Filofancy’s Flex

The blogger at Filofancy notes that the Flex series by Filofax doesn’t get much blogging coverage. I can’t say I’ve found them inspiring at all when I see them in stores– wrong sizes, blah materials… it just makes me sad to see them in comparison to the wonderful things Filofax was making 15 or 20 years ago with gorgeous, luxurious leathers.

But this image did strike my fancy:

I love the look of that page of the nice, thick notebook she’s slipped into the Flex cover, and it’s great that she’s also able to stuff a Kindle in there too. Read more about how she uses the Flex as her “portable writing and reading desk” at Filofancy: How I use my Flex by Filofax.

Thoughts on Field Notebooks

A blog post about a book about field notebooks, with lots of interesting observations, including this:

“The notebook is like a magical object in a fairytale. It is a lot more than an object, as it inhabits and fills out hallowed ground between meditation and production. Truly, writing is a strange business…”

And some images of notebook pages including this:

Sounds like a great book: I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own

“I Swear I Saw This records visionary anthropologist Michael Taussig’s reflections on the fieldwork notebooks he kept through forty years of travels in Colombia. Taking as a starting point a drawing he made in Medellin in 2006-as well as its caption, “I swear I saw this” -Taussig considers the fieldwork notebook as a type of modernist literature and the place where writers and other creators first work out the imaginative logic of discovery…”

Read more at Michael Taussig on Field Notebooks—I Swear I Saw This | Museum Fatigue.

Disappointing Notebook Shopping

I went to London recently on a business trip and was excited about having an opportunity to spot some notebooks that might not be available in the US… but unfortunately, the trip was a bit of a bust in that respect. I had jotted down the names of some stationery and art supply shops (thank you to those of you who responded to my Twitter call for suggestions) but I ended up having such limited time for wandering and shopping that I didn’t make it to most of them. I did visit two London Graphic Centre stores in hopes that I could find a pocket size Seawhite sketchbook that I’d seen online, but they were very small and didn’t have much selection. They did have larger Seawhite sketchbooks, both hardcover and staple-bound.

I also stopped in some Rymans and Waterstone’s shops, but again didn’t really see anything that inspiring, mostly spiral bound Pukka Pads. I almost bought a Silvine cash book, but decided I didn’t really need it in my collection. At Paddington Station, there was a little gift shop selling NU notebooks, but again, I didn’t feel the need to buy. Part of the problem is the exchange rate– everything is so expensive in London, you have to really want something to make it worthwhile. I was truly appalled when I saw that a shop at Heathrow airport was selling pocket size Moleskines for £13.99, which would be over $23 US, and that’s just at the official exchange rate, before you factor in the extra charges your credit card will tack on, or the actual rate you’ll get if you change money, which might put it over $26– roughly double the US list price! (I did see lower prices at shops outside the airport.)

So ultimately, I returned from London without a single new notebook. Next time I’ll have to plan my shopping better to see if I can hit some of the more interesting gift and stationery shops that might have more unique items.

Back in the States, I happened to spend a few hours in New Paltz, NY, a college town with some fun, quirky shops. Manny’s Art Supplies was a delight to visit, as they have a fun selection of all sorts of things. It reminded me of a long-gone five-and-ten store from my childhood, with bins of little items like superballs and plastic animals. They had assorted office supplies like ledgers and receipt books, as well as a lot of sketchbooks and notebook brands like Moleskine, Rhodia and Clairefontaine. I bought some art supplies, but no notebooks, unfortunately. Nearby, I stopped in a great used bookstore called Barner Books. They sell quite a few journals, including the ScriptaNotes brand and a lot of leather-covered journals with very decorated covers. I snagged a couple of books that I had been wanting to read, but again, the notebooks weren’t calling my name. Oh well… it’s not like I don’t have plenty of other new and old notebooks in the pipeline to review, including what’s below!

to review1

Do you have favorite art supply or stationery stores where you like to shop for new notebooks? Have you spotted anything new and interesting lately?

Notebook Addict of the Week: VacuousMinx

This week’s addict displays an orderly and attractive collection of notebooks in a blog post that begins as follows:

“There are so many notebooks out there, good ones, that I started to become a little paralyzed at the idea of trying to say anything useful. I would leave so many out! I would fail to talk about all the variations! How could I possibly do them justice?

So let’s take as a given that this is barely a snapshot into the world of Things To Write In With Pens And Pencils. I decided to start with the notebooks I had lying around. These are not all the notebooks I own, but they are more or less the range I’ve worked with, with two exceptions, Miquelrius and Rhodia, and they were the ones nearest to hand, since they’re all on the shelf in my writing cubbyhole at home. Behold:”


Lots more description, comparison and photos at Notebooks | VacuousMinx.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Notebooks

Here’s a pretty amazing imagination at work in the pages of a notebook:

For more, check out the book:

Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

Via Scans From Guillermo Del Toro’s Notebook | The Mary Sue.

Out of Pages Notebook Subscription Service

Here’s another subscription service offering periodic shipments of notebooks.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 12.36.10 PM

Unlike Rad & Hungry and the now-defunct Lost Crates (which I reviewed), there is no element of surprise to this one. They offer Moleskine and Field Notes, you tell them which style of notebook you want and how often you’d like to receive a new one, and they send them to you. There isn’t really any price advantage– if you want a pocket Moleskine every month, it will cost you $13.80 per month, including the shipping. (Since the list price is $12.95, and other online retailers sometimes discount from that, you could probably do better elsewhere.)
This does kind of seem like another example of a business set up to solve a non-existent problem: if you know you are going to need notebooks at regular intervals, is it really that big a deal to just order them online in advance, or whenever you need them? The Out of Pages website also isn’t very clear about their payment terms– I did not actually place an order, but went pretty far in entering my info, with no indication that the price would be anything other than a charge of $13.80 every month if a notebook was shipped every month. But their FAQ has a worrying item referring to paying up front:

“What’s with the up-front payment?

