Hahnemühle YouTangle.art Tiles

I won a nifty little box of Hahnemühle YouTangle.art tiles back in September through D. Katie Powell Art blog along with some other items I will be discussing in the future. The tiles are squares of cardstock meant to be used for Zentangling, a very popular method of drawing patterns designed to induce relaxation. As Zentangle is a registered trademark, companies who develop products to be used for it but who are not associated with Zentangle Inc. come up with similar names, hence the YouTangle.art name Hahnemühle is using. Hahnemühle is an old German paper manufacturer that dates back to 1584 but as this product shows, it is trying to keep up with modern trends.

The tiles come in a hinged tin embossed with the Hahnemühle rooster logo in the corner. The tin makes the tiles very portable as all you have to do is bring along a pen and pencil to tangle to your heart’s content. The tin could also be used for storing completed works.

The tiles themselves are 9 x 9 cm with rounded corners. Both sides are the same smooth bright white so could be drawn on both sides as there is no ink bleed-through. According to Hahnemühle, they are also acid free.

I was first introduced to Zentangling in 2013 and really enjoyed it. I don’t remember when or why I stopped but I was happy to give it another go. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I was inspired to do some heart shaped patterns. As a side note, if for some reason you think stationery supplies are an appropriate Valentine’s Day gift, the internet has some funny sayings to go along with them. For example:

  • Crayons: You colour my world, Valentine!
  • Ruler: You rule, Valentine!
  • Highlighter: You’re the highlight of my day!
  • Glue: Let’s stick together!
  • Pen/Pencil: You’re just write for me!

Back to my experiments with the YouTangle.art tiles. The first one I tried, I started with a watercolour wash before drawing with a fine Sharpie but found the tile buckled.

For my second attempt, I did a more classic Zentangling style with black ink. It seemed to be missing something so I shaded it with pencil and then coloured the heart with pencil crayons.

For the third one I used a red Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint. The ink is not waterproof so I just brushed a little water on it to spread the colour and had none of the buckling problems of the first. The lesson learned was the tiles are tolerant of a little water but not lots.

I’m thankful for winning these as it has inspired me to try Zentangling again. If the Hahnemühle YouTangle.art tiles were people they would be tidy German travelers, proud of their roots but happy to try new things except maybe swimming.  


Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking

I recently read Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking by designer and artist Jason Logan. He initially got into ink making in his quest to find non-toxic art supplies he could use with his kids. He began with making black walnut ink and then experimented with other natural sources ranging from berries to rust. Eventually he started to sell his homemade inks, founding The Toronto Ink Company in 2014. 

While the book does include recipes, it is less of a how-to book and more of an art book to use for inspiration. The book itself is beautifully made with rather small font but lovely minimalist photographs as well as illustrations created by artists using his ink. Even the edges of the pages have an ink-splattered look. One minor complaint I have is he takes a rather Toronto-centric view of available sources for colours. For example, he states that wild grapes are found everywhere but I have yet to see them on the Canadian prairies. I suspect there are more practical guides to making ink but this book has an encouraging tone if you need some motivation to begin or are just curious about homemade inks.

Winsor & Newton Silver-Metallic Aluminum Ink

I was given some fun stationery items for Christmas, including a little bottle of Winsor & Newton silver-metallic aluminum ink. Winsor & Newton is an old British firm founded in London in 1832 when a couple of young men, chemist William Winsor and artist Henry Newton, partnered together to develop glycerine based, moist water colour paints. These paints were perfect for the newly popular activity of painting outdoors or en plein air. The company continued to expand their line, introducing drawing inks in the 1890’s. It remained a family business until the late 1970’s but, like so many stationery and art supply companies, it is now part of a large international conglomerate (Colart Group).

Like all their inks, this one comes in a cute little glass bottle with a label designed by British illustrator Michael Peters.  Each bottle’s illustration features the colour it contains so the silver one has an old-fashioned young maid polishing silver on it.

Being a silver ink, it shows off best on black or dark paper. I tried it out on black Canson Ingres with a Speedball C-2 nib, a pointed Gillott nib, and a paint brush and was happy with the results. The ink is quite thin and dries quickly with a nice shimmer. It couldn’t be used in a fountain pen but I think it would be good for art purposes as well as calligraphy. I put some on paper that had been painted with acrylic and it went on smooth and opaque. Just remember to thoroughly shake or stir it before using. The metallic component settles to the bottom of the bottle quite fast.

