Friday, July 30, 2010

Staples Better Binder

I had been looking for a good binder (i.e., one that didn't fall apart) for some time, so I was excited to see the Staples Better Binder, which claims to be Staples' "most durable binder."  Its durability is because the spine is reinforced with rubber, which should prevent the cracking and splitting that usually occurs in binders with use.  The edges of the covers also have rubber on them - I assume to give the binder a more balanced appearance.

The covers themselves are made of solid plastic (latex free, if that's a concern), rather than cardboard with a vinyl covering, which seems to be the most common type.  (The vinyl and cardboard covers are not ideal as the vinyl usually begins to peel away from the cardboard after use.)  The front and back inside covers both have clear plastic pockets on them to hold miscellaneous papers.

Inside, the metal rings appear fairly standard.  They are D-ring, mounted on the back cover rather than on the cover - overall the best option to avoid pages curling.  There is only one tab (on the bottom) to open the rings, while I prefer two, but it is made of a textured black plastic for an easier grip, which I do like.

Another unique feature of this binder is the spine label.  Most binders that I have seen have clear plastic pockets on the outside of the spine that you slide a label into.  The pockets often catch on things and the label may even fall out if you hold the binder upside down by accident.  However, in the Better Binder, the label is inserted on the inside (shown in the above photo), and you can read it on the outside through a clear plastic window.  The label, if of the right size, fits snugly and does not feel as though it would fall out.  One blank spine label is included with the binder.

Finally, the Better Binder has a clear plastic pocket on the outside front cover so that you can insert whatever cover you like.  This appears to be fairly standard.  The Better Binder is available in many colours, and in sizes up to 3 inches.

Overall, the Staples Better Binder looks like an excellent choice, especially for those who carry their binders around with them.  I can't wait to start using mine when I return to university in the fall.  However, since this binder is pricier than the typical binder, if your binders spend most of their lives sitting on a shelf, an ordinary binder may be all you need.

Related reviews: Work Play Love, The Planted Trees.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heinz Jordan Permanent Sketch Book

Heinz Jordan is a Canadian company that produces and imports a range of art supplies.  Around here, their Permanent Sketch Books are a common sight in stationery stores, art supply stores, and my university bookstore.

They are very basic sketch books, with black textured covers and plain white pages.  The sticker peeled easily off the cover, leaving no residue behind.  The paper has some tooth to it; the weight of the paper is not given, but it feels fairly heavy.  The paper is also acid free.  The sketch books are available in a variety of sizes, and in both portrait and landscape orientations.  Mine is the 5"x8" size.

The books are quite thick, which could be good (they last longer) or bad (you could get tired of it before it was finished).  They have a sewn binding and one of the best things about them is that they open very flat:

All pens that I have used in this sketch book work very well, with no bleedthrough or feathering.  Their website says that the paper is "ideal for pen, felt pen, ink, pencil, or charcoal" - though I'm not a big pencil user so I can't comment on that.

Sketches with the Sharpie Pen in the Permanent Sketchbook.

I have used watercolours - mainly watercolour pencils - in this sketchbook.  If only a light wash is applied the paper does not warp too badly.  That's why watercolour pencils are great: I can add all the colour I want and then just blend it together at the end with a light wash of water.

Watercolour pencil mandala in the Permanent Sketchbook.

Finally, another great thing about these sketch books (for me) is that they are made in Canada, are readily found in local stores, and are relatively inexpensive (I can't remember what I paid for this one, but it wasn't too much).  I am always glad to support Canadian companies and local businesses.

Overall, the Heinz Jordan Permanent Sketch Book is a good basic sketch book.  There may be other sketch books with more personality, but this one still gets the job done nicely.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Year of Pens, Pencils, Paper, and Notebooks

Unbelievably, A Penchant for Paper has now been around for one year!  I started this blog back on July 27, 2009, and have been posting (mostly) regularly to it ever since.  I have written reviews of many pens and a few notebooks, pondered complex philosophical questions related to paper and pens, and even shared pages from my journal with you.  I have really enjoyed this past year with this blog and am looking forward to future years.

