Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook

Lokta paper is a handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal that is made from the fibrous inner barks of two types of Laurel, locally known as Lokta.  Similar to harvesting of sugar cane, Lokta was cut close to the base for paper making, and the tree could regenerate to full maturity in 4 to 5 years; thus Lokta paper is environmentally sustainable.  Because of Lokta paper's durability, resistance to humidity, insect and mildew, it is the paper of choice for sacred texts and government document.

Due to recent heightened sense of ecological awareness, Lokta paper begins to gain popularity.  It is popular among artists and crafters who take advantage in the paper's light weight and durable features and use it for bookbinding, gift wrapping, or sketching.  The paper also has gained a spotlight in the writer's circle.  Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook is one of the choices in the market.  Despite its hefty appearance, the notebook is almost feather weight and filled with 48 thick, luscious Lokta paper.  By touch, the paper has a tough and toothy surface; on certain pages, Lokta fiber can be spotted.

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Lokta paper

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See the fiber and texture?
I was reminded before hand that Lokta paper does not take fountain pen or fountain pen ink well, partly due to the textured surface and high absorbency, but for the sake of experimenting, I have tested the sketchbook with fountain pens I have inked.  There is definitely feathering and bleedthrough, but the writing is still legible.  One thing I have noticed is that the nibs will pick up some of the paper fibers as one writes, and this is particularly evidence in finer nibs (the finest I have used for the testing purpose are Sailor Clear Candy and Pilot VP).  Finer tipped gel pens, too, can potentially disturb the fiber as well (gel pens such as Hi-Tec-C and other needle points).  Ball point and felt tipped pens perform much better, as well as craft pens with rounder tips.  Surprisingly, an old gel pen that I used to like, Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller, performs exceptionally with the Lokta paper and I speculated that the rounder tip might have something to do with it.

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Not horrible feathering, but might be too toothy for fountain pens


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Bleedthrough is obvious

Because of how absorbent the paper is, most of the ink "sink" to the surface.  Take Sakura Souffle gel pens for example, instead of risen slightly from the paper surface (hence the name Souffle), there is not visual difference to set apart Souffle from other gel pens I have tried.

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Craft pen testing.  No feathering but has obvious bleedthrough

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The paper can withstand repetitive stroke without being disturb.  This is done with a Uni-Ball JetStream

Wooden pencils face the least resistance out of all writing utensils, probably because I did not sharpen it razor sharp.  Erasing is entirely another issue, since erasing will cause abrasion and disturb the fiber of the paper, as seen below.

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Takes sketch in graphite, but erasing will take off a layer of the paper
Because it is a sketchbook, I tested watercolor on it to fulfill my curiosity.  In the photo below, the flower on the left is drawn with Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolor and the blue sphere is drawn with Derwent metallic watercolor pencils.  The Lokta paper can take dryer media far better than the wet in terms of feathering; however, the feathering itself creates yet another effect.

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To most fountain pen users, feathering and bleedthrough would be an issue, so this sketchbook might not be ideal for that purpose; however, I can see it being suitable for scrapbooking or general craft because of its texture and rustic appearance.  It can easily be a journal for those who use gel, ballpoint pens, and pencils.  I like the touch of this paper as well as the toothiness because of the rustic feeling the paper conveys.  It would be a unique gift for those who are looking for an ecological alternative.

You may find the item in review at Pen Boutique, as well as other Lokta paper products in other formats.

This Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook is furnished by Pen Boutique,  a Maryland-based vendor who also carry fine writing instrument, stationery, and accessories, for review purpose free of charge.  All opinions expressed in this post are entirely mine.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hobonichi 2015

Hey Hobonichi lovers out there!  Have you seen the 2015 line-up?  Besides all the dazzling new covers, Hobonichi is also trying something new this year.  In addition to an one-volume agenda for the year, there is a 2-volume options now, aptly named "Avec".  Two separate volumes will benefit those who use the planner as a scrapbook because one can definitely put more items on the pages, without the fear that the thickness will get in the way of writing in the later months.  Each volume weighs lighter than the original, and of course, still made with Tomoe River paper.  The only downside is Avec is only available for Japanese.  Perhaps if this year's set-up is a success, Hobonichi will implement it to the English edition?

The English store will be up August 31st at 7PM PST.  The covers and planner will be available for purchase on September 1.

UPDATE (8/28/2014)
Hobonichi now makes a mock store available for consumers to peruse and become orientated in the layout of the store before official launch date on September 1.  Pop in and see which one the one to start your new year!

Are you looking forward to it?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Traveling and stationery

Thanks to my fellowship, I more chances now to travel than before, though most of the time, I do not have choice of where I am going.  This past June, I attended my very first library conference in Las Vegas.  It is probably the last place I would associate with libraries in general, but it turned out to be better than my original assumption, mostly due to good company and dreamy dessert.

