A custom Pentel Kerry pencil and a surprise from Clairefontaine

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

Sometimes familiar stationery items aren’t what they seem. Here is a Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil – but unlike any most of us have ever seen. It is paired with a Clairefontaine pocket notebook.

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

This pencil – a classic – is a custom modification by isu of the uncomfortable chair, turning the pencil into a 2.0mm version! It continues to fully function as a mechanical pencil. Look at the quality of the finish – it appears as if it came from the factory.

Thank you isu for such a wonderful gift!

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

As to the the second surprise – let me mention some context. Many of us were very surprised to learn that Tombow has moved (at least some) production of their iconic Mono 100, one of the world’s best pencils, to Vietnam. There is a great account at Lexikaliker. The news so far isn’t good – unfortunately, the Vietnamese version appears diminished in finish quality, even if retaining the same lead core.

So what a surprise to find a notebook the same week from Clairefontaine, which like sibling brands Rhodia and Exacompta, strongly associates itself with “Made in France”, that is made in Morocco. Yes, “design” and “paper” from France. Fortunately, I find the notebook to be excellent, with creamy 90 g/m2 paper (presumably the same as the “Rhodia R” series) and a pocket format. I’ll note a particular pencil advantage – this thick paper takes well to traditional rubber erasers, such as the round Graf von Faber-Castell.

Papeterie Nota Bene

Here is a truly notable Canadian stationery store. In the McGill University district of downtown Montreal, Nota Bene features an art gallery, a small stationery museum, and an enormous array of stationery, both practical and fanciful.

It was a pleasure to meet Russell, the store’s proprietor. Russell is a great host, and a stationery (and pencil) connoisseur of the first rank.

Papeterie Nota Bene

A couple of views of the store windows. Unfortunately other photos that I took were lost.

Papeterie Nota Bene

The depth of the paper product lineup is amazing. They have large runs of dozens of North American, European, and Asian brands. As with my trip to Vancouver, suitcase limits prevented me from going too far overboard – but I do want to return just for stationery shopping. As well as the less well known, the store has an amazing array of Clairefontaine brand products, well beyond the typically imported top sellers.

Something else – you can of course buy pens, but the writing implement display cases are dominated by pencils! Non-drafting lead holders to be specific – beauties from David Hayward and Koh-I-Noor, and super-specialties like leadholders made of unconventional materials like cement.

There is as well something about this store’s vibe that I really liked. Paper-ya in Vancouver and Laywine’s in Toronto are not unlike boutique wine shops in their appearance, and seem to attract a prosperous clientele – and I am very glad that these stores are doing well. But Nota Bene seemed to be full of people (mostly young people) arriving on foot with a genuine need for good paper for their work or studies. I gather many of them may have affiliations with the McGill architecture school, which is on the same block.

What did I buy? I bought a number of Midori “Kraft Envelope” and related products, some interesting “seven day” organizer paper tablets, double ended carpenter pencils, and a clutch lead holder. Nota Bene kindly gave me an M+R sharpener!

Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene

The Regional Assembly of Text

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, Strikethru mentioned another great Vancouver stationer. A counterpoint to Paper-Ya, The Regional Assembly of Text is not in a tourist area, and focuses on products from individual craftspeople and small presses, rather than prominent brands.

The Regional Assembly of Text in Vancouver

The store is decorated as an homage to typewriters, filing cabinets, and yesteryear’s offices. It also has a small press/zine reading room that Strikethru described. TRAT is quite an amazing place for anyone who likes letterpress, and it is filled with high quality interesting (and sometimes quirky) paper and stationery items.

I picked up a few library and ledger journal inspired items.

The Regional Assembly of Text in Vancouver

Also worth noting – they give pencils as treats to customers!

Paper-Ya

Please let me express my appreciation to Cheryl of Strikethru for this post – it formed a wonderful guide to two stationery treasures that I recently visited.

Paper-Ya in Vancouver

Paper-Ya is located on Granville Island, a vibrant arts district in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The island is easily (and probably best) traversed on foot. Notable landmarks include the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Paper-Ya is immediately discernible as a labour of love. They stock an immense array of paper items that seems well beyond commercial viability. And I do mean immense – if one could extract the product names mentioned in the last five years from every stationery blog – a good number of them are at Paper-Ya, representing twenty or more countries of manufacture.

