Leather Hobonichi Covers (Arts & Science vs. Midori)

After considerable thought, I decided to get a new Hobonichi cover this year. I’ve been eyeing leather covers for some time, especially the ones produced by Arts & Science (Arts & Science is the boutique run by Sonya Park, who creates the English-language Planner); but up until last year the leather covers came with zippers and lots of sleeves – too fussy and bulky for my taste. This year the design was perfect.

Coincidentally, lots of other people fell in love with this year’s A&S covers, too. The navy and grey ones sold out in a matter of hours on September 1st, and I almost missed out on the orange Aragosta, which was gone the next day. They restocked them in October, but again the covers sold out in a couple of days. (It looks like the grey Argilla was the runaway hit.) They are now offering to restock all three colors next February.

When I unboxed the Aragosta, I found the almost fluorescent orange hue quite alarming – it was very different from the deep, mature orange in the photos. Also, the leather showed weird press marks, especially at the edges. Maybe this is the result of scoring or otherwise preparing the leather for cutting.

Fortunately, the marks seem to be fading, but it will take time. I got used to the color too. Overall, the cover is thick and encloses the Planner comfortably, allowing the front and back covers of the Planner to slide in and out of the sleeves smoothly when opening and closing. This is important, as the cardstock covers of the Planner are not very strong and will crease easily.

The reason I finally gave up on my Midori cover was the minute difference in size. In theory, Midori goatskin covers should fit the Hobonichi Planner, since they both conform to the A6 (bunkobon) format. However, the Hobo is slightly thicker than the Midori; and the Midori cover is intended to fit the slimmer Midori MD notebook perfectly. Which means that if you try to use the Midori cover for a Hobo, the fit will be really, really tight, and will make the spine of the Planner curve.

One unexpected thing about the Aragosta was that the bookmark seemed to be quite bulky. This is probably because the bookmark is cut from the same leather as the cover, which is nice, but probably a mismatch for the extra-thin Tomoe River Paper that the Planner uses.

Leather should age, but at this point I have no idea how this orange cover will change over time. The Midori goatskin cover tanned considerably over the past several years – the contrast between the original pale beige and the current caramel hue is quite striking.

Finally, this is my Weeks for next year: “Coffee Beans” (also sold out at this moment). I got a clear cover for it this year because I found out (the hard way) that when they suffer water damage, the covers tend to curl. I’m looking forward to using this next year – maybe I’ll be tempted to fix myself a latte every time I reach for it :D

Advertisements

Stationery Shopping in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, city of 3 million people, the Paris of South America. We visited the city for three days last week. I don’t know if BA had its own Baron Haussmann at one point, but the wide, wide boulevards, stately mansions, and leafy parks did indeed remind one of the French capital. It was fun being in a big city again!

There were even pencils in front of the Casa Rosada (the pink-toned Presidential Palace).

This time I had the opportunity to visit some bookstores, stationers and pen shops. Bookshops in BA are alive and well, and both the big, established chains (El Ateneo, Cúspide) and the smaller independent stores seem to be thriving, at least compared to those in other countries. It was great to see the “neighborhood bookstore” still alive.

For my pen searches, I relied on this list I dug up online before the trip (¡Gracias!). The first one on the list, Casa Pintos, seems to have closed (there was a new building at that address on Avenida de Mayo), but I hit the jackpot at Librería Catalinas. It was a delightful store chock-full of deluxe art supplies (Caran d’Ache sets!) and both current and vintage pens. They carried Parker (including a shelfful of vintage 51’s), Pelikan, Faber-Castell, Lamy, Cross, Sheaffer, Caran d’Ache, some Visconti, and I forget what else. Granted, the stock isn’t huge compared to a pen shop in Europe or Asia, but I tend to have a high opinion of stationers who carry Pilot Parallel pens. If we were to live in BA for any length of time I would undoubtedly be making regular pilgrimages to this shop.

Judging from the display, it looked like Catalinas had been in business for a long time. The most intriguing item in this store was a box of vintage Staedtler jumbo pencils – the owner’s personal collection, and not for sale. They allowed me to take a picture though :)

I also spotted some vintage pencils in a couple of stalls at the awesome San Telmo antiques market. Several Johann Fabers and some Argentinian Van Dykes, mostly colored. I would have picked some up but due to a miscalculation we had no cash on us and couldn’t buy anything. If I ever get another chance to come here I will work through this neighborhood again – porteños don’t seem to throw anything away, and the most amazing stuff comes out of those stately old homes!

