Blue inks used to remind me of school work; a really watery, wishy-washy, slushy, “I stand for nothing” kind of blue splashed across every exercise book of every lesson. I think I’d tarnished all blue inks with this association, so over the last year or so, I decided to give blue another chance. I’m showing you five of my blues today, and sharing a few similar inks to invest in next.
A remarkable quality about Amsterdam is its glaring absence of garish brands repeating themselves every five hundred metres or so. I saw one Starbucks the whole time I was there. This is a city and country that cares deeply about design integrity. I could have spent my whole trip popping in and out of little independent stores full of high-quality, well thought-out products that say something about how they came to be.
Before I went away I faithfully gathered tips on the best bookshops and stationery shops to visit, should I get the opportunity. These are the ones that I managed to visit during my trip.
What a wonderful store. I mostly perused the magazine section of Athenaeum as I particularly love browsing magazine stores and this is one of the best I’ve been to anywhere. It’s actually a separate shop to its bookstore brother, is simple, cosy and set over a couple of levels. There is an amazing collection of magazines on every subject – the best to browse when in Amsterdam are obviously the design publications – but there are sections about music, film, travel, fashion… the list goes on.
These magazines aren’t your disposable rags but they are published and designed beautifully, meant to last and have enough to keep you going for the length of any normal book. They’re laid out over shelves from ceiling to floor, and you must navigate your way around eager stacks of magazines laid out like islands in the sea throughout the shop. Luckily Athenaeum is in a very central and accessible part of town; Het Spui near Kalverstraat has several bookstores and literary-looking cafes to keep you interested.
I could have picked up a copy of most magazines in there but I dutifully came away with my all time favourite, the Frankie magazine (you can read my review of the 2015 Frankie Diary here). I keep all of my Frankie magazines because they are so beautiful and full of stories, letters and crafty tips and tricks for me to return to in the future, should I so wish. Now I know that my March edition from 2016 came from Amsterdam.
Even if you come away empty-handed from Athenaeum, I guarantee you will enjoy your browsing experience and leave with a bit of inspiration, whether it’s wanting to look at more photographs, needing a travel book in the future, looking up a publisher or writer you’ve never heard of, wanting to read more poems… it’s a store that just got me really excited. Oh, and their website is great too.
This recurred on my searches for the best stationery shops in Amsterdam and it did not disappoint. It’s a bright, neat and subtle store on a street lined with independent retailers with huge windows to peer at all of the treasure inside.
On entering the shop you’re faced with a long central table covered with a rainbow array of short stacks of notebooks, jars of pens and erasers, paper goods and planners. The shop also uses lovely props such as an old whitewashed piano, pigeon hole unit for their cards and a chalkboard bearing the name Like Stationery.
The owner, Sanne Dirkzwager, has a large collection of magazines and paper goods proudly lining the inner depths of the shop. It’s a gorgeous store, incredibly well thought out – I noticed a little bit of colour coding on the main table! Sanne is a Dutch graphic designer who is a creative soul that you can discover more about through her website http://www.strawberryblonde.nl; Like Stationery is just one of her many beautiful projects.
I spent a long time looking at Like Stationery’s products, flicking through notebooks and testing out pens. They have a large collection of ballpoints, notably Hightide Penco, and a wide selection of cards, all of which are handmade at the store and feature a range of colourful, fun and minimalist designs. I also discovered a brand I hadn’t heard of before; Y Studio which feature simple and timeless design mostly using metals in deep blacks and brushed brass.
On looking at Like Stationery’s website post-visit, they also do a themed stationery subscription box which looks stunning. Some of the previous themes have included “connecting the dots”, “untainted” which included a range of cream and white stationery, and “shades of marble” including some gorgeous marbled and multicolour products. It looks to be a very considered and thoughtfully curated box. If I could I definitely would.
