Review: Calepino Notebook

Calepino notebooks are the french equivalent of Field Notes. Their limited editions pair with a designer to create their covers, pencils, and matching pens. They have 4 ruling options- lines, grid, dot grid, and plain. Their regular editions feature a color that denotes the kind of grid inside, red, green blue and silver. The typical cover features bands of color with the name of the company and notebook’s info.calepino calepino calepino

I lucked out and snagged a Vetted X Calepino notebook via a swap a few weeks ago. This featured a white cover with some printing on it in black. Inside it was loaded up with white dot grid paper.  The inside of the cover was printed with the usual “fill in your important info” style lines and such. Of course it was in French but my rudimentary High School French tells me that it is pretty much like Word or Field Notes style info. the inside back cover relays info about Calepino and the history of the company as well as a ruler.calepino calepino

The cover is tough cardstock and survive my uses, which you can see via the picture means that it’s used as a coaster for my coffee cup in the AM. I found the cover to be very absorbent. the area for info took pencil and BIC clic roller ball well. It also survived, though the white looked very dirty at the end of my week’s of use. This is the danger with white notebooks. Filth.

The dot grid was done with a nice gray ink. It was good to know where I was writing but sinks into the background after words are added. Perfect in my book. the paper itself is thick and crinkly, it feels nice, smooth but not glassy enough texture you can see it but isn’t overwhelming. The paper took fountain pens reasonably well with some show through but nothing bad.calepino

This paper worked wonders with pencils, but not good soft dark pencils like my Palmino Pearl. Oh no using a Pearl on this paper was like writing with soft cheese on a cheese grater. Rather this paper was a dream with harder pencils like my General’s Semi-Hex which I generally refer to as the “general’s Semi-Yuck” due to it’s gritty scratchy performance*. Writing with a Neon Ticonderoga was heavenly. Lumgraph HB? Let us not go there. The Caran d’Ache Grafwood B performed like a B should instead of an H. This paper took all the good points of writing with a B or Palomino and threw them out the window, allowing  me, NO BEGGING me to use my less expensive pencils to fill it’s pages. This notebook was cheap pencil HEAVEN. I’m sad it’s gone, where will I use my crappy General’s Semi-Hex?calepino calepino

From what I understand of the website and what is printed in the book, this paper is exactly the same as their regular dot grid paper, so you can get the regular edition, with more printing on the cover, to fill in with your not-so-nice pencils. **

The price of these is the same as Field Notes, Calepino offers a exchange rate (or thereabouts) discount for non- EU buyers. Which is pretty awesome. These little notebooks are definitely on my radar for yet another notebook to buy and keep in my rotation.

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Suggested Readings

Generally speaking, I really hate it when someone tells me, “I think you should read this book. I read it and loved it.” I don’t know why I hate that. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time as a scifi nerd in high school. When my professor said to me, “I think you should read some of Brene Brown’s work. I think you’d benefit.” I smiled and didn’t read it. After all I had the perfect excuse for NOT reading it, as a busy grad student, when am I supposed to find the time to read anything other than what I am assigned to read?

This summer I had no classes. I caught up on some of the readings I had skipped and not read. Finally around August I was done with the reading I wanted to do for pleasure and the stuff I hadn’t read for school. I remembered my professor’s suggestion, Brene Brown. You know her, the Oprah art journaling woman? Yeah her.  Anyway, I searched for her books on my local library’s website and found they had a bunch of her books as eBooks. I requested them and then… waited. With one I just got it and the other I’m the 11th person who has requested it.

I’m reading Daring Greatly and so far I’m really enjoying  the books and she makes some really fantastic points. I’m also looking at it as a source for art journaling and art therapy. In the few chapters I’ve read she asks some questions of the reader that I think would make excellent prompts for art journaling that would not be too deep for journalers to use on their own. Which is a failing I’ve found in many books dedicated to art journaling. The authors ask the reader/journaler to go too deep without the help of a therapist.