What does the next year hold?  Probably more of the same, and hopefully more reviews of notebooks, pencils, and other products such as erasers, sharpeners, clips, inks, planners, rulers, etc. rather than just pens.  There may even be a GIVEAWAY in the future!

Today, I would like to share with you some of my favourite posts from the last year, one for each month.  Check them out if you want to see what I've been doing here for the last year, or simply if something catches your interest.

July 2009: Pentel Slicci 0.3mm: The first pen review here, and of one my favourite pens.

August 2009: Book Review: The Decorated Journal: This book was the first book on art journaling that I ever read, and it was a major inspiration for me when I first began keeping an art journal in December of 2008.  I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in keeping a journal of any kind.

September 2009: Pen in My Pocket: Staples Gel Mini: These are fun, very inexpensive little pens, ideal for kids.  I used them in my art journal because I didn't have to worry about destroying them by using them on the wrong kind of surface (I've done that to pens in the past).

October 2009: Uni-ball Fusion: I don't like these pens that much (even less so than when I wrote the review), but I like the review.  And there really wasn't much else that was interesting in October.

November 2009: Sakura Gelly Roll Stardust in Lime Star: In which the author becomes a bit ridiculous over a completely unpractical pen that writes in glittery lime green ink.

December 2009: What to do with a new notebook? The eternal question.  What to do when your steps have led you fatefully to the notebook shelf, and you have walked out of the store with your new precious notebook held tightly in your hands?

January 2010: Black and White: A short review of black and white Gelly Rolls that includes a really neat (in my opinion) black and white mandala.

February 2010: From the Other Journal: This was one of only two posts in February.  It gives you a look inside one of my journals, at some (not too terrible) pages and sketches.

March 2010: Rite in the Rain Notebook: This remains one of the most popular and most commented-upon posts on this blog, although I'm not sure why.  It was a fun review to write (it involved spraying paper with water!).

April 2010: My Journal: Telling the Story of My Life, Day by Day: I love my journal.  I really do.

May 2010: Pen or Pencil? Another important question that all writers need to answer for themselves.  When to use a pen and when to use a pencil?

June 2010: First Fountain Pen: Platinum Preppy: The first fountain-pen-related post here.  Does this post mark a new chapter in A Penchant for Paper or in my pen addiction?  I suppose we'll have to wait until another year passes to know the answer to that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From the Art Journal: Grid

These pages were simple and relaxing to make, from the measuring and cutting out of the squares of paper, to the careful positioning and gluing of them on the page.  The result is a sampler of my favourite colours: lots of browns and greens and deep oranges, all sorts of muted earth tones.  The inspiration for these pages came from iHanna's Grid of Pretty Papers, where she did a similar thing with squares of paper, although her colours are entirely different from mine.

I also urge you to check out iHanna's Travel Journal Flip Through Video.  Her journal seems wonderfully spontaneous and informal and far more interesting than mine.  You may also like to check out some of the latest art journal pages in an altered book that have been posted at Daisy Yellow, another inspiring blog: Messy Pink,, and

Finally, you can now contact me directly through email!  I have been meaning to do this for a while, for anyone who has questions that they want to ask me directly, or who wants to offer me office or art supplies to review (hint, hint).  You can email me at: heather[dot]papertrees[at]gmail[dot]com (replacing the [dot] and [at] with the appropriate symbols, of course).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Worst Five Pens

Although I own some pens that I love and that I reach for again and again, I own other pens that fall into the category of Pens I Never Want to Buy Again, and that I use only to use them up.  The below list does not include the worst pens that I have ever used, but rather my least favourite pens in my current rotation of pens.  These are only my personal opinions and you, of course, may have had entirely different experiences with these pens.

1. Uni-ball Fusion - pink

Not only is this pen pink (my least favourite colour), but also it is very prone to feathering or bleeding through on nearly all papers that I use.  Then there is the floral pattern on the barrel, which I didn't mind that much when I first reviewed it, but that I have now decided is definitely too girly for me.  There's just nothing about this pen that I like.

