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.

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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?

Promotional stationery items

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Even though I love special pens and paper, I have to admit a lot of the stationery supplies in my home are actually promotional items. One of my daughters gets so many she told me she’d feel like a chump if she actually paid for these items (James Ward in The Perfection of the Paperclip calls this type of behaviour the “stationery equivalent of freeganism”). Even though she works in the tech sector, she is still given lots of pens and paper. So why are pens and paper still considered a great promotional giveaway item in the digital age? In short, because companies find it works. According to a survey carried out in 2016 by the Promotional Products Association International (alright so it doesn’t appear to be an unbiased source) companies consider promotional items more effective than social media and nearly as effective as all other media. Companies like to supply a useful product and consumers like to get them and use them.  In fact, 81 percent of consumers keep promotional products for more than a year.

So starting with pens, as they seem to be the most popular item to use as a giveaway, here are some of the promotional desk items around our house.

Pens – Only hotels that don’t want you to walk away with their pens and non-profit organizations hand out stick pens. Most of the time, I don’t even pick them up which is why I don’t have a reminder of my fabulous stay at the Ramada in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

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Not only do most companies do better than stick pens, it seems just offering a pen is not enough. Many of the pens have a highlighter at one end, and one highlighter I have, has sticky flags on the end.

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I even have a pen with hand sanitizer on the end which seems a bit odd but I guess it falls into the category of handy things to have in your bag.

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Occasionally you can find something really different like the APEGA pen where when you click on the end, it lights up in a rainbow display of colours like a rave glow stick (the photos don’t do it justice, it really flickers and glows). This pen is from a few years ago when oil and gas prices were higher so the party is pretty much over for them now but still, what were you thinking Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta?  

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Pencils – It seems pencil giveaways are mainly aimed at kids but I do have a nifty little set that comes with two recycled pencils, a recycled pen, and a little wooden sharpener. One of the pencils is a bit shorter in order for it all to fit into the cylindrical cardboard container (all made in China). It gives off an eco-friendly vibe that is a bit jarring for a mining company.

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Paper – Paper is also a frequent giveaway mainly as shopping lists or pads of post-it notes but I do have a couple of nice promotional journals.  The paper in the domain.com one is creamy and surprisingly good quality. I also like the built-in ribbon bookmark, elastic closure and the pocket on the inside back cover. Domain.com you have impressed me as a classy company, too bad your website doesn’t give the same impression.

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The Resolver journal is not quite as good quality but not bad and both of them get bonus points for keeping the branding somewhat subtle. Both journals have nicely rounded corners but I prefer a binding that allows the journal to lie flatter when opened than either of these journals.

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It seems promotional pens and paper are going to be given away for years to come.

If a promotional item was a person they would be a bit brash with a “remember me, remember me” kind of attitude. Not really a close friend but you still hang around with them because they are useful.

Canson Universal Sketch Paper

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I feel like have been neglecting the paper part of Margret Puts Pen to Paper so I thought I would work my way through a sample book of Canson paper I was given at a product demonstration at the Paint Spot way back in 2014. Canson is an old French paper company that goes back to 1557. On their company website, you can see how the history of paper-making is closely linked to larger technological innovations as well as political upheavals.

It’s an odd book with art papers interspersed with product information so I was unsure just how I would use it but I think just using it as it was intended, to try out papers, is probably best.

The first paper featured is called Universal Sketch. It is the thinnest paper in the book, but still had a nice feel and no bleed through to the reverse side with the fountain pen, Staedtler pigment liner, or brush pen, and only slightly with the Sharpie. The paper has a fine texture so even though it is a pure white, there is no glare. I tried two different pencils and although the very dark 8B pencil did not erase completely, I can barely see where I erased the 4B pencil.

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While this paper is meant for sketching, hence the name, I think the 5½ by 8½ size would make an excellent journal as the paper is fairly lightweight but was very nice to write on with the fountain pen. The paper is acid-free if you want your journals to last for posterity.

If the Universal Sketch Paper was a person it would be unassuming and hardworking. You could always trust this discreet person.

G. Lalo Verge de France Paper

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Lalo Verge de France paper is about as far from bargain ballpoints and ReUse Centre finds as possible. This lovely paper is intended for handwritten correspondence. It comes in different shades but mine has a soft rosy tint to it with subtle raised horizontal lines which give it a slight texture. I’ve found it works well with any type of pen, even fountain pens, with no feathering or bleed through.

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The name comes from the founder, Georges Lalo, “Verge” refers to the lines on the paper, and of course, it is from France. In fact, the company is still based in Paris. They have a charming motto, “c’est savoir se faire plaisir, mais surtout faire plaisir à l’autre, qui vous en sera très reconnaissant”.

My paper is a A4 tablet. The size of this pad of paper follows the A-series paper sizes which is defined by an official International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard. A-series is used pretty much everywhere in the world except for the United States and those countries nearest them like Canada, Mexico and Dominican Republic. The letter size we commonly use here has archaic roots from when paper was made by hand, while the while the A-series is defined by a mathematical formula (sort of like imperial versus metric system).

I had been thinking that if this paper were a person, it would be a sophisticated French woman but then I saw a picture of Georges Lalo himself and that kind of ruined it for me. Still, I can’t bear to think of my beautiful paper as a pudgy, superciliousold white guy so I will still think of my paper as someone who loves quality, not just for its own sake but, for the joy it brings to others.

Coming next week: wax seals.

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.

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.