Perhaps what my professor was suggesting wasn’t just that I read about vulnerability but also how one can write a fantastic prompt that is not harmful to the user. Maybe she thought I”d simply enjoy these books. Either way I’m getting a lot out of the first book. Enough that I’m continuing to read it though I don’t really have the time.

For those interested, I’m Reading “Daring Greatly.”

Review: Tombow 8900 HB

The Tombow 8900 pencil is in a word, delightful. That would be my short review.

I especially love olive drab shades of green and this pencil is a great shade of olive drab.  The paint  on all of the 12 pencils I purchased have a perfect finish. It’s dressed up with a gold foil imprint on one side. Two of the other sides are printed in white. It lacks ferrule or eraser. The end is unfinished. tombow 8900 tombow 8900 tombow 8900I believe the wood is cedar. The core is average in size and well centered. The pencils sharpen well with all of my sharpeners. It especially seems to do well with any long point sharpener. tombow 8900The core is very smooth and very dark. I’d rate it as a 2B or 3B in terms of darkness and softness.  During sketching I was able to get a great variety of shades from the pencil. Additional layers of graphite give a lot of nice darkness. With this pencil you can do a quick rough sketch and get a lot of dark areas. It’s a little harder to get lighter areas than it is with a regular HB pencil.tombow 8900At about $5 with free shipping for 12 these aren’t a bad deal via Amazon. At about 42 cents per pencil they are a great no-frill alternative to other dark and soft pencils like the Palomino Blackwing or Pearl.

Shelterwood Stress Test Part 5

I’ve been planning to revisit my Shelterwood stress test for a few weeks now. I’m still carting it around in my back pocket daily. It is worse for the wear but still perfectly serviceable and rugged.shelterwood5The covers of the Shelterwood are noticeably cracked, creased, and chipped. This is due to the fact that in the summer I spend a lot of time in my garden. Knives and scissors go in and out of the back pocket that houses the shelterwood. There is also addition… sweat due to the heat and humidity. I don’t know if this affected the veneer or not. The glue protects the interior from moisture. Which I think has preserved the inner pages. I think it also has kept the staples from pulling through. shelterwood5I’ve only made my way through about half this Shelterwood. I’ll keep carting it around until it’s full. I honestly don’t believe it will fall apart.

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Reflection: Adaptability of the Traveler’s Notebook System

For the last several years I’ve been carrying some variation of a homemade Traveler’s Notebook system. I have gotten my system to perfection for me- one of my simple slim two pocket inserts, a BanditApple Carnet (BAC) peewee, and a Field Notes (FN). This system allowed me to jot down important information on a catch all page in the FN or if I needed more room to take up a whole page in the FN. The BAC allowed me to sketch on the train. The pocket hold receipts, stamps, and odds and ends. This worked perfectly for me for several years. It got me through my last hellish year at the old job and through my first year of GradSchool. But today I realized that it was a little inappropriate for me to carry my journal with me to my internship. It also didn’t work for my needs as an art therapist. It was simply put- too bulky and cumbersome.tale of travelersA couple of weeks ago I bought some Post it “Study” Grid notes and cut them down to fit onto the back cover of my planner- housed in a custom made Davis Leather Works simple notebook cover. This cover is traveler’s notebook style, but holds only a BAC peewee sized planner and a simple slim 2-pocket insert. The gridded post it notes saved my bacon as I was running around the senior center, jotting down  notes about supplies the program has, things the director needs, things my supervisor would like to see, what kind of art people like, and other assorted quick notes. While my planner worked well for the day, it’s not a long term solution.

I think that a pocket notebook like a moleskine would be too formal for the setting, and if I lost it would house far too much important information*. I’d like to stick to some sort of Field Notes or Word sized note book, something pocket sized between 48 and 64 pages. Ruling not important. But I’d like to be able to combine it with a pocket system that I can keep post its and index cards in. So basically, I’m looking to make a cover like my planner cover, that holds a pocket notebook and a pocket with a handful of notecards and a few post its cut to size. It has to fit into the back pocket of my khakis.

