Helen Ström’s Moleskine

Helen Ström is an artist who was born in Sweden, grew up in Spain, and now lives in Paris. I don’t remember how I discovered  her blog but I love her beautiful sketches:
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See more at Helen Ström: Moleskine. Her watercolors are wonderful too!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Zachary

This week’s addict won one of my giveaways (the Halaby Aero notebooks), and just happened to mention that he already had quite a collection. Of course I asked for photos!


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Zachary says:

“I’m an architecture student so I’ve gone through four years of trying find the perfect sketchbook/notebook and another four years of still not using the one I deemed perfect because there’s a whole world of notebooks to try. Pictured are 52 books I use for drawing and journaling. Most are completely filled up and I’m starting to run out of space. I scanned one of my sketchbooks and is available on my website here: http://zachwong.weebly.com/sketchbooks.html

I’ve been using sketchbooks since I was little and one of my fondest memories as a child was waking up and finding a new sketch pad at the breakfast table that was a present from my mother. These days, I tend to be very picky about what sort of books I buy and I usually go by paper quality and since I use fountain pens often now, I stopped using Moleskines altogether. I’m still waiting for Rhodia to come out with a decent sized sketchbook without dots or a grid. But these pictures give you an idea of the variety of tasks my notebooks pull. They can be artbooks, nature collectors, note keepers, technical specification references.

But at the moment, I’m carrying a Canson sketchbook which I bought two of at the time since they were priced at five dollars apiece. The paper is great and the books are made in France.”

I loved getting to see Zachary’s collection, and the pages on his website are really cool! Thanks for sharing your addiction, Zachary!

Jim Morrison’s Notebook

This classic composition notebook belonged to Jim Morrison of the Doors:

“On December 18, 2013, auction house Profiles In History sold an original Jim Morrison poetry notebook for its opening estimate of $200,000. It was a lengthy example, containing over 100 pages of handwritten material, and came from the collection of singer-songwriter Graham Nash.”

Read more at  Jim Morrison’s Notebook | Research | The Doors Guide.

A Kids Book Illustrated Entirely in Ballpoint Pens

Not 100% notebook related, but pretty cool!

Lowriders in Space was recently named a best children’s book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. The illustrator, Raul Gonzalez, did all the artwork in Bic pens, and says “The reason I did this is that I wanted the book to have a very accessible book to youngsters out there that might be interested in becoming artists but not might have access to fancy art materials,” said Gonzalez.

I’d love to see his sketchbooks too!

Read more at NewsChannel 9: Former El Paso man illustrates best selling book entirely with pens.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Kim

This week’s addict sent me an email about her notebook addiction:

“The name is Kim and I have been an notebook addict unofficially since 1996 but officially since 2001. When I discovered this website it made me realize I am not alone out there and people understand the obsession these magical books posses! One of the Journals within my collection is actually one I won in a giveaway from you! The Yellow VS. Journal by Knock Knock. I have written a post on my blog about this obsession and I hope you enjoy some of the pictures.  The rest can be viewed on my blog http://inksoakedpage.blogspot.com/2014/10/notebook-addiction.html

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A very colorful collection! Make sure to click through to her blog to see the rest– lots of composition books and spiral notebooks. Thanks for sharing your addiction, Kim!

Romaine Brooks’ Notebook

This is a notebook belonging to Romaine Brooks, whose papers are kept in the Archives of American Art and were digitized in 2012. The notebook contained is from the 1950s and “contains lists and Romaine’s thoughts.”

I’ve always loved her paintings for their stark look and interesting female subjects, such as this one:

See more at Summary of the Romaine Brooks papers, 1910-1973 – Digitized Collection | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Photographers’ Sketchbooks

Here’s another book I’ve been thinking about adding to my collection: Photographers’ Sketchbooks.

Since it’s photography, not all of the “sketchbooks” are traditional paper ones, though a couple are shown below.

From the review linked below:

“This book is comprised of over 500 illustrated pages featuring the tangible objects that help these photographers realize their visions. From the traditional Polaroid, to the more common iPhone test shots, the book showcases more than just on-site documentation. In addition to the visuals, each chapter begins with text about and from the photographer represented. Mechanics aside, Photographers’ Sketchbooks shows the diverse range of visual material photographers keep on hand to observe, record, and inspire. Found photos, collages of various imagery, contact sheets, and diaries all funnel into some stage of the creative process from concept to execution, presentation, and editing. Many of the series shown are works in progress, a fitting theme for book on process.”

Read more at  A Look Inside ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks’ – Feature Shoot.

