Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Planner Review: Quo Vadis Sapa X

I have added a new planning tool to my arsenal this year - the pocket-sized Quo Vadis Sapa X planner.  After using DIY planners for many years, I felt that it was time for a change.  And - while I was planning to buy myself a new planner at the end of last year - I conveniently won this Sapa X from the Quo Vadis blog.  This is the first planner I've reviewed for this blog.

To start with, the Sapa X is a "pocket-sized" planner.  The refill measures 3½ by 5¼ inches; with the cover on, the planner as a whole measures approximately 3¾ by 5½ inches.  Compared to a standard Field Notes notebook, the Sapa X is the same height but slightly wider.  It's a small planner, but actually not as small as I was expecting it to be, and I was surprised by how roomy the pages felt.

My Sapa X came with the Quo Vadis Texas cover; it's a soft, flexible cover with a matte, "faux-suede" finish and a feel similar to that of Rhodia's Webnotebook.  My colour is bamboo green, which is a bright, happy shade of green, and the exact colour that I would have chosen if I had bought this planner for myself.  The Sapa X is also available with the Quo Vadis Club cover, and in various colours.  Both covers are refillable.

Removed from the cover, the planner is simply bound in white cardstock, making it easy to recycle or to file away once the year is over, and allowing you to re-use the cover for next year's planner.  Inside, the Sapa X is printed with grey and teal text - a colour scheme that I think is easy on the eyes and that looks particularly good with my green cover!  The paper is relatively lightweight at 64g (compare that with 90g for the Rhodia Webnotebook or 85g for the Quo Vadis Habana).  This means that you can see the ink and text showing through a bit from the previous page, but that doesn't bother me.  Apart from that, the paper is very smooth and lovely to write on with all kinds of pens.  Some of my inkiest pens (such as the 0.7 mm Pentel EnerGel and the Pilot Hi-tecpoint V5) did bleed through slightly, although you probably can't even tell in the photo below.  Because of the show-through and the chance of bleed-through, I'd suggest sticking to finer-tipped pens with this planner.

The Quo Vadis Sapa X has a weekly planner layout.  The squares for each day are unlined, which I like, as it offers maximum use of the small space.  An hourly schedule (from 8 AM to 7 PM) is printed along the right and left sides of each day.  I'm not sure how useful this schedule would be.  I think that the space in this planner is probably too small to allow you to plan your day hour-by-hour (unless your handwriting is very tiny), but it should be fine if you only have occasional appointments.

The left-hand side of the weekly layout contains the days Monday to Wednesday, a small notes section, and a tiny monthly calendar that highlights the current week.  The right-hand side contains the days Thursday to Sunday.  The space for Sunday is unfortunately smaller than that of the other days, and lacks the hourly schedule.  This could be an issue for some users, but I think that it will still be usable for me.

Apart from the weekly planning pages, the Sapa X also includes yearly calendars for 2016 and 2017 (at the front and back of the planner, respectively), the usual page for filling out your personal information, a short section for addresses (which I'll probably use as notes pages), and several world maps (which, because of the small size of this planner, are almost unreadable).  It also includes two unlined notes pages at the beginning of each month.  I like the idea of this feature, but in practice the placement of these pages can be awkward.  Sometimes they fall on two facing pages (which I like), but at other times they are on opposite sides of the same sheet, breaking up the weekly spread (as the photo below shows).

Overall, I feel happy with my Quo Vadis Sapa X.  While it does include some features that I don't need (address book), leave me puzzled (monthly notes pages), or just don't work with its small size (maps), the most important part of the planner - the weekly layout - does work for me, and the overall quality of the planner (paper, cover, etc.) is great.  If you need to do more extensive daily planning, I would suggest a larger size (and luckily, Quo Vadis makes many different styles of planners, so chances are they make one that will suit you).  But if your planning needs are simpler and you would prefer a smaller size, then I would certainly recommend the Sapa X.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November Miscellany: Notebooks, Fountain Pens, Journals

Once again it is the end of the month, and that means it's time for my monthly miscellany:
Finally, if you've been wondering how my NaBloPoMo challenge went, it did fall apart at the end of the month, but I'm happy that I'm writing blog posts again so it does not feel like I failed.  I also now know that writing a blog post everyday is not my style, and I have more respect for any bloggers who do manage to post daily.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recent Acquisitions: Nibs, Nibs, Nibs

A while back I hinted that I was going to share with you "more nibs than I thought I would ever own in my life."  Well, wait no longer, because that time has now arrived!

