Ponderings

2018: My Favourite Tools.

I’ve reviewed my 2018 planners and explained what I have lined up for 2019 in my recent posts and this got me thinking about all the tools I have used this year. 2018 feels like a year of consolidation. I’ve acquired less stationery and tried to focus on using what I have stored in my drawers and cupboards. Today’s post is reflective and about sharing my year in stationery.

My paper use.

I use a lot of paper and I always feel like I have too much paper on the go. I enjoy trying out new notebooks and paper stock but I also like what I like.

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Baron Fig notebooks have become a staple in 2018. I use one Baron Fig Confidant as a journal, at the moment this happens to be the big Fig, or the Baron Fig Plus (small side note, I really wish Baron Fig had called this the big Fig). I also use one of the Confidants or the Vanguards for work because the paper works so well with pencils, ballpoint or rollerballs as well as fountain pens. I like that I don't have to consider my writing tools at work.

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I thoroughly enjoy using the Travelers Company notebooks. Their paper is high quality and is perfect for pairing with fountain pens. I enjoy the cream paper, which is not to everyone's taste.

That is supposed to look like an ‘18’.

That is supposed to look like an ‘18’.

I have used a lot of Field Notes notebooks this year but this is because I have a lot to get through and not because I am a super fan. My love of Field Notes has waned over recent years. I buy what I like, the Coastal edition was a favourite of mine this year, but I am no longer concerned with acquiring any notebook that they release.

Finally my exploration into sketchbooks has expanded my experience with paper. Finding what I like to sketch on, what paper works best with watercolour and coloured pencils has all been part of the journey. Currently I am using a pocket Baron Fig Confidant as I am mainly sketching with pencil and black pen and I was interested to see how I fared with a small sketchbook. I think as I go into 2019 I will only increase my knowledge in my sketching materials and really find what works well for me.

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2018, the year of pencils?

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My pencil use has increased a lot in recent months. I use these mostly with my pocket notebooks for daily note taking but there is also sketching use in there too. I tend to use one pencil for a while and then rotate when I fancy a change. Lately I have been really enjoying the Tombow Mono 100 2B. The softer graphite is not usually a pencil I am drawn to but this pencil is so smooth to write with.

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I have loved using the Blackwing 54 in part because of the colour choices with this pencil and the hard graphite that makes it a great note taking pencil.

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The Craft Design Technology pencil has been another favourite. The mint coloured barrel is just beautiful. And finally the Staedtler Mars Lumograph in H, I love this pencil for its simplicity and its ability to hold a point. It’s an old reliable.

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Fountain Pens and Ink.

This is one category where I’m happy with what I’m using. Unusually, I don't feel a pull to acquire more pens or inks and find joy in using the pens I have.

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The Lamy LX with Sailor Blue Black is my go to fountain pen. I have been using this combination for most of the year, it just works.

The Pelikan M400 and Sailor Wagu-Uguisu is a great match. The gold nib, and the softness when writing means I get a good view of the green Sailor ink and can appreciate the shading. It’s so much fun writing with this pen and I usually admire my scrawl once complete.

Finally the Kaweco ART Sport inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho. I love this combination as the colours work so well together.

Drawing Pens.

The final category that I felt was worth a mention was drawing pens. In my effort to learn how to draw, drawing pens have been vital tool that I now use more than I ever have. They are so versatile and useful to have as part of any stationery nerds toolkit, but for drawing they are a dream. I have used fine tip drawing pens and brush pens to experiment. The Tombow brush pen has been a personal favourite and the Faber-Castell PITT Artist pen continues to be my preferred sketching pen. Recently I have tried a Pentel marker and the Pilot Finerliner to experiment with line width.

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Overall thoughts.

My tools of choice have changed a bit this year which is down to a shift in the way I use my analogue tools. I used to be fully immersed in fountain pens and ink and couldn't get enough, but now I happily use other tools alongside my fountain pens. They all have a certain purpose. I’ve been most surprised by how much I have used pencils and that’s in part as I am sketching more now, but also because they’re so easy to use with a pocket notebook. It makes my daily carry easy.

2018 has been less about acquiring new things, although I have done a bit of that, but more about finding what I like and using it more and more. In 2019 I want to continue this and really hone down the tools I enjoy using.

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who reads, shares, likes and comments on my posts. I really enjoy sharing my thoughts on stationery and hope you enjoy the content. I'm looking forward to sharing even more in 2019!

Using my Hobonichi Techo as a Wellness Tracker.

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It appears I have gotten a point (age) in my life where I need to be more mindful of my health, be more aware of the things I am doing to my body and to take better care of myself. There have been some ongoing ailments I have been dealing with since my son was born. They are relatively small but, now 2 years later, they feel like they’re hanging over me. In part I was not doing enough to get rid of these things, and on top of it there were new challenges that I had to cope with. This reached a boiling point in May when a ridiculous bout of eczema and psoriasis cropped up out of the blue and left me feeling quite down.

So in order to try and make sense of things and understand what was going on I needed data. I turned to my stationery as a way of tracking what was happening. After enthusiastically buying the Hobonichi Techo Cousin in January and, for the first time in a few years, not actually using it, I decided to dig this out and use this as my wellness tracker.

