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Product Review: SmudgeGuard 1-Finger Glove

Review by Tina Koyama

As a lefty, smearing my writing is a fact of life. As an adult without a critical teacher looking over my shoulder, it doesn’t don’t bother me much. The only time I get annoyed is when I’m working on a graphite drawing, and I see the mess I’m making – both on my drawing and on my hand. 

With drawing, though, it’s not even a lefty issue, is it? Righty artists make smudgy graphite messes as much as lefties do. I found an easy solution for all of us, whether writing or drawing – the SmudgeGuard Glove.

Wanting to minimize hand coverage, I chose the one-finger style ($14.99). It’s also available in a two-finger style ($16.99), which was apparently requested by tablet users. Both styles can be worn on either hand.

Mine is “cool black,” but it’s also available in “sweet lavender,” which is pretty, but there’s no way I want a color that would instantly show graphite and ink dirt. My black one will look new indefinitely (want to guess how many black items of clothing I own?). Even if it starts to look grungy, the product description says it’s hand-washable.

When I first saw this product, I was skeptical about how comfortable it would be to wear as I draw, but I was pleasantly surprised. I have worn mine many times for a couple of hours at a time, and have not found it uncomfortable, even on a hot day. I think an accurate fit is important, though. Following the product description’s recommendation to “use an actual ruler” (instead of a screen image of the size guide) to measure my hand, the XS fits me (ahem) like a glove. The nylon/spandex fabric is plenty stretchy, but I think baggy fabric of a too-large size might impede comfort and maybe effectiveness. 

The SmudgeGuard Glove is working out much better for me than traditional solutions I’ve tried, like a piece of tissue under my hand (which never seems to be in the right place as I move around). It keeps my hand clean and also prevents transfer of graphite from my hand to the paper. The glove works equally well for writing, too. 

(On warm summer days, I like to take my drawing easel and pencils out on our shady back deck, where these photos were taken.)

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

Notebook Review: Uglybooks

Notebook Review: Uglybooks

Review by Tina Koyama

For years, I tried every pocket-sized notebook on the market, hoping to find one with paper that I could use for both writing and sketching with fountain pens, water-soluble colored pencils, brush pens and maybe even watercolors. Frustrated, I even made my own for a while. Eventually, instead of continually being annoyed that notebooks intended for use with pencil or ballpoint couldn’t meet my demands, I asked myself: Why not just sketch with simple media that these notebooks were made for? I changed my attitude instead of my notebook. Most Field Notes Brand notebooks have met my needs adequately, if not ideally, and I’ve been adequately happy. I stopped shopping around.

Fast-forward several years, when someone who knew I enjoyed using red Field Notes Sweet Tooth edition notebooks (long out of production) contacted me: Did I know about Uglybooks? 

2 - Uglybooks covers

Made in New York, Uglybooks are simple, staple-bound, pocket-size notebooks like so many others on the market – with two significant differences: They contain 48 pages of unruled, 80-pound paper, and the paper inside is colored. I had never seen a pocket notebook with 80-pound paper of any color! Excited about both features, I ordered cautiously (I’ve been disappointed too many times by other claims of high-quality paper).

The product description and main branding appear only on the plastic wrapper. When removed, the wrapper reveals covers that are entirely blank – an ideal blank slate for stickering or drawing on. The only branding that remains is a logo on the back cover. 

The colored covers contrast well with their interior papers. While design is minimal, it’s clear that someone is having fun pairing paper colors and naming themes with appropriate titles.

The “No. 1 Tall” size I bought is 4-by-5 ¾ inches, which is just a smidge larger than the classic pocket size of 3 ½-by-5 ½ inches. Uglybooks are also available in a “No. 2 Wide” 8-by-5 ¾ landscape format. Although the classic pocket size is fine for thumbnails, I’ve always felt a little cramped otherwise. Uglybooks are an ideal size – a bit more real estate for sketching, yet small enough to fit in a bag pocket or my smallest fitness-walking bag.

At three books for $16, the pocket-size Uglybooks are priced competitively for a slightly larger size and heavier paper. The larger, landscape-format books are three for $30. (It’s worth noting here that when I had a minor shipping issue, customer service took care of me immediately. I don’t take good customer service for granted anymore – it’s worth a lot to me.)

