September Stationery and Bookish Bloomsbury

I have been reducing my expenditure slightly on stationery over the last couple of months. I should say that this doesn’t mean the quantity of stationery I have acquired has reduced. The truism “quality over quantity” has probably sprung to your mind, but one of the best aspects of this particular passion of mine is that great, unique and usable stationery comes in all shapes and sizes, for all prices.

One piece of stationery that I love and have decided I can’t live without? Washi tape. Perhaps to some, these decorative tapes appear relatively useless. But since incorporating them into my various written pursuits, I find I can’t get enough of the stuff. Using washi tapes can add instant luxe appeal to the most drab of Paperchase sale cards. It adds splashes of colour to darkly-coloured notebooks and boring office-cupboard plastic wallets. It can be used as page markers or bookmarks. Borders, lines, boxes in a scrapbook. I am a bit obsessed. I have about 20 different washi tapes and I chop and change these in my daily collection just like my pencils and pens.

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Much of September’s stationery I bought in person and on a singular occasion. I went for the most wonderful walk in Bloomsbury recently. It’s amazing what you see when you’re actually looking for it. The British Museum is very famous for its wonderful collection of Greek antiquities, and while I nosed around museums all over Greece recently it’s noticeable how many pieces of Greek art and history are actually on loan from the British Museum… to Greece! On taking a stroll past the British Museum I noticed for the first time that many of the shops nearby have a Greek theme. That would have never caught my eye before my recent holiday. Anyway, my reason for being in the area in the first place and the eventual moral of this story is that Bloomsbury has the most fantastic aura of bookishness and literacy about it. Over the course of about four hours I strolled around with a coffee (Holborn Grind, delicious) stopping off at various independent bookstores and stationers. Best day ever.

One of my first stops was Blade Rubber Stamps. This is a shop devoted to, well, rubber stamps. I love using rubber stamps and often incorporate them into notes and letters. I’ve been lusting after a date stamp for some time, having been patiently waiting for this cute little one (number 11) to come back into stock at one of my favourite stationers’ Present & Correct. Blade Rubber Stamps has a vast range of products; seasonal motifs, short messages in vintage style type, floral designs, black cabs… you name it, it’s on a stamp. They had a great selection suitable for letter-writing, and I was particularly drawn to a tiny snail stamp (as in “snail mail”). But then I found this beauty. So far the quality of the stamp seems excellent; it produces a lovely and extremely fine colonial font. I’ve been inking it up with my Lion stamp pad as the ink comes out brilliantly black. Gorgeous isn’t it?

Onto some of my paper and ink acquisitions over the last month. I purchased a couple of my new washi tapes from Volte Face on Great Ormond Street, and the rest I picked up at another of my favourite stationers’ – JP Books in Soho. JP Books specialises in Japanese products and the display of books and magazines (predominantly in Japanese) fascinates me. Oh the hours I’ve spent in here. It’s ironic because the stationery collection isn’t vast, but they stock products that I just haven’t come across anywhere else. All that testing and handling and reading takes time. First and foremost I bought myself a Tsubame Cream notebook. I have read reviews of the Tsubame Fools range of notebooks online and I know that they are well respected for their bleed resistant, watermarked paper. On opening this notebook you are confronted with the creamiest of papers. The cover is soft-bound and has a leathery effect to it, and there is a great, very lightly woven linen-style binding on the spine.  I’ll update on this when I get stuck into using it properly. Oh and I’m too nervous to write my name on the cover. I don’t want to ruin the look and feel of it by scrawling my name on the front yet!

My other two purchases are disposable pens and came at a snip. These are the Pilot Uniball Signo RT1 in blue black (0.38mm) and a Kuretake brush pen. While I love a good fountain pen I do have a special place in my heart for fine gel pens. The Pilot RT1 is a very smooth pen to write with and I really like the blue black tone.  While it’s not going to win prizes with me for uniqueness, it’s a worthwhile everyday pen and I’ve been using it consistently at work ever since I added it to my weekly collection at the expense of all my other pens, which is actually quite an accolade considering how much thought I put into said weekly collection. The image at the top of this post is a sample of how the RT1 writes, very occasionally I have an issue with the ink skipping (as you can see on the word “mean”) but overall the ink is consistent. I’ve only doodled and jotted with the Kuretake brush pen so far. I’m actually attending a brush lettering workshop later this month for which I’m hugely excited. I’m planning to keep it safe to use and practice with after I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to produce beautiful brush calligraphy!

On my walk I stumbled across Persephone Books on Lamb’s Conduit Street. Persephone Books is predominantly a publishing house with a bookshop attached, specialising in female writers particularly from the early 20th century. I couldn’t walk out of this shop empty-handed. This book, “Someone at a Distance” by Dorothy Whipple, was recommended to me as featuring a meaty plot and having a very literary style of writing compared to some of the more light-hearted books on offer. I proudly walked out with this under my arm and I’m about to start reading once I finish the current book I’m on (“Confessions of a Sociopath” by M.E.Thomas). I’m looking forward to it because it seems to be different to my usual fictional choices which have recently included “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce, “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozens, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “A Song for Issy Bradley” by Carys Bray). Persephone Books deserves its own blog post though and I’m popping back soon to meet the staff at Persephone Books to learn more about their publishing style, book selections and future editions.

