Shinola Linen Cover Notebooks

These look rather nice– linen covers, which I love, and in attractive colors. Best of all, this pocket size notebook is American-made in Michigan, and still only $12! At the moment, they seem to only offer lined notebooks, except for a sketchbook in a larger size.

More details at 3.75″ x 5.5″ HARD LINEN COVER | Shinola®. Make sure you go to the “process” tab on the page, and watch the really cool video about how these notebooks are made! They also sell watches, bicycles and various leather goods.

Behind the Scenes with Diana Balmori and Her Notebooks

Remember this lovely little book? Reviewed here: Diana Balmori Notebooks

When I posted about it a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of Diana Balmori, and found myself very intrigued by this unusual little book, as it presented the pages of her notebooks almost in facsimile, without any commentary about what the drawings represented or meant. I never thought I’d have the chance to learn more, but via the magic of the internet and social media, I was given the opportunity to interview Diana by email, and even share some exclusive photos of her notebooks behind the scenes!

NS: How long have you been keeping notebooks/sketchbooks? Do you save them all when you are done with them?

DB: Consistently for about 15 years. Before that I had all sorts of loose papers, notepads, drawing books, in which I drew, mainly when I was traveling. I save them all.

DB Figure 1


NS: Do you use one notebook at a time, or many? How long does it take you to fill one?

DB: No, I grab whatever notebook is around. Sometimes it is blank, sometimes it has some drawings, sometimes it is nearly full, I draw in whatever blank page there is. This causes a problem as to dating because I seldom date the drawings and then you look at a notebook and it has drawings over a long span of time. I’ve been more consistent lately about putting dates on the sketches.

NS: Can you tell us a little bit about your habits of using notebooks? Do you carry one at all times for sketching when the mood strikes? What purpose does keeping a notebook serve for you?

DB: I carry a notebook regularly. My jackets, most, have an inside pocket in which I carry a small Moleskine notebook. Purpose: to see. When you draw, you observe in a way that cannot be compared with just looking or with photographing. It is like getting inside what you are looking at, or better, you are becoming one with it. And you form an attachment to it.

DB Figure 2

NS: The sketches in your book are very loose and don’t have that “architect-y” sharp, finished  look that some artists and designers strive for even in sketchbooks.  Do you draw differently in notebooks than you do in other parts of your work?

DB: Notebook drawing is esquisse, or sketch, drawing. It is quick. Minutes. Drawing with a black 6B pencil it is an outline, and an interpretation of what you are seeing; and a synthesis. I have come to like the rawness and incompleteness of these drawings much more than the polished, completed drawings I have done with more time, and for other purposes. They get closer to something that I am trying to capture in the representation of landscape as a whole. That it is capturing the space and not the objects in it. Objects should not occupy one’s time, nor be belabored in the picture.

NS: Are the drawings in “Notebooks” directly related to particular projects for your firm? The book is presented without any explanatory text– can you talk about why you decided to publish it in that form?

DB: No, they are not directly related to projects in the firm. They may trigger a form for a project. But they are all related to the work in the office on how to represent landscape. I had no intention of publishing of these drawings, but in speaking with Matthew Stadler at Publication Studio, I thought it was a good way of looking at ground covered. Also, the very informal way in which it could be published attracted me, and it fitted the contents to a tee.


NS: Do you have favorite brands of notebooks and drawing materials that you use?

DB: Mainly Moleskine notebooks, I use the unlined small ones, in portrait and Japanese album forms. The accordion resolves the problem of the portrait format, because I can unfold the book and have a very large landscape format. As my ideas of landscape representation have evolved, I have become most interested in this horizontal format and the possibility of extending it laterally. Landscape is an art of the periphery. That is, it depends on peripheral vision for its power. It took me quite a while to discover that. And working with a vision scientist I also learned how reluctant we are to represent what we capture in our peripheral vision, a vision which only captures the most obvious traits, no detail, which is why these drawings, esquisse-like, represent for me landscape better and in a more modern mode.

As to materials I use a 6B pencil, or graphite bar, and if using color, Prismacolor pencils, they have the degree of softness I like.

DB Figure 3 DB Figure 4

NS: Do you enjoy looking at other people’s notebooks/sketchbooks? Are there any in particular that have inspired you?

DB: I love looking at other people’s sketchbooks/notebooks. I like the notebooks of anthropologists, to them notebooks are colossally important. I was surprised at how little drawing there was in them. I have looked at single notebook drawings mainly, as there are very few published collections of notebook sketches, more should be published.

NS: I’ve used the terms “notebook” and “sketchbook” interchangeably here, but your book is called “Notebooks.” Do you think of “notes” and “sketches” as being kind of the same thing, or does each mean something different to you?

