Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update: Up and Running

Good news! Both Poppin and HitList have their web shops open and ready for business!

Ctf is selling the HitList notebooks in packs of five, but there's a limit of three packs per order. I've heard that that's because he has a limited number available from the first shipment. I've had my HitList for a while now, and I can tell you that it's held up well.

I'm loving Poppin's website, and they've linked to my blog on the press page! I feel so official. I adore their tape dispensers, but why, oh why don't they come in orange? The signature ballpoints that I reviewed do only come with black ink, but they haven't skipped on anything except the stone paper. Poppin's prices are reasonable, and kudos to the copywriters for their clever item descriptions.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Shops

Brick and mortar shops have one distinct advantage over internet shopping, and that's the chance to provide personal, reliable customer service on a face-to-face basis. Some retailers understand that and some don't. This rule was reinforced on my recent road trip in northern Colorado. It's beautiful there this time of year, with the mountains and the clear sky. I stopped at two pen shops, one in Fort Collins and the other in Denver, and had two very different experiences.

First, I was in Fort Collins, which is a great town with lots of good restaurants and interesting mom-and-pop shops. There I dropped by Sign with Prestige. I had to drive around a bit to find it, but it was worth the trouble. The people there were very welcoming and helpful. I told them that I was from out of town, but they still took the time to ask my name and answer the questions that I had. It's a small shop, but it has a range of products, and I found the notebooks droolworthy, not just Clairefontaine and Rhodia, but Field Notes and Whitelines. I'd never actually seen Whitelines in stock in a store in the middle of the country, but they had an entire display of them. They also carry Crane stationery and have a wide range of fountain pen inks. The people at Sign with Prestige have also made their own ink sample book, which they were happy to have me leaf through. I ended up buying some inks and Whitelines, which I'll be reviewing soon. The next time that I'm in the area, I'll definitely make the trip to Fort Collins. The Sign with Prestige staff is helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. They also mentioned that they're going to be adding an online shop in the future, so I'll be watching for it.

The next day I drove down to Denver and visited Meininger Art Supply downtown, which is a much larger store than Sign with Prestige, and its focus is on art supplies, but it has a large fine pens section at the front of the shop just behind the checkout counter. What a difference one day and fifty miles make! I was there on a weekday afternoon, and there were about five cars in the parking lot, so the shop wasn't busy, but I couldn't get any employees to acknowledge that I was even there, let alone help me. I must admit that Meininger has a good selection of pens, but I found that their ink and notebook selections were not as interesting or as varied as they were at Sign with Prestige. Most of the notebook shelf space was taken up by Moleskine; it looked like they carried most of the line. But for a shop with a large selection of fountain pens, they had very few really fountain-pen-friendly notebooks that I could find. I also found that the shop lacked some organization. The Noodlers inks were all mixed up, and it took a bit of digging to see what they had, which amounted to about a dozen colors, mostly black or other dark colors. This was true of most of their inks. They carried lots of brands but usually only a small portion of the range of colors from each brand. The notebooks also seemed to be scattered across the north end of the shop. I wanted to look at the pens, but all but the cheap pens were in locked cases. I was at the pen counter for a good ten to fifteen minutes, and there were two employees standing about ten feet away, but although they both saw and heard me, neither one of them came to help me, so I ended up leaving without buying anything. It's too bad because I had heard good things about Meininger's stock, but I couldn't find what I wanted, and the employees were too engaged in talking to each other to help customers.

Well, on the next trip to Colorado I'm going to skip downtown Denver and go straight to Fort Collins. My thanks to the good people at Sign with Prestige. I highly recommend stopping by if you happen to be in northern Colorado.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rock, Paper... Uh-oh

Sometimes I feel guilty about my paper addiction because of the quantity of dead tree bits I have laying around my house, so I'm always excited to find alternate paper sources. It saves trees, and some of these non-wood papers are just plain fun. Last month I was cruising the local clearance rack at Target, and I found these two notebooks.

Stone paper! Paper made from rocks! How very Fred Flintstone! Unfortunately, the label didn't say what kind of rocks they used for the paper or much about the process of making it. Seriously, how do we go from rock to paper? Inquiring paperphiles want to know.