Have you used any of these products? I’d be delighted to hear your reviews.

FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives / East London Snapshots / Diamine Bilberry Review

 

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:

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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.

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On my wanders this week I’ve found some great pieces of public art. Some obvious…

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Some not so obvious!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Recent Stationery Acquisitions

Happy Sunday! It’s a rainy day in London today and I am using the opportunity to indulge in indoorsy pursuits. This includes making a beef bone broth which has been on the go for a few hours now and has a few still to go! More on that another time.

It’s about time for an update on the masses of stationery I have acquired in the last few weeks. I’ve always got my eye on little things that I would like to add to my collection or to make my life a bit easier. At the moment these are mostly writing implements, inks, woodcased pencils, washi tapes, etc. I have a little stack of notebooks waiting to be used so I’ve got a few more brands on the wishlist for the future.

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I used a solitary evening after work to use some of my paper collection to make homemade envelopes. This was a surprisingly easy task. I picked up a few envelope sizes from a nearby paper shop and proceeded to pull the glued sections apart to create an envelope template. I drew around them with a 2H pencil (to leave very light lines), cut them out, glued the edges, hid them away in a heavy book for a few hours to glue solidly, and attached some old luggage labels and black card for addresses. I posted them all out to friends and family and they were hugely well received. It’s great to devote effort to something and share it with others. One of my friends is sending me a letter back, I can’t wait!

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Here is part of my collection of all time favourite papers. A good friend actually gave this to me for my Secret Santa gift last year having picked a ream up from a pop-up shop in Paris called Petit Pan, and needless to say it went down a storm. The papers have a fine Japanese quality about them, both in their delicacy and design. They make beautiful envelopes. I actually hate using the paper a little bit because I can’t bear to take a pair of scissors to them. I also bought a Palomino Blackwing Pearl pencil, which is described as similar to a 4B grade pencil, some Midori Origami Memo paper (you can write a reasonable sized note and fold it into various origami shapes, I picked hexagons) and some craft-style Midori labels. The Midori Kraft envelopes were a great little find in a lucky dip bag that I ordered from The Journal Shop.

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Receiving the lucky dip bag was a bit like Christmas Day!

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Here’s one of the Midori Origami Memo hexagons all made up and unfolded again. They’re affably tiny when folded up. It’s a bit of fun.

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This was a little haul from various sources including a Palomino Blackwing, Iconic pastel double-ended pens, Coccoina glue stick, little “Write On!” stamp, vintage “Hello My Name Is” labels, and some Louise Fili Tutti-Frutti coloured pencils. I used the Coccoina glue stick for my homemade envelopes and it is as effective as one could hope from a glue stick, with a pleasing almond-like sweet scent. The Iconic double-ended pens have been a useful addition to my every-day collection, although the fineliner end is a little incompatible with the pastel palette as they are quite difficult to see on paper. I’m loving the “Write On!” stamp inked up on my Lion stamp pad for adding to notes, my envelopes and letters.  I haven’t had an opportunity to use the Tutti-Frutti pencils yet, I will report back.

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A very practical addition is a Seeso Graphics vintage A5 pouch. It’s a gorgeous black pouch for your everyday items that you need to keep together in your bag. I promptly added my Moleskine notebook and writing implements of choice for the week (Iconic lime green pastel double-ended pen, Palomino Blackwing 602, a washi tape of course, my brass sharpener, Muji eraser, grey fine-point Sharpie, turquoise Faber-Castell Broadpen 1554 and Lamy Safari with Diamine Bilberry). It’s helped me feel organised and encourages me to carefully select the tools I want to carry around with me for the week rather than bringing a bit of everything. It also looks professional, which helps create a useful first impression (before I bring out a pencil with a pencil cap attached anyway!).

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These are said pencil caps by Iconic. In short they are like pen lids, except for pencils. Why would one need such a thing you ask. Well, if you like to keep your pencils sharp, then the chances are you will break the tip in your pencil case, or leave marks on whatever it comes into contact with. Both problems are eradicated with these little beauties! Plus they add a bit of whimsical character to the pouch.

My other acquisitions include:

– Diamine Claret Ink 30ml bottle (currently in my Kaweco Sport)

– Rhodia dotpad, Orange, A5

– Tomboy Mono 100, H grade

– Diamine Bilberry Ink 30 ml bottle

– Monami 0.7 153 stick in blue and orange

I’ll be posting my stationery wishlist soon to share with you what I am going to be investing in in the near future. Have you used any of the above or got any tips for the wishlist?