Review: Object Series Notebook

I love stories about notebook fans who turn to producing their own dream notebooks when they can’t find them anywhere else! Justin Woo wrote to me with his own tale of how the Object Series notebook was born:

“I had never come across a notebook I was actively searching for: black, flexible leather cover with gilded edges and minimal branding in the $10-20 price range.

So instead, I went ahead and had them manufactured under the Object Series brand name, and I have just launched the retail site to sell them. As the name suggests, this notebook is the first in, I hope, a series of many notebooks to come.”

Here it is:

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It looks very swanky with the elegant soft leather cover and the gilded edges. It’s a nice size, just a bit larger than a pocket Moleskine (shown below for comparison).

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The design is very minimal and chic with the dark grey endpapers and no branding except for the small gold letters on the inside back cover. (There is a removable sheet tucked inside with more info about the brand.) There is a ribbon marker with an angled tip (which is nicely finished off so it won’t fray), but no elastic closure or back pocket.

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When you first open the notebook, the gilded edges may stick together a bit– I rather like this, as it feels so crisp and new! The notebook doesn’t quite open flat– the signatures are sewn, but I think there’s a bit too much glue stiffening the spine.

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The paper inside is creamy and smooth– very pleasant to write on. Unfortunately I found that there was a bit more show-through and bleed-through than average, including a little bleed with fountain pens. Fine point gel ink pens worked the best.

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I have two issues with the notebook, the first of which is just my personal preference– I don’t care for the sharp squared corners of the cover and how far they stick out beyond the edges of the paper. I worry that the corners will get very battered with regular use. On the notebook I received, the cover was not attached to the book block squarely– you can see that the corners and edges are a bit off-kilter.

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This happens a lot with various notebook brands, and I try to have reasonable expectations about the level of precision you can get in notebook manufacturing, but I think here it bothered me a bit more given the overall context of quality materials. Then again, the price for this notebook is only $16, including shipping to the US, so I suppose you can’t have everything!

My other issue was with how my sample arrived packaged– it was well-protected between 2 pieces of cardboard, but the notebook was secured in place with a piece of double-sided tape, right on the leather! It left a nasty, sticky residue which I haven’t been able to totally remove– I know there are products like Goo Gone that remove sticky residue, but they usually say not to use them on leather. I hope this is not how other customers will receive their notebooks– it made me so sad to have this nice, fancy-looking notebook marred by yucky glue! [Update 1/27/15: Justin responded to the glue issue after reading this review: “I have found box packaging specifically for books, so all notebooks now arrive safely.”]

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Here’s all the official specs from the Object Series website:

Dimensions: 4×5¾”
Thickness: ½”

Finely-grained recycled black leather
Flexible and resistant to bending “memory”
Square corners
1/8” overhang (approx.)

224 smooth, unlined ivory pages with gilted edges
80 g/m²
Acid-, OBA-, and chlorine-free

End leaves:
Smooth, dark gray paper
150 g/m²
Acid-, OBA-, and chlorine-free
“Object Series OS1” embossed in gold on inside back cover.

Black and yellow head bands
Thread-stitched book block in 16-page signatures
¼” grosgrain bookmark

Made in China


Aside from the few concerns noted above, I really do like the Object Series notebook and it would make a nice gift. It’s definitely a cut above most other made-in-China notebooks in its price range in terms of its look and feel. And that Justin was able to get these manufactured at a reasonable price is quite inspiring for those of us who might also want to go after making their dream notebook come true someday!

Moleskine Monday: Notebook Nostalgia

I absolutely loved this blog post– one man’s tale of developing the habit of writing in old diaries and journals, including original small-m moleskines, their modern brand name replacements, and the Boots Scribbling Diaries I mentioned in this post. Quoted at length, but please do check out the rest of the original blog post, by Jonathan Le Tocq, a pastor and politician in Guernsey.


“Truth is, I am rather old fashioned; I like pen and ink, pencil and paper, hand and manuscript. I love scribbling my scatty thoughts, doodling my deliberations, and what’s more I love my Moleskine.

Now for you ignorami out there a Moleskine is a little black note-book. I first started using them when I was a student in Paris in the 1980s. They weren’t called Moleskines then, or at least the ones I used were not. I used to buy mine from Gibert Jeune (still our favourite French papeterie [stationers] always worth a family visit – the five of us can happily while away a whole afternoon in Gibert Jeune near Place St Michel, Paris… OK we know we’re weird, but hey, at least we’re happy!)