Before shaking
After shaking

If Winsor & Newton silver ink was a person, it would be an old British glam rocker; flashy but somehow reliable.

Papier Mache Writing Slope

As I was perusing some of the trendy shops near my home before Christmas, I came upon a wonderful papier mache writing slope in Mavin and Grace. I had never seen anything like it before but apparently it was not an uncommon item in the 19th century. These items are sometimes called writing boxes or lap desks (or in French, écritoire) and reflect the importance of correspondence in those days. They were a portable way to keep your stationery supplies organized and provided a good writing surface no matter where you were.

The shop clerk didn’t know the history of this particular writing slope as it had been bought at an auction in the eastern United States however it fits the general style of this type of item. It was made of papier mache and has what was called a “japanned finish” with ornate painted gilt and mother of pearl decorations of bouquets and grapevines with a lockable top. The inside is also decorated with slots to organize papers and a drawer containing a velvet writing surface and compartments for pens and two inkwells.

While most of us only know of papier mache from school craft projects, the history of using paper or wood pulp bound with some sort of adhesive to make things stretches back to ancient Egypt and China. In Europe, this process became popular for making all kinds of items, including furniture, from 1725 to throughout the 19th century. It was a relatively inexpensive way to produce the ornate look popular at the time. A fibrous pulp, which may or not have been made from paper, was mixed with a binder and then pressed into a mold. During the same period, a fascination with “Oriental” items made black lacquer finishes fashionable. True lacquer is made from tree resin but for many papier mache items like this writing slope, the “japanned finish” was created through a mixture that included asphaltum (a type of bitumen) and then covered with varnish. The mother of pearl decorations were also a technological shortcut. In 1825 a process was patented to cut the shell pieces using stencils and acid, removing the need for skilled carvers. The end result was affordable luxury but as this manufacturing method became more popular, the novelty was lost and the look went out of fashion.  

I didn’t feel the need to buy the writing slope but I was happy that the store gave me the opportunity to take a close look at it. No doubt it will find a good home soon.

If an antique writing slope was a person, it would be an elderly aunt with a slightly dusty scent who wears a little too much costume jewelry. She likes to write letters but always has the expectation that you will respond promptly.

List Journals

I keep a variety of journals, including a daily written journal, a visual journal, and travel journals. One other type of journal I enjoy using is the one where I record all the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched over the year. I’ve been doing this since 2015 so I’m now in my second list journal. List journals are about the easiest type of journal to keep. For me, all I do is write down the date and title (for books I include the author) but of course you could add a synopsis and/or rating if you so desired. Despite the simplicity of the concept, there is a whole line of books called Listography that provide headings on journal pages if you can’t think of something you would like to make a list of. Given that most people have a blank journal or notebook lying around somewhere, it is easy enough to try for yourself.

I use a journal my talented sister made out of paper rescued from a library recycle box that had only been printed on one side. The cover is from a boxed set of Kung Fu Panda DVDs. She collates her notebooks together using a Fellowes wire binding machine. I have a number of notebooks made by her including ones made from old greeting cards and product packaging. For my list journal, I add little tabs to get me to the right place in the notebook.

I like looking back over the year and seeing how many books I have read and movies I’ve watched and remembering my favourites. I take pleasure in a variety of books, including fiction, nonfiction, graphic, and audiobooks. This past year, the most enjoyable novel I read was Pachinko by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee. It is a fascinating story about a multi-generational Korean family living in Japan. The characters were complex and engaging and I learned about both Korea and Japan and their uneasy relationship. The most creative novel I read was also from Asia, The Impossible Fairy Tale, by Japanese author, Han Yujoo, translated by Janet Hong. Told by an unreliable narrator, this book takes a very dark and strange look at childhood. This book is very weird and disturbing but completely original. In the graphic memoir category, I recommend Parts 1 and 2 of Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future where he tells about his Syrian childhood. It is very interesting but I should warn there are also disturbing scenes in this book. A favourite that crossed two categories, non-fiction and audiobook, is The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. He takes a meandering approach to his topic and reads it well.

