24 February 2011

The Thrill is Gone

Several months ago I was temped by the excellent price of Piccadilly notebooks compared to the price of Moleskine (the first notebook I became interested in).   I picked up a few and I was originally impressed by how well they performed.  There were some obvious differences, but given the large price difference, I didn't think they were deal-killers.

After using a pocket sized Piccadilly for several months, I've decided that it won't replace Moleskine for me anytime soon.  I think Piccadilly makes a good product and is definitely a good value if you are watching your budget.  For me, though, it is just too far from what I love about Moleskine.  The paper is rougher and stiffer, the cover material is not as smooth and supple, and the binding does not loosen to allow the notebook to open fully flat.

One of the first things to attracted me to Moleskine was that it is a luxurious product-- one of the finest notebooks you can buy.  But even though it is very high quality, it is relatively inexpensive.  At $12, it is certainly more expensive than other other notebooks, but I can afford to splurge on a $12 notebook.  If I were going to "splurge" on the best car on the market, I could easily spend $100,000.

I recommend Piccadilly if you are on a budget, but I am sticking with Moleskine for now.

16 February 2011

The Importance of a Pen

I have never been one to obsess over the sort of pen I use or insist on anything expensive.  My favorite has always been a Sharpie Pen, but I have used many others and never even had a strong preference for ball point, gel, or felt tip.  When I recently ran across a really bad pen, though, I began to understand how important one's choice of writing instrument is.

Of course, I know among the community of people who love journals, there is a strong preference for fountain pens.  Obviously, I've never taken any interest in something that specialized.

On a recent trip to New York I came across a really good idea for a pen at Sam Flax.  I picked it up as an afterthought-- an impulse purchase at the cash register.  I don't remember what the price was, but it was inexpensive enough that it made no impression.  The pen was stainless steel, about two inches long, and smaller in radius than a No. 2 pencil.  It had a screw-on cap and-- this is the great part-- it was TELESCOPING.  Wonderful!  A two inch pen that expanded to 5!

Unfortunately, the design excellence did not extend to the writing quality.  It was ball point and very dry.  I had to scribble on a blank page every time I started writing, a great deal of pressure was required to create a line, and the ink would frequently "stall," resulting in a line that started and stopped.  The writing was so messy that it basically ruined the pages I used it on.

The moral of the story for me is that, even if you aren't picky about your pens, there are some minimum requirements for all of us.  Personally, I have found that I prefer a pen with a cap (less prone to messy leaks), black ink, and a smooth, even release of ink on the page.  I also prefer a fairly thick line so that my writing stands out on the page.

Don't buy the wrong pen for your needs-- a journal is a terrible thing to waste!

13 February 2011

A Visit to New York

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to visit New York and explore a few stores with a large selection of journals and office supplies.  I visited Sam Flax, Essex Card Shop, Blick Art, and Lee's Art Supply.

I came away with a number of new journals that I have wanted to try for some time, but can't find in DC.  I picked up a few hard-side Whitelines journals (one large, two small), a small, ruled Ciak notebook with white paper, a small, ruled Ciak with multi-colored paper, a medium sized Ciak with ruled white paper, and a small, ruled, soft-sided Miquelrius.  I also found several accessories, which often prove to be the most interesting and unexpected items I run across.

The accessories were some very small stainless steel telescoping ballpoint pens, adhesive Leuchtturm pen loops for attaching to notebooks, transparent sticky notes, a stainless steel eraser template, two credit-card sized maps of Manhattan, and an easel-style Cavillini desk calendar with vintage scenes of New York.

The telescoping pens were a wonderful idea and just the right size to use for my new Midori Travelers Notebook and small pen loop.  Unfortunately, the writing experience is very disappointing.  The ink is very dry and it takes considerable pressure to create a solid line.  The design of the these pens is excellent, but they butchered the notebooks I tried to use them with.

I purchased the credit card sized maps to use in something like a Moleskine Index Book that I would tailor as a travel guide to New York.  I haven't started that project yet.

The item from this trip that has proven to be most useful is the eraser template.  It is about the size of a credit card, is very flexible, and is intended to be used for precision erasing.  My use for it is as a straight-edge, though.  I often use a ruler to draw straight lines in my notebooks, but they can be hard to carry.  This device is small enough to fit into the pocket of a Moleskine or similar journal.  It is even small enough to just sandwich between pages if using a journal without a pocket.  This is what I love about visiting art stores with an open mind.  You never know what you might find that will be useful to you-- even if not for its intended purpose.

The object of this search, aside from general exploration, was to find a small black Habana notebook.  I recently won a Habana from Leah at Quo Vadis  and love the quality.  That one is red, and I had hoped to add a black one to my collection.  They seemed to be out of stock at every store I visited, though.

This is the first time I have found Ciak journals.  I was happy to buy a couple to try out, but I don't expect to become a huge fan.  The spine is quite stiff and I don't think I can get it close to laying flat.  I haven't started using any of the journals yet, but I will review when I have used them a bit.

Despite wickedly cold weather, snow, and wind, it was a fun walk around New York and a pleasure to check out all these stores had to offer.  I will definitely pay a visit when I am back in town.  Below is a list of the stores I visited and what I bought there.

Blick Art:
Leuchtturm pen loops
Small Miquelrius journal
Stainless steel eraser template

Essex Card Shop:
Whitelines journals
Transparent Post-it notes
Tiny New York Maps

Sam Flax:
Ciak Journals
Telescoping pens