Because many of our packages are front heavy, and ship most of the notebooks toward the beginning, we charge a small amount up-front to cover our own costs in the event that you cancel your subscription after we’ve sent said notebooks.

This also results in much lower per-month costs, so be sure to sign up for a plan with a longer duration!”

Not sure what that’s all about, but I don’t feel the need to actually place an order to test the service. But if you do, you can find out more at Subscribe to your favorite notebooks | Out of Pages.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Stacy

This week’s addict probably wins the prize for having spent the least money on her addiction! Here’s her lovely stack of notebooks:

Stacy says:

Isn’t it a beautiful sight!?

I went to Wal-mart and did our yearly notebook stock-up. The 70 page spiral notebooks are on sale for 15 cents and the 100 page compositon notebooks are 25 cents. They are both usually around $1 each. So I spent $4.25 for 25 notebooks (20 spiral, 5 composition) instead of $25 (or rather, $24.25 – I think they are actually 97 cents usually).

Read more at Glorious Notebooks!.

Unfortunately, I can’t help thinking about how these kinds of loss-leader promotions at Walmart are a big part of why everything’s made in China now and so many US-based notebook manufacturers have merged with other companies and gone out of business… but I guess the flip side is that 15-cent notebooks make it a lot more accessible for kids at all income levels to be able to draw and scribble and write as much as their creativity demands.

Jacques Brel’s Notebook

Back in 2008, Sotheby’s auctioned a private collection of various papers and memorabilia belonging to the Belgian singer Jacques Brel, who died in 1972. The notebook below, probably from the 1950s, was used by Brel for draft song lyrics, and was estimated to sell for between 50,000 and 70,000 euros. It’s a nice looking notebook– I love the logo on the cover.

Via Luxist: Jacques Brel’s Notebooks Up For Auction, though the original story and image seem to have disappeared due to changes at that website.

Review: Conceptum Notebook

This review makes me sad! I’m going to cut to the chase and say this is a GREAT notebook, but it seems that SiS Original, the online store that sent me this sample has just gone out of business! Now I feel very bad that I wasn’t able to catch up and write the review sooner. That said, let’s take a look at this lovely Conceptum notebook they sent me.


Conceptum is a German brand of notebooks that come in a variety of styles. The one I received is the Conceptum Pure Softcover notebook. In some ways, it seems very similar to other softcover notebooks, but there are some lovely features and details that set Conceptum apart.

The packaging is a bit more elaborate than the usual paper bellyband. It’s a snug wrap-around, with full coverage of the back of the notebook so they can explain some of the features in multiple languages.


Once the wrapper’s off, you have a nice simple exterior, with the brand name on the front cover, and the Sigel logo on the back cover. You’ll immediately notice one key feature that a lot of people will be happy about: a built-in pen loop. (I personally never use pen loops, so I could live without it!) The elastic closure is a bit wider than usual, and I thought it felt a bit flabby, though not loose enough to be a problem. Shown below next to a pocket hardcover Moleskine for size comparison.


Open the front cover, and you get more nice details that most other notebooks don’t offer: a little pocket where you can tuck cards or receipts, and an index page. The notebook opens nice and flat, and you have not one but two ribbon markers, in different colors, which is a really nice touch.


The pages are numbered throughout. At the back, some of the pages are perforated. In notebooks like this with plain pages, they give you a sheet with lines and squares on it that you can use as a guide for tracing over. The back pocket has cloth-reinforced sides.


The paper feels great with all my usual pens, nice and smooth. My Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to skid on the page a bit at first, which may have just been the pen itself getting going, or perhaps an oily spot on the page, but other than that, the paper seems pretty good for fountain pens. Show-through and bleed-through were about average for this weight of paper.


There’s just something very nice about this notebook– it seems well-made, with good attention to detail and design, and nice extra features. At 93 x 140 mm, it’s exactly my preferred size, though I was disappointed to see that the hardcover Conceptum notebooks are slightly larger: 115 x 150. I would definitely buy more of these, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be sold outside of Europe, though there are listings on eBay from sellers who will ship to the US, and also some listings on Amazon. The Amazon price for this pocket size notebook is about $15, which is not exactly cheap, but I think the quality and features justify the differential from a pocket softcover Moleskine at $12.95. And I’m grateful to the people at SiS Original who sent me the sample. They had some other interesting brands on their site that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to reopen someday!

If anyone has any other good leads on where to buy these, please let us know in the comments!

Organizing with Notebooks

Here’s an interesting look at one person’s notebooks and how she uses them:

“I love notebooks and I love seeing other bloggers sharing how they use theirs. It is like getting to see how their minds work on paper! I have lots of notebooks and a few pricey Moleskine that are sitting in boxes unloved since I want to save them for something special. (Honestly I was a bit afraid of ruining them.) But when I look around myself and realize how much stuff I have, I realized it is time to change. Starting with my notebook collection. I would actually use them. They are no longer just some pretty stuff, they will become a creative record of my journey.  Here are the 3 notebooks that I use regularly.”

Read more and see lots more photos at “How I Organize with my Notebooks”.

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