All books feature hefty paper inside and out: 80-pound interior paper and 111-pound cover stock. Gold staples are a nice touch. “Because the paper in Uglybooks are so colorful and durable, we encourage you to try out whatever type of mark-making utensil you have!” says Uglybooks. Challenge accepted! (The brown paper shown below is “Smores.”)

The paper surface is mildly toothy but has no visible pattern. Media tests yielded no surprises. The only materials that bled through were the Sharpie and juicy washes of watercolors. I wouldn’t recommend this paper for watercolor painting, but light, dry-ish washes are fine. 

Long before I made the test swatch pages, I took an “Atlantic” book (navy cover with mossy green interior; the actual interior color is less blue than it appears in my photos) out for field testing. The green is just the right midtone for use with a black brush pen and a white pencil or gel pen, my favorite combo for quick urban sketches and value studies. My juiciest brush pens and Sailor Naginata fude fountain pen, which usually bleed through typical notebook papers, were no match for this 80-pound Uglybook paper! No bleeding at all.

The “Cane” book (red cover with white interior paper) became my field test for water-soluble colored pencils. As expected, the paper took light waterbrush washing better than other notebooks I’ve tried – no buckling or bleeding. Although the sizing is probably not intended for watercolors, it was enough to keep my Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colors true. The only treatment the paper couldn’t handle was a heavy water spritz, which caused the color to bleed through to the reverse side, and the paper buckled. 

I was impressed! In my next order, I didn’t hesitate to get all the colors I wanted, and it’s a good thing I didn’t. When I went back to the site a week or so later, all the color options had been changed – and the colors I had ordered previously were no longer available! Uglybooks are apparently limited editions, which means that if I really like one, I’d better hoard buy extras! (I’m guessing that white interior paper is always available.)

An interesting addition was the “Mystery” pack, which promised “cover and interior pages picked completely at random.” Who could resist that? Spoiler alert: Here’s what I got – that yellow looks very promising! I don’t know whether every Mystery pack purchase contains the same three colors, or distribution is truly random, but either way, it’s fun to get a surprise.

Just as I was working on this review, I learned that Uglybooks had recently acquired Word notebooks – an interesting development. I hope that doesn’t change Uglybooks’ current focus, which serves a unique niche. A great size, unruled, high-quality, 80-pound and colored paper – Uglybooks, where have you been all my life?

(These Uglybooks were purchased with my own funds.)

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

Fountain Pen Companion

Fountain Pen Companion

Do you have a way to keep your inks organized?

Inside the world of fountain pens, there are several areas for people to focus. Some people concentrate on vintage pens, others love unique filling systems, and the list goes on. Personally, my favorite fountain pen focus is ink.

I first became interested in fountain pens when I saw the vast number of ink colors that are available. This interest soon became an obsession and I currently have too many inks (bottles, samples, cartridges) to keep track of without help. I fell back on a spreadsheet to keep track of my growing collection, but it wasn’t exactly useful other than a place I could look up ink to see if I already owned a sample before purchasing another!

Then the Fountain Pen Companion was created. Urban Hafner, a fountain pen person located in Germany, took on the challenge of ink tracking and created an online database where users can enter their inks, track them, and visualize their collections.

Over time, Urban has refined Fountain Pen Companion (or FPC) to include additional features including a friendlier ink entry screen, the ability to compare your ink collection to that of another user, an ink visualization tool, and plenty more.

The visuals don’t end with ink colors. Below is a chart of ink brands by volume.

I can’t talk about Fountain Pen Companion without also mentioning the Leader board. This is a board tracking the top 10 individuals in several areas like number of samples or total number of inks. This is a fun way to feel more in touch with fellow fountain pen people and ink collectors along with the community section and blog. Fountain pen ink reviews have recently been added to help with those new ink acquisitions.

Since this database came from the work of a single individual, I encourage people to think about supporting Urban’s work on his Patreon page. FPC lives on a server that Urban pays for, supports, and maintains.

