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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Visual Journals

As I have written about before, I keep a daily journal. I have also experimented with visual or art journaling. I say experimented because I have tried a couple of different forms. One is to include doodles and ephemera to my regular daily journal. I like doing this, especially on trips, but I do find that you need a loosely bound journal in order to accommodate a lot of additional stuff being glued or taped in. My other type is more like an art journal. I have a sketchbook where I like to do creative play like drawing, painting, and collage. I save one page each month to somehow illustrate and record the noteworthy things that happened in that month. This is a fun exercise in reflection that I probably wouldn’t otherwise do and I find it is a quicker way to look up when something happened than flipping through all of my unindexed journals. I don’t usually share these pages with anyone but here are a few from the past to give you an idea of what I mean.

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I enjoy looking at blogs for inspiration but sometimes it is nice to just flip through a real book. I recently discovered Jen Morris’ blog and found that she was combining two of my favourite things, a discussion about journaling and a giveaway! She reviewed an intriguing book by Helen Lehndorf called Write to the Centre. Because it is published in New Zealand, the shipping rates are a bit high for Canada but she is providing an opportunity to win a copy through her blog. http://www.jenmorriscreative.com/writetothecentregiveaway/

If a visual journal was a person, I am pretty sure it would be a woman. She values creativity and knows it is not just best for herself, but everyone around her, if she makes time to nurture that aspect of herself.

Erasers

It is often said we should live our lives with no regrets, but if that were the case would there be any need for erasers? Erasers are one stationery item where there is no point in holding on to them as they degrade over time. Still, I just can’t part with my typewriter eraser. It is a symbol of just how far I have come. Yes, readers, I learned to type on a manual typewriter that did not even have correctable ribbon. There were a few types of typewriter erasers back in the day, but this one was pencil-style with a little brush on the end to remove the crumbs so they wouldn’t fall into the mechanics of the typewriter.

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While pink erasers (the ol’ Pink Pearl) were common when I was in school, they never worked really well as they tended to leave a smudge behind. At some point I was introduced to the white vinyl eraser and have never looked back.

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The original white vinyl eraser is the Staedtler Mars. Not just good for home use, they are also used in book conservation because they have neutral pH and are sulfur-free. They do leave a lot of crumbs behind so if you don’t like sweeping them up with your hands, you can get a handy little truck to do it for you. The Midori Mini Cleaner actually does a very good job of picking up the debris, takes up little space on a desk, and doesn’t use batteries.

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Although my favourite erasers are the white vinyl ones (even my novelty Santa one works well), I have a couple of others too. My daughter gave me a kneadable eraser she got in an art class. These erasers have a putty-like feel that work by picking up and absorbing the pencil mark rather than by rubbing it off. You can refresh it by stretching and kneading in the graphite but at a certain point they have absorbed all they can. So even though they don’t wear away like typical erasers, they don’t last forever.

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Finally, my pink pencil topper eraser seemed like a good idea, but like all pink erasers, I don’t find they really work well. Definitely not recommended.

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So what would eraser people be like? They seem flexible but erasers are small and domineering people, not just happy to win an argument, they have to obliterate their opponent.

Birthday Cards

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It was recently my birthday and, following with tradition, I received a few birthday cards. Two of them were handmade and all of them were from women which confirmed a Carlton Cards statistic that claimed that 70 percent of all card purchases are made by women. I tried to find out when the custom of giving birthday cards began but all I could find was the history of greeting cards in general. Even the Hallmark Cards site only made special note of Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day when discussing the history of their company. Maybe because birthday card purchases happen all year round, card companies take that market for granted even though it is estimated to be 60 percent of all greeting card sales.

I couldn’t even find out when celebrating birthdays began but I, for one, am glad we take a moment to give thanks for another successful trip around the sun. I have a sentimental streak so have kept a stash of old birthday cards. The ones from my parents mean the most to me now. 

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I also get a real kick out of seeing how graphic design has changed over the years.

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While designs change, the personalities of the givers stay the same. The same friend who gave me the kittens card when I was nine, sent me a text birthday greeting with a photo of her cat this year. 

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I love penguins so have received a lot of penguin cards over the years. I mustn’t be the only one who loves penguins as Hallmark even had a “Penguins” line for awhile. 

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So here’s to birthdays and to those who keep the birthday card tradition alive!

Psyanky

I think I first learned about pysanky when I worked as a student at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs and word pysanka means egg-writing in Ukrainian. The “writing” is done in beeswax with a stylus called a kistka which creates a wax resist for the dye.

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Supplies needed (dye not included)

Traditionally, the motifs and patterns used on the eggs are highly symbolic and are chosen to send a message to the recipient.  

My sister and I watched a demonstration of psyanky being written by Oksana Zhelisko at the Paint Spot earlier this month. This egg was a fairly simple example because it was just two colours, green and black.

  1. The kistka is warmed in a candle flame melting the beeswax in it. This is applied to the egg.20170402_130927
  2. Once all the areas to be left white are covered with beeswax, the egg is dipped in dye (in this example it was green) and then beeswax is applied to all areas that will be green. 20170402_132948
  3. Then the egg is dipped in the next dye bath (this time it is black dye).20170402_133832
  4. To remove the beeswax, the egg is gently heated with the candle.20170402_134709
  5. Finally the wax is wiped off with a paper towel (or cloth).20170402_134851

I have tried it myself and know it is not easy so I have a lot of respect for those who can do this well. I thought it would be cute to take a picture of my pysanka with the cat when he promptly knocked it onto the floor and broke it. As my daughter said “How could you not see that was going to happen?”

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While it is usually considered to be a folk art, a local artist, Neil Lazaruk, elevated it to fine art in his exhibit at the Alberta Craft Council, Neo-Ovo: New Directions in Egg Design. These fascinating eggs still use symbolic motifs but go beyond traditional Ukrainian designs.

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If I was to write an egg for the readers of my blog it would say have a very happy Easter with health and good fortune to come.

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.

Wooden Paper Memo Pad

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A friend at work (thanks Neil!) gave me a wonderful memo pad from Lee Valley Tools made of paper thin sheets of wood. I had never seen anything like this before but apparently it is an old Japanese craft called Kyougi. (It seems like Japan produces some of the nicest stationery products.)

If raw, unprocessed food is considered good, how about unprocessed paper? Instead of breaking down wood into wood pulp to be made into paper, this paper is made by shaving a block of wood into thin sheets. The result is absolutely beautiful paper that looks and smells just like what it is, wood. It is hard to imagine that originally this lovely paper was just used to wrap food.

I love how the production of this paper not only keeps a traditional craft alive but also is part of sustainable forest management as the paper is made from trees thinned from managed forests.

I see this paper as having great craft potential, especially if you wanted to make a card with a woodsy feel. However it is very brittle and tends to tear along fold lines. This may be exacerbated by our dry climate.

So what does it feel like to write on wood? Except for the fountain pen, which feathered quite a lot, it was surprisingly easy to write on with very little bleed through to the other side.

If this paper were a person it would definitely be a true nature lover wearing a plaid shirt and hiking boots with the lovely faint smell of fresh cut wood that this paper actually has.

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Coming up next week:  Pilot FriXion Erasable Pen