To start with, there are these nibs:

A full set of Speedball nibs, on their original card.  If you can't read the card, they include six nibs with square tips ("for Square Gothic and Block Letters"), six with round tips ("for Round Gothics or Uniform Lines"), six with oblong tips ("for Roman, Text and Shaded Italics"), and six with oval tips ("for Bold Roman, Texts, Italics, etc.").  I can't imagine actually using all of these nibs for their intended purposes, but it is clear that a previous owner did just that, as most of the nibs (and the card) are stained with ink.

Then, there are these nibs:

These are for a "mapping quill pen", something I had never heard of before.  They are made in England, and the nibs themselves are marked "crow quill".  Unlike the previous set, these do not appear to have been used much, as the card and the nibs are quite clean.

Finally, if all of those nibs weren't enough (and of course they weren't, were they?), there are all of these:

Most of these nibs are Speedballs; there were also a few marked "Sprotts No. 2" and one marked "Macleans Best-ever."  All of these nibs were loose in a glass jar (helpfully labelled "NIBS" on the lid), and all of the nibs and pens in this post came in a box along with an assorted collection of rulers, drafting supplies, pencils, charcoal pencils, stencils, ink bottles, erasers, sealing wax, and bookplates.  (If you're wondering how I ended up with all of this, it was donated to a local thrift store where my mother volunteers.  I sometimes help by putting together bundles of stationery, repairing jewellery, etc.  Most of the contents of the box has since been sorted out and gone back to the thrift store, hopefully to find new homes.)

I think it is unlikely that I will keep all of these nibs.  Most of them need cleaning and probably some adjustment before they can be used, which is not a task I feel like taking on.  There are a few too many here to keep simply for my collection, especially since they are not as easy to display as my vintage ink bottles.  I am not sure yet what I will do with them, but I do hope that one day they can belong to someone who will appreciate them and maybe even use them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Staedtler Pencil Sharpener

With my interest in wooden pencils growing, I decided that I needed a new pencil sharpener.  My old sharpener (see photo below) is very basic, and while it is actually a decent sharpener, it quickly becomes very uncomfortable and hard on my hands to use, and it does not include a receptacle to contain the shavings.  My new pencil sharpener is Staedtler's tub sharpener.  It's still a fairly basic sharpener, but with a few features that I like.

My Staedtler pencil sharpener has a single 8.2 mm hole, which will accommodate all standard-sized pencils.  Staedtler also makes a double-hole version of this sharpener, with 8.2 mm and 10.2 mm holes.  For now, I'm happy with the single hole as nearly all of my pencils are the standard size.  One thing I like about this sharpener is the lid that covers the sharpener hole when you're not using it.  This means that pencil shavings will not be able to spill out (good if you're carrying this sharpener in your bag).  And when you want to use the sharpener, the lid neatly folds back and snaps into place in a groove on the side of the tub, where it won't be in your way.  The other feature I like is the button that you have to press to open the sharpener.  This reduces the chance of the sharpener accidentally opening and spilling shavings everywhere.  The tub itself seems to be a good size.  I think you could do a lot of sharpening before you needed to empty it.

I tested my Staedtler pencil sharpener with several pencils - a Staedtler Norica, Tombow MONO drawing pencil, Dixon Ticonderoga, Rhodia pencil, and Earthzone Recycled Pencil, all in HB.  When I sharpen a pencil I like a point that is sharp, with a moderate sharpening angle; i.e., I don't want the point to be too long (which makes me nervous that I'll either break the lead or stab myself with it) or too short (which I think looks stubby and unattractive).  This pencil sharpener has (according to the Staedtler website) a sharpening angle of 23°, and it sharpened the first four pencils exactly the way I like them.  The fifth pencil, however, proved a bit more problematic.  The Earthzone Recycled Pencil is made of recycled newspaper, not wood (which was why I chose to include it in this test), and the sharpener simply would not sharpen this pencil to as sharp a point as it did the others.