The traveling kit for this trip was different from the past, mainly because I had anticipated that I would be ambulating between hotel and convention center, as well as within convention center, I must make sure that the load was comfortable enough to carry out in my messenger bag.  Given the main focus of this trip was the conference itself, I packed based on the assumption that I would not have much time playing with stationery in general, but I should have all the essentials for note-taking and possible calligraphy practice.  Based on the above consideration, I had selected the following:


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Yes, an old-fashioned planner despite the fact that ALA (American Library Association, the organization that hosted the conference) had an app for every platform.  I used it to plot out obligatory events as well as the ones that attracted my attention.
  • Midori Traveler's Notebook
I have attended several panels and anticipated some degree of note-taking.  Instead of carrying a traditional notebook for note-taking purpose, I chose Traveler's Notebook.  Given how thick it is, it provided a sturdier writing surface than conventional one.  One unexpected use of the notebook was for people I have met to put down their contact information to keep in touch.
  • Rhodia Rhodiarama in Iris
Call me a dreamer, but I had planned for down times toward the end of my day, distilling thoughts and wrapping my day up by practicing calligraphy.  Rhodiarama's portable size and high quality paper made it a great candidate for this task.  You wonder whether I actually did practice, yes, I did!
Instead of bring a quill and a portable inkwell, I defaulted to Pilot Falcon for its flex nib.  Plus, in case panels were extremely dry, it would be able entertain myself without dousing off.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point
This is one of the two fountain pens I had brought with me.  It was chosen because it was retractable. Instead of unscrewing the cap, I could simply click on the knocker and write.  No chance for me to lose a cap.

  • Uni-Ball Signo DX
Though fountain pens are preferred, I always bring a gel pen for "just-in-case" situation.  Especially when you were in a hurry (i.e. using express check out at the hotel), gel pens can be the unsung heroes.  

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Besides picking out a working travel kit, I also had an unexpected stationery gain while at the conference.  My friend and I discovered a booth for Library Fair and Forum hosted in Yokohama, Japan.  While she was chatting with the representative, my sight meandered and settled on one of the take-away goodies:  a letter pad with flower motif from the scroll of The Tale of Genji.  The other representative had noticed that my sight was fixated to notepad and asked whether I have any questions.  I asked whether the notepad was fashioned after the flower motif from the famed novel.  The representative first looked at me puzzled, then exclaimed, "you know about The Tale of Genji?  Then you should really take a notepad with you."  At that moment I felt for once nerdiness worked to my advantage.  :)

The letter pad turned out to be a sheer pleasure to use.  The paper is on a thicker and toothier side, but it takes all media that I have tested, including a metallic silver Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen.  Even De Atramentis Magenta Purple plays well with the paper.

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Design wise, the paper is simple yet exquisite.  There are 4 varieties:  maple leaves, morning glory,
bellflowers, and cherry blossom.  The ethos and name very much coincided with Pilot Iroshizuku's naming convention.

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Have you ever find nice stationery at unexpected places?  

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Small Announcement

I hope everyone had a great weekend and is enjoying the exciting matches the World Cup has to offer.  To everyone who habitually writes to me, I am moving at the beginning of July to a slightly bigger apartment (definitely a cross the city blocks move, not a cross-continental one!).  Please e-mail me for my updated snail mail address.  If you already have a letter en route, fear not, I have submitted a change of address form so your letter will reach me during the transition.

Hopefully I can gather some time to write proper posts while packing for a short business trip and boxing the apartment!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sailor Colors of Four Seasons

Sailor fountain pen ink rank very high on my personal list, for the hues are saturated and can transform any scratchy nibs into fine buttery ones due to their lubrication.  However, no new addition was made to the Jentle ink line for quite some time, so you can imagine my ecstasy when Sailor announced the reissue of limited edition ink from the past, under the series Colors of Four Seasons.  Three colors from this series are purchased:  Nioi Sumire  (Sweet Violet), Shigure (Drizzle), and Tokiwa matsu (Tokiwa pine).

While I was making samples out of these ink, I could not help but to observe the similarities between ink from Color of Four Seasons and the soon-to-be-retired Jentle series.  Since I have Ultramarine from the previous series, I decided to do a quick color comparison.  


Nioi Ultramarine
Writing done by J. Herbin glass dip pen on Tomoe River paper

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For the lack of better example for Sailor Epinard, I only found a message that I wrote to myself on the Hobonichi planner with that ink.  You can still see the similarities between the two.