2. Mystery ballpoint

This pen was a gift that I received several years ago.  It looks very smart, with its sleek stainless steel body, but it is probably the most uncomfortable pen that I have ever written with and the quality of the ballpoint leaves much to be desired.  It is a "mystery" pen since it has no markings on it anywhere and I no longer have the original packaging; it came as part of a set with a mechanical pencil, which I actually broke the first time I used it.  (Don't ask me how; I have no idea.)

3. Sakura Permapaque Paint Marker - white

I know, this is actually a marker, not a pen, but it is so completely useless that it needs to be on this list.  I have enjoyed using the rest of my Sakura Permapaque Paint Markers, but this white one writes with an ink that could probably be best described as "invisible."  I have yet to discover any paper or surface that this marker will write on and do anything more than lighten the colour of the paper very slightly.  (I have recently discovered a new use for this marker, but that will be the subject of a future post.)

4. Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto

I thought I would love this pen, as I really enjoy the standard Hi-Tec-C, but I have been disappointed with it ever since I got it.  The ink cartridges run out very quickly and, especially as they have been running out, are very prone to air bubbles.  They also write erratically: some days they write well, other days they write only after some scribbling on scrap paper, and on a few occasions they have refused to write at all.  I know that Hi-Tec-C's are prone to this sort of thing, but the Coleto cartridges seem even worse than the standard pens.

5. Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.7mm - light green

The only reason this pen is on this list is because of the colour.  The light green (although nice) is just too light for me.  If you never want to read over what you have written, then you might not mind, but if you do, then this colour just doesn't stand out well enough on the page.  Other than that, this is an excellent pen: it writes smoothly and features a great clip.  One day I will try some of the other colours, and hopefully will have better experiences with them.

What about you?  What are the best and worst pens that you're currently using?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top Five Pens

I thought it was time for an update on the Top Five Pens list.  Keep in mind that these are only the top five pens that I am currently using, not necessarily my top five pens ever. This list reflects my own personal preferences and not necessarily the pens that I would recommend to someone else. This list is subject to change at any moment as I continually discover new pens.

1. Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm - green black
Although some people have had problems with the green black version of the Signo DX, I (so far) have not.  This is a great pen in nearly every way, but what really makes it number one is the colour: green black may very well be the ideal colour for me.  It has a certain edginess that black, blue black, and blue lack, yet it is still neutral enough that I do not get tired of using it every day.
2. Platinum Preppy 03 Fountain Pen - blue black
This is my first (and so far only) fountain pen, and so far I am loving it.  I am still thrilled with the idea of owning any fountain pen at all.  I can't wait until the day when I own a more "serious" fountain pen and am buying inks for it.
3. Pentel Slicci 0.3mm - blue black
This pen has slipped from number one on the previous list, but is still an excellent pen.  I own numerous colours of the Pentel Slicci, but the blue black is probably my favourite one for everyday use.  These fine point pens are excellent for jotting notes in the margin or for any situation where small writing is needed.
4. Pentel EnerGel Needle Tip 0.5mm - blue
I knew that this pen would end up on this list as soon as I tried it.  It writes smoothly, has a needle tip, the blue ink is a vibrant colour, and it doesn't feather and bleed as much as my other liquid ink pens do.
5. Sharpie Pen Grip - black
The Sharpie Pen has also slipped on the list, from number two to number five, mainly because I haven't been using it as much.  I still think it's a great pen, and I'm replacing the standard version with the Grip version on the list for now - although only time will tell if it will remain.
If you're interested, check out the previous edition of my top five pens, and stay tuned for the upcoming list of my five worst pens!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sharpie Pen Grip

The grip version of the Sharpie Pen offers the same great writing experience as that found in the original Sharpie Pen, and, due to its having a nice rubber grip, is much more comfortable to hold in the hand.  The design of the pen is sleek, slick, streamlined, and modern; this is the sort of pen that no one needs to be ashamed to be seen writing with.

