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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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?

Chinese Calligraphy

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I have been interested in calligraphy for a long time and a trip to China in 2008 expanded that interest to include Chinese calligraphy. I was so fascinated that I purchased some calligraphy supplies while I was there.

One aspect of traditional Chinese calligraphy that I really love is the respect shown for calligraphy tools. They even call them the Four Treasures. These treasures are the brush, ink, paper and ink stone.

Brushes:  Calligraphy brushes are traditionally made with animal hair. As with paint brushes, different kinds of hair have different properties that affect the brush stroke. White hair in brushes is usually goat hair and are a bit softer so are good for large characters. I didn’t know anything about brushes when I bought mine in China and I actually like the slightly stiffer, brown haired brush (the one on the far right of the photo) I got when I took a Chinese calligraphy course from the Confucius Institute the following year. The course was advertised as being for all ages so I was a bit dismayed to discover most of the students were Chinese children. As I sat on my tiny chair I reassured myself that even though I may not understand Chinese like the kids did, I can sit still and listen like a pro so I had that going for me.

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Ink: Ink sticks are generally made of soot that is mixed with glue and then pressed into a mold. The type of soot (pine, oil, charcoal, etc.) and other additives create different inks. Ink sticks are often decorated, as mine is, on both sides. Liquid sumi ink works well too.

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Inkstone: The inkstone is a shallow dish (with lid) used to grind the ink stick in a small amount of water to make the ink. This process takes about 15 minutes (depending on how dark you want your ink) and is considered an important meditative step to prepare yourself for creating calligraphy or to paint. Not all inkstones are made of stone, mine is ceramic, and many are beautifully decorated although I like the simplicity of mine.

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Paper: For calligraphy, the best paper is slightly absorbent. I have some rice paper that was bought locally but made in Japan. For practice purposes my calligraphy instructor suggested using paper towels like the type found in public washrooms or newsprint. We were given thin paper with guide lines printed on them for learning the characters in class.

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There are other treasures too, like the seal and the seal ink. Seals (sometimes called a chop) are used like signatures. Typically made of stone, they are used with a thick paste-like red ink. I bought mine from a street vendor in Xian, China. It is supposed to be a translation of my name but I am not sure how well she understood me. There is something very aesthetically pleasing to me to have that small addition of red to the black and white of the ink and paper.

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If the Four Treasures were people, I image them as four ancient Chinese sages with long beards and silk robes that will impart their wisdom to anyone who will take the time to listen.

Rhodia Memo Book

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I recently won a little Rhodia Memo Book from https://www.rhodiadrive.com/. At 7.5 cm by 12 cm, this notebook is truly pocket sized. While I am not crazy about the orange cover, it does stand out in the clutter of my desk and I know these notebooks do come with white and black covers as well. I have previously reviewed the Rhodia graph paper so can vouch for the quality.

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I plan to use my notebook during my next trip. Usually when I am travelling my days are packed so when it comes time to write a journal entry before bed, I am so tired that I just list all the things that I did. There is nothing wrong with this but I find my entries are much richer with detail if I jot down things I notice and am thinking about during the day in a little notebook. I generally just throw away these notes once I have recorded my journal entry but I  just may keep this little book with my travel journal.

If this notebook were a person, they would be definitely size small, neat and efficient with a love for being on the go.

Coming up next week:  a book review of The Perfection of the Paper Clip

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.