I would really recommend popping in to Like Stationery for so many reasons: the area it’s in is beautiful and you’ll have a great time exploring all the lovely shops; the paper products on offer are great and varied – you’ll find notebooks, letter-writing sets, thick and creamy wrapping paper, journals and planners; there are lots of recognisable and not-so-recognisable brands to peruse and the store itself is a delight, full of fun and personality. The products I came away with are a Ballograf Epoca Chrome ballpoint pen with archival blue ink, a flexible synthetic Milan eraser and a homemade card.
This is actually primarily a bag shop but uncovered a theme of Amsterdam shopping for me that, once I became aware of it, I suddenly noticed everywhere. It’s amazing how many shops in Amsterdam specialise in something, but also happen to have a corner dedicated to something completely different but complementary. So Property Of… specialises in bags of all sorts, but has a small but effective stationery section full of Midori goodies, polished brass writing implements and Kaweco classics, a selection of high-quality travel books, oh and it sells coffee too. It just works in Amsterdam.
This experience will have its own future dedicated post because I took the plunge and bought myself a Midori Travelers Notebook. Full sized, black leather. And the reason I just had to have it here is because the shop is equipped with its very own leather embossing machine which the kind assistant patiently showed me how to use. I came away with my very own monogrammed Travelers Notebook.
If you get a chance to pop in this is a lovely and curious shop. All of the products on offer are very high-quality, timeless and stylish. The stationery offer is small but effective; if you’re going to dedicate a little portion of your store to something different, dedicate it to products that you know work wonderfully. This seems to be the ethos amongst all of Property Of…’s added bonus products.
Another mainly non-stationery store, Koko Coffee and Design has a vintage cabinet stocked with classic stationery products including Kaweco pens and pencils, a wooden draw overflowing with washi tapes, beautiful little leather goods and marbled notebooks. I enjoyed their selection of one-sided cards and decided to pick one up; the paper is thick and textured and I love the fun pattern. I’m so into yellow at the moment. Again, the products on offer are very well thought-out and make the most of their little corner within a shop full of design beauties.
If you walk a little further into the store, offbeat tables and chairs are set up amongst the pristine and colourful racks of clothes. It’s very comfortable and relaxed.
So concludes my whirlwind trip of Amsterdam and the stationery and bookstores I encountered within it. Every impression I’ve had of the way stationery and books are considered within the shops I went into is an overwhelming feeling of respect for great design and longevity. All of the shops whether specialist or with a little outpost of stationery offer products meant to last and offer them within an environment that is design-conscious and personal. They all feel luxury without making you feel out of place. These aren’t “office supply” stores. I really enjoyed the experiences within each store and would heartily recommend them as fantastic shops in their own right but also wonderful, honest reflections of the city of Amsterdam.
(On my list I also had Misc-Store which I’ve heard great things about but sadly I didn’t get the chance to pop in here. Next time!)
I work very close to London’s South Bank and I like to go walking during my lunch hour. Southwark, although it may not appear so on first glance, is such a historic area of London with so many hidden treats around every corner. I love walking around this area using my own sense of direction rather than relying on Google Maps and more often than not I will end up on a street I haven’t walked down before. I went to see the Danish Girl recently and was doing a bit of reading about it afterwards and I came across this interview with Eddie Redmayne where he talks about how much he loves this part of London. In fact, about three years ago I actually walked past Eddie Redmayne right outside my office and I started saying the word “Eddie” over and over to my companion. Not cool.
When I head north and west on my lunchtime walks I sometimes happen upon the National Theatre Bookshop and have a nose around. I love the NT Bookshop because it’s full of stationery goodies for all price ranges: they do a great selection of pencils (including Blackwings and Midoris), inserts for Travellers’ Notebooks, Kaweco products, washi tapes, cards, etc. They very often have different stock each time I go.
I popped in earlier in January and they had a small Christmas sale section. I picked up two HAY Bookbinder’s Notebooks which were literally a pound each. I’ve often seen HAY products in department stores or placed in “luxury” stationery sections and I feel it is a fairly aspirational brand. Their products, which span several different uses for the home, look quite functional and aren’t covered in brand names or any other giveaway logo that would catch your eye from a distance.