Paper-Ya in Vancouver

My suitcase only had room for some very limited purchases, including handmade paper from Papetrie Saint-Armand.

Design.Y notebooks

Design.Y notebooks

It seems to have been a while since this blog has been so excited about a new stationery product. The notebooks shown here are from Design.Y, the brand of Mr. Hiroshi Yoshino-san, a bookbinder from Sendai, Japan.

The products are amazing because every aspect of the notebook is of exceptional quality – the cover, the binding, and the paper. I learned of these notebooks at the Fountain Pen Network, where many fountain pen users are claiming it is the finest paper they’ve ever used.

Design.Y notebooks

The two notebooks shown are the Record 216 and Record 336 models. These numerals refer to the page counts.

The covers are in brown goatskin. Black is also available. At first, I found the look stern, and perhaps conservative. But I’ve warmed up to the look, especially after starting to use the smaller notebook. The goatskin is luxurious and very pleasant to the touch. I am not aware of ever having seen anything nicer as a notebook or journal cover.

Ruled and plain paper are available, and depending on the model, elastic closures, bookmark ribbons, and dyed edges are available as options. The Record 336 shown here has dyed edges and two bookmark ribbons.

The notebooks do not lie perfectly flat, but there is no difficulty using the whole page.

Design.Y notebooks

There is a small notch exposing the ribbon:

Design.Y notebooks

The back has a small maker’s mark:

Design.Y notebooks

The goatskin covers and hand binding are beautiful, but the paper is what seems to have received the most online English language recognition. (The notebooks have been featured in several Japanese stationery magazines, but I’m not able to read those reports.) Of course, this praise is in the context of the fountain pen community, which finds most modern paper unsuitable for water based fountain pen inks.

The paper is exceptionally lightweight. It is called Tomoe River, and comes from the Tomoegawa Paper Company. This allows thin notebooks with 336 pages, for example. Yet the paper doesn’t bleed or feather. Being thin, it does show through to the other side. A Bruichladdich list taken with a medium 14K Lamy nib and Lamy blue ink:

Design.Y notebooks

An HB Mitsubishi Hi-uni pencil also works:

Design.Y notebooks

These notebooks are on their way to becoming cherished items, and I’ll join the chorus of those praising their quality. If the look is to your taste, you may want to try one.

Beautiful Pigs and Beautiful Sheep notecards

Beautiful Sheep notecards

This is the season when we celebrate the harvest. My friends in the US just celebrated Thanksgiving – a holiday which is also celebrated in Canada, though in October. Of course, many countries and regions have their own versions of harvest festivals.

A fond childhood memory for me was the annual fall trip to Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, an event I’ve continued to attend as an adult. They just wrapped up their 88th season.

A particular treat of such an event is seeing less common varieties and breeds of livestock. The preservation of these animals is championed by organizations such as Rare Breeds Canada and their international counterparts.

When Ivy Press contacted me, I was delighted to learn about about the theme of their notecards and other products – less common and endangered breeds of farm animals. They kindly sent me samples of their Beautiful Pigs and Beautiful Sheep notecards.

There is no exaggeration – the products are beautiful. Each item is a boxed set of twenty notecards and twenty envelopes. Each box has four different portraits – five cards each. The pigs were photographed by Andrew Perris, and the sheep by Paul Farnham. The boxes themselves are very sturdy and attractive, and I can’t imagine throwing them out when the cards are gone.

The boxes:
Beautiful Pigs notecards

Beautiful Sheep notecards

The cards:
Beautiful Pigs notecards

Beautiful Sheep notecards

Among the sheep, I especially like the Suffolk yearling:

Beautiful Sheep notecards

Less familiar but incredibly captivating is the image of the Blonde Mangalitza boar, a native of Hungary:

Beautiful Pigs notecards

To me, the theme and photos are very appealing. Though they don’t (as far as I know) sell at retail in Canada, the list price of £8.99 for 20 cards plus envelopes is very good value based on the quality and originality of the product.

Photos of a couple of other sets:

Beautiful Ducks notecards

Beautiful Tractors notecards

The first and last two photos are official photos from the Ivy Press, and copyrighted by them.