the information contained within them, they stand as testimony to the toughness of this vinyl and hemp combination. They are listed in my etsy shop.rugged journalI have a stack of covers I’ve got to stitch up, but I’m going to have to be careful in my choice of paper that goes inside. Stitching up the covers with cardstock inside made my hands and wrist hurt in a new painful way.  It reminded me that I’m growing older and arthritis runs in my family. After I spent a day working on those books my hand hurt for weeks afterward. When I make these in the future it will be with lighter weight paper and in limited quantities. I’ve got a stack of covers to go through.

In other news I start up school again tomorrow and I’m looking forward to my classes. I’m particularly interested in my elective, Storytelling and Healing. I suspect it’s going to be interesting. That class lasts until 9:30pm, so it had better be interesting!

I fixed up one of the many bikes I have in our garage that does not have a motor and was not in riding condition. I’m happy to report that the junky TREK 800 I bought for dirt money last year is now in riding condition and is in fact in better condition than I expected. Granted it isn’t as nice as the other old TREK we have but I won’t mind riding it to the train and leaving it parked. I also tested out the compact bike light I picked up via amazon a few months back. It’s light is even visible during the day. That’s a lot of lumens.TREK 800I hope to get back to writing more than just reviews for the blog. Right now I’m in the midst of harvesting the great things from my garden, this will only continue as I get more and more tomatoes, cucumbers, pears, and other yumminess. I meant to give regular garden updates but never got around to it. So here is a gratuitous shot of some of my yummy seckle pears. So tiny, so cute, so sweet, so tasty.pears

Pocket Notebook File Storage Boxes

Ray of My Life All in One Place posted a video to the Field Nuts Facebook Group awhile back of a great little file storage box for any pocket sized notebook. I took his design and created a template in Make the Cut for my Crapcut machine. My version can be flat packed after cutting, scoring, folding and gluing. Which means it can be sent through the mail with ease*. I’m charging enough to cover the cost of paper, glue, blades, and carrier in my Crapcut and a little extra to account for time to glue and fold everything. File BoxesI’m pretty obsessed with storage solutions for the pocket notebooks I use as journals. I’ve made wooden boxes and now a ton of these little card stock beauties. Each of these little cardstock files boxes holds 9 of my used Field Notes or Word notebooks. It will hold 10 unused without belly bands or shrink wrap. File BoxesI also picked up a giant package of card stock colors. I can now offer a crazy rainbow of colors of these file boxes as well as my simple slim 2-pocket folders for traveler’s notebook covers. You can get anything I’ve mentioned above in my etsy store.cardstock colors

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Bored and Sketching

My wife does Olympic weightlifting. It’s a terribly boring sport to watch until the person you are waiting to lift does their lift. Then it’s exciting for about 30 seconds. Then it’s boring again. There was a meet at the Bay State Games last weekend, and I went. I didn’t know it was going to be held in a hockey arena. It was cold cold cold. My toes were purple by the time we left. I did get to watch the judo matches which were also being held on the other side of the hockey arena. Those were pretty exciting, but impossible to sketch.

So I sketched the crowd and the lifters while they were still, which was not often. I took a handful of pencils with me and forgot to take a sharpener. Luckily, everything in my pencil case was sharp and ready to go. pick things up put them down pick things up put them down pick things up put them down pick things up put them down pick things up put them down

Uninspired

I’ve been trying really hard to not turn this blog into a straight up review blog. I need to share a few of my opinions on other “things.” Right? Yeah. Sadly, I’ve been less inspired to write than I have been in the past. Maybe it’s the 20 page papers I’ve been writing in grad school or the loss of our dog, but writing isn’t somethign I’m doing. I’m thinking about posts and ideas, even writing them in my Field Notes as I consider them, but they aren’t making the leap from the analog to digital world. I’ve always gone with the roll of my moods with this blog. I’m working on a few good posts about some ideas I’ve got, I’ve got  pencil reviews queued up for months and I’m adding a few paper reviews as well as other assorted stuff.

Now that I’ve transitioned from Typepad my other stuff blog is no longer around, so I might need to figure out a new location for that info. Or maybe I’ll roll my garden and dog stuff into this blog. Speaking of which, we decided to adopt another dog. Wickett our previous dog missed Ruby a  lot, so we decided to get him a buddy. We found a lovely mixed Chuhuahua Italian Grayhound mutt who has a wonderful personality and is gentle, lively, and smart. Within 5 minutes of meeting us he was sitting in our laps.

As for my garden? I got started late, but it is starting to finally come together and look great.

 

Cost of Entry

If I were new to the pen, pencil, and paper addiction and reading the top blogs right now I’d be convinced that entering into this addiction might be very very expensive. As much as I love to read about pricey pens, I know that many are out of my  reach. It seems to be a rare occurrence for an affordable pen to be flogged. A notable exception is the Pilot Metropolitan, a pen that I like very much but wasn’t overly enamored with, but still recommend for people looking for a starter pen.

