Greys Paper

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Last week on an outing to the Edmonton ReUse Centre, my sister and I came across a big stash of note pads and envelopes from Greys Paper Recycling. Greys was a local recycling company that unfortunately went bankrupt last year. Their products were made from used office paper and textiles without chemicals and with less water than traditional paper mills. The company got its name from the look of the paper.

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While there were no doubt a myriad of reasons why the company went under, a big part of the problem was that they just weren’t able to get enough consumers to buy paper that was not satiny smooth and white. This is really unfortunate.

In order to get recycled paper that looks the same as paper made from pulp from trees, it has to be chemically bleached and often is not made wholly of recycled materials but instead is a mix of virgin pulp, pre-consumer (leftovers from the lumber industry), and post-consumer (stuff from our recycling bins) materials. The more post-consumer content in recycled paper, the better for trees and the less waste in landfills. So Greys Paper, with its 100 percent recycled content, was a real winner environmentally.

Wouldn’t it be great if consumers could get over their expectation that all paper should be snowy white? Earlier in the week I was at a lecture by Japanese artist Akira Kurosaki who favors coarse, handmade Korean paper for the uniqueness it brings to his printmaking. I actually first came across Greys paper at a Edmonton Calligraphic Society mark-marking workshop at the Paint Spot with Carrie Imai a few years ago. It worked great with the watercolours we were experimenting with.

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So how does it fare with pens? I was amazed that there was no bleed through, even with the Sharpie! I will enjoy my stockpile of Greys Paper and hope that another company can take over their facility to resume making this recycled paper.

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As it was my sister who had the sharp eye to spot this paper at the ReUse Centre, I asked her to help me describe the Greys Paper person. With the Greys name in mind, this is an older person who is frugal and careful with their waste as a way of life, not as a higher ideal but rather the way they were brought up when patchwork quilts were made of bits of cloth cut from worn out clothing and when insulation consisted of old newspapers.

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InkJoy Ballpoint Pens

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On the opposite end of the scale from fine fountain pens are the Papermate InkJoy stick ballpoint pens I bought a few years ago when Target was still in Canada. While there are fancier versions of these pens that are retractable and have grips, the whole pack of these ones were on sale for only a dollar. One of the nice things about inexpensive pens is that you don’t care if the cat knocks one off your desk and takes it to his secret hidey-hole.

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Cheap pens come with low expectations. As far as performance goes, as with many ballpoint pens, the ink does not always start flowing immediately but once they get going I do like their vibrant colours. They come in black, orange, red, magenta, purple, blue, turquoise, green, brown, and lime green. My favourites are the turquoise and purple. The black one is missing but as I recall the ink colour was unimpressive, more of a dark gray than a true black. You could find nicer black or red pens but the novelty colours are great.

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I haven’t had any serious problems with smudging, blobbing or leaking. I also like that there is no bleed through to the other side of the paper, even on relatively thin, inexpensive paper. In fact, these are the pens I use for my daily journal because the one I am using right now does not have great paper so fountain pen ink leaks through to the reverse side. Plus I like adding colour to the page. These colourful pens have a great fun for price paid ratio.

As for how they rate environmentally, they are lightweight and came together in a plastic bag so I give them enviro points for less packaging, although that is cancelled out by their disposability.

If these pens were people they would be a group of giggly ten year olds who love to pass notes containing copious exclamation marks.

UPDATE:  A reader pointed out to me that no pen needs to be disposable in Canada as there is a pen recycling program https://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/brigades/writing-instrument-retail-based-brigade. While that is better than ending up in a landfill, I still think it is preferable to buy products you can reuse like fountain pens.

 

Papyrus

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As the word ‘paper’ comes from the word papyrus, I was thinking of calling this week’s blog Margret Puts Pen to Papyrus. Although papyrus is associated with ancient Egypt, it is still made today (mainly as a tourist item) and my work buddy Neil got a hold of some for me to test. This sample also came with a handy guide to hieroglyphics.

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First of all, I noticed how stiff and thick it is. You can clearly see how the fibres have been layered in such a way that it almost looks woven. Because the texture is quite coarse, I was surprised at how easily I could write on it. The fountain pen, sharpie and brush pen all went on smoothly with no feathering and did not bleed through to the other side. It also folds sharply without breaking. No wonder it is so durable that samples of papyrus thousands of years old still exist today.

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When I was in grade six our class studied ancient Egypt and we were each randomly assigned a different topic to write a report on and then illustrate on a large class mural. My topic was papyrus, both the plant and the paper made from it. I recall sketching in many clumps of papyrus along the banks of the Nile River, a much easier assignment than the Temple of Karnak.

As my memory on my grade six research is a little fuzzy, I did an online search of papyrus and found lots of information about the plant and paper, as well as other things called papyrus. For example, there is a font called Papyrus which surprisingly has several hate blogs. Sure, it’s not a font you want to use everyday but it’s no comic sans. There is also a comic book called Papyrus which spawned an animated series and Game Boy video game. In his graphic memoir, Shenzhen, French Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle shared his experience working on this series while living in China. It’s not his best book (I really liked Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City) but if you keep a special journal where you list all the books you’ve read in a year like I do, you find graphic memoirs are a great way of upping your book count.   

Fun fact from Wikipedia: Papyrus can also refer to a document written on sheets of papyrus joined together side by side and rolled up into a scroll, an early form of a book. The plural for such documents is papyri.

Although it seems too obvious, but if this sheet of papyrus was a person, it would be an Egyptian with olive skin, shiny black hair, eyes lined with kohl, a sly smile and great dance moves.

 

Fountain Pen purchased in Mexico

My faithful readers (yup, both of them) may have noticed that last week I didn’t end with a “coming next week” teaser. That was because I hoped I would be inspired during my trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for this week’s topic and I was not disappointed.

One day as we were wandering the streets of Oaxaca I noticed some pens in a shop window. I went into El Aguila Librería y Papelería (The Eagle Bookstore and Stationery), an old-fashioned stationery store with everything behind wood and glass cabinets. Through broken Spanish and charades, I was able to communicate that I was interested in a fountain pen that I could refill myself without a cartridge (cartucho). They showed me a lovely pen that only cost 200 pesos ($13.70 Canadian dollars in today’s exchange rate) that fills with a syringe action. The shop assistant filled it with some blue Parker ink so that I could try it out. Parker still seems to be a big name in Mexico because they made a big deal about showing me a Parker pen too.

There is no brand name on this pen but the nib says 18KGP which indicates that it is 18K gold plated, although it doesn’t really have a gold colour. The other letters on the nib may be BAXR but I can’t find anything on the internet about it so it is a bit of a mystery where this pen was made. The ball on the end of the nib makes it much smoother to write with than my flex nib Noodler’s pen. The slim design has a nice balanced feel for my hand. I probably would have chosen a different colour but it only came in black. My one other complaint is that the cap is very stiff to pull off.

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This post almost didn’t happen because my luggage was held up in Calgary but fortunately did finally arrive yesterday with the contents, including my pen, safe and sound.

If this pen were a person it would be an mysterious Spanish woman with perfectly coiffed hair who can wear high heels on cobble stone streets without wobbling a bit.

UPDATE:  I have continued to try to figure out the brand of my fountain pen and think I have discovered the answer. It seems to be a Baoer, a Chinese brand of fountain pens. There isn’t much information about the company except that the pens are inexpensive and work well.