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Clerkenwell, Sunshine and Stationery

What a day. Every so often the sun throws her English expectations out of the window and comes out in full force. Today was one of those days: blue skies, no clouds, warm breeze, people everywhere. It’s impossible not to be enamoured by a day like this in London. I spent the opportunity being outside as much as possible. Unfortunately a good part of this outdoor pursuit involved visiting a site I’m working on in Hammersmith, right on the Broadway. Heat and exhaust fumes don’t make for the most charming summer memories. But this afternoon when I skipped out of work I took a long walk to Clerkenwell.

One of life’s great pleasures for me is stumbling upon a new place. Luckily there are endless possibilities for this to happen in London. I found a green space called Spa Fields, just south of the wonderful Exmouth Market. It’s not the largest park in the world, and probably took me about 5 minutes to stroll through in its entirety. I thought it was incredibly characterful though, with some interesting landscape architecture elements including a rolling set of mounds comparable to a mini BMX track, a lavender plantation, vine covered arches and a pyramidal centre building. The yellow grass shows quite how warm it’s been recently.

 

What was noticeable about this park was the range of people using and enjoying it. There were locals and young people, office workers with their trousers rolled up and families. There are many playful elements wrapped up in this green space that make it seem a bit quirky.

Coming out of the park I headed towards Arlington Way, just past Sadlers Wells theatre on the way to Angel. I was intentionally heading here to visit the fabulous Present & Correct shop. Clerkenwell is so full of fantastic architecture. The street layout, other than the trunk-like Farringdon Road, is fine, organic and dense lending itself to a range of functions; churches and old school buildings are found in the centre of small neighbourhoods that are definable because of their common architectural features. One standout building for me was this residential complex on Rosebery Avenue called The Laboratory Building. Predictably it was an old laboratory. I loved the art deco features on this building, the curvature of the frontage and its floor-to-ceiling windows. If you look around the building these windows delineate the height of three floors, and all the floors have their own window type.

Arlington Way itself is a typical Islington street in many ways. On one side there is a 60s style fabricated estate development, with traditional two-up two-down town houses opposite. A number of these town houses have ground-level retail functions with beautifully decorated frontages. There are also some vintage features that have remained such as a traditional painted wall advertising funeral services.

Present & Correct was really the highlight of my day. It’s a beautiful and tiny shop devoted to stationery and products associated with everyday artistry. It’s full of unique designs with a quality and bespoke feel. The shop is also immaculately presented. I would like to devote a whole post to this shop soon. If you are a fan of the genuinely written word as I am, check this shop out for yourself. It’s probably my favourite shop in London at the moment.

My purchases. Detail is everything. My shopping bag from Present & Correct comes complete with a record card a la 1950s library. And yes I continued to Angel and stopped off at the Hummingbird Bakery for my favourite pick, the black bottom cupcake.

Here is today’s haul. It consists of a Palomino Blackwing 602 graphite pencil, a “from the desk of” stamp and Lion ink pad and a vintage telegram. I’m going to save the telegram to write a letter to someone that I know will appreciate this as much as I would! Honestly, if I received a letter like this from a friend, it would be in a frame and up on the wall. I’m intending to do a review of the Blackwing soon.

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful London evening!

Oh and also, while I was loitering in Spa Fields, I read an interesting Guardian article which is essentially a dummy’s guide to building a city. I’ll probably write a response to this article in more depth but as an urbanist I think there are some good points here, but also some critical considerations missing. Disaster-proofing for example. Thoughts welcome.

 

 

Kaweco Sport

I’ve been coveting the Kaweco Sport fountain pen for some time. It seems to be a bit of a cult classic and given that this is a sub-£20 pen, I thought I would finally give it a try.

I chose a fine nib as I have italicised handwriting which is best suited to fine lines, and chose a mint green finish. There are a number of other, darker colours, but something about this pen made me choose something less solemn. The Kaweco Sport arrived in an unremarkable, simply branded black box. My first impression was: small! Altogether the pen comes in at just over 10cm long when capped and about 13cm with the cap on the end.

 

There’s no doubt about it that this pen is fun to use. It is eye-catching and unusual, the octagonal chubby lid is nostalgic and has an almost 70s era quality about it which is further emphasised by the plastic finish on the pen. This whole air of playfulness is topped off by its short stature. I couldn’t wait to get writing. I’ve given it a couple of days of break-in time, as the first times I used it I had quite a few gaps in the ink flow, which does seem to be improving with use.

 

 

The pen has two cute silver accents. Firstly, the logo which is very clean and elegant and secondly at the top of the cap.

Here’s a sample of writing for you to check out for yourself. I’d like to keep this pen in my arsenal for using informally, in my notebooks. Although the nib is fine (they also do an extra-fine), the pen would need to write slightly more smoothly to bring it into more formal territory for me. If you’re looking for a lifetime companion kind of fountain pen, I’m not sure this is it, but I would certainly recommend it as an investment if you’re looking for a fountain pen which is adaptable, reliable and something different from the norm.