Pilot Vpen

with caps

I tried out a lot of pens for my coloured pens blog a couple of weeks ago. One pen that really stood out was the Vpen (also known as the Varsity) made by the Pilot Corporation. This company is the largest and oldest pen manufacturer in Japan. It was founded in 1918 as a fountain pen company but now makes all kinds of pens.

With its cap on, this pen looks like any other regular pen. Remove the cap and you see the difference – it has a fountain pen style nib. The plastic barrel of the pen itself is not particularly attractive, but the stainless steel nib is good quality. While one of the benefits of writing with a fountain pen is that it is reusable, they tend to be more expensive than standard pens and need to be regularly re-filled with ink. This pen is a good way to try out a fountain pen without the expense. It would also be convenient for traveling as you don’t need to bring along an ink supply.

The ink of the pen I originally borrowed was what the manufacturer refers to as light blue. Personally I think that turquoise is a more descriptive name for this vibrant shade of ink with its lovely sheen. I was curious as to what some of the other colours would look like, so I put down my $4 CDN each to buy some for myself.

Although the Pilot Company wasn’t very creative in naming the light blue ink, they call their purple ink, violet. It is a nice readable shade of deep purple.

It is hard to be descriptive about black ink. This one is a dark, serious shade that would do credit to any signature.

writing

The Vpen writes smoothly on all types of paper but smudged a little on the very smooth Rhodia paper. The line is medium with no feathering or bleeding.

I grew up with someone who is left-handed so I know they have “special needs”. As this the Vpen was originally lent to me by a leftie, I can safely say that this pen is approved for use in both the right and left hands.

Overall, the Vpen is an excellent pen even if it is disposable. Thanks Neil, for introducing me to it.

If the Vpen was a person it would be someone who looks and seems ordinary when you first meet them, in fact you might not even notice them at all. It is just when you get to know them that their sterling qualities shine through.

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What is your favourite ink colour?

Last month I received two questions from actual readers of this blog (no, I am not so desperate for topics that I am making up questions). I am away on holidays so I prepared answers ahead of time.

The first question was, which do I prefer, blue or black ink? My answer is why limit yourself to just blue or black. Thanks to modern chemistry there is a whole spectrum of ink colours to choose from. While not all of them may be practical or appropriate for an office setting, there is something to be said for going for a distinctive shade. Here are some options:

Black

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Black is a very traditional colour for ink and is sometimes required for use on forms. It is a very common colour for pens so I was able to round up a lot of them for my comparison. I was a bit surprised how much black inks vary in tone, some are much darker than others. I couple of these pens I have discussed before (Sharpie and Pilot FriXion). The Pelican Techno-Liner and Staedtler pigment liner I use more as drawing pens even though they write very well. The big surprise for me was the Papermate Inkjoy gel pen. I have tried the Inkjoy ballpoint pens and while they are fine for cheap pens, really nothing special. The gel pen version of this line is great. The barrel is a bit on the fat side but the writing is smooth and the ink very dark.

Blue

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I was surprised at how few blue pens I had in my stash as generally I think of them as very common. I have given my opinion on the Sharpie and Inkjoy before and really there is not much to say about the Pentel RSVP. It is a very basic ballpoint stick pen with a nice rubber grip but not much to write a blog about. This one is a medium (1.0 mm point size) and writes fairly smoothly but like most ballpoints there is some unevenness in the line.

Turquoise

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I wondered about including the Staedtler fineliner as I use it as an extremely fine marker more than as a pen but it does write well and the slightly triangular shape of the barrel stops it from rolling around. The Zebra Z-grip and the Inkjoy I have discussed before but the real find here is the Pilot Vpen. It deserves a blog of its own in the future. It is a disposable fountain pen which would be great for anyone who wants to try out a fountain pen without shelling out a lot of money. The colour of the ink is dark enough that I would consider this the only one of this group that could be taken seriously as a pen.

Brown and orange

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The paleness and lack of gravitas of the orange pen make it pretty obvious why there are not a lot of orange pens out there but I was a bit surprised at how few brown pens there are. Brown was a traditional ink colour (think of ancient manuscripts) and can be quite readable but just doesn’t seem that popular.

Green

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I had so many green pens to include I could hardly fit them all on the page. I have no explanation for this as I wouldn’t have thought it would be that common a pen colour. In its darker forms, green is a very attractive and readable ink. I liked the smoothness of the Pentel Slicci but the thinness of the barrel makes it less comfortable to write with. The Pentel Energel was more comfortable but slightly less smooth to write with. The metallic sheen of the gel pen puts it into the novelty pen category but it is still very readable.

Purple

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Purple is another colour I think can be taken seriously as an ink providing it is dark enough. After all, it was good enough for Byzantine royalty to sign their edicts with. I actually use the purple Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint all the time at work and have had no indication that people are laughing behind my back because of it.

Red

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I rarely use red because it reminds me of teacher’s pointing out mistakes so I was surprised at how many red pens I was able to round up. Of these pens, the Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint provides the deepest colour and smoothest line.

Pink

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Pink is a nice cheery colour but it just seems too childish to be taken seriously as an ink. The Bic pen is a novelty pen that originally had four colours, turquoise, purple, light green, and pink. Of course, the turquoise and purple got used up first because what do you want to write in light green and pink?

If these pens were people they would be a mass of humanity. Different colours, strengths and weakness but really as they are all pens they have more in common than differences.

A shout out to Neil for lending me a number of his pens (including the wonderful Vpen) to include in my tests and to Deirdre and Jasmine for the question.

Grumbacher sketch books vs Canson drawing paper

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When I was making my Halloween card envelopes, I found two old Grumbacher sketch books. (Fun fact: Jackson Pollock used Grumbacher sketch books). The larger one (actually called a sketch pad) is from my university days so dates to the 1980s and the smaller one appears to be even older than that. They both are labeled Artcraft (trademarked in 1923 but now expired, another victim of corporate takeovers) but the fonts and graphics are quite different. While the older book features a very traditional landscape sketch and a bright orange cover, the one from the 80s calls the paper multi-media, has no illustration and is a much more muted shade. Both  books also are labeled “kid finish” which, according to the dictionary, means it has the surface of undressed kid leather. That certainly seems like an anachronistic description as I don’t know anyone who would have any knowledge of what undressed kid leather would feel like.

Enough about the covers, what about the paper? The older Grumbacher paper is slightly heavier than the 1980s version but both have more heft than the Canson sketch paper I discussed in an earlier blog. I wondered how they would compare to the next paper in my sample book, the Canson drawing paper. The drawing paper is more substantial than any of the sketch papers. I have to admit I didn’t really know the difference between sketching paper and drawing paper until I took time to compare. The main difference is the weight. The drawing paper is a bit heavier as it is meant for finished drawings, not just experimenting with. It holds up to more erasing than the Canson sketch paper but while the sketch paper would be fine for use as a journal, I think a pad of drawing paper would be too heavy. Canson has both white and cream drawing paper, a subtle difference, but I have a slight preference for the creamy version. The Grumbacher paper is somewhere in between. Not as white as the Pure White but slightly less creamy than the Classic Cream. I wish I could just hand out samples of these papers because plain paper is very difficult to photograph well. I hope you can see the slight variations in colour (the difference in weight you have to take my word on).

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If these papers were people, they would all be a bit pale and two dimensional. The Grumbachers are older but in good shape while the Cansons are artistic but tough. There is a good-natured rivalry between the two families but they have many of the same hobbies and friends.

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.

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.

before and after

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

this year

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. 

parents 

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. 

Kittens

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. 

Penguins Penguins reverse

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