Compared to the original Sharpie Pen, the Grip is a bit chunkier, with (of course) a black rubber grip.  This is one of the better grips that I have seen on a pen, as it is long enough that all parts of my hand gripping the pen actually come into contact with the grip (you may have heard me mention this before - short grips really annoy me).  The Sharpie Pen Grip is a bit shorter than the original Sharpie Pen, and, sadly, lacks the wonderful needle-tip of the original.

Sharpie Pen Grip (top) and Sharpie Pen (bottom) compared.

Anyone who has used a Sharpie Pen knows that they write very well, and this version is no exception.  It writes very smoothly, with minimal to no showthrough, bleedthrough, or feathering on most papers.  I meant to include a comparison of the ink colours in my written review but completely forgot: I will say that the original Sharpie Pen ink seems to have a truer black colour, but this may be due to the differing ages of the pens, or to variations in the manufacturing process, and is a very minor, almost unnoticeable detail.

The only real issue I have with the Sharpie Pen Grip is its fairly strong, unpleasant chemical odour.  I assume that this is coming from the rubber grip rather than from the ink as the original Sharpie Pen had no such odour.  This is the only thing that is preventing me from loving this pen completely.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Exploring Colour: Collages

Earlier this year, when I had some extra spare time, I made some colour-themed collages in Photoshop with some of my old photos.  Here is the "red" collage:

The collages were easy to make: All I did was search for the photos that I wanted to use in them, crop down the photos to include just the part that I wanted as well as make them all the same size and shape.  Then I copied and pasted the photos into a new Photoshop document and arranged them in a pleasing pattern to create the resulting collage.  I made ten collages in total, each one for a different colour.

About a year ago, I made a similar series of collages using scissors, glue, and paper in my art journal.  Here is the "blue" collage:

These sorts of collages, whether made of paper or pixels, are fun to make, whether you want to relax on a hot afternoon (the blue one would be especially good for that!), explore colour, or use up some extra paper collage materials.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mead Journal

This Mead Journal is a fairly acceptable, basic notebook.  The cover is covered with embroidered green cloth.  The sticker on the cover peeled off easily without leaving any residue behind.

The design of the cover may be too "girly" for some; I don't mind it too much, mainly because it is green (my favourite colour), but I would prefer a plainer and more gender-neutral design.  The endpapers are a complementary shade of green, with the Mead logo and relevant information printed on the bottom of the inside back cover:

The lines are about 6.5mm apart, which I think is a reasonable width.  They are black and do not run to the edge of the page, which I do not like - I prefer lines that are a paler, more unobtrusive colour and that run right to the edge of the page.

This design is found in the top lefthand corner of every page spread.  I would prefer that it wasn't there; in my opinion, it's just taking up space that could be better used for writing in.

The pages do not lie particularly flat, but I think that this may improve with use:

The Mead Journal contains a pale green ribbon bookmark; it had been folded into the pages which is why it has a crease in it.  It looks as though it will fray with time, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your preference.  The ribbon seems a bit too long, but that can be easily remedied with a pair of scissors.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how well do different pens write on the paper?  I tested 7 pens on the paper: a Sharpie Pen, Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip, Pentel Slicci, Uni-ball Jetstream, Pentel EnerGel, Pilot Hi-Tecpoint, and Platinum Preppy, as well as a pencil.  There was some slight feathering with the EnerGel, Hi-Tecpoint, and Preppy, but the pens otherwise wrote quite well.

From the back, although it may not be obvious in this photo, there was moderate bleedthrough with the Hi-Tecpoint, and slight to moderate bleedthrough with the EnerGel and the Preppy, as well as moderate showthrough with the Sharpie Pen and the Signo Gel Grip.

Conclusion: Although far from perfect, the Mead Journal can be an acceptable notebook if you are looking for something basic, are not fussy about the details, and are using primarily pens with "drier" inks.  I already know what I will be using this notebook for, and I will be sharing that with you in a future post.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: A Life in Hand

Hannah Hinchman's A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal is a beautiful, inspiring book for the beginning or advanced journal-keeper.  Hinchman's journals are those that contain both writing and drawings; she writes that in her journals, "drawing and writing began as distinctly separate activities, but that boundary has been breaking down over the years."

