Halloween Cards

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I know card giving is not a Halloween tradition (hey kids, you don’t want candy that will rot your teeth, why don’t you take one of my homemade cards instead) but I recently joined the Edmonton Calligraphic Society and at the meeting they gave the attendees a big pile of paper. I love paper but I already have a substantial stash myself so I needed to use some of it before the next meeting or it will get unmanageable.

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There was quite a bit of graph paper to practice our letters with but there were also strips of orange card stock, heavy yellow paper, and some pages from an old British children’s book. I know the president of the society is a volunteer at the Edmonton ReUse Centre so I suspect some of the paper may have come from there. From what I can tell from the two book pages, the story revolves around the unlikely plot that a leopard is on the loose in their town, a situation I am sure many children could relate to. The children are named Susan and Terry and they live with their Auntie May, Major (a basset hound) and a terrier named Snip. Here is an excerpt:  

“I’ve just had some disturbing news from Constable Simkins,” she informed her niece and nephew. “It appears a leopard escaped from Red Walls early this morning and is still at large.”

This terrifying scenario made me think of Halloween, as did the strips of orange, so I got to work.

First, I made trimmed the book pages and singed the edges, both to make them spookier looking and because I love burning things. Next I practiced my dip pen writing skills and wrote Happy Halloween on the orange strips and roughened up the edges before gluing it to the front of the card on top of the book pages. The writing on the inside of the cards is also on orange strips of paper.

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I didn’t have any envelopes the correct size for the finished cards so I made some out of paper from an old used Grumbacher sketch book. I had forgotten just how good this paper is. I am going to have to go back to my Canson paper sample book and compare.

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It was fun to practice my calligraphy on a project instead of just working on my letterforms on graph paper. I am looking forward to seeing if we get interesting papers at every meeting of the Calligraphy Society.

If these cards were people, they would be more kooky than spooky. They would dress up to pass out treats to the kids but the treats would be homemade. Unfortunately most would just be thrown out, but the few children who dared eat them would get lovely homemade fudge.  

 

 

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Speedball Crow Quill Pen

For those who consider fountain pens new-fangled, there are dip pens. Dip pens have a nib with a small reservoir that must be dipped into ink before writing. They started pushing quill pens out of favor sometime in the early 1800s and they were continued to be used in schools right up into the 1950s and 60s. These days they are mainly used by calligraphers and comic book artists.

I have a few dip pens and the smallest one I have is the Speedball Crow Quill. I got this pen and ink set at a bookbinding workshop I took at the Provincial Archives of Alberta a couple of years ago. The name “crow quill” reflects the history of dip pens when they really were made of feathers. Only the five feathers on the wing tips could be used for pen making. Right-handers used feathers from the left wing and lefties used feathers from the right wing. Swan and goose feathers were usually used but for really fine lines, like the ones needed for mapping, crow feathers were best. Alas, feathers are not very durable so when metal manufacturing improved in the 19th century, pen nibs began to be made of steel. I like how crow quill pens have kept their name though.

The name Speedball, not to be confused with the illicit drug, also reflects some history. In the early part of the 19th century, speedball meant someone who was really fast (other slang originating from that time included dingbat and goof for a silly person and hoosegow for jail). The C. Howard Hunt Pen Company joined forces with an expert letterer, Ross George, to improve their dip pens and the result was nicknamed “Speedball” because it was said to cut working time in half. Alas, the C. Howard Hunt Pen Company is no more but the Speedball brand lives on.

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You get a very fine line with these pens but as the nib is split, when you press a bit harder you do get a slightly thicker line. Down strokes are definitely easily to write than up strokes. Writing with a crow quill pen has a scratchy feel and works better on smoother paper. I like the very black ink that came with it. As is suitable for something I got at the archives, it is acid-free and archival quality.

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 If crow quill pens were people they would come off being a bit abrasive and old-fashioned but once you got to know them you would see that they have an artistic side to them too.

Asian Stationery

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When my daughter came home to visit for the Thanksgiving weekend she brought a super cute collection of Asian stationery her friend Sarah gave me to discuss on the blog. I think I may have literally squealed with delight when I was told I could keep it. It is a mix of writing paper, envelopes, little notes, and page marker sticky flags. The paper quality of these items isn’t great, they are mostly a bit thin, but they have an extremely sweet esthetic. This sort of look is called kawaii in Japanese and originated there, but it is also common in other Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Thailand. There are a few theories as to why this style is so popular even among adults in Asia but most commentators explain it as harmless escapism. Adulthood is generally stressful there compared to the carefree innocence of childhood.

So just what was in the package? Here is a breakdown of the items:

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Little Friends stationery – This is a pad of pastel coloured, lined notepaper with every page being different. All of the pages have whimsical characters, none of which I recognize, and sayings like “To get the full valus of joy you must have someone to divide it with”. These saying don’t really make grammatical sense but you know what they mean. The back of the pad says it is made in Korea by i-Zone. When I looked up the company, it came up as manufacturing and selling automotive parts in South Korea so this is either a bizarre sideline or there is more than one i-Zone Company in Korea. 

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Animal Mints stationery notepaper and envelope – I believe this stationery set came from the Japanese variety store called Daiso. Daiso has over 3,000 stores worldwide but only one in Canada (in Richmond, BC). I was once given a postcard colouring book of vegetables from this store so not everything they sell is kawaii, some is just odd. 

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Hello Happy Macaron and Hope Clover stationery – I couldn’t track down where these sets of notepaper with matching vertical envelopes came from but they also have sweet illustrations with slightly weird sayings. 