Another thing that makes pencil-dom more affordable is that pencils and paper pair up more easily. I have a stack of journals and notebooks I’ve put aside because they didn’t work well with my fountain pens. Many of these are doing great with my pencils but were horrible with fountain pens. Take for instance the Martha Stewart and Avery pocket notebooks. God awful with even a dry writing fountain pen but great with a pencil. In fact with a pencil they shine. the paper doesn’t chew up the pencil, but is toothy enough to get a lot of graphite on the page without crazy smudging. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a primary pocket notebook because it’s got those nasty perforated pages, but for quick notes or short letters, it’s great.

Every time I pick up a pencil it writes. Occasionally a point will break off and I’ll have to sharpen it, but generally speaking, I get graphite on the page. That isn’t always the case with a fountain pen. Sometimes the ink will need coaxing out of the nib, sometimes it needs water to be added, or I nee dot refill it , or flush it, or something. If I’ve used a pen consistently it will write without issue, but man if you let that sucker sit for a month you are in for some work.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I’ve got 2 Platinum Preppy pens sitting on my desk. I haven’t touched either one in over a month. One is loaded with red ink and another with black. Both of them wrote without a skip or issue. My TWSBI 540 or Lamy Safari can’t say the same thing.

One of the reasons I’ve been reviewing pencils this summer is that for the most part, pencils are affordable. even the most expensive pencil I’ve reviewed/ purchased was $2.50. Compared to my most expensive pen at $75 that’s a bargain. Getting into pencils can be done with just a few dollars. A decent writing experience can be found for $2.50 for a dozen pencils (USA Gold Naturals) and an exceptional experience can be had for $20 a dozen (Palomino Blackwings, pick any one of the 3). I’m not suggesting that pencils are better than pens, simply that they have a lower expense for greatness.

Saying Goodbye

A non-art related post, please bear with me for a moment.

As a long time pet owner I’ve never had to have a pet put to sleep. I’ve lost cats to coyotes, cars, and mysterious disappearance. One even curled up on the front lawn and passed away, a cause other than old age unknown. So, while I’m familiar with pets dying, making a plan and scheduling an appointment seems alien. Thrusting myself fully into that alien feeling we have to take our 17-year old Cocker Spaniel to the vet to be “put to sleep.”

Her decline in the last few months has been sharp and drastic. She’s lost weight, she has trouble getting around, and worst of all she would prefer to sleep than go outside. Up until this weekend she seemed, for the most part, okay.

Until, you know, she didn’t.

Last night I was up until 3am, sitting with her listening to her raspy breath and wheezing.

Ruby was not the sort of dog that wanted to be in your lap. Rather she saw her humans as tools to let her in and out of the house, retrieve treats from the counter, and throw balls. (She lost interest in playing fetch a year ago.) When she wanted a scratch, she’d come to you, nuzzle up to your leg, stare. When she was done, she’d walk away. That was that. She was by all accounts an odd dog.

Perhaps we’ve waited too long. Perhaps we weren’t ready. Maybe she wasn’t ready for us to let her go. Sadly, it’s time. As I say goodbye to this strange fur ball that has lived alongside us for the last 17 years, I like to think of her several years ago, pulling the fur off a tennis ball than of her now, arthritic, and not wanting to go outside.

Fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook System, Fiscally Responsible?

A classmate took note of my fauxdori a week or so ago in class. After some discussion, she brought up something that I’m really surprised I didn’t think of, or consider about these things, she asked me if I saved money with the fauxdori over new notebooks/journals/sketchbooks. I had never thought of it that way.

I considered my sketching and journaling method previous to using the fauxdori. I either made or bought a Moleskine pocket sized sketchbook. These have 60 pages and around here cost about $10. As for written journaling I usually did that within the moleskine or in a separate moleskine Volant ($4.50 each) or Cahier ($3.30). * The Volant has 56 pages and the cahier 64. My daily carry cost was between $12 to $15.

 My current sketchbooks are BanditApple Carnet (BAC) PeeWee. These have 64 pages each. These cost between $3- $3.50 each depending on where I purchase them. For writing I use a Field Notes book and these run about $3.30 each. So I’m spending about $7 on inserts. Clearly there is a savings in just one bundle of inserts. fauxdori

My current rate for filling a BAC is 1 a month. Considering that they have a few more pages than a Moleskine Sketchbook. I’m already saving. If I were purchasing one Moleskine or HB a month  I’d be spending $120 to $144 on sketchbooks alone in a year. I’m filling a Field Notes every 16 to 20 days, depending on to do lists, journaling, and assorted school type stuff. A Field Notes is only 48 pages compared to the volant’s 56 or the cahier’s 64. that being said I always had issues with the last pages of my cahiers falling out and the spine of the my volants tearing and needing repair. I’ve yet to damage a Field Notes to that degree. Part of that is I’m not carrying them around outside of a cover but also, they spend less time in my pocket due to the fewer pages. I’d call this aspect even.

The answer to my classmate’s question of a fauxdori being fiscally responsible is, yes, it is. I save about $80 by not buying a moleskine/handbook every month. I also save myself a lot of aggravation. The cover allows the books to really be treated quite roughly. I’m able to carry both books in my back pocket, sit on them and generally abuse them more than I would be able to otherwise. So I’m saved from gluing up spines, falling out pages, and other nuisances.

It’s probably humorous that I turn around and spend that saved scratch on other things, like sketching pencils and pens… Right?

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