Tag Archives: museum

A Pattern Book from the V&A Museum

The notebook image below is from an interested blog post from the V&A Museum in London. It’s an example of a pattern book:

“They are reference guides for production. Maybe they show things made by the company in the past, maybe images by competitors, maybe historic objects – all intended to aid in further design. Though they serve the same purposes as an artist’s sketchbook, often the pictures are not drawn, but rather are pasted in and then perhaps annotated or marked-up. Here’s a spread from a book kept by the Leeds ceramic firm Hartley, Greens & Co, which shows the collage-like approach typical of such pattern books.”

The rest of the post talks about other examples of notebooks from their exhibits, including some by Leonardo da Vinci.

Read more at : Duly Noted | Victoria and Albert Museum


Basquiat Notebooks

I was so excited several months ago when I heard there would be a big exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum all about Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks. I’d seen some of the images of the notebooks and pages and thought it sounded really cool, but then I read that the notebooks had been carefully disassembled so the individual pages could be displayed in the exhibition. Although the curators supposedly did this very carefully and claimed that the notebooks could be stitched back together into their original form, I kind of lost interest in going to the exhibition. The idea of all those lonely pages made me sad.

BUT! My interest was recently rekindled when I discovered that I could experience Basquiat’s notebooks in a something closer to their original form through this book:

The Notebooks

This is not the official exhibition catalog, but it’s a sort of compilation facsimile of Basquiat’s notebooks. The format is just like an actual composition book, with some of the most interesting pages from his various notebooks reproduced inside. It’s published by Princeton Architectural Press.

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From the publisher’s website:

Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was one of the most important artists of the 1980s. A key figure in the New York art scene, he inventively explored the interplay between words and images throughout his career, first as a member of SAMO, a graffiti group active on the Lower East Side in the late 1970s, and then as a painter acclaimed for his unmistakable Neoexpressionist style. From 1980 to 1987, he filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.The notebooks are filled with images and words that recur in Basquiat’s paintings and other works. Iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, teepees, and hatch-marked hearts share space with handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems that often touch on culture, race, class, and life in New York. Like his other work, the notebooks vividly demonstrate Basquiat’s deep interests in comic, street, and pop art, hip-hop, politics, and the ephemera of urban life. They also provide an intimate look at the working process of one of the most creative forces in contemporary American art.Review:

“This carefully reproduced facsimile edition of renowned visual artist Basquiat’s eight notebooks provides us a glimpse into the mind of a visionary artist. On nearly every page, readers will ponder over why and how Basquiat chose to string together these specific word marks and often bizarre phrases. The notebooks function as a sort of incubator for Basquiat’s artistic process as well as a finished product in their own right . . . a vital part of Basquiat’s legacy and an invaluable window into his ingenious and whimsical mind.”Publishers Weekly

I absolutely love my Lynda Barry facsimile composition book and I’m sure I’ll love this Basquiat one when I get my hands on it too!

Notebooks from Paris and Amsterdam

Here’s the stash of notebooks I brought back from my Amsterdam/Paris trip. First, two little notebooks from a local newsstand/bookstore near where I was staying. They had a nice selection of school supplies, and other notebook brands such as Moleskine, but these two were inexpensive and not like others I’d seen elsewhere. The blue one is a basic wire-o memo book, with a textured cardstock cover. The black and red one, only about 2 1/2 x 4″, reminded me of the notebooks that used to be common in Chinatown shops, but it doesn’t say where it was made, and the label mentions a German company.

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At P. K. Akkerman in Amsterdam, there was another wide selection of notebooks, but I just bought this chunky little Bindewerk notebook, which has a layer of actual wood veneer on the front and back cover. It’s cute, thought I think the notches running through the top and bottom of each page might get on my nerves. At 14.50, this was pretty pricey, but I didn’t think I could find these in New York. Of course about 2 months after my trip, I did stumble across a store selling these (Goods for the Study).