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MashiMaro envelope – MashiMaro is a Korean rabbit character that goes against the standard manga trope with his small eyes and bad attitude. On this envelope he is not wearing a toilet plunger on his head as he is commonly portrayed.   

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Sumikko Gurashi notes – This is usually translated as Things in the Corner which sounds somewhat alarming to me but are supposed to evoke the coziness of a coffee shop. They are a strange mix of animal and food characters created by the San-X company of Japan.  

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Fold over animal notes – These cute little notes are designed so when folded over you get a different picture of the characters. They would have made perfect notes to put into lunchboxes but alas they have come into my life about 15 years too late for that.

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Other little treasures in the package include animal page marker sticky flags and notes. I especially like the penguin note with flowers and hearts. 

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Thailand Post padded mailing envelope – This wasn’t part of the package from Sarah but I thought I would include it because it is another example of this style. It is a standard envelope issued by the Communications Authority of Thailand and Thailand Post. It makes me wish Canada Post would try a bit harder.

Thanks again for the fun stationery, Sarah!

If this stationery were a person, they would be kind-hearted and nostalgic with a charming smile and big glasses.

Quo Vadis Habana Pocket Notebook

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During the summer, I won a Quo Vadis Habana Pocket notebook from Exaclair, the American distributer for some great French stationery supplies including some of my favourite papers like Rhodia, Clairefontaine, G. Lalo, and Quo Vadis.

A Quo Vadis blogger noted that this notebook had been mentioned a mystery novel, So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison. While product placement is common in movies, it seems it happens more and more in novels too. I listened to the audiobook of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes while travelling this summer and a Moleskin notebook showed up in it. I am not sure what I think of this trend. In one way it adds realism to the characters and setting, but it also seems like another way advertising is creeping into every area of our lives when we can’t even avoid brand names in books.

To get back to this particular notebook, it is a fairly small (4 x 6.38 inches or 10.16 x 16.21 cm), ruled notebook with a black “leather-like” cover, an elastic band closure, and a built-in ribbon bookmark. Although the notebook is made in the USA, the paper is French. I reviewed this creamy lined paper before in my blog post on Rhodia and Habana paper samples. The size of this notebook is not one I would normally choose for myself as it is a bit small for a journal but a bit fancy for just jotting down notes. It would fit well into a pocket or bag though and I like the expandable pocket in the back cover.

20171005_172038 At 162 grams it is lightweight too.

20171005_172250 Note the nicely rounded corners.

If this notebook were a person, it would be slim and elegant, taking note of others while revealing very little about themselves. You would always wonder, is this person just discreet or are they involved in espionage?

Zebra Z-Grip Ballpoint Retractable Pen

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I got an unusual request via my daughter. A woman she only referred to as a “friend” asked if I take requests of pens to review on the blog. Never having had a request before, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. Plus, as the Zebra Z-Grip only cost $.75 CDN, it was well within the MPP2P budget. I went ahead and purchased what the manufacturer calls the teal and violet colours.

The anonymous requester is left-handed and loves the Z-Grip because it doesn’t smudge. Lefties have many challenges in a right-handed world including, as the Handedness Research Institute has studied, handwriting. The Zebra Pen Corporation itself promotes its rapid dry ink as being a boon to lefties and claim on their website “this is something left-handed people have been dreaming of since 3000 BC when writing on papyrus scrolls and reed pens was fashionable. Progress takes time, but it’s worth it, thanks to the innovators at Zebra pen.” Their corporate blog even includes posts like “5 Fun Facts About Lefties”. I’m not left-handed myself but I like it when companies consider the needs of minority groups.

Although these pens are made in China, the company was founded in Japan in 1914 by a Mr. Ishikawa. He had big plans for his company and wanted a name that would work in the export market so he picked up a an English/Japanese dictionary and opened it from the back, Japanese style, and didn’t get too far before he stopped at Zebra. Their website says it appealed to him as a name because zebras are gentle animals with a strong family herding instinct, just like the type of business culture he wanted to nurture. He also found zebras visually appealing because it “looks like it is decorated with large calligraphic pen strokes”.

Now about these pens in particular – they are ballpoint pens but are a step up from stick pens in that these are retractable. This is nice if you have a habit of losing pen caps or find it relaxing to repetitively click on the end. They have a comfortable rubbery ridged grip and a clear barrel so you can see if the ink supply is getting low. Unfortunately there is no way to refill them so into the landfill they go unless you have access to a pen recycling program, but they do get points for coming without packaging. The tip of the pen has a diameter of 1.0 mm which is on the larger size (you can get pens that are half that). The larger the diameter of the tip, the more ink flows out so smaller tips give a finer line and larger tips a bolder line. The more ink flowing out also means larger tip pens get used up faster (I could already see a noticeable reduction in the ink level just from testing the pens) so an argument could be made it is more economical and eco-friendly to go with fine line pens. The ink is oil based which is why it resists smudging.

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Personally, I quite like the feel of these pens but I don’t consider them exceptional. The purple (violet) is a very nice colour but the turquoise (teal) is a bit dull and doesn’t write as smoothly. I was wondering if it was just me who was underwhelmed by the performance of these pens, so I asked a few other people (including two lefties) to try them out and give their impressions. Alas, no one was particularly impressed but I do think these pens are good value for the price.

If a Zebra pen was a person it would be a bold and colourful individual, accepting of all types. This person has nothing to hide and is easy to get hold of but keep in mind they are budget conscious so don’t plan an expensive outing.