One last feature I would like to point out – the Fountain Pen Companion has a mascot! The Fountain Pen Capybara was designed by Angela He (InkyConverters) and can be viewed on the FPC blog or on Angela’s Etsy shop (although it is temporarily closed until August).

As a side note, I am not affiliated with Fountain Pen Companion – I’m only a supporter and an avid user who thinks this is an amazing way to keep track of fountain pen ink. If you use FPC, leave a note or send a quick message of thanks to Urban!

Link Love: New Planner Season is Coming

Link Love: New Planner Season is Coming

You know how to tell is will be fall soon? JetPens posts their Planner Notification Email post. Yep, another cycle of the year has turned. Time to start plotting your new planner set-up. Maybe even start a September-start planner?

There are only a few weeks left before kids will start heading back to school and hopefully, this will also mean cooler temps here in the US. At this rate, PSL season is just around the corner! While others celebrate PSL season, to us, its Back-to-school time which means new planners, new notebooks and, of course, new pens! I am clearly an optimist because even as a kid, I looked forward to going back to school, thinking it would be the pinnacle of learning and school supplies I saw in books, magazines and movies.

As a knitter, I am looking forward to tucking under a pile of yarn on a cool night and watching the ONE TRUE Persuasion (see post below) and snuggling with a kitten… or four. How do you celebrate back-to-school, whether you (or your kids) are going back-to-school?




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

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My humble workspace.

When I shoot photos for the Desk, I always show you the pretty parts, namely the photo studio surfaces or maybe my glass desktop from Ikea. Today I present to you the chaos that follows me around the house.

This right here is my ink swatching spot. It’s our dining room table, just adjacent to the kitchen. Near the kitchen sink for easy pen water and pen rinsing action, away from the carpeted floor (though I’d hate to clean ink off the hardwood!) and with lots of elbow room. You can see my elegant brown paper bag used as a blotter for any spills. In the past few years, our entertaining has dropped to a nice round zero, so I’m not sure I’ve cleaned up my inky spot in quite a while. What you don’t see are all the crates and cubes that used to sit on the table, the floor, and the next chair over.

Why don’t you see those cubes? It’s not embarrassment that keeps me from sharing them (though maybe it should be)… it’s that I finally fixed the problem. While I know Ana loves her Raskog cart dearly, I went ahead and ordered a knockoff from Target last week. And on Sunday when it arrived I gleefully cleaned, sorted and emptied out all those different spots and loaded everything onto a handy rolling cart. Now I can store it in my closet to keep it out of the way and roll it out when I’m ready to swatch. In that top tray? New inks I’ll be sharing soon, a new notebook, and a few other fun things.

Three cheers for getting organized!

Product Review: RandomThinks Ink Vial Holders

Product Review: RandomThinks Ink Vial Holders

On the rare occasions that I had to walk around at the St. Louis Pen Show, I did wander to the opposite corner of the show and see Keith of @randomthinks and his dizzying array of colorful, 3D-printed accessories. He had a rainbow of pen and pencil holders as well as the fabulous ink vial holder tea cups. He even had giant tea cup pen holders — also in a rainbow of colors.

I purchased not one but TWO of the tiny ink vial holder tea cups — one in my favorite color — lime green —  and one in pink. The inserts (liquid) in each cup is removable and available in “coffee” brown or “matcha” green. I think the matcha insert works best in the pink cup and the coffee in the lime green cup. What do you think?

If you are interested in purchasing an ink vial holder or find about any of the other awesome 3D printed, pen-related products that Keith is creating, send him a DM on Instagram @randomthinks. Or catch up with him in person at the Detroit Pen Show and the Ohio Pen Shows this year.

Notebook Review: Odyssey Notebooks (Tomoe River 68gsm)

Notebook Review: Odyssey Notebooks (Tomoe River 68gsm)

Want to get me in my happy place? Mix 68gsm Tomoe River paper with something stellar/space themed and then tell me its a BRAND NEW notebook.

I have searched for this image so many times over the last week. 100% the best pen community meme yet. And 100% true. (from jennibick on instagram)

We always need a new notebook. What if we start a new project? Or a new job? Or decide to completely redo how we are planning, journaling, etc? We need to have a spare notebook on hand. We can’t WAIT for one to arrive or, heaven forbid, have to trek out to buy one at a moment’s notice. I mean we don’t wait until we run out of ink to buy another bottle, right? Same thing applies with notebooks.

