Smelly Notebooks

Is smell ever a factor in your notebook usage? I’ve tested a few notebooks over the years that had distinctive odors, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. When I reviewed the Rendr Sketchbook, one of the first things I noticed about it was a strong chemical smell, although it faded after unwrapping. One Moleskine I bought on eBay had a wonderful smell, as though it had been stored in a drawer with cedar or some sort of scented candles or potpourri (I’m not necessarily fond of scented candles or potpourri, but it was a nice woodsy, herbal smell, not super perfume-y).

Usually Moleskines just have a sort of inky smell, not at all unpleasant, but the one I just started using, another eBay purchase of older stock, has a gross odor, kind of barfy-smelling. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced this, and I’ve used dozens of Moleskines over 15+ years. It’s still noticeable several days after unwrapping the notebook and using it, so I tried swabbing some eucalyptus oil on the inside front and back covers– that helped somewhat, but the yucky smell is still there. I also pulled a couple of leaves off my patchouli plant and stuck them in the back pocket, that that’s not solving the problem either. It reminds me of an old TV commercial from the 1980s, for some sort of room deodorizer spray. The ad criticized the competition for merely adding perfume rather than neutralizing odors: a little girl whines “Ewww, now it smells like fish and roses!” Well, now my notebook smells like eucalyptus and patchouli and vomit.

I keep riffling through the pages in hopes that it will air out and today, I put it in a bag with some candles to see if the smell will improve but what if it doesn’t? Can I bear to get rid of it?? Or will I just be wrinkling my nose for the next few months while trying to finish this notebook as quickly as possible? Oh, the drama… what would you do??

Save

Save

Moleskine Monday: My Collection

I haven’t done many Moleskine Monday posts lately… and it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my stash of spare Moleskines. For those who haven’t read other posts where I’ve talked about how I feel about the Moleskine brand, here’s an abbreviated version:

Late 1990s/early 2000’s— not too long after Modo e Modo introduces them, I start seeing Moleskines in stores, and receive a pocket Sketchbook as a gift. It re-awakens my slightly dormant notebook fetish and I start using them for occasional notes and drawings. But I’m not totally obsessed because I’m still really into Palm Pilots. During this period I think I once bought 2 sketchbooks while on a 3-week business trip, and it made me feel like a crazy hoarder.

Mid-late 2000’s— the softcover Moleskines are introduced and for some reason, I fall head over heels in love with the pocket size squared softcover. It’s the first notebook I’ve truly filled from cover to cover. I start this blog and allow myself to wallow in full-on notebook adoration. (Palm Pilots are over, the iPhone isn’t as exciting, and I turn back to notebooks to satisfy my life-long need to fondle something small and rectangular.) My love affair with the softcover fades, but I am using and buying lots of hardcover Moleskines and other similar notebooks such as Piccadilly, HandBook Artist Journal, and the many others I’ve written about here. The Moleskine brand has exploded. They’re everywhere. They’ve become a bit of a cliché, perhaps, but I still love them. I settle into a habit of simultaneously using a pocket squared or plain notebook for daily list-making and journaling, and a pocket sketchbook for drawing and watercolors. (My other routine notebook is a small Moleskine cahier or Field Notes that I use for my French class.) At some point during this period, they stop putting the Modo e Modo name on them, and start using only “Moleskine” in all their branding. They also change their US distributor from Kikkerland, who used to be mentioned on the packaging, to Chronicle, who is not. At this time, I maybe stockpile half a dozen Moleskines, a few Piccadillies, and a couple of HandBook Artist Journals.

Early 2010’s— Moleskine’s rapid growth seems to have led to declines in quality and changes in how they’re made. They are introducing new products at a dizzying pace and focusing more on bags and wallets than notebooks. There’s too much cover overhang, they’re less refined, the paper is thinner– they’re just not as nice. But there still isn’t any other brand that quite meets all my preferences for daily notebooks. When I buy Moleskines in a store, it’s only after inspecting them very carefully to see if they are good ones. Sometimes I find older stock from batches that were better made. I would guess that at this point, I might have hit about 20 unused Moleskines stashed for future use.