I started journalling back in 1978 when I was just 13. I used a diary back then, the big Boot’s Scribbling Diary – another classic stationery objet trouvé – which I inherited a liking to from my grandmother who used them up until her death aged 97 in 1975. I say she “used them” whilst actually towards the end of her life at least she simply possessed these diaries out of habit really, keeping them by her bed; the only entries in the last few years being various family members’ birthdays.

They were a comfort to her nonetheless, and an enigma to a young boy – these large navy blue books kept near her bed. So when she graduated I ended up inheriting the remaining tomes, all virtually unused. I was still at primary school when she died and being very close to her emotionally (she lived with us) to begin with I kept these Scribbling Diaries (1970-75) on a bookshelf in my room as a quasi-shrine to her memory. Then one day I found myself getting one down from the shelf and actually scribbling on one of the pages; then making a to-do list the next day on a subsequent blank page, followed later by writing some thoughts on another. Before long I was using it most days to either record something that happened, note a reminder, work out some sums for Maths at school, sketch some ideas, etc. Soon I was taking it to school, using it as a jotter, and it generally became part of my life.

On reaching teenhood I decided to purchase a fresh new Boots Scribbling Diary of my own and this is how my journalling journey began. The following year I bought a different sized Boots Diary, a bit more up market, smaller (A5 size I think, as opposed to the A4 or foolscap Scribbling Diary version) but thicker and page-a-day which meant there was plenty more room to jot a lot when I had the urge.

I didn’t actually know it was called journalling then, I just enjoyed writing things down when I thought about them. It didn’t really matter that it was a diary (though sometimes the dates had a relevance) since my first jotted journallings were in my Gran’s diaries from previous years (so the days and dates did not match up) I just used the spaces as a simple means to distinguish one entry or thought from the next. When I bought my own diary for that particular year though I tried to follow the days and dates in order.

Sometimes the scribblings of one day required 3 or 4 pages, other times there were no scribblings for a few days. This meant that there was quite often a waste of paper and the diary was heavy and cumbersome to carry around. So when I discovered the moleskine back in the 80s as a student in Paris I immediately forsook purchasing diaries, which now seemed impractical and started using these little black books. This style of notebook had been around in Europe for a century or so and was popular with artists and authors such as Hemingway, Matisse and Van Gogh.

In my student days you could pick them relatively cheaply and loads of my compatriots at the Sorbonne used them. Back then there were several firms which made notebooks in this style. The common features were:

  • a hard waterproof vinyl cover (hence moleskine… I think!) which was normally black
  • an elastic strap-band which held the book closed
  • rounded edges
  • an envelope pocket at the inside back cover useful for storing bits in
  • a ribbon page-marker
  • blank, lined or squared paper (I tended to prefer squared because you could use it effectively and neatly any way up)

Some of my original moleskine notebooks also had a snazzy decorative internal cover as seen in the picture of Van Gogh’s notebook above, but some were just plain cream coloured like the ones available today. During my time in Paris I would carry a moleskine around with me everywhere and go through one or two of these notebooks a month on average.

Trouble was, on returning to live in London, I couldn’t find a moleskine anywhere! I later discovered that they’d ceased production. It is only in recent years that an Italian company (calling itself Moleskine) with French connections has happily revived them. So for a while I confess that I transferred my allegiance to Filofax, and at other times I just used any old notebook I could find. Times were hard.

Now I can happily say that I am re-united with Moleskine in its latest incarnation. It’s a tad on the expensive side, but bearing in mind that the design is classic and is therefore not copyright there are a few cheaper manifestations coming on the market. I saw one called the Picadilly when I was in the USA recently, half the price of the Moleskine. When my current batch runs out I may well look to try out the Picadilly variety!”

I wish he’d posted more photos of those original 1980s moleskines and the Boots diaries!

Read more at Tempus Fugit & My Moleskine® | In the unlikely event….

Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): Wandeka

Wandeka is an artist and writer, originally from Jamaica and now living in Louisiana. I featured her about a year and a half ago when I found her blog post about wanting to join a stationery addict support group. She has since found some support here at Notebook Stories, but it hasn’t cured her notebook addiction! Now she’s even started her own notebook blog, Notebook Obsession, where she shares pages from her over 100 notebooks used for line drawings, watercolor sketches or writing notes and drafts for stories and much more.

She also talks about how she uses her various journals, notebooks and sketchbooks and flips through some of their pages in this video:

You can follow Wandeka’s work at all these sites:

Main website: www.wandekagayle.com

Blog discussing notebooks: www.notebookobsession.blogspot.com

YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/wandekagayleart

Facebook: www.facebook.com/wandekagayleart

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Wandeka!

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