It feels a little strange to me that the system that I currently use isn’t appropriate for a new setting. I simply assumed it would be good for all settings, since it’s been “there for me” through so much and for so long.  It’s strange to think that I’m so attached to my notebook system that I feel a little lost (and admittedly sad) that I won’t have it with  me. Instead what I’ll have with me will be a new version of the system, something adapted to work with my new profession. Something slimmer and a little more sleek.

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Review: Faber-Castell Bonanza

This pencil was received in a trade with my comrade Johnny of Pencil Revolution, a blog you should read and adore if you are into pencils.BonanzaWhen I first looked at this pencil I was a little underwhelmed. Standard pencil yellow and gold foil imprint. Then I looked at the ferrule- copper colored holding a dark pink eraser.  I was sold on the copper colored ferrule. the Bonanza logo is in a neat font and flanked by an icon of a horse head. Nifty. The imprint is sharp and crisp, with the finish of the pencil is smooth and without blemish. BonanzaWhile I sharpened the pencil and was really happy with how easily it sharpened. The core is well centered and is what I consider standard thickness.  It sharpened in all my sharpeners with ease, no chipping, no flaking, no issues. Easy. BonanzaIn use this pencil is dark and smooth. It affords a decent amount of light and dark tones for a B grade. While sketching I found that I was happy to use this pencil for the start of a drawing and only needed to reach for a 4B for darker areas. But for quick sketching, it is soft enough to offer decent areas of dark.

I found that I reached for this pencil over and over again for journaling. Writing with this pencil was just fantastic. Lines are dark without using a lot of pressure and the pencil holds a point reasonably well. I’d compare this pencil’s core to the Palomino Pearl in terms of darkness and softness. I think it holds it’s point slightly better than the Pearl, but the marks are very similar.BonanzaThe downside to this pencil is that it isn’t available in the US, again this is a pencil that can only be found in Asia and Europe. So, they can only  be found on eBay. The prices are decent. I really do wish Faber-Castell would consider bringing this pencil to the US market, it’s awesome and truly a great pencil for light sketching and writing.

Review: Yoobi Composition Book

I previously review the Yoobi HB pencils. Like their pencils, the composition books are available in 4 bright cheerful colors. these colors all work together and look great. I enjoy the bright colors but they are not for everyone.yoobicompyoobicomp

The composition books feature medium weight card covers with the Yoobi toucan logo, the phrase “compose yourself”, and a standard information area for writing. The information areas has a “scribbled” border that I find cute. The weight of the covers is about the same of almost every currently produced comp book. Lighter than they used to be, and flexible. *

There are 100 sheets (200 pages) of standard weight smooth notebook paper. The paper has blue ruling, mine is college ruled. I did not see wide ruled notebooks on the shelf. The margins are marked off in red. In other words this is a very standard composition book. I found the ruling to be slightly darker than my go to Staples brand composition notebooks. It’s not so dark as to be distracting or horrible, just darker.yoobicomp

The paper does well with pencils, being toothy enough to coax dark lines out of many pencils but smooth enough it’s not like I’m writing on sandpaper. With fountain pens the paper does well, with a little more than expected bleed through. I tested it with a couple of inks and most did well, with little feathering, and all with some bleed through. I wouldn’t use a double broad nib on this paper, but it does well enough with a medium I wouldn’t hesitate in it’s use.yoobicomp yoobicompThe binding is very sturdy and stitched well. There were no loose stitches or ends. The taped spine is secure without any separation of the glue from the covers. It’s a well made composition notebook.