Mid- 2010’s— I can’t find good Moleskines in stores anymore.  I have to send in quality complaints about a couple of notebooks ordered online– the company sends replacements, but they aren’t much better. I’ve had it. In February 2014, I post Moleskine Monday: I May Never Buy a New Moleskine Again. But I also turn to the internet and start searching for older stock that still has the Modo e Modo name on it, and once in a while, I hit the jackpot, especially on eBay. I quickly realize that I can only buy Moleskines if I see a photo of the actual notebook, not a standard product shot which may be out of date. Whenever I see the older-looking belly-bands (someday I’ll do a post on how their design has evolved over the years), I snap them up if I can get them for a less-than-outrageous price. I start building up my stash of spares, which by August 2014 includes 37 assorted Moleskines that I would potentially use as everyday notebooks/sketchbooks. After a while, it’s grown quite large and I start trying to track my inventory in a spreadsheet, but I don’t do a great job keeping it up to date. Last time I updated the spreadsheet, the total count was 132. I decide to cut back a bit on my eBay browsing, as I’m running out of room to store all my notebooks!

Now— below are some photos of my stash, which is stored in shoe boxes, some under-bed plastic boxes, and in piles on shelves. Whenever I look at some of the really nice old ones with their perfect corners, I get all pissed off all over again, knowing that somebody once figured out how to make the perfect notebook and then they turned it into crap!

 

I also had a whole drawer-full in my office, until I started working from home. I’m counting just my actual Moleskine branded notebooks for the purposes of today’s post, though I also have a bunch of similar non-Moleskine notebooks earmarked for potential daily usage someday (as opposed to things that are fun to have in my collection, but not planned to be used). Here’s the count:

56 pocket sketchbooks. (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

55 pocket squared (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

12 pocket plain

30 pocket ruled (I normally don’t like ruled notebooks but on a couple of occasions I bought large lots of mixed paper styles. Since they are old ones with good paper and good overall quality, I’m willing to use one occasionally just to stretch out the lifespan of my inventory.)

Other pocket size: 1 storyboard, 1 music, 1 info book, 1 plain softcover, 1 address, 2 Japanese album, 2 ruled reporter, 1 squared reporter

Large size: 1 Voyageur, 1 large sketchbook, 1 large squared

I have not counted any “cahier” or Volant thin notebooks, as I have a few of those mixed in with various Field Notes and other similar stapled or stitched-spine notebooks. But the quantity is very small, just a few I’ve been given.

A few of the sketchbook, squared and plain ones are more recent models that I will use as a last resort. The info book is all crooked and defective, and I’m not quite sure why I’m even keeping it. But the count ends up at over 166 Moleskines, over 150 of which I am likely to potentially use on a day to day basis. (I haven’t counted the sketchbook and squared notebooks I am using now, or any of the dozens I’ve already filled.)

So… I know I’m a little crazy. My partner, who has to live with notebooks constantly arriving in the mail and taking up way too much of our limited space, definitely thinks I’m a little crazy (but also knows there are far worse vices). But the question remains, is it enough? 56 sketchbooks divided by 3 a year is a little less than 19 years, and I’ll only be about 67 years old at that point. The squared ones, if extended with the plain and ruled notebooks, will last up to 32 years, when I’ll be 81. I can probably ease off buying any more of those (unless I spot any really good cheap ones!) but I think I’m allowed to buy some more sketchbooks. Yay!

 

Notebook Addict of the Week: Amanda

This week’s addict emailed me the photo below and says:

“In the interest of going through and minimizing clutter, I’ve put myself on a one year notebook buying moratorium. I won’t be parting with any of them, but won’t be adding anymore either. I use them for a variety of things- lists, journals, reminders, and just have some as unknowns and enjoy all of their disparate and aesthetic qualities.”

Go a whole year without buying a notebook!?! Well, if one must, a large, colorful collection like this one is a good consolation!

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Amanda!

Gary Panter’s Sketchbook

This photo of artist Gary Panter caught my eye– I wish I could get a better look at that little sketchbook!