Throughout A Life in Hand, the emphasis is not merely on developing your writing and drawing skills, but on careful observation of the world around you.  When Hinchman offers simple prompts to start you on your journaling practice, the exercises both show how drawing and writing can complement each other, and encourage you to "observe and describe carefully."

For those of us who believe that we can't draw, Hinchman tells us that we can, and all we need is "persistence, and a willingness to set vanity and ego aside," as well as to set aside our preconceived notions around drawing.  She offers tips and exercises for those who are learning both to draw and to find their own voice and style in their writing.  Her instructions are very simple, nontechnical, and unintimidating.  I found the section on drawing more helpful than the section on writing, but perhaps that was simply because I am more comfortable with writing than with drawing.

I also enjoyed her chapter on materials for journaling, particularly this opening line: "I have come across only one close-to-perfect hardbound journal, and as far as I know it is no longer available."  She briefly discusses blank books, pens, pencils, and paints, encouraging personal experimentation in finding the tools that work best for you.

The book is illustrated throughout with Hinchman's own black-and-white sketches, of the type that look nearly effortless on the page but that no doubt represent years of drawing and sketching experience.  Her drawings show that you can draw anything - from trees to coats hanging on the wall to sleeping cats.  They also offer examples of how to integrate writing and drawing on a page.  The last fourteen pages of the book contain full-colour journal pages, which I probably could spend hours drooling over.

However valuable A Life in Hand is for practical journaling techniques, its greatest value is as a call for you to get away from the computer, take a pen and journal in your hand, and begin observing the life that is around you.  Your journal then becomes "an accumulation of moments of true wakefulness."  I would recommend A Life in Hand for anyone for keeps a journal or thinks that they would like to.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Marvy Le Pen Brown

This is the sort of pen that I think I would have really loved when I was twelve years old, but as it is now, I'm not terribly excited by it.  Don't be mistaken - the Marvy Le Pen is a very nice pen, but it is just not for me.

The pen writes very smoothly; it did not bleed through on any of the papers that I tried it on, although there was moderate showthrough on some of the thinner, poorer-quality papers.  The ink is a deep, rich brown, nearly black - almost too black.  I would have preferred a brown that was a bit, well, browner, but that is merely a personal preference.  The line was also a bit wider than I like, being about 0.7mm (I usually like my pens to be 0.5mm or less).  Again, your tastes may differ from mine.

The pen itself is very small and slim, which some people might not like.  I don't mind writing with small, slim pens, but there was a sharp edge right where my middle finger was gripping the pen.  Since you may hold your pens differently, you may not have this issue, but I found the Marvy Le Pen very uncomfortable to write with.

This pen reminds me a bit of the brown Staedtler Triplus Fineliner.  The Staedtler would be my preferred pen in most situations, as it has a finer line and browner brown ink, and my finger fits just below the sharp edge on the Staedtler as opposed to directly on top of it.

I haven't had many pen reviews up lately, partly because I've been holding off making any new purchases for a while (I'm waiting for the back-to-school sales in August).  I'm not going to be able to hold off much longer though, so I would like to know: Are there any pens (or other supplies) that you would like to see me review here, or any that you think I should review?

Finally, don't forget to check out the 12th Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper at Goldspot Pens.  Have a good day!

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, Good Pens, Pocket Blonde, A Place for Everything, Pens 'n' Paper, The Pen-Guin.

Friday, July 2, 2010

From the Art Journal: Simplicity

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.  In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.  Simplify, simplify.  Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion." --- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Lately, I have found myself turning away from multi-layered, complex journal pages, and turning instead to simple collages composed of squares of paper glued on a page with minimal pen work.  Clean lines and muted, earthy colours are what I find myself craving.  I have been re-reading Thoreau's Walden and these words of his were repeating in my mind as I worked on these pages.  This page spread is probably my favourite that I have done recently.  I have also been trying to simplify my notebook use.

Do you feel the need to simplify your life?  If so, how are you doing it?
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