Take-away from a stationery week

07-05-19 planners
The planner lineup, 7th May 2019 (it’s a dull and chilly day in Norfolk and this selection reflects that)

I promised a wrap-up at the end of stationery week. I have been pondering for a couple of days now what I am taking away from it and I think I have it straight in my head.

An excuse to shop

I think this type of week/day is most successful as a marketing drive and if I wasn’t on a strictly limited budget I would have used the opportunity to buy something special. On the other hand, there is a lot of fun to be had from looking at what is available even if you know you can’t buy it and I enjoyed my virtual window-shopping a lot. I limited it to just two purchases for Stationery Week – the set of colour co-ordinated fineliners because I thought I might like to colour-code, and a roll of washi tape which was just a general re-stock because I’ve almost run out. Use of the fineliners after my initial testing was minimal (although it outstripped use of the washi tape) but I can report that they are very nice pens and if you like colour-coding I would recommend trying to track some down. I won’t be using them myself, but I have plans for them.

Other people’s posts

Perhaps the best thing about National Stationery Week was seeing other people’s blogs and Instagram posts on the theme. I saw some things that were new to me through photos posted on social media and that’s exciting. There is a surprising amount going on in the stationery world nowadays and most of it is pretty, not to mention relatively affordable. I must admit if I look back ten or twenty years, I wouldn’t have foreseen that.

Setting up the Kikki K ring-planner

This was a very enjoyable exercise and it got my creative muscles moving a bit, but ultimately it frustrated me more than it inspired me. I found I was even less productive last week than I usually am, and that is saying a lot. However, it was beneficial because shining a light on the details of a planner set-up has given me the opportunity to think about what I feel comfortable with and where I might go from here.

Likes and dislikes in a planner system

  • The paper needs to play nicely with my fountain pen inks
  • I greatly prefer the week-to-view column layout of my Mark + Fold diaries
  • I love having a marker for the current week which the Mark + Fold diaries don’t have
  • I like to have both my tasks and my appointments for the day in the same place
  • I like to track my goals (like creative writing word count and step count) on my main diary page rather than a separate tracker
  • I don’t necessarily need a whole year of dated pages available all the time
  • I like underlining things and drawing in separators with red ink
  • I don’t colour-code
  • The Personal/Medium size ring-planner is both too small and too bulky for my taste
  • I like having a pen loop
  • I adore having notepaper in the binder and being able to flip to it from the diary section without having to worry about a separate notebook
  • I really like the touch of prettiness in the dividers I made

Alternative formats

As I have said previously,  I will continue to plan 2019 in my Mark + Fold diary because it works very well. The thing that hasn’t gelled for me this year is setting up a notebook to accompany it and I intend to pay some attention to that over the next few days.

Heading towards 2020* I want to combine planning and notes in one book. That means looking at some options that are outside my usual sphere – the bullet journals, notebooks with removable pages, or custom-build spiral-bound planners. Plenty there to keep me interested for the rest of this year, then.

Pens

Yep, it is still fountain pens for me, every day, all the way. Fountain pens and inks. Nothing beats the feeling of writing with a fountain pen on decent paper.


*2020 – When I left school, this was always in my mind as the year I would retire. How times change! Then again, I would not have foreseen the lovely family that came my way, and all the things I would do and I would certainly not have thought of myself being still so young at heart this far down the line. Giving up on the retirement idea is a small price to pay.


 

When one notebook closes…

01-03-19 back page
The very last page of my old notebook – where I doodle intestines apparently!

You know the old saying that goes “When one door closes, another opens”, well I’ve had that experience with my general notebook. Having finished a journal and started a new one earlier in the week, I am finally on the last page of my current Mark and Fold A5 notebook. I’ve been using this for my general notes for the past eleven months and I have already mentioned the possibility of moving into an exercise “rough book” format. Well, good old Mark and Fold have come to my rescue as their quarterly subscription box arrived today and inside was a like-for-like replacement for my existing notebook. Yipee!

I thought you might be interested in a little pictorial ‘unboxing’ so you can see how the subscription looks as I unwrap it. I have always been really pleased with it. As well as the notebook, this quarter I received two Thank You cards and a gift voucher to use in their online shop.

Unfortunately, this marks (not to mention folds!) the end of my subscription and the cash isn’t there to renew it at the present time, but I can honestly say the past two years using their products have been a joy and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who loves high-quality stationery with a minimal design.

So, to the unboxing.

Friday is usually my Quote of the Week day and I haven’t got one to hand, so I will just include the snippet I wrote in my notebook on 17th September 2018 and call that a quote:

Me? I think we’re all born with broken hearts, and life itself is just an exercise in damage limitation.

Not the cheeriest bit of creative writing in the universe, but it worked in the context I was thinking of at the time.


I hope your week has been good, or at least is almost over. Have you come to the end of anything and started something fresh? Any doors opening or closing?


 

Get ready, get set, go!