I’ve been using the small red Portrait Bookbinder’s Notebook as part of my daily tools since the beginning of January. which measures 18cm by 12cm and is sized somewhere in between a Field Notes memo book and a Moleskine ruled cahier.
I love the red of this notebook! It’s somewhere between a red and an orange. In fact, just for fun I had a look at Mac lipsticks to try and find one that matched the specific colour of this notebook. I found the shade and it’s called Lady Danger which I find really appropriate for this colour! One thing I appreciate with “blank slate” notebook covers are that they can always be customised with a bit of washi tape or a sketch.
The bookbinder’s stitching is a dark gold colour and has a slight shine to it. I love the symmetry of the horizontal bind. Internally though I find the bind slightly restrictive because obviously you get over a centimetre’s less paper to write on and as you move through the book the crease becomes more pronounced.
The notebook measures 18cm by 12cm and is sized somewhere in between a Field Notes memo book and a Moleskine cahier. It’s also ever so slightly squarer than other notebooks because of the extra space allocation for the bookbinding.
Overall it’s a good sized notebook. Having started using Field Notes notebooks during autumn last year I have come to appreciate that this is the size I would consider a “pocket notebook”. I wouldn’t place this notebook in the pocket notebook category because it’s just that fraction too large. Also it doesn’t fold over very well to use on the go like a Field Notes. But it is a very soft cover and so quite a malleable notebook in the hand, so if you were using it with something to rest on like a clipboard then it could very well be used for a pocket notebook purpose. I have gravitated towards using it for pocket notebook purposes, such as jotting things down, taking notes on site and making short-term lists, rather than it being one of my “for keeps” notebooks. I’m actually thinking about writing a future blog post about what I define as “pocket notebook purposes” and “for keeps” notebooks because increasingly I categorise notebooks that I buy and try into one of these two categories.
Having done a bit of online research I can’t find any particular claims about the paper used. It becomes apparent why when you start using it. The paper feels quite thin and I feel a slight resistance when I run my fingers over it. The paper is a subtle cream shade similar to the Moleskine ruled cahier and for general writing I think I prefer a slightly shaded paper. I find opening a notebook to find a bright Xerox white slightly strange and offputting for some reason.
The paper is of average quality. It seems pitched towards ballpoints, pencils or fine gel pens but I find it hit and miss with my fountain pens and I don’t think this notebook has been designed with fountain pens in mind. Diamine Sargasso Sea and Claret particularly showed feathering on the page. The paper is also thin enough to demonstrate bleedthrough pretty much with all the pens I tested.
I’m glad I picked this up (especially at such a bargain price) but I probably won’t buy it again to use as an everyday notebook. It’s simple and professional-looking and adds a fun pop of colour on your desk, and performs all the functions of a notebook just fine. In between these purposes I don’t have too much of a space on my desk for the HAY Bookbinder’s Notebook as a repeat purchase. It’s been fun to use and good to try out a brand of stationery that I haven’t used before. Buy this if you’re looking for an everyday notebook for your everyday needs and expect to use mostly ballpoints, gel pens and pencils. When they’re full priced they cost around £4 and also come in a medium and large size in a range of bright or subtle colours.
Happy New Year! I hope 2016 brings you good health and fortune, wherever you may be.
Back to business. Every year for Christmas my boyfriend buys me a yearly diary / planner and unfortunately the ones I lust after tend to be difficult to source. 2015’s choice was the Frankie Diary, produced annually by Australia’s Frankie Magazine. He had it shipped all the way over from Australia and probably had to order it in October to make sure it arrived in time for Christmas, but arrive it did and I fell in love with it.
The Frankie Diary falls in the middle of being beautiful and functional. It’s a little larger than A5 size and bound in a dusky blue cloth linen with lovely organic texture. After using it for a whole year, I’ve compiled some thoughts on it.