Odyssey Notebook - cover detail

Like I said, when I am thinking about what kinds of notebooks I want to have in my “emotional support stack” 68gsm Tomoe River notebooks are always at the top of the list. Odyssey Notebooks makes an array of notebook options but focuses on A5 and pocket notebooks presently. The A5 notebooks are available in 200- and 400-page hardcover books and an epic 500-page softcover book. Most notebooks are available with 5mm dot grid, 7mm lined or blank options. All hardcovers feature stunning space-themed foil stamping on the cover.

Odyssey notebooks also did a special 160gsm collab with Cooper Calligraphy to create a limited collection of tarot card themed notebooks. I have not gotten to try the 160gsm premium paper but its definitely on my “next notebook” list.

Odyssey Notebook - ribbon

The A5 hardcover notebooks feature two ribbon bookmarks, a vertical elastic strap, a gusseted pocket in the back for ephemera and numbered pages, even in the blank version. The hardcover notebooks feature a foil stamped image on the cover — planets, supernovas and other stellar artwork which was created by the owner of the company. A woman of many talents!

This is the back of the A5 softcover 500-page dot grid notebook. The cover is a matte, woven texture cardstock that is glued to the interior flysheet for extra thickness. It seems pretty durable and feels nice in the hand though I suspect anyone using a 500-page notebook may need a more durable cover since it will take quite some time to use all 500-page.

Both the hardcover and softcover notebooks have the company info debossed on the bottom edge of the back cover. That’s just the right amount of branding.

All the notebooks are well-stitched and feel durable and quality.

The Pocket-Sized Notebook:

Odyssey Notebook detail

The pocket notebooks (3.5 x 5.5″) feature 72 pp, dot grid and a soft, leatherette cover in an array of colors with a little satellite embossed in the lower right hand corner. They, of course, use 68gsm Tomoe River paper.

Odyssey Notebook - Dots

I did find the dots in the pocket notebooks to be a bit larger and darker than in the A5 sized notebooks. They are still printed in a light grey so they are not too noticeable but I thought I’d note the difference here. There are no pages numbers in the pocket notebook.

A5 Blank:

The A5 hardcover notebook uses the same type of non-leather leatherette for the cover which is soft to the touch and hold the foil stamp details beautifully.

This is my go-to notebook in terms of paper style. I love a blank notebook that i can use a guidesheet under. The 68gsm is that sweet spot between being transparent enough to use a guidesheet while also being opaque enough to be able to use both sides of the paper. the 68gsm Tomoe River shows most ink characteristics while improving dry time when compared to the 52gsm variety.

I know lots of people prefer the 52gsm Tomoe River but I’m delighted that I can still find and use the 68gsm.

A5 Lined Insert:

I also tested a 7mm lined Cahier-style notebooks ($8 each). These are A5-sized with 48pp and use the same 68gsm Tomoe River paper as the larger notebooks. These are perfect for the A5-sized Traveler’s Notebook set-ups.

The lines are an unobtrusive grey and not too thick. Even with extra fine gel pens, I still see the writing before I notice the lines which is my litmus test for lined, graph or dot grid papers.

There was no bleed through with any of the tools I tested and minimal showthrough.

Page Numbers:

Odyssey Notebook - page numbers blank

The orbit lines around the page numbers is fun and unique and not too intrusive. I love that they included page number on the blank edition as well. Often, if I request a blank notebook, its 100% blank. It’s nice to have page numbers so that I can, if I choose, add a table of content or other index to find my content later.

Odyssey Notebooks -- page numbers dot
These are the small dots in the A5 notebook versus the larger in the pocket notebook shown earlier in the review.

Odyssey Notebooks -- page numbers lined

Final Thoughts:

If you haven’t tried the thicker  68gsm Tomoe River paper yet, I think the notebooks from Odyssey are a great place to start. Odyssey Notebooks is a WOC business headquartered in Maryland and makes great products… as if you needed another reason to invest in a few more emotional support notebooks.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Odyssey Notebooks for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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