The label does say that it's tree-free and acid-free and made without water or bleach. (I learned a new word today: apophatic, which means describing something by saying what it's not instead of what it is.) The label also says, though, that it's made by Gartner, but the back of the notebook says that it's Roobee by Mara-Mi. I couldn't find the notebooks or any information about stone paper on either the Gartner or the Mara-Mi websites.

The paper is really smooth and cool to the touch. It's also heavy. Each of these notebooks is 5 1/2" square with 80 sheets of paper and weighs 4 ounces. That's four fairly small notebooks to the pound, which is much heavier than traditional paper. The paper is white with 1 cm rule, which is really wide, and it has a 1' margin at the top of every page. One inch is a bit excessive for a notebook this small, as is the wide rule. The lines are a light blue that disappears in the scans. I do like the green and yellow covers, which are the only style I saw in the store.

The real test, of course, is when pen hits page. Let's have a look at the ink test:

I will say this: No feathering except with the PR Sherwood Green -- and even then minimal. No bleed-through (even from the Sharpie!!!) and little show-through. No problem writing on both sides of the paper. Dry time for the fountain pens is really slow, especially with the Noodler's ink. Funnily enough, the pen that had the most trouble was the ballpoint; every ballpoint I've tried has had trouble with this paper.

I didn't see these notebooks in any other sizes or formats, and this size isn't very useful. It's a little too big to fit into a pocket, and the cover isn't really durable enough for it to survive riding around in my bag. Of course, if they made a full-size journal out of this paper, it would be as heavy as a Buick and probably make a hole in the bottom of my bag. Since I wasn't able to find any information about the materials or process involved in making these, I'm also not convinced that these notebooks are more environment friendly than conventional ones.

Overall assessment: Good paper but not very practical for a wide range of notebooks and journals. I also wish that the ruling and margins were more in proportion with the size of the notebook.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pop... Pop.... Poppin

The orange box tipped me off that here was something new. The mail came just before Minipeanut got off the school bus, and as soon as he saw the box sitting on the porch, his second-grader eyes got wide, and he said, "Mine!" He just knew that anything that came in THAT box had to be really cool.

I'm glad to meet you, too, Poppin! And that's part of the point. Poppin's a new company that sells office supplies, but its website says that it wants to be to office supplies what Starbucks is to coffee. That means that the experience is important, and the graphic qualities of both the packaging and the product are what sets Poppin apart from the local big box office supply store. The people at Poppin want to make office supplies interesting and fashionable.

I saw a blog entry about the company over at Notebook Loves Pen, and it was just those graphic qualities that interested me, so I went to the website to check it out and ask for an invitation. Meredith, Poppin's Director of Press Happiness, sent me a goodie box. (Isn't that a great title? I want a title with the word happiness in it.) Inside the box I found pens...

purple ballpoints...

and an assortment of brightly colored highlighters. Pretty, pretty, pretty!

The simple, streamlined design puts the focus on the color, which is a great deal of the attraction. Poppin has a whole rainbow of color-coordinated supplies. The Poppin logo is stamped on each one but is understated so that it won't interfere with the visual attraction of the pen, unlike some other pens I could name. *cough* Platinum Preppy *cough* Poppin's attention to detail is impressive, and I hope that they can keep it up after their official launch. Their products are fun.

The ballpoints have black ink. I'm assuming that Poppin's target market consists of urban professionals, for whom black ink says serious and committed to the job, but pretty much everyone I've shown the pens expected them to have colored ink to match the pen. Poppin might carry versions with other colors of ink, but I don't know because I haven't gotten an invitation to the website yet, so I haven't seen the whole line of products.

The ballpoints write well without skipping, but they're black ink ballpoints, so again the special part is in the graphic quality of the pen design. If I had my choice between these and the Bic stick pens that come out of most supply closets, I'd definitely take the Poppin pens because they're more fun and do write better, but they won't replace my fountain pens. The highlighters' colors are nice and bright, and the yellow one didn't smudge the ballpoint ink, which is a problem I've had with that color in other brands of highlighters. The colors, except the blue, don't scan well, but highlighters are supposed to do that. They look bright on the paper.