Most of the movies I watch are ones I have taken out of the library. Some of the better ones include Loving Vincent, a beautifully made film about Vincent Van Gogh, The Shape of Water, which was also visually lovely, and The Death of Stalin, which was not really historically accurate but did show the absurdity of totalitarianism. An old movie I had not heard of before was a black and white one from 1955, The Night of the Hunter, which I found strangely haunting although generally it has not been well reviewed. I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for a number of years so I like watching some Spanish-language films. I find they speak Spanish a little slower in Spain so movies from there are easier for me to follow. A funny one was Mi Gran Noche (My Big Night) about the crazy taping of a New Year’s Eve television program. Some of the better documentaries I saw included The Hand that Feeds, about undocumented workers in New York restaurants, and Obit, about obituary writers for the New York Times. The New York Times does not come off very well in The Witness, a documentary made by a man trying to come to terms with his sister’s murder. The Witness dragged in places but it did a good job dissecting a news story many have heard of.

I highly recommend starting a list journal for 2019. If books and movies aren’t your thing, try keeping a list of restaurants you’ve tried, places you visit, types of beer sampled, or hikes you’ve done. It is an easy and fun way to look back over a year.

If list journals were people, they would be a busy bunch in all shapes and sizes but share a desire to keep track of life without spending a lot of time doing so.

Christmas Cards 2018

It was a nice quiet snowy day today so I took a moment to take another look at the Christmas cards I received this December. They generally fell into three categories:

Handmade – I didn’t make any Christmas cards myself this year but was inspired by the lovely cards fellow members of the Edmonton Calligraphic Society gave. I also like the card my daughter Alison made out of recycled materials with her friend. If handmade cards were people they would be full of creativity and originality.

Supporting a charity – Many of the cards I received were produced for charities. Some charities like UNICEF sell their cards to raise funds while others provide them to donors and potential donors for free to encourage them to send money. Even if the recipients use the cards but don’t donate, the charity still gets the promotional benefit. Personally, I prefer it when the organizations I support use the money I give to carry out their mission rather than sending me stuff but this strategy must work since many non-profits use it. If charity cards were people they would be those who care deeply about their community.

Boxed cards – To me this is the most traditional type of card as I think it was the way my parents did it. You went to a store and bought a box of nicely designed cards with a message inside that you liked. If boxed cards were people they would value time-honoured traditions like keeping in touch with family and friends. It’s not that they are impersonal, it’s just they don’t see themselves as creative and aren’t interested in showing off who they support.

I hope all my readers are enjoying a happy and restful holiday season and are looking forward to the new year!

Jinhao 992 Fountain Pen

Awhile back I won a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, a company I don’t usually order from. I didn’t really think I would find anything for under $10 but I remembered reading about some inexpensive Chinese fountain pens and was amazed I could get a Jinhao 992, including shipping, for less than my $10 limit. My expectations were low and it took a very long time to ship, but I was not disappointed with my pen. It came with minimal packing materials, just a padded envelope with the pen in a thin plastic bag wrapped in a small piece of bubble wrap, but to me that is a plus as I have no need for a fancy box to keep it in.

Minimal packing material

The Jinhao 922 is called a demonstrator pen because its clear body allows you to see the ink inside it. The sturdy plastic body is relatively lightweight with a stainless-steel nib. The screw-on cap has a metal clip and the ring around it is subtly engraved with the brand name.

Jinhao is one of two brands of pens made by the Shanghai Qiangu Stationery Company. Their other brand is Baoer, like the fountain pen I bought in Oaxaca, Mexico. The company was established in 1988 and has 300 employees.

Although the nib looks broader than my Baoer, the Jinhao seems to have less ink flow. This means the ink is not as wet on the page so there is less chance of smudging and I use less ink but this does mean it looks lighter. Using the same J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage ink, you can see the difference in the depth of colour between the Baoer and Jinhao. The Jinhao also does not write as smoothly as the Baoer.

Refillable ink cartridges are called converters. To refill the Jinhao converter, you put the nib into the ink pot and twist the converter to suck up the ink into the cartridge, hence the name twist converter. The Baoer is more like a syringe where you pull up the plunger.

Special thanks to hand model Alison McIntosh.

I have been using this pen for about three months now and have only had to refill it once. I filled 21 journal pages (29 X 41 cm) on both sides after the first filling (51 days of journaling). This is not an amazing pen but it is very good value for its price.

If the Jinhao 922 was a person, they would be thrifty (meaner types might say tightwad or cheapskate) but have nothing to hide. They are proud of their economical and reliable reputation.