Good size and sturdy
Vital statistic time – as I’ve mentioned the diary is just over A5 which is a good handbag and desk size. It’s just over 2 centimetres thick and doesn’t gain much height over the course of a year through paper wear. Importantly the Frankie is solid enough to withstand a year of wear and tear without detracting too much from its look and feel, and in my case, spillages including orange juice and salad dressing! You’re not going to have any paper tears, bending or rippling of paper. Also on a sidenote, although this was a gift, the Frankie Diary comes in at $26.95 (Australian) which is a very reasonable (and approximate) £13.50 without shipping charges.
I love the monthly view pages. They’re a big enough size to get quite a few words in and with a little creativity and time I customised some squares to make them stand out.
The monthly pages don’t have the rest of the diary’s paper designs meaning that there is quite a bit of blank space on the page. I love this because I can add little mementos from things I’ve done that month or use washi tapes to give the diary a scrapbook look. I went Christmas shopping with one of my best friends and found a photobooth in Selfridges where we got this sepia snap.
Beautifully designed with good quality paper
This diary really looks the part. It’s feminine and simple, and the Frankie illustrators have put thought into some of the diary’s elements, such as a full-sized envelope at the back to store all your loose scrap paper. The fonts are also beautiful and a lovely mixture of traditional typewriter style text and hand-lettered lower-case text. The paper quality is excellent; really silky and thick, and I’ve mostly used my Kaweco Sport and vintage Parker for the weekly entries, and a finer-nibbed Iconic Knock pen for the monthly calendar entries. Fountain pens work absolutely fine on this paper with minimal feathering. Here’s a close up of my writing with the Kaweco Sport using Diamine Claret.
And here’s an example of the back of a page that I’ve written on with Diamine Claret. On the third to bottom line you can see some slight bleedthrough.
I’ve even used a brush pen on the paper without any feathering. Apologies for the amateurness of the writing – this was before my brush lettering class and I was tinkering with a brush pen! This was with my Kuretake brush pen, which has a very wet ink, and as you can see there’s still no feathering.
The design of the diary is lovely too. I love all the different paper illustrations used from month to month. Here are some of my favourites:
It gets dirty!
I appreciate that a diary showing its use is a big sign of love and in many other diaries it could even be an upside that it shows its wear. Sadly though the gold lettering on the front has faded over the year and the dusky blue has become a more grey, dark grey at the edges. It’s hard to keep it looking its finest for a year!
Weekly view to two pages makes the balance between a planner and a journal difficult
Here’s an example of a week when I tried to journal instead of plan – this was during my holiday to Greece.
As you can see it’s a little cramped (although I could have used the notes section). Fine for the purpose of noting the bare bones of the day which I enjoy looking back on at a glance but the Frankie Diary definitely rests on the side of a planner rather than a journal or traditional diary. I haven’t rued this with the Frankie because it means I’ve had an opportunity to fill a plethora of notebooks and pocket notebooks this year with more elaborate thoughts and tested a few new brands in the process. Generally I spent the year carrying my Frankie and a notebook of some description around at all times. I can understand however why some users might want just one singular book that fulfils both purposes.
I also think that the Frankie designers have got around the diary’s potential lack of flexibility by its additions which include a budget planner, address page, tear-out “forget-me-not” lists, tear-out gift tags and tear-out list pages such as films to watch, places to visit, etc. I didn’t use any of these elements to any great extent which tells me that I’m not looking for an “organiser” type diary which acts as a tool to assist aspects of life such as personal finances or as an address book. To make these additions useful they’re probably needed in greater quantities (e.g. enough budget planner pages for once a month or similar) or the diary needs to be usable for a longer amount of time than a year – I didn’t see much point in noting addresses in this diary knowing I won’t be carrying it around with me next year and that I won’t be storing it next to the phone. Why are address books always stored next to the phone?!
I made the Frankie diary more flexible for me by using good old post-it notes to add value. Something I do every month following a new year’s resolution a few years ago was to look up seasonal fruit and vegetables at the beginning of each month and try to use them in my cooking.
I can imagine that the Frankie format isn’t ideal for a person with a considerably more hectic lifestyle than myself, the week-to-two-pages view makes it difficult to draw out a daily schedule if there are several activities that make up a day. For me it works fine because my days consist of work + evening activity (usually singular!) or weekend plans involving daytime activity + night-time activity; noting this type of schedule doesn’t require much writing space.