DB: I’ve used the word notebooks and not sketchbooks because my drawings felt as notes on seeing. They are visual notes in looking and seeing. I am not sketching or drawing for the pleasure of drawing –– and for me it is a pleasure –– but also for helping me see, they are visual notes.


I am very grateful to Diana for answering my questions and sharing these photos. It’s so interesting to hear a creative person’s thoughts on capturing ideas, and she’s really nailed an important distinction between visual notes and other kinds of drawing.  I’m also fascinated by this idea of peripheral vision and the role it plays in landscape representations! I will definitely be checking out Diana’s next book to see how she expands on this topic: Drawing and Reinventing Landscape (to be published April 2014).


Notebook Addict of the Week: Donna

This week’s addict was thinking about de-cluttering and realized notebooks were a bit of a problem!

“This week I realized that I’ve gone a little overboard with the notebooks and binders (and sadly this is only 1/2 of my collection).
You see, as an admitted office supply addictgeek and lover of all things paper.   Notebooks woo me… with their pretty covers, soft paper, promise of better organization and world peace (well, maybe not the world peace part).”


Read more about all the things she uses notebooks for at De-cluttering – My Notebook Addiction – Hey, Donna!.

Essentials Notebook vs. Essential Notebook

I’d been hearing some reports that the Piccadilly Essentials notebooks might be showing up in Barnes & Noble stores. When searching on their website, I did find them listed:

Essential Notebook Black Medium Ruled

But I also found this: Essentials Black Small Blank Notebook by Peter Pauper Press.


At 105 x 148 mm, it sounds slightly bigger than the Piccadilly, but it sure looks like a similar style of notebook… and an almost identical name! Time for another trip to B&N to see if I can find these in stores…

Le Papier fait de la Résistance

A nice-looking clothbound notebook, with a bit of a twist– the elastic wraps around sideways at the top:


See more at Carnets classiques Gris Souris, carnet de note, croquis, sketchnote – Le Papier fait de la Résistance.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Notebook Addicts!

I’ll never fall out of love…i love notebooks1


More on Finishing Notebooks

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about Finishing a Notebook. The notebook in question was this softcover Moleskine, one of the first notebooks I’d ever used completely from front to back.

At the time, this was a notable accomplishment. That was what I loved about those early Moleskines– I wanted to use every page. I didn’t get itchy about switching to a new notebook. Until that point, I’d been quite fickle, always buying new notebooks and often switching to a new one after only using a few pages. Sometimes it was just because I wanted to try a new notebook, and sometimes it was because I had somehow become disillusioned with the one I was using. Sometimes I just had a grand idea of a single-purpose notebook but never really carried it through.

But for the last decade or more, I’ve pretty much finished every notebook I’ve started. My usage habits have fallen into a consistent pattern of having one daily notebook plus a sketchbook or two going at any given time. The daily notebooks are always used until they are finished. The sketchbooks take longer to fill, but they are also used til the end, except for some that have been used while traveling.

The travel notebooks are a tricky one– I started a HandBook sketchbook on a trip to Paris, but I hardly did any drawings in it. I felt like it should stay a travel notebook, but ended up changing my mind and using it for other sketches and collages at home.

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Another HandBook travel notebook started on a trip to Turkey, but was only filled about 1/3 of the way. I then took it to Portugal, but only filled a few pages. Several more pages were filled in Corsica. It’s still only a little more than half full, but now I feel like I have to reserve it for more travel.

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But in the meantime I went to the Galapagos with a brand new sketchbook, which I mostly filled on that one trip. (It’s a brand I had just discovered and will do a full review on soon: Hahnemuhle.) I also dedicated a sketchbook to a safari trip in Botswana and filled it almost to the end. (I’m better at drawing wildlife than European architecture!) The empty pages in the Galapagos sketchbook are almost 1/4 of the book, but they will stay empty, I think, unless I try to re-work some of those sketches from memory or from photos– I can’t just use it for something else.

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So I’m generally pretty committed to seeing a notebook through nowadays. But I’m a little tempted to ditch the one I’m using right now! It’s an old Piccadilly with squared pages, from a stash of them bought several years ago at Borders. The corners of the spine are tearing quite a bit and the paper doesn’t seem quite as smooth as usual. It has some symmetry issues and the corners stick out a bit, particularly on one side. It’s just getting on my nerves a bit. At this point, I think I only have about 1/6 of the notebook left to use. (it looks like more than that below but I also fill in some pages from the back.)  But I can’t bring myself to bail out. Instead, I find myself writing with wider margins, scribbling inconsequentially to fill space, doodling more, and just generally spacing things out a bit more to use it up faster. I think I’ll manage to hold out til it’s done.