My stationery souvenirs from BA are mainly notebooks. Speaking of notebooks, there is one mystery about this city I cannot figure out – there are no Moleskines or Paperblanks or any other internationally known paper brand to be found anywhere. I’m not saying that Moleskine is so great that every nation on earth should import it, but rather that this brand and several others like it have so taken over the world that it is nearly impossible to escape it – and I wonder why this country in particular should be out of the loop. Every time I saw a Moleskine-like rotating display in a bookshop I made a beeline for it, but it always turned out to be a lookalike called BRÜGGE. (I think the line is manufactured in China, but I’m not 100% certain.) The notebooks I did get are both made in Argentina.

This is a notebook in my favorite format: spiral-bound, square grid, lots of pages. The paper feels above average, but I won’t be too disappointed if it bleeds or feathers. One advantage of being a pencil user is that you become much more tolerant of various kinds of paper.

The pencils are both unfamiliar variants of familiar brands. I actually got the Brazilian-made Eco in place of a one-peso change at a bookstore; Argentinians hate small change and will go to some lengths to avoid dealing in coins.

The second is a regular lined and banded notebook, but with cute illustrations inside, from a brand called Monoblock. I don’t know if I’ll actually be using this notebook for anything; this is just a souvenir to remember the city’s great cafés and pastries by :)

The last item of note is marketed as an iPad case, but I have something different in mind. The factors that make Argentina one of the best places in the world to have a steak in also enable it to produce a lot of leather, and BA is known for its multitude of leather-goods shops selling jackets, shoes, bags, wallets, etc. Now, I’ve always wanted a leather desk pad that cushions sheets of paper against a fountain pen nib, ever since I saw one back in Seoul (the brand was Italian). BA shops carry that too – aptly named carpetas para escritorio – but they were too large, and often too complicated (with lids, sleeves, gilt-edged corners etc.). I wanted a smaller pad that was more portable, like a leather clipboard without the clip. And this is just the right size, and at around US$43, quite a bargain I think. (I might still work myself up towards a proper carpeta in the future.) 

And, with all that leather in search of a purpose, I certainly hope the artisans across the river will be interested enough to make other stationery-related articles in the future – notebook covers, pencil sleeves, pencases, and heck, why not sharpener cases? :)

A New Planner

image

A new planner is exciting for so many reasons. A whole year, as yet unsullied, no mistakes, regrets or embarrassments – at least not yet. Who knows what the future will bring? We are up for a transfer next year, but we do not yet know where we will be going next. Holland was a strong candidate until recently, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we are back to square one. I wonder just where I’ll be writing in this journal next, if not from a canalside café ;)

I did end up getting a leather cover for my Hobonichi, one of the simplest I could find. It’s from Midori and designed to fit their own slightly slimmer MD notebooks, so the fit is a bit tight. I had to press it down with a big book for a couple of weeks (my son’s French dictionary helped). Midori says you have to tan it in sunlight for 2-3 weeks before using it in order to let the leather develop a sort of patina that will protect it against water and dirt (the leather is sold completely untreated “so that the user can enjoy the mellowing of the leather himself/herself to the utmost”), so I was doing that with precious little to show for it, but then I learned that the tanning was a much, much longer, gradual process, so I’m just using it as is. The leather is a warm peachy beige and wonderfully soft to the touch. I wish it could stay like this forever!

image

image

Leather Accessories for Pens and Pencils

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a lot of interest in handicraft now in Korea. Many people are taking up quiltwork or leathercraft, and as a result, many hand-crafted items come up for sale in pen shows. People do seem to enjoy making simple things to go with their writing instruments. Some even bind their own notebooks with the paper of their choice. Here is a sampling of leather accessories available.

IMG_0133-0.JPG

IMG_0131.JPG

This is a memo pad cover designed to fit a Rhodia No. 11.

IMG_0138.JPG

IMG_0139.JPG

This is another kind of memo pad, designed for a LIFE Noble B7. This provides an ideal cushion for fountain pen nibs, and together with the smooth Noble paper it makes for quite an experience. There is a sleeve at the back where you can keep additional sheets of paper.

IMG_0135.JPG

These are pen rests, designed to prevent pens from rolling around on the desk and gathering scratches. All these items above were made by a friend who eventually quit her job to learn leatherworking in Japan. Her teacher (oops… I forgot that she actually apprenticed elsewhere, although she intended to apply to Mr. Takuya’s studio) and atelier owner, another self-taught man whose previous background was also in something very different, is well known among fountain pen users and he makes fantastic bespoke pencases for them. On his webpage you can see some items from his stationery collection.

IMG_0137.JPG

These are commercially available pencil caps and simple pen cases (sleeves) in leather. Both are Korean brands (Tanzo and Redman). I use the long sleeves for storing pencils that are too long to fit in my pencil case. The smaller pencil caps also provide good protection for individual pencils in rucksacks and tote bags.