It’s also not ideal for those among us who want to journal rather than plan or schedule. It will still meet the planning function for the year but you’ll need to either try out a more concise style of journaling (such as a “one-line journal” or gratitude journal) or consider what accompaniments will join your Frankie for the year.
I came very close to asking for another Frankie Diary for 2016 because I don’t mind having Frankie and a notebook and, well, it’s so pretty and user-friendly. It’s a beautifully designed companion to the year and its build quality is impeccable. You need a sturdy hardback to take a whole year’s of handling and rubbing along other things in a normal day’s handbag and apart from some discolouration and softening of the book’s edges, the Frankie has stood up to the challenge. I really appreciate the look and feel of the diary and I like the week-to-two-pages format so that I can see what my week looks like at a glance and look back on what my week consisted of. It’s also been great using a wide variety of writing tools as the paper generally stands up well to a variety of inks and fountain pen nib sizes.
The 2016 Frankie Diary looks like this:
It looks like the words on the front cover are going to be more resilient than the gold lettering of 2015 which has faded considerably on my diary.
For me personally, although one of the Frankie Diary’s key selling points is that it is very pretty with unique paper designs and fonts inside, I think the key reason I didn’t ask for another Frankie Diary this year is because I’m looking for something to which I can add more of a personal touch with my own designs and fonts.
So what diary did my boyfriend order for me for 2016? It could only be…
A Hobonichi Techo. I had been following fellow stationery bloggers’ Hobo journeys throughout 2015 and the clean look and flexibility of it appealed to me. Although you can buy the planners in the UK now from various sources, you can’t easily buy the range of Hobonichi produced accessories designed to work with the Techo. For this reason he ordered it from Japan with a lovely range of accessories including a cover, a cover-for-a-cover (which makes me chuckle), a frame stamp for the monthly calendar view and some thin 6mm washi tapes. I’m already showing my Hobo lots of love and will endeavour to post updates on my usage as I really enjoy reading other users’ experiences and examples. I’ll go into more reasons behind this choice and my initial impressions of the Hobo in another post soon.
So that’s that. I intend on trying this ink out with my vintage Parker 45, the nib of which is closer to medium than fine with quite a wet flow, which might bring out the richness of Claret more than the Kaweco Sport has. Next I’m moving onto the Pilot Iroshizuku shin-ryoku shade of green and really looking forward to it.
Has anybody seen Meagan Abell’s Facebook campaign to find the original photographer of some fantastic quality negatives she found in a charity shop? They are ridiculously beautiful, evocative, dreamy, wistful, summery. Here is one of the photos:
The internet is full of stories about viral reunions. I really hope this one finds its way back to the photographer and subjects. Who knows what other great shots they’ve taken in their life.
On my wanders this week I’ve found some great pieces of public art. Some obvious…
Some not so obvious!
Back to business. I’m a big fan of Diamine inks because they are so affordable and there is such a great range of colours and shades available in relatively small 30ml bottles. This means I get to try out lots of the Diamine range compared to other more expensive ranges, as I go through ink like water.
There’s a slickness and professionalism about the colour, almost a masculinity. I don’t find this ink a novelty shade in any way, it’s attractive for long stretches of writing and I love the contrast against the light shades of paper that I generally use.
I’m going to get a picture and update this post with a daytime shot of this ink to demonstrate what it looks like against a blander coloured paper. There’s something really natural about its shade that evokes autumn; the colour of blackberries and sloes. Bilberry is so deeply saturated that the colour is very consistent, although as I’ve mentioned above I sway between thinking this is a blue and purple ink depending on any kind of external circumstance! Something I love about using Bilberry is that it’s exciting for me because I appreciate the different tones and saturation, but this isn’t immediately obvious to others, it isn’t for showing off or attracting attention.
If you’re a fan of using deep, inconspicuous and almost surreptitious shades in your writing, give Bilberry a go.