Some bookmarks for my son’s school library, done on the fly, in a rare burst of experimental energy. The first three lines are from Tolkien, and you can guess the rest ;)

Making bookmarks can take a lot of time if done properly (there’s a lot of measuring, ruling and testing involved), which, for me, often takes all the joy and fun out of the creative process. So this time I’ve done away with all but the very minimum of preparatory work, and relied on some flashy special effects to camouflage any awkward margins and wayward strokes.


To briefly discuss the tools and materials involved:

  • Winsor & Newton gold and silver ink
  • Ruling pen (DIY versions of these, made from aluminum sheets cut out from soft drink cans, are called “cola pens”)
  • Glass pen from Rohrer & Klingner
  • American Koh-I-Noor 1500 in F (Bloomsbury, N.J.)

Gold and silver ink is difficult to work with; the glitter clogs and dries on the nib, so you have to wipe the nib down continuously as you work to maintain the flow and to avoid unsightly blobs. I went with a ruling pen and a glass pen this time to minimize the stress working with a traditional dip pen nib, and I must say it was fun and the results not half bad!

I used the Koh-I-Noor to rule guidelines on the paper, which was erased after the ink was dry. This is a good example of a pencil I don’t love but has its (specialist) uses. It rules very sharp, precise lines that don’t smudge – the grade commonly recommended for calligraphers is 3H or 4H, but the Koh-I-Noor in F can do the job as well, while not being as harsh as the harder grades. I’ve often been disappointed with older (pre-WWII) vintage pencils that didn’t write as softly or smoothly as I expected them to; in retrospect, I realize that good pencils of that time were overwhelmingly used for drafting purposes (they were probably too expensive to be used in schools), and so they were expected to write rather hard and light, like my Koh-I-Noor. And this pencil keeps its point forever! I just wish they had used a lighter, more cheerful shade of yellow for their paint and that the powdery printing had not deteriorated as much…