Overall, I'm happy with my Staedtler tub pencil sharpener.  I do want to try more pencil sharpeners, but I think this one was a good choice to start with.  This sharpener may not be the most versatile sharpener for pencils made of non-traditional materials, but it will suit my needs for now.  It's comfortable to use, doesn't leave a mess of shavings on my desk, and will hopefully be only the beginning of my pencil sharpener explorations.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tips & Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

As I wrote at the beginning of the year, one of my goals for 2015 was to draw a mandala for every week of the year.  And while 2015 has not been the best year for me, I have been successful with drawing mandalas.  This has been the second year I've done a challenge like this (2014's challenge was collages), and I think it's a good way for me to get better at something and to develop my unique style.

Using some of the mandalas I've drawn this year, I've decided to compile this post of my tips and ideas for drawing mandalas.  Maybe I'll even help to inspire you to give it a try yourself.

Getting Started

All you need to draw a mandala is a piece of paper and something that can make a mark on that paper.  It can be a ballpoint pen, gel or felt-tip pen, pencil, marker, crayon, paintbrush, or anything else you can think of, as long as you feel comfortable using it.  If you like, you can add pens, pencils, or markers in different colours, but this is not essential.  As for the paper, you can again use anything that you feel comfortable with and that will work with the mark-making tool you've chosen.  (I've used index cards for my yearly challenge.)

To start drawing the mandala, I've found that it's easiest to start in the centre of the page and work outwards.  I usually start by drawing a small circle, star, triangle, or square in the centre and then creating a design that radiates outward from that central point.  But if you can think of a different way to start your mandalas, feel free to do that instead!

Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

Mandalas with four (top) and five (bottom) lines of symmetry.

Build a collection of shapes and symbols that you can use again and again.  If you look closely at the mandalas in this post, you will likely notice that I used the same few shapes in most of them.  These shapes include circles, semi-circles, dots, triangles, and petals.  This makes drawing mandalas easier because I can break every one down into the same few shapes that I'm already very comfortable with drawing.

Play with symmetries.  Most of my early mandalas had four or eight lines of symmetry.  I've found that these mandalas can look rather square and boring, and that mandalas with three or five lines of symmetry often look more interesting and dynamic (see examples above).  If you tend to always use the same symmetries, try drawing mandalas with different symmetries and see how they're different.  (Though keep in mind that since I draw freehand, none of my mandalas are going to be perfectly symmetrical.)

A large (and nearly monochromatic) mandala that spills off the page (top) compared with a small, compact mandala.  Both of these mandalas have smooth edges compared with the two spikier mandalas above.

Play with the overall shape of your mandala.  While most mandalas are round, they can be large and sprawling so that they fill the page or they can be small and compact.  They can have smooth edges, or they can be spiky with bits that radiate off to the edges of the page.  Try them all.

Try different mediums.  Try different pens - fine-tipped pens, broad-tipped pens, gel pens, metallic pens, felt-tip pens, brush pens.  Or try pencils, paints, pastels, or crayons.  I draw most of my mandalas with a variety of pens (including Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens, ultra-fine point Sharpie Markers, and Sakura Gelly Rolls), but sometimes I like to try something different.  (For example, here is a mandala that I created partly with watercolour pencils.)

A colourful rainbow mandala (top) and a black-and-white mandala with a bit yellow (bottom).

Play with colour.  My early mandalas usually did not contain much colour, but now they tend to be very colourful!  Try mandalas with a few colours, no colours, or a whole rainbow of colours.  Also, I usually draw my mandalas with a black pen and then add colour, but it can be interesting to start by drawing the mandalas with a coloured pen - it can give them a very different look.

Embrace imperfection.  If you make a mistake while drawing your mandala (such as by drawing a line where you did not intend it to be, or colouring in a part that you wanted to leave plain), simply repeat the mistake throughout the design.  The mistake then becomes a part of your mandala and no one will ever know the difference.  Also, don't worry about using compasses or straight-edges to create your mandalas.  You can use them if you want to, but I think the imperfection of mandalas drawn freehand is more interesting.  If your circles and lines are wobbly at the beginning, just persist, and over time, with practice, you will get better.

Most importantly, have fun!  I used the word play a lot in this post, and that was intentional.  Drawing mandalas should be fun, not stressful.  There are no rules, and your mandalas don't have to look like anyone else's mandalas.  Just relax, and have fun with them.
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