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How about you? Do you use every page of a notebook, or stop and start with lots of different ones? Do you go back to old notebooks and finish them later? Do you reserve notebooks for a specific purpose even if they’ll take forever to fill?

Regular Small Notebooks from Write Notepads & Co. | Square Market

So many of the notebooks I’m drawn to are hardcover or softcover notebooks with stitched signatures, but here’s a really nice looking wire-o bound notebook:

To make it even better, they’re made in Baltimore, and for each one purchased, they donate a notebook to a Baltimore public school student.

Buy at Regular Small Notebooks from Write Notepads & Co. | Square Market

Read a review of the notebook at  Pen Paper Ink Letter: Write Notepads & Co Notebook Review

Filson Horween Leather Notebook Covers

This looks like a rather nice notebook cover– it even comes with a custom Rite in the Rain notebook. But Filson is a high-end brand, and this is pretty high-end pricing: $110 for the 5×7″ size!


Via Filson Horween Leather Notebook Covers – Photos • Selectism.

Review & Giveaway: Notez and Dayz by Less Thingz

It’s fun to review things that stretch the boundaries of “notebook” a bit. The Notez notebook and Dayz planner certainly do that! They are made by an Austrian company called Less Thingz, who were kind enough to send me these samples.

Less Thingz01

At a glance, you can see that these have a unique format. The outside covers are a double layer of cardboard. There is no spine, and inside is an accordion fold-out made of a heavy-weight card stock. The size is 6 7/16 x 4″– shown below with a pocket size Moleskine for comparison. I love the look of the outsides– they are very precisely cut with a slot in one layer, perfectly sized for a rubber band to sit flat in, one on each side. At first I thought the ends of the rubber band were glued inside the cover, but it’s actually just held there by the sandwiching of the two layers, and will slide in either direction if you pull on it. The only branding is the tiny laser-cut Less Thingz name on one side. The colors I received I very understated and attractive. According to the website, lots of other colors are available for Dayz, but you can’t actually see what they look like. Notez only seems to come in one color at the moment. One thing I did notice is that the cardboard cover seems to be easily stained– in the closeup below there is a small mark, which I think came from setting it down on a dining table where there were some crumbs.

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Inside, Notez comes with either blank or dotted paper. Dayz has a planner layout– the sample I received is an academic year calendar going from mid-September 2013 through the end of September 2014, but the only option on their website now is a January-December 2014 calendar. The pages are laid out with 7 equally sized days running across, and 2 weeks to a page/4 weeks to a view. At the end, there is a section of smaller blocks, 7 days across and 14 weeks per page, looking ahead through October 2015.

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In the main section, each day has a dot grid pattern that would make it easy to divide the day into blocks of time, but the space for each day is pretty small, so unless you have microscopic handwriting, it can’t be used for a lot of detailed agenda items or notes. But it’s a nice, clean, 2-color design. The holidays listed are not international– only Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

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I tested a few pens– the paper is so thick, even the Super Sharpie barely shows through. The paper is quite smooth, so my Uniball gel-ink pen worked well, but my Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to skid and bead up a little, and took a long time to dry. It still smeared after at least 10 minutes of drying time– I wasn’t timing it, but it was long enough after that I was quite surprised not to find it dry.

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The nice thing about this unique format is that you can use the two elastics to mark your place in the notebook while also holding it closed. For the planner version, they show how you can use it has a hanging wall calendar or a stand-up desk calendar or a pocket planner. The blank notebook would lend itself to all sorts of uses, including panoramic or sequential drawings.

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I suppose my main concern with these notebooks is the durability of the rubber band. It’s nice and thick and unlikely to snap under normal usage, but rubber bands get brittle with age, and I think it would be impossible to replace the band without destroying the notebook. But otherwise, these seem durable, and the simplicity of the construction means there’s not too much that can go wrong.

What’s not to like? Nothing… except the price. Notez is €24, Dayz is €36. Ouch. That’s $32.71- $49.06 at current rates. These are well-crafted and well-designed, and “made in small quantities by hand,” according to their website, but I think that’s pretty steep pricing for a 32-page cardboard-covered notebook and a planner you can only use for one year. Shipping is an additional €3.00, or free if you subscribe to their newsletter. Less Thingz has also offered a coupon code to readers of Notebook Stories, but you’ll have to act fast as it’s a limited offer: the first 10 people to enter NTBKSTRSCM1 when checking out will get a 10% discount on their order.

I’m also giving away the Notez sample. One lucky winner will be chosen from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Less Thingz” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Less Thingz page, and post something containing the words “Less Thingz” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Less Thingz” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday Feb. 14, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

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