The Hobonichi Techo Cousin was the ideal choice; predated pages, a good size page to record everything and then for an added perk I could use my fountain pens on the sweet sweet tomoe river paper.

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Priority One: Tracking my food.

The first thing I needed to track was my food and drink intake. There are various suggestions that dairy, caffeine and various other things can irritate skin conditions. Therefore I wanted to see if I could find any patterns and truth to this.

Each page of the Hobonichi Techo comes with a 24 hour clock on the left hand side of the page and I have been using this to track what I am consuming and when. This has been fairly simple and just requires a little honesty even on those indulgent days.

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I would also note down my water intake. I am usually pretty bad at drinking enough water, but since tracking this I have noticed a huge improvement. The heatwave we’ve been experiencing may also have played its part here.

Priority Two: Tracking my ailments.

The second thing I needed to keep track of was what was causing me problems/grief/irritation and when. Too often when trying to relay things to doctors or physios I couldn’t quite pin down how long something had been a problem, or when it had started, or the level of discomfort, and where it was occurring.

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Underneath the time bar there is enough room for these notes each day. In here I have been adding in other things during the day that are relevant. For example I am taking a few liquid supplements at the moment, both of which are included in here if I have taken them. One of them is particularly disgusting and so I am not the best at having this everyday but knowing when I have taken it makes me more self conscious of making sure I do.

I also write down if my eczema was particularly irritating and where I was suffering. I would record if and what medication I was taking to alleviate the irritation. I don’t like to rely on medication for my eczema so it’s useful to know what I use and when.

I also have a flat foot from a longstanding childhood condition. Since gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy and all the crazy hormones that come during pregnancy this condition has gotten a lot worse and now requires regular consultations with doctors and physio appointments. In order to get the most from this I have also been using the daily pages in the Hobonichi to note down issues with my foot, any days where I am struggling, any pain I feel. I also track my physio exercises here and when I am increasing the exercises. I hope that by tracking this information, during consultations I am far more aware of how my foot has been during a given period and what exercises help, or in some cases don’t.

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I track my exercise, how long I exercised for and what type of exercise I’ve done. Part of getting back to myself was re-adding exercise back into my life. But there was another reason to track my exercise, I could see if a particular exercise what irritating my foot too.

The last thing I track here is my meditation. I have been using Headspace to try and learn how to manage my thoughts and anxiety, to try and carve out a bit of quite space within my day and generally to be more mindful. In order to ensure I am doing this everyday and taking the time writing it down in my Hobonichi focuses my attention.

Overall Thoughts.

This is all really very simple stuff, I’ve not invented anything particularly special, it’s just something that takes time. I have my Hobonichi by my desk so its easy to note these things down through the day as I need to.

The idea of the wellness tracker is just that, to try and make sure in my Year of Me, I am doing everything I can to be a healthier person and take care of my body rather than being passive through this process and losing more time. There are other things I want to include within this such as my mood for the day, my stress levels and what may be triggering this and my control over them. Given some more time working with this system I will be looking through the information I have gathered and see if there are any patterns. While taking the effort to note these things down I also have to do something with the information in order to really utilise it.

This post has been a little different, with a loose link, to my stationery habits but I wanted to share how my simple stationery tools have helped to focus my mind. There are plenty of digital tools I could have used for this but they have the potential to complicate and distract. Pen and paper means I get down everything I want, quickly, without fuss in the way I need it. And the act of writing this down has forced my brain to acknowledge what’s happening in my body and perhaps is helping in the healing process.

This could prove to be one of my most valued and treasured notebooks.

Thoughts on the WHSmith and Cult Pens Merger.

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This isn’t my normal sort of post here on The Finer Point. I normally focus on reviews, posts on how I use my stationery and load outs. But I felt I needed to write this editorial piece to share my thoughts on the merger of WHSmith and Cult Pens.

WHSmith is a British high street staple. Most British stationery addicts have a story of buying their back to school stationery from Smiths, deliberating for hours on end on the right pencil case, what pencils they needed, what the right eraser would be. I am no different. I used to love Smiths, spending a lot of my pocket money there and being excited when I saw something new. But Smiths is nothing but nostalgic. Now a trip to Smiths is rare and chaotic. Shelves are stacked high with clutter, navigation is hard work, staff are unhelpful and on each occasion my clarity is left at the door. The stationery section is uninspiring with the standard brands and products that they have always offered. There is nothing new and nothing that opens up the stationery world the consumer.

I had assumed that Smiths were living on their history, still part of the high street but not active. The British public don’t like Smiths and haven’t done for eight years. The acquisition of Cult Pens is a declaration of their commitment to the stationery portion of their business but I am struggling to make sense of this move. I haven’t seen any indication of Smiths commitment to stationery in any way, either in store or online. I haven’t seen them branch out into new areas, offer new product lines that have a proven success. I haven’t found any reason in my three years of running this blog to visit Smiths for a single stationery item. I can therefore assume from my personal experience and active interest in this hobby and community that Smiths haven’t done any of this.