 

To begin, just a brief update following Monday’s post – I am back on track with the Christmas knitting. The problem that had discouraged me responded well to a quick fix and so, with a huge sigh of relief, I have continued on my merry way. Having a day or two away from it was definitely the best way to go.

So, on with today’s post. You may recall that last week I was in limbo as far as my planning/organising/diary keeping for 2019 goes; now all is resolved. I am the happy (ecstatic) recipient of the 2019 bound diary from Mark + Fold as part of my subscription to their quarterly stationery box service. I will be so sad when this expires, but I’ve got a good stock of items I have received from them so it isn’t as if I will suddenly be doing cold turkey on the posh stationery front.

Receiving this parcel means, naturally, that the planner binders I unearthed last week will return to their repose. I will doubtless get them out again this time next year. They are not dissimilar to one of Dickens’ ghosts – come Christmas, they remind me of what may happen in the future, and then they disappear whilst I lean from my window bestowing bonhomie upon confused neighbours. I don’t do the whole trying to buy the biggest turkey in London thing because, frankly, I am not that keen on turkey.

I have said before on the blog how much I have enjoyed using the bound diary this year. The way in which I have used the relatively simple page layout has varied during the year, but over the past few weeks I have really got into my stride with how it can best work for me. I think this is something that will/does change as one’s life changes, so it might not stay the same for the entirety of next year, but it’s working at present. The thing I particularly like about this diary is that you can change up how you lay things out in it quite easily – a useful attribute when you’re inclined to get bored as soon as you’ve done things in a particular way for a short while.

Paired with the diary will be the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists’ 2019 Calendar to keep dates front and centre, but mainly to provide a picture to look at.

It is also time to move from one journal to another as I finished the last page in my current book on Saturday morning. This changeover is like-for-like, but I shall have to see how it goes when I have filled this Rhodiarama notebook. The first entry on the completed one was on 2nd October 2018 and I have been very consistent, only missing two days between then and now. I am not going to depress myself by going back to check how many of those entries mention Kojak – I’m afraid it might be every single one! In fact, every entry might just be a synopsis of the plot of the previous day’s episode, not very cleverly disguised as a journal entry. I need make no excuses; I am a highly focused individual – a trait I share with my beloved grandson – and at the moment Fortnite and Kojak happen to be the things that we are focused on.

I had to undertake a bit of a seek and locate mission over the weekend to find some paper I wanted to use with one of the Christmas cards I am writing. In the process, I happened upon a box of old photos so I seized the opportunity to dig out some that I either want to scan or want to show to relatives as I see them in the coming weeks. I am particularly keen for my grandson to see one of his mum at about the age he is now and she will get a kick out of it as it features a toy she has very fond memories of. Some of the photos have sneaked into the picture with my new journal.

In the dying light of Sunday afternoon I got out my fountain pens and had a session filling them with a selection of colours in preparation for writing letters and Christmas cards this week. I plumped for purple, brown and green inks. Yesterday, at last, I had the chance to visit The Writing Desk shop in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. What a charming shop! The service was great – unobtrusive, but friendly, and advice proffered just to make sure I was buying appropriate items. I hope to have the chance to visit again in the coming months.

I hope you are all having a good week. It has been fun looking back and looking fowards.


 

Stationery – Five things

Tomorrow, Friday 2nd November 2018, is Fountain Pen Day and in its honour I thought I would give you another glimpse into my psyche by telling you about five stationery items that exert their influence in my life.

5 things stationery
Mark + Fold exercise book and 2018 diary; Cross Apogee fountain pen; Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink

A favourite paper brand

I’ve said it before; I will say it again – Mark + Fold do some spectacular paper products. They use a fair amount of UK-produced paper in their line-up and that fits well with my desire to “shop local” where it is practical to do so without having to compromise too far on quality. They sell individual items on their website, but I currently have a subscription to their stationery box which arrives four times a year and is completely drool-worthy. I am already deeply regretting that I won’t be able to renew the subscription next February, but on the whole having my sanity is slightly more important to me and that means earning a much lower income than I would ideally like to. The unfortunate downside to these products is that they are really high-end when it comes to price. Are they worth it? Oh, yes, but only if you actually have the money to spend on them.

I use the diary every day and I love it to bits and it has been the single most-used item I have received, although remember that Graphite Writing Stick? Well, I am using that a ton too! As to the exercise book, well I am a big fan of exercise books in general because they are so portable and practical and I am still in love with the practice of having a “rough book” like we had at school to take random notes. Oh, dear – now I am overwhelmed by an urge to scrawl the names of the people I hero-worship over the cover. I must resist….