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This small notebook doubles as an art book: blank pages are interspersed with full color paintings by the artist Marlene Dumas, whose retrospective was on exhibit at the Stedelijk museum.

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In Paris, I was very excited to find these Clairefontaine notebooks at Marie Tournelle. In the US, you can easily find their notebooks with covers like these, but they are usually in larger sizes, and they never have graph paper! These are the exact Clairefontaine notebook I had always wished I could buy. I’ve always loved Clairefontaine paper, and never understood why it’s so hard to get it in the squared style. Some of their larger plaid covered notebooks have squared pages, but pocket notebooks with the cloth spine never do. But it’s nice to know that they are available in Europe! I was surprised, though, to notice that these notebooks are now perfect-bound. The pages are just glued into the spine, rather than in sewn signatures, which is how these used to be made. I’m not sure when this changed. But the notebooks still open nice and flat. I’ve lost the receipt, but I think these were only about 3 or 4.

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This notebook caught my eye in the gift shop at the Centre Pompidou– it’s a small lined booklet inside a cloth cover. Various patterns and colors were available for the covers– I thought the pale green with red stitching looked great. The proceeds from these benefit Memisa, a healthcare organization. It was 9.90.

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And finally, this black Moleskine-ish notebook is from the Paris store Merci, and carries their brand on the back. It’s a soft/hardcover hybrid, as the covers aren’t wrapped like most hardcover notebooks, but they are thick and quite stiff. I love the dyed edges, and it’s nice that the pen loop folds down and tucks in if you’re not using it. I don’t plan on using it at all, but I’d be worried I’d lose my pen or pencil if I did, as it’s rather loose. This notebook was 9.90.

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Globalization may mean that shopping is more and more generic and it’s harder to find unique things when you travel, but I was happy to find a few new and different notebooks on my trip. I’m always looking for more suggestions for international stationery stores!

Lisa Congdon Notebooks for MoMA

Artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon has a new line of notebooks commissioned by MoMA, featuring her drawings of objects from their design collection:


See more at New Notebooks for MoMA! – Today is going to be awesome..

Moleskine Monday: Take Note Exhibit

A review of an interesting art exhibition, based on a collection of Moleskine notebooks:

Don Maynard’s Take Note exhibit was a bit like climbing a mountain. Slow and tedious at first, but well worth the required time and effort. Housed in Modern Fuel’s State of Flux Gallery, the installation consists of 18 artists’ notebooks chained to the white walls of the gallery space. Their soft dark-brown and black covers, perfectly smooth Moleskine, rest quietly on a thin wooden shelf that runs in a strip around the square room….

The notebooks belong to a number of local artists who were asked to document their creative processes over an eight-month period.

In the curator’s artist statement, his instructions to the artists were simple: “do what you would normally do with a small notebook when keeping notes for your artistic practice.”

Read more at  A peek into the mind of the artist – Queen’s Journal.

Notebooks from Portugal

I vacationed in Portugal last fall, and returned with a nice little pile of notebooks:

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The first ones I bought were this set of 4 stitched cahier-type notebooks. They were a bit expensive at 15 Euros, but I guess that was to be expected as they were bought at a very touristy location. Nice smooth paper and cool patterns on the back, showing Lisbon streetcars and Portuguese tile and lace patterns.

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Then there were a few that I bought in a store devoted to iconic Portuguese products:

First, the Emilio Braga notebook. The company is almost 100 years old, and these notebooks are considered a classic Portuguese brand. They come in funky colors,  and I love the old fashioned look with the contrasting corners and the label on the front. The marbled edges are a great touch too. The pages inside are blank, and the notebook includes a sheet with grid on one side and lines on other to use as a guide. Unfortunately there is a really big cover overhang, too bad. I would also love it if they came in a smaller size.

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Also from the Portuguese product store, a “bloco”, a small lined notepad featuring the Torre de Belem, another big Lisbon tourist destination. Shown next to it is a small, plain graph paper notebook with a black paper cover.

