Review and Giveaway: Stillman & Birn Softcover Sketchbooks

I was really excited when I heard that Stillman & Birn were expanding their product line to include softcover sketchbooks, especially when I saw that a pocket sized version was available. There are so many options out there for hardcover sketchbooks, and so many pocket notebooks, but these really fill a niche in terms of offering durability, flexibility, portability, and a wide array of quality paper options. I’m ashamed to say I received samples for review almost a year ago and am only getting caught up now, but better late than never!

I’ve reviewed Stillman and Birn’s hardcovers in the past, see here and here. The softcovers are available in the same paper types– 6 varieties, covering different paper weights, textures, and colors, but different sizes.

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I tested the 3.5 x 5.5″ pocket size portrait versions, of course! They are slightly smaller than a pocket Moleskine. The covers are a smooth material, not at all leather-like but with a leathery-looking pebbly tone, which you can see but not feel. The covers are neutral shades of grey, dark green, dark red and blue, corresponding to the paper type within– greenish for the Delta, with 270 GSM ivory cold press paper; red for Alpha, with 150 GSM bright white medium grain paper. There is nothing imprinted on or inside the sketchbooks except for the Stillman and Birn logo embossed on the back cover.

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The signatures are stitched, and there is a fair amount of glue at the spine, holding the signatures to the cover. The pages open very flat despite the spines feeling a little stiff at first, especially with the thicker papers. After being opened all the way, the covers will stay open for a while but will eventually close most of the way. There is no elastic to hold the sketchbooks closed. No inside pocket or ribbon marker either.

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The papers are up to the same high standard as S&B’s other products, performing well with all sorts of pens, pencils and watercolors. Only the bleediest markers show through much on the 150 GSM paper, and the 270 GSM paper is pretty impervious. Even the papers meant for only dry media held up fine with watercolors. From the outside, these sketchbooks don’t look like fancy sketchbooks designed to be kept forever, but with acid-free, archival quality paper, what you create on the inside should stand the test of time.

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What’s not to love? This is where I thought I’d be saying “well, they are a bit pricey…” but they’re not! The pocket size sketchbooks have a list price of $10.99 and are currently discounted to under $9.00 for some models at Amazon. With so many options in bindings, paper types, sizes and portrait/landscape formats, Stillman & Birn really offers something for everyone!

And I am offering you all the chance to win a free sample! Four winners will be randomly selected from those who enter in any of the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing  “@StillmanandBirn” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page and the Stillman and Birn page, and post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” on my wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.

And for those who don’t have these other options available to them, you can also enter by leaving a comment on this post.

Since we can have 4 winners, I will pick at least one winner from each entry method above, and each winner will receive at least 2 sketchbooks.

The deadline for entry is Friday June 23 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!

The Cape Horn Notebook, Made with Recycled Sails

Here’s something a bit different, a notebook that incorporates recycled sails and sailing rope:

“With the look, feel, and design of a traditional black notebook, the Cape Horn notebook reimagines used sails from the world’s most epic sailing expeditions as the ultimate storytelling tool.

The notebooks, which contain fragments of a sails that have traveled all the way to the southernmost tip of South America, aim to inject the dynamism of life at sea into everyday life.

Designed and created by Chilean designer Antonia Undurraga, herself an avid sailor, the notebooks merge two diverse industries – sailing and paper goods – into one product.”

Buy the Cape Horn notebook at Amazon.

The Cape Horn Notebook website has some interesting photos of the manufacturing process, much of which seems to be done by hand.

Source: Recycled Sails Get New Life With The New The Cape Horn Notebook – Crossroads Today

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Roland Thaxter’s Sketchbook, from the Biodiversity Heritage Library

You can find some amazing things in online archives. Below are some pages from a sketchbook by a botanist named Roland Thaxter, who lived from 1858-1932 (read more about him here).

 

The actual sketchbook is in a library at Harvard, but it is shared via The Biodiversity Heritage Library, which “works collaboratively to make biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.”

Source: Roland Thaxter sketch book, – Biodiversity Heritage Library

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Glowing Circle Made of Notebooks

I’d love to see this in person– this art installation is a glowing flat circle that turns out to be made of thousands of recycled notebooks!