It’s because of this that I am surprised by the Smiths acquisition of Cult Pens. Smiths have done very well out of this, they have acquired the biggest British online stationery retailer. They’ve acquired skills and expertise that they don’t seem to own themselves. But this could all be to the detriment to the consumer, the enthusiast and potentially Cult Pens. We could see them swallowed into the corporate machine and hampered by politics and processes. I have worked in several large corporate companies where ideas are impossible to achieve because the system doesn’t support or allow it. And I don’t seem to be the only person with these concerns, Twitter responses seem to mirror my own, there is a full on Reddit thread and a FP Geeks thread most of which highlight concern.

I hope Cult Pens aren’t stymied by this merger, I hope they are left alone to continue their business in the same vein. I hope that how they work, their helpful and friendly staff, their knowledge of the market, their product offering, I hope that this rubs off on Smiths and the high street brand benefits from this and the consumer notices a change. This seems like a best case scenario which the cynic in me doesn’t think is achievable.

All of this depends on the company’s structure, the position of the Cult Pens staff within Smiths’ organisation. It’s not easy to change an old company, get the buy-in from their existing staff at a corporate level and in-stores. All of this will be a long, slow process full of resistance.

It’s no surprise by my tone and questions throughout this post that I am concerned. I am a fan of Cult Pens and I like that there is a UK company that offers such a broad range of products. I have had nothing but positive experiences with Cult Pens. I think the lure of WHSmiths brand, of marketing support and the promise of growth may have accelerated this acquisition. I am sure there are ideas and plans to grow both businesses, I just hope Cult Pens isn’t absorbed and lost in the corporate world at Smiths and that we lose a well loved small business.

My 2017 Stationery Resolutions Reviewed

At the beginning of this year I decided to make some stationery related resolutions. I am never normally a fan of new years resolutions because I always break them, and I don’t think a new year is the only time to make resolutions. But I did assume stationery resolutions would be easier to keep. So in today’s post, the final day of 2017, I will look at how I fared under each one.

Resolution 1: Learn Brush Lettering.

This one I think I have done pretty well. The goal here was simply to try brush lettering, find and improve on my style and do it as much as I possibly could. During this venture I have tested out several different tools some of which I reviewed in this post. I think my preferred brush pen at the moment is the Tombow Fudenosuke pens, both the firm and soft tips. These pens are really nice to handle and give some great line variation. I am in no way a master brush letterer but I think I can tick this resolution off as achieved.

Resolution: Achieved.

Practicing brush lettering styles for a New Baby card.

Practicing brush lettering styles for a New Baby card.

Resolution 2: Sketch.

This is an easy fail. I have intermittently drawn throughout the year, I have watched thousands of urban sketchers on YouTube but I have never found a way to be consistent with my own sketching and I am disappointed with not meeting this resolution. I have tested and bought a number of tools to help me to sketch but I’ve been very bad at the doing part. Going into 2018 I really want to make this a habit, sketching daily and borrowing from master urban sketcher Liz Steel sketching an everyday item each and every day. I just have to settle on the right object.

Resolution: Fail.

A sketch from August, which has numerous flaws, the biggest being poor watercolour technique. 

A sketch from August, which has numerous flaws, the biggest being poor watercolour technique. 

Resolution 3: Consume more.

I have made a conscious effort to consume more of the items I have. I have fought the urge to buy the new limited edition items, mainly pocket notebooks, working my way through the stash I have on hand.

The majority of this years used pocket notebooks in a very hand gift box  

The majority of this years used pocket notebooks in a very hand gift box  

Looking at other stationery items I have been rotating pens and using more pencils. For my [first NaNoWriMo challenge][0] this year I wrote everything out by hand to consume some of the notebooks and ink I had.

As always I think I could have done more to consume the stationery I have, but I am an addict and I always end up being lured in by something pretty.

Resolution: Partial achievement.

Resolution 4: Use a bottle of fountain pen ink.

This was almost a joke resolution and does sit within the resolution to consume more. I took the idea from Brad on [The Pen Addict podcast][1]. I have failed miserably at this task during the year but as I have been consuming more in general I have noticed my ink levels in various bottles has gone down. Full bottles are almost half empty. I haven’t changed inks in my fountain pens as regularly but rather refilled and refilled time and time again.

Resolution: Partial achievement.

Ink levels are going down

Ink levels are going down

What does 2018 hold?

Probably much of the same. I want to continue consuming more of the stationery I own. This has been a good 2017 resolution. Most of the stationery I bought because its something I like and therefore it makes sense to use more of it. Maybe this year I’ll actually finish off one of these ink bottles, or maybe that is just one of those resolutions that can never be achieved.

2018 will be the year that I actually start sketching. For this to be achievable I have to make this a daily habit, not a pipe dream that I am scared of attempting. Fear shouldn’t stop me from sketching.

Does anyone else have any resolutions for 2018? Will these be set in stone? Will you be committing to them?

This year I am going simpler, below are my 2018 resolutions written with a Baron Fig School Set Archer pencil in an Ambition edition Field Notes.

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