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Another unique Portuguese item, the Serrote letterpress notebook, with a wonderful woodgrain paper design. Each of their designs is a limited edition of 2000.

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The next two notebooks were bought in random school-supply or art-supply stores. When I unwrapped the Oxford notebook, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, with beautifully smooth, bright white paper. It feels very solid, and it’s my favorite size. At 6.40 euros, not too expensive. It has only a very small cover overhang, another plus. It’s quite generic and not at all Portuguese, but of all these, it’s the notebook I’m most likely to actually use.

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The Canson sketchbook below offers only 50 sheets  for 6.30 euro, so wasn’t quite as good a value. It has rougher paper, no pocket, and more cover overhang, but it does have a nice cover, and is pleasantly slim.

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This last notebook was bought at a museum, I forget which one. It’s a nice size, thin, and flexible, with a thicker elastic than most. The  cover is weird, it seems to be one layer of fake leather glued over another, and it’s starting to come apart a bit, with the edges getting crushed due to the overhang. I could kind of tell when I bought it that it was a little beat up, but it was the last one they had. In fact, there is really nothing great about this, but I was just on a roll gathering notebooks and for some reason, I had to have it!

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All in all, I was pretty pleased with my Portuguese purchases– some were brands I’d heard of and wanted to try, and some were new discoveries that I’d never seen– just what I love to find on my travels!

‘Lists’ Exhibition at Morgan Library

I bought a cool book a few weeks ago and was planning to blog about it… but then I discovered that there was more to the story– an exhibition at the Morgan Library!

Here is a partial list of the kinds of lists included in “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations,” an exhibition beginning Friday at the Morgan Library & Museum: lists of bills to pay, things undone, failings in oneself and others; lists of people to call, stuff to buy, errands to be accomplished. There are also lots of lists of artworks, real and imaginary. That’s because all the material in the exhibition comes from the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution — mostly, as the curator of the exhibition, Liza Kirwin, remarked the other day, from drawers and folders marked “Miscellaneous.”

The book is also called Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum. There are lots of great images, many of them, like the one above, obviously taken straight out of a notebook or sketchbook. If you can’t make it to NYC to see the exhibition, definitely check it out!

Read more at ‘Lists,’ Exhibition at Morgan Library & Museum – NYTimes.com.

Morgan Library Exhibit: “The Diary”

Here’s an exhibit I plan on checking out in the near future: “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives,” at the Morgan Library in New York.
The exhibit includes these lovely items:

A diary jointly kept by Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne:

John Ruskin’s chess diary:

You can see more images in the slides shows in these reviews:

New York Times: Tales of Lives Richly Lived, but True?
DNA Info: New Midtown Exhibit Peeks at Private Diaries of Writers, Performers.

Odenbach Notebooks at MoMA Store

I liked the look of this slipcased set of notebooks:

From the product description:

The design of this set of three notebooks is adapted from works by the German artist Marcel Odenbach (b. 1953). The notebooks are packaged in a stylish slipcase, each notebook has a different cover and contains either 64 blank, lined or graphed pages.

They’re 6″ h x 4.25″bw x 1″d, $18.95 or $17.05 if you’re a member. More details at MoMA Store – Odenbach Set of Three Notebooks.

Bauhaus Moleskine at MoMA

I think I’m going to have to take a trip up to MoMA! I’m very intrigued by this Bauhaus Box– what exactly is in it?!?

“Moleskine, the heir of the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers from Van Gogh to Hemingway, is pleased to announce the launch of two new products created to celebrate Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City from November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010. The Bauhaus Exhibition Box and Bauhaus Pocket Black Ruled Cahier Notebooks feature the well-loved and familiar details of the iconic black notebook but have been specially designed by Moleskine for sale during this major exhibition.”

There also seems to be a notebook featuring a map of the museum:

Via 2Modern Design Talk – Modern Furniture & Design Blog: Moleskine and the Bauhaus Exhibition.