To my eyes, Nioi Sumire does not have as much purple undertone as Ultramarine, while Tokiwa matsu has resemblance to Epinard.  As Paper and Hand kindly explained to me, Nioi Sumire was released back in 2010 as a limited edition ink. It seems that Sailor renamed it to Ultramarine when the Jentle line was introduced.  Now the old favorite is reinstated (in a sense) in place of the replacer.  Oku-Yama is identical to Grenade (a written comparison can be found here on Fountain Pen Network, notice the chromatographic similarities between the two).  Souten, as I suspect, might be very closely related to Jentle Sky High.  

What does this finding  tell us?  From the Colors of Four Seasons, it appear that the only colors that are truly retired are Apricot and Pêche.  I cannot personally vouch for Pêche, as it was described to me as a pale pink with brownish undertone (found here, Gentian's beautiful ink art), but Apricot is simply gorgeous.  It reminds me of a ripe Aprium, with rich and subtle orange hue.  Do not worry if you have not gotten all colors from the Jentle line; most of them will still be around, with a few new exciting colors!

The new line up can be found at Pen Boutique, Gold Spot, and Anderson Pens for $18 a bottle.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Currently Inked

Currently inked

This round of rotation involved more pens than the past because of my recent acquisition of some colors from Sailor's Colors of Four Seasons.  As you probably have heard, Sailor will retire the existing Jentle Ink line, but do not panic, almost all colors will remain in place with the exception of Apricot and Pêche, with reintroduction of some limited edition colors from the past.  I will talk more about it in my next post.

I am glad that J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe is available again for my rotation.  Back in January, I wanted to ink Pilot Kakuno with it but detected a funny whiff from the ink bottle.  J. Herbin responded to my inquiry immediately and offered to send a replacement bottle after receiving mine.  Glad to know when manufacturer stands behind their products by offering robust customer services regarding possibly flawed products.  This is actually my second time contacting J. Herbin about ink that has possibly gone bad, and I am equally satisfied both times.

On the other note, I am planning to attend the Pelikan Hubs meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow evening.  Not sure what to expect yet, but I hope I will have something exciting to report later!

Any new ink on your horizon?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dialogue Too A5 Notebook

Problem with liking nice designs is that many notebooks will involuntarily following you home.  When I received a hefty box from Grandluxe sometimes last year, Dialogue Too notebook was the one that caught my eyes with its embossed motif on the cover.  Like many GrandLuxe notebooks that I have reviewed1,2 Dialogue Too is made with same paper; hence similar writing performance.  Here is a summary of Dialogue Too's specification:

  • Available in both A5 (21cm x 14.8cm; 8 1/4 inch x 5 7/8 inch) and A6 (14.8 x 10.5 cm; 5 7/8 x 4 1/8 inches).
  • Italian polyurethane cover with blind embossed motif.
  • 80 gsm acid free cream paper.
  • Lined and blank pages.
  • Available in blue, lime green, ivory, pink, and turquoise.
  • Weighs 358 g (12.65 oz) 

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A pink one is sent for review.  The color reminds me of Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline, a nice and rich magenta.  The embossing on the lower right hand corner along with the elastic closure add a degree of finesse to the notebook.

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A small notch designed for the elastic band.  Nice addition to an otherwise simple notebook.

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Writing sample done on Dialogue Too.  Visible feathering on fountain pen ink
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Backside of the same writing sample.  Visible bleed through.  Less show through for gel and ballpoint pens

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Binding of the notebook.  
Personally I like cream colored paper because it is softer to the eyes; however, the paper color can distort, absorb, as well as sharpen ink color, so certain colors appear more pleasing than others.  Similar to other thick notebooks, one would feel a bit of an "edge" while writing on the last portion of the notebook that feels like an uphill incline.

One feature that stands out from Dialogue Too is the notebook has both lined and blank format.  At first I am perplexed by the format, but then I realize the benefits of this mixed format.  When one uses Dialogue Too as a journal/diary, one can easily use the lined page to compose the entry and use the opposing page for illustration or collaging.  Since the notebook comes with elastic closure and not entirely snug, it can accommodate other keepsakes that one put on the blank pages.

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Cream colored pages with lined and blank format.  Lamy Al-Star with 1.1 italic nib is pictured here.

Pros:
  • Elastic holds cover and content intact
  • Lines are wide enough to accommodate writings of different sizes
  • Mixed format in one book makes the notebook more versatile
  • Polyurethane cover is durable
  • Smooth writing surface that can improve overall writing experience
Cons:
  • Notebook does not lay flat
  • Paper is less accommodating to wetter media, such as fountain pen ink and highlighters
  • Polyurethane cover is scuffed easily
Dialogue Too can be purchased on Amazon.
What do you think of notebooks with mixed formats?  

1 GrandLuxe Monologue notebooks
2 GrandLuxe Elastiq Journal

This notebook is graciously given to me by GrandLuxe as a sample for reviewing purpose, without any monetary compensation.  All opinions expressed here entirely mine.