My thanks to Meredith, the Director of Press Happiness. Fine print: I have no affiliation with Poppin or any of its employees. Oh, and the box? I did let Minipeanut have it, and it now proudly houses some of his favorite Lego minifigs. In funkypeanut world that's a huge honor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


A member of the Fountain Pen Network, ctf, has designed and produced his own notebook, the Hitlist, and I was one of the lucky FPNers to get a sample of it. Ctf will be selling the Hitlist through FPN. It's made with fountain pens in mind to minimize feathering and bleed through, and I love it.

As you can see in the pic, it's small, not much larger than a 3x5 index card. It's actually 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 with 32 pages (16 sheets). The paper is thick and smooth, so it feels great to the touch. The Hitlist also has white paper so that it won't affect the color of inks. I had no problems at all with feathering, bleed through or show through, and writing on the paper was about as smooth an experience as writing on Clairefontaine paper, but the dry time was slightly faster in the Hitlist, although that's not saying much. I wouldn't want to use a really wet writer in this notebook.

It also has a notch in the front cover to hold a pen in place when it's clipped to the notebook. It's really designed for carrying around in a pocket, but for people like me who put notebooks in bags rather than pockets, the notch wouldn't be much use because the pen would just get caught on everything in the bag. Still, it shows that ctf was thinking about how people use pens and how to make the Hitlist useful and convenient.

One feature that I find useful and clever is the label strip along the front of the spine. Someone who used these frequently could set them spine upwards in an index box and find the right notebook pretty quickly. I know that I'm always digging through old notebooks trying to find x or y that I know I wrote down but can't remember where.

Oh, and the logo is cute, and the idea of carrying around my own personal hitlist amuses me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Liking the Orange

Orange has been my go-to color recently. I've fallen in love with Rhodia notebooks, orange ink, and even this great orange pen case I've been carrying around. The bright orange makes it easier to find in the bottom of my bag, and it cheers me up.

A pen-and-ink doodle I drew with Private Reserve Burnt Orange while on hold with the phone company. (Isn't it somewhat odd that the phone company can't manage to answer its phone?)

It's not much of a drawing, but I love this ink.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Paper Addiction

My name is Funkypeanut, and I am a paper addict.  Last November I came across the Fountain Pen Network and joined because I've always loved FPs, but in the discussions I realized that I didn't have much to say about them.  Most of my posts are in the paper fora, and that experience has made me face the fact of my paper addiction.

I blame my mother -- and not just because Freud told me to. When I was little, there was a small chain of paper good/office supply stores in our city, and my mother used to take my brother and me there for a treat when we were out shopping.  They had boxes and boxes of all sorts of fancy paper and row upon row of notebooks, pens, pencils...  Well, you get the idea.  In early August (school shopping time!), my mother would take us to the big flagship store at the other end of town to get our supplies, and I always had the coolest of anybody in school.  I remember notebooks with fuzzy covers, textured covers that I could do pencil rubbings on, colored paper, scented paper, the sorts of things that my own child's school now won't allow anywhere near the premises.

And I used the paper, reams and reams of it!  I began writing stories at the age of five and filled entire notebooks.  Then when I was about ten, I got an old used manual typewriter and banged on it until everyone in the house wanted to take a sledgehammer to it.  I remember that our cat was fascinated with it and would try to catch the keys as they struck the paper.  He walked around with little black letters on his white forepaws.  The computers came along in high school, but writing on one wasn't nearly as satisfying as putting ink on paper.

I still write profusely, pages and pages a day.  I grew up to be a dotty academic, so these days most of what I write consists of notes for my research or articles and chapters explaining it all, although I still occasionally dabble in fiction or creative nonfiction.  And of course I keep a journal -- three, in fact, one daily journal, one sketch journal and one inspiration journal.  I spill ink like Genghis Khan spilt blood, often and in large quantities but with purpose.

Here are some of my notebooks:

I'll probably be writing about some of these in the coming weeks. And, yes, I know that there are a couple of things in there that aren't really notebooks. This is just the crop of paper products that are currently in use, minus a Moleskine planner and two black Picadilly notebooks that I didn't add to the pile.