“Commissioned by Azkuna Zentroa, Luzinterruptus crafted Denboran Zehar for the 10th anniversary of Gutun Zuria (Bilbao Internacional Literature Festival) in April 2017. In light of the anniversary, the designers wanted to pay homage to the themes of creation and time.”

Read more at: Glowing circle made from thousands of recycled notebooks celebrate Bilbao’s book festival | Inhabitat – Green Design, Innovation, Architecture, Green Building

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David Sedaris’ Diaries

David Sedaris has a new book out called Theft By Finding, which contains entries from diaries he’s kept from 40 years, including while he was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. The diaries themselves are quite interesting– he made many of them himself and decorated the covers:

Read more at: David Sedaris: The IHOP Years – The New Yorker

 

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A Grandfather’s Notebooks

What an amazing story. Lauren Blank received a wonderful gift when she turned 16 recently:

Her grandfather decided the time was right to share a special gift with her: three notebooks filled with her grandfather’s writing, documenting all the time they spent together from the time Blank was 2 until she was 5.

He documented every encounter the two had together.

“(Each) notebook is just filled with daily things that we did,” Blank told Buzzfeed. “We went to the zoo a lot, and flew kites, and throughout the notebooks he gave me advice.”

I wish I had something like this from my own grandparents, though I do have a notebook with things my father jotted down about me. I’ve also written a lot of memories about my niece and nephew as they’ve grown up, and I sometimes think they might like to read them, but they’d have to wade through a lot of other crap in my notebooks!

Read more at: Man gives granddaughter notebooks filled with years of written memories | Boston 25 News

Long Time No Blog!

Life has gotten a little crazy lately and I haven’t had much time to spend on this website. But I have been trying to spend a few minutes each day filling a page of a sketchbook, at least. I can also report that I broke from my recent habit of only keeping one daily notebook and one sketchbook, and started a new single-subject notebook with a pretty big theme: life changes! I am about to change jobs and move, and after the dust settles, I’m hoping to have more time for more writing about other notebooks.

So far the life change notebook has a lot of to-do lists about purging belongings, moving furniture, possible renovations, sketches of floorplans and assorted other envisionings of a different lifestyle. We’ll see if they all pan out! As for the purging of belongings, I’ll be needing to thin out my collection of notebooks, so stay tuned for some random giveaways!

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

This looks like a lovely book, full of travel sketches and notes on flora and fauna found in uncharted places: Explorers’ Sketchbooks.

“This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—frozen wastelands, high mountains, barren deserts, and dense rainforests—with their senses wide open.”

Available at Amazon.

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Paula Wolfert’s Notebook

Another nice example of a cook’s notebook, this time from the renowned cookbook author Paula Wolfert:

 

Read more at: Her Memory Fading, Paula Wolfert Fights Back With Food – The New York Times

Artists and Their Sketchbooks

Thoughts on sketchbook keeping from various artists:

Allen Shaw, Berlin
I SPEAK through my watercolour sketches. I often tell people, “I am the sketchbook and you are my song.” It started off with a course at NID called Environmental Perception, which required us to go into villages and sketch. I have done a permanent repeat in the course since then! I have kept roughly the same academic structure from college, though. But, I still follow a structure.

For instance, I always draw a map in all my sketches.

IN MY SKETCHBOOK: Everything, right from dead fish to architecture. A residency in Finland was one of my most memorable sketching experiences. It was on a raft and, as I dangled my legs in water, I was reminded of Huckleberry Finn.

AN ARTIST’S SKETCHES I LOVE: I’d love to see sketches of the late Austrian painter, Egon Schiele.

Prashant Miranda, Toronto
I HAVE maintained sketchbooks since I was a student at the National Institute of Design — I went from keeping written diaries to visual journals. My odd sketchbooks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in the last @ years and have now become a visual documentation of my life and travels.

There was a time when I didn’t have a camera and this was an observant way of doing that. Recipes, phone numbers, a calendar of events — practically everything goes into my sketchbook. It is the closest release for my art; when I do a series for an exhibition, it stems from the initial studies in my sketchbooks.

 

Read more at: Artists reveal what’s in their sketchbooks – Life and style

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