I’ve been using mine for about a month now as I write up group therapy ideas for my internship. Most of this work has been done at my patio table, outside and at coffee shops. The book has survived being in and out of my bags and thrown onto the rough surface of my patio table. There are scuffs and dings in the cover with some wear around the edges, but given that I’ve not been gentle with this notebook it still looks good.yoobicomp

The price of the Yoobi composition book is on the higher side. Ringing in at $2.50 (or around that) it’s priced like a premium composition notebook. While it holds it’s own in sturdiness and being constructed well, it’s only slightly better made than a Staples comp book. This made in Vietnam composition notebook it’s bad, and when you factor in that they give supplies to schools in need, it’s a pretty good deal for a sturdy fun notebook.

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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

Reflection: Best Tools for the Job

I was thinking about a conversation I had with an acquaintance about pens and pencils. She considers herself a writer, at the time she was poo-pooing my use of fountain pens. During this conversation she made the statement, or something much like it, “Any pen will do the job.” As she made this statement she used a Bic Stic and I used a TWSBI 530. The truth is, yes, any pen will do the job but the real question is, will any pen (or pencil) add to the enjoyment of that job?  Will this pen make this job easier, or harder? To me it’s a question of quality.coffee&bulletpencilYears ago, when I started to ask these questions I began to explore  how I used my tools, the marks they made, and how my I enjoyed using them. Once I started this exploration I started to look for tools that I could use and enjoy while I wrote and made my art.

The real reason that people so often quote, “Any pen will do,” at us pen and pencil fanatics is that it’s beat into our heads in school to just pick up a pen/pencil and make art. We’re told by teachers that people get bogged down in the search for a pen or pencil and simply  don’t write or make art. I’ve had teachers tell me to get to the act of making art rather than picking the right tool. I think it’s vitally important that we find the right pen/pencil for us to make art. I think getting a quality writing instrument is a matter of self-respect.

Using a good pen/pencil adds a level of enjoyment to creating that is missing when a Bic Stic is uncapped or a Dixon HB #2 is sharpened (if you can get it to hold a point.) When I ink up my fountain pen I’m performing a ritual that is over a hundred years old. When I sharpen my pencil I’m following in the footsteps of some of the greats. Why suffer with a poor quality Dixon HB #2 when I can sharpen an USA Gold HB #2 or a Staedtler Norica and actually enjoy writing and sketching with them? We’re more likely to repeat an experience if we enjoy it.

During classes and here on this blog I’ve often said that  we should buy the best tools that we can afford in that moment. If all I can afford is something in the 99 cent range then I should strive for the best quality pencil or pen in that range. Then I should use the shit out of it. When I can afford it I should graduate to the next best thing. There are a lot of affordable options that are a better quality than the Dixon HB #2 or the BIC stic.* Continue reading

Review: Staedtler Norica

Last week I wrote about the Staedtler Rally, what I call the popped collar boat shoe wearing preppy of the Staedtler pencil line up.* The Staedtler Norica is the goth kid.Staedtler Norica

The lacquer is satin finished black with a silver ferrule and imprint. The eraser is what seems to be Staedtler’s new standard white plastic that is proclaimed as PVC and latex free. It’s been a few years since I worked in a school, but I suppose that is important. The imprint is sharp and unlike the Rally, doesn’t wear off. I have not noticed any flaking of the silver foil. Like the Rally, the silver ferrule is affixed tightly at first but loosens through use.Staedtler NoricaThe lead in this feels almost identical to the Rally. It’s nice and dark during regular writing, and provides some variation of line color when sketching. Here and there I notice a small amount of grit, but overall the writing experience is good. Not Blackwing good, but honestly, really not bad.Norica SketchStaedtler NoricaOne of the things that is odd about this pencil is that it is slightly more narrow than most regular pencils. Because of this it does not fit into a bullet pencil with ease. It does fit into my Stad One Touch Pencil holder and other pencil extenders with ease. Staedtler Norica

The wonderful thing about these pencils is that they come in a package of 36. the regular price is $9.99 but is often on sale (at Staples) for $5. My package had a pair of Staedtler white Rasoplast eraser shrink wrapped to it.

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