A fountain pen I own and love

Apogee 4
Cross Apogee Frosty Steel finish

Ah, the Cross Apogee. It is so pretty. It is quite large and quite heavy, at least compared to my other fountain pens. I love it so. If only I could find the magic way to get the ink flowing well again. I had this same problem with my other Cross fountain pen, and it resolved itself after many months of trial and error and sitting in the naughty corner. I still don’t know exactly what made it start working properly again,

I treated myself to the Apogee when I got a permanent full-time job; I had been admiring it in person and online for many months prior to actually buying it. It’s the only fountain pen I own with a gold nib and I must say I really like how it writes. Mainly, though, it’s the lacquer finish on the pen that has me hooked; the colour and the patterning are reminiscent of a man’s silk tie, subtle and resplendent by turns. Perhaps I need to buy some pen flush….

A fountain pen I would buy in a trice

Waterman Exception
Waterman Exception Slim fountain pen, blue with chrome trim

Oh, hello, lovely – wanna come home with me?

This is the pen I have been promising myself I will buy the next time I am really flush and have something special to celebrate. I was thinking of treating myself to it for my 60th birthday in 2020, but that idea is receding. 65th? 70th? How long will they keep making this beauty?

If I could only have fountain pens of one colour, it would be this blue, the blue of the sky crossing from day to night, and always matched with a chrome finish to emulate the stars. (My Cross Century II and my blue Waterman Exception are similar to this shade.) I particularly love the design of this pen; the square profile, the slight taper to the barrel. It is sleek and futuristic but in a classic way, never veering towards pastiche. Plus, I love the Waterman pens I currently own and they are really my most-used so another model from this brand is high on my wish-list.

A fountain pen I would never buy

Visconti Pentagon
Visconti Pentagon Blue fountain pen

By rights I should love this fountain pen. It is a lovely shade of deep, dark blue and see that marbling? You get that on fountain pens that are made with resin and it always looks spectacular. The chrome trim is spot-on and that design is interesting with its faceted shaping which carries through onto the cap. Visconti is a great brand, too, with a proud history of pen-making and this design is one of the more affordable in their range.

So what makes this in particular a pen I would never buy? It is the fact that, for me, it just misses the mark in every way. I own a Visconti pen and I so want to like it; I so want to admire the way the marbling highlights the resin of the body; to be entranced by the magnetic cap which clicks so satisfyingly closed. In some ways I do love it; but there is one big way in which it frustrates me and that is how it behaves with ink. It is what the pen afficionados term “a gusher” and I like my nibs to be dry, dry and hard, fit the pen with a nail if need be. Wet nibs are a feature of Visconti pens and a lot of fountain pen users adore them, but wet nibs and me, we don’t get along together. I find it too hard to find a pairing of pen and ink that actually works for me. Almost every ink I ever put in my Visconti has led to smearing of work when I’ve closed a book long after the ink “should” be dry. It has made me paranoid. I put the same ink in my Watermans, my Lamys, my Crosses, none of them smudge; the Visconti? Every single time unless I am writing on highly absorbent paper in which case the ink will feather or bleed through.

So the Visconti Pentagon is a pen that a younger me might have lusted over, but the current me will happily leave for someone else.

An ink I love

GvFC Cobalt Blue
Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, watched over by Avon

Okay, ready to chorus with me? “Graf von Faber-Castell”. This brand of ink suits me so well. I understand from people who really know their inks that this is quite a dry ink and I can certainly see that when comparing it to, for example, the Diamine inks which I always want to like (they have an awesome range of colours), but somehow don’t get along with. Also, just what compares to the Graf von Faber-Castell ink bottle? Classy, that’s what it is. That’s the ink bottle Jay Gatsby would have. (Daisy would have Pilot Iroshizuku in the deep pink Yama-Budo, but really we aren’t here to fantasise about inks for fictional characters are we?).

My personal favourite colours from the Graf von Faber-Castell range are this classic Cobalt Blue; Hazelnut Brown; Moss Green and Violet Blue. I have also tried the Garnet Red (too close to Hazelnut); Deep Sea Green (nice, but Moss Green is nicer); and Midnight Blue (ho-hum). I haven’t tried Olive Green; Turquoise (I never like turquoise inks for some reason); Burned Orange (I am not in any way an orange person); Electric Pink (I would be up for a try-out of this one); Cognac (I am so happy with Hazelnut for my choice of brown); Carbon Black (I’m a blue or blue-black girl, although it’s useful to have one black ink tucked away for a rainy day so never say never); Royal Blue (well, it’s not Cobalt is it?). For the life of me I can’t remember whether I have tried the Stone Grey. I feel that I have and that it was okay, but it might have been a grey from a totally different brand.

When I am trying out an ink, I always opt for cartridges (if the ink comes in a standard International cartridge it will fit my Waterman pens), or a sample phial if the ink comes in a proprietary cartridge that won’t fit my current pen collection. If I like it enough to use all the cartridges, then I will look at getting a bottle, but I prefer to limit the number of bottles of ink I have.


Well, that was a marathon session, hope you didn’t fall asleep before you got to the end. Happy Fountain Pen Day – if you have a fountain pen, please use it. If you are out and about and can encourage anyone else to try a fountain pen, please do. If you have never tried a fountain and are intrigued, see if you can find someone who owns a fountain pen and can let you try it out.