Panter creates art in various media, but the New York Times article this photo accompanies focuses on his new graphic novel, Songy of Paradise. The article notes that he does not use digital tools to create his comics:

“I’ve been using old-fashioned tools,” Mr. Panter said. “There are new pen nibs being made now that are like the old tools.” Then there’s the three-ply Strathmore buff Bristol paper and Pelikan Tusche ink, but no Wite-Out — “I have to live with my mistakes.”

Which brings him to his career-long aesthetic. “I’m more interested in the crude,” Mr. Panter said. “It’s why I don’t ink in brush on slick paper. I want to slow the reader down, slow myself down.

“I have 50 years of investment in analog tools and the dirt world.”

Nothing further about what kind of notebooks he uses, though! Bummer!

Read more: When a Comic Book Hillbilly and Milton Collide – The New York Times

Notebook Addict of the Week: Ambelies

This week’s addict posted a photo of her collection on Instagram:

I love seeing the themes that emerge in people’s collections. This one has lots of strong, bold solid colors, Field Notes, Moleskine, Rhodia, Miquelrius, and more! Great collection!

Save

Save

Save

Random Giveaway!

It’s clean-out time! Talk to me about notebooks, people. Use the comments on this post, and/or Twitter posts containing “@notebookstories random giveaway” to tell me something about why you read Notebook Stories, why you love notebooks, what you write or draw in your notebooks, etc. I’ll pick 5 favorite responses from entries received before the deadline of Friday July 28, 2017 at 11:59 EST, and the winners will each receive a grab-bag of at least 4 assorted notebooks. Some of these notebooks may have a used page or two where I did pen tests for reviews, but otherwise they will be in new or like-new, usable condition and I’ll try to throw in some unusual items to spice up your collection! Have fun, everyone!

The Captains Log Kickstarter, Ending Soon!

I lost track of the news about this Kickstarter project in my email inbox, but it’s ending very soon, at Thu, July 20 2017 8:26 AM EDT. They only need about $1500 more in pledges as of this writing. It looks like a cool concept and a quality execution, with formatted pages that provide inspiration and structure for outlining your goals, helping to break down the tasks to get you there, and tracking your progress. The design has a classic look– from the photo below, I first thought the colors were blue and red, but they are brown and black. I love the anchor logo!

You can see more details at the Captain’s Log Kickstarter page.

 

Panobook Notebook

Here’s an unusual notebook format: 160 mm x 288 mm, 100 pages, dot grid– meant to fit in front of your computer keyboard. Of course you can also rotate it so the wire-o binding is at the top. I like the idea that it will lie flat on your desk, but as the illustration shows, there may be a tendency not to write across the whole width– it’s being used in two columns, more like having a smaller notebook opened to a page spread. Either way, this is something I could see myself using in my office. And here’s a nice touch– each notebook comes with a slipcase on which you can write the date/subject.

This is a Kickstarter project that has already far exceeded its funding goal. The minimum pledge to get a notebook is $20.

Via: Panobook Notebook — ACCESSORIES — Better Living Through Design

Save

Save

Save

“My Favorite Thing is Monsters,” a Graphic Novel by Emil Ferris

This book looks great– an entire graphic novel in facsimile notebook form:

My Favorite Thing is Monsters

“Set in the same 1960s Chicago where Ferris spent her youth, the book’s main character is Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old obsessed with movie monsters…. The central gimmick of the comic is that Karen is the cartoonist behind its creation. Accordingly, the tome mirrors the spiral notebook that provides the canvas to so many children’s first forays into sequential narrative. The spine looks like a stack of notebooks, full of blue-lined, white paper. The back cover is the deep mustard yellow of a cheap notebook’s back cover, and a two-dimensional rendering of a spiral coil threading through holes sits close to the spine. This innovation in packaging enhances the feeling of peering into a gifted youngster’s work.”

Source: A Graphic Novel in the Form of a Monster-Obsessed Child’s Notebook

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.

stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 1stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 2

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.

stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 3stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 4stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 21stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 7stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 8

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.

stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 5stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 6stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 9stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 10stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 11

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.

stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 13stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 12stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 14stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 16stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 15stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 17stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 19stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 18stillman birn softcover sketchbooks - 20

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!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin