Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wedding calligraphy

Many of you know that my daughter is getting married soon (because you have heard about it in letters from me).  And soon means Saturday.  This Saturday.  (gulp)  We're ready, though!

However, I have talked a lot about doing calligraphy for her wedding, so I thought it was time to show it all off.

Very early in the process of wedding planning, I decided I would do the calligraphy for her invitation envelopes.  So I got out the pointed pen and the ink and started relearning my copperplate hand.  I had learned it years and years ago, but had not really used it since then.  However, it was much like riding a bicycle -- a few wobbly starts, and then it all came back to me.

Then we went shopping for the invitations themselves, and we fell in love with a particular style that just happened to include a spot for custom calligraphy. So I thought, SURE!  Why not?  Add that to the list!  The advantage was, I only had to produce a master copy of that calligraphy (the couple's names on the invitation) and send it off to be mass-printed on the invitation.  But I probably wrote those names about 50 times to get them as perfect as possible. By the way, the invitation came from Crane's. THE BEST CUSTOM STATIONERY, HANDS DOWN!

An inner envelope and the invitation.

An outer envelope.  These were huge, by the way, requiring extra postage.  Didn't think about that!

We sent out 144 invitations.  They took about four months to do.  (Yes, this was HORRIBLY slow, but I just did it on the side, in spare moments, so I wanted as much time as possible to get them finished on time.  I could have done it faster.)  I started at the first of the year and finished by April, a few weeks before it was time to mail them out.  Once I finished with that little project (ha) I started looking around for something else to do.

Another obsession of mine is chalkboards.  Specifically, the decorative kind, which is just really another form of calligraphy.  Lots of people use these chalkboards as decorative/informative elements of weddings, receptions, parties, etc.  So I thought, let's try this out!  My wife and daughter were certainly supportive of my efforts -- free calligraphy, right?

Drinks menu (small chalkboard) for the bar area at the reception.

Large chalkboard that will be placed on an easel to welcome guests to the reception.

Smaller chalkboard used for the wedding favors area -- my (future) son-in-law makes a mean grilling rub that he put into test tubes (because he's a scientist) to give to the wedding guests.

And then, there's going to be a bridesmaids luncheon the day before the wedding, so why not do a couple of chalkboards there to label the drink dispensers?

So there you have it -- my calligraphy journey to the wedding day!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Winner of the INDIARY Expedition Notebook

Well, it's Saturday, and so it's time to pick the winner of the INDIARY Expedition Handmade Notebook.  And Ye Olde Random Number Generator says...

This means....

Derrick is the winner!

Congratulations, Derrick, and I think we all agree that if you do indeed have "Spawn's Journal" tooled into the cover of this notebook, you are completely obligated to show it to us on your blog.  Can I get an "Amen" on that??!? :-)

Now get ready for another giveaway (the 10,000 page views giveaway), coming soon!  (Right after I address this whole "Week of Pencils" thing that I have been talking about forever.  Or maybe during it, I don't know.  Time to put up or shut up!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

10,000+ Page Views!

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but this morning I logged in to my Blogger account and saw that the page views on this blog have surpassed 10,000.  I knew it was coming, but it just "snuck up" on me!  I am very excited and gratified by this, so to you, readers, I say THANKS!

And yes, I remember that I promised a 10,000 hits giveaway (way back when I hit 5,000).  As soon as my current giveaway (the INDIARY notebook) is finished, I'll have some more goodies to give away in honor of this milestone.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review and Giveaway: INDIARY "Expedition" Handmade Leather Notebook

Two weeks ago I received an email inquiry from INDIARY (, a new (to me) company that makes some of the most beautiful and affordable handmade notebooks out there.  Their representative wanted to know if I was interested in reviewing one of their notebooks.  Ummmm... Yes!  I am always up for a review of anything having to do with paper, pens, pencils, or notebooks.

So today I am reviewing the INDIARY "Expedition" notebook.  (Here's the direct link to the item's page on, which is evidently the distributor for all the notebooks in the INDIARY line.)  The notebook is handcrafted out of buffalo leather, with a string closure, wrap-around flap, and filled with 100 pages of handmade paper.  Yes, you read that right.  This entire notebook, down to the paper itself, is completely handmade.  It is a work of art.  And it is a feast for the senses, from the feel of the leather, to the texture of the paper, to the wonderful leather smell of the entire notebook.

The INDIARY logo stamped on the front flap of the notebook.

Did I mention the smell?  This is hardcore leather, folks.

Detail showing the edge of the notebook and the signatures of paper inside.

Closeup of the signatures -- each signature contains 10 sheets (folded to make 20 sheets in the signature), and the notebook contains 5 signatures for a total of 100 sheets.

 A closeup of the handmade paper inside the notebook.  This paper is soft and silky to the touch, and nearly every page has flower petals embedded in the paper for a really wonderful touch.

 Writing on the first page of the notebook.

 Testing the notebook out with some favorite writing instruments.

Closeup of writing samples

 Another closeup of more writing samples

I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the handmade paper in this notebook.  Even though handmade paper is usually beautiful, it can be fantastically finicky to use.  It often bleeds like crazy and can be almost too delicate to write on.  As you can see from the above photos, however, even a fountain pen (the Lamy Safari with a medium nib) performed respectably on this paper.

Surprisingly little bleedthrough -- I've seen much more expensive papers with more bleedthrough than this!

 The only writing instrument that really did not play nice with the handmade paper was the Blackwing 602 pencil.  I daresay any pencil would work the same.  It probably helps that the Blackwing is typically on the soft side, so the writing (or drawing, if you're so inclined) is feasible.  But don't try to erase!!  You can see what happens in the photo above when I unthinkingly tried erasing.

So now I can hear you thinking (one of my many hidden talents) -- "Gee, this is all really beautiful, Randall, but I can't afford something like this."

Yes, you can.  This notebook is normally $39.90, which is a great deal for this kind of item.

But right now it's $25 (on sale as of this writing).  Can you say BARGAIN!?!?

If you have Amazon Prime, that's all you'll pay (unless you spring for faster shipping).  I don't know about you, but I for one have never seen this kind of handmade notebook for this price.  If you are in the market for a completely handmade notebook, I don't think you can do better than this one.


INDIARY supplied me with two of these notebooks -- one to try out, and one to give away.  So here's your chance.  You can win one of these beautiful notebooks.

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you would use the notebook for.  In particular, I would love it if you would give me some insight on how to use the handmade paper of this notebook.  It's not your average paper, to be sure, so I know I can't really use it like ordinary paper in an ordinary notebook.  I'm thinking this kind of paper calls for something really artistic.  Please give me some ideas!  (If you don't have any ideas, just tell me how cool my blog is.)  IMPORTANT: To have an eligible entry, your comment MUST provide some way for me to contact you.  You probably know how this works!

2. The giveaway will be open until Saturday, June 15.  I will choose one commenter to be the winner.  The winner will be chosen in the usual way, by random number generator.  And then I will send the notebook out to the winner as soon as I can!

Good luck!

DISCLAIMER: This notebook was supplied for review by Anja and the fine folks at INDIARY.  I was not compensated monetarily for this review.  All opinions here are my own.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Entering a Pencil Phase

I go through phases, like most humans I guess.  (If you are not a human, you probably should not read any further because you just won't understand.)  This blog goes all over the place because I have interests and phases that go all over the place.  And for the past couple of days, I have been using this little baby more and more:

I have begun to remember the things I love about pencils -- their simplicity, their usefulness, their cheapness (unless, of course, you buy high-end Blackwings or pencils like that, which I admit I have done).  So I think for the near future I will be using pencils more and more, and will be working on a "week of pencils."

Because, after all, I STILL have THIS:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Envelope: White Ink on Kraft Paper

Another set of invitations going out today -- these are for the bridesmaids' luncheon.  While I was addressing the envelopes, I thought I should make a sample to show off here.  And please don't panic in the comments section -- this is NOT a real person or address, as far as I know.  Completely made up, down to the zip code, which Google and the USPS says does not exist either.

For those of you that are interested, I used a Brause 361 Steno Nib (the famous "Blue Pumpkin" nib, due to its color and shape; available at JetPens and many other online suppliers) and Dr. Ph. Martin's white Bombay India Ink, also available pretty much everywhere but Paper and Ink Arts is a good place to get it -- just trying to spread the love around here!  And now you know how I made up the name and address!  I'm still not sure why I picked Columbus, Mississippi for a city though.  It DOES exist but I don't know anyone who lives there.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fun With Chunky Versals

Here's a little something I played with today, inspired by the wonderful calligraphy of Martha Lever (you must check out her website!):

Mine is not as beautiful as her "Happiness" piece, but I am pretty pleased with the effect and definitely pleased with the colored pencil shading.  I just might put this in a little frame on my desk as good advice and a constant reminder.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Asemic Writing Postcard

TIL that asemic writing is what you call it when something looks all loopy and organized like handwriting, but it doesn't actually say anything.  From a Greek word meaning "signless."  It's related to a psychiatric disorder called asemia in which a person cannot understand or express any signs or symbols.  In the world of art, it's usually related to abstract calligraphy-style markings that the viewer can attach his or her own meaning to, as in this great postcard I got from a blog reader yesterday:

(By the way, in case you are not as incredibly hip as I am -- HA --  "TIL" is a piece of Internet slang that means "Today I learned..."  So now maybe you have learned TWO things today!!)

Here's the front of the postcard, where the sender used my recent envelope style to address the postcard:

In my book, this amounts to fan mail, and I LOVE IT.  Thanks so much, Andrea!  You really made my day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Easy Calligraphy Wrapping Paper

This is one of my favorite ways to wrap a present these days.  It's easy and cheap and beautiful, three words that are music to my ears!

Take a piece of kraft wrapping paper ($1.00 a roll at Dollar Tree) and use markers of any color (including gold or silver ink ones) to write the message of your choice.  This was wrapping paper for a birthday present, so I did a no-brainer message:

The kind of marker I used dries instantly, so the paper is immediately ready for wrapping.

This actually works better if you write the words such that they are staggered on the paper and the lines of words overlap on the package, but this morning I was going for quick and easy.  It's still fun and personal, because you took the time to make it.  You could even add the name of the recipient to make it ultimately personalized.

Have fun with this simple technique!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How About Another Envelope Style?

I ran across this style on the Internet the other day and had to try it out for myself.  You all know I can't resist this kind of envelope decoration.  Kind of plain, but I like it.  It could definitely be cleaned up some, but what do you think?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 7 (The End): De Atramentis Johannes Brahms

Today's ink is another beautiful De Atramentis ink, named after the famous composer Johannes Brahms.  Many ink manufacturers make inks named after famous people, and most of the time it's not clear (to me at least) what the relationship is between the person and the color.  That holds true for this ink as well.  What relationship is there between Brahms, who composed at the height of the Romantic period, and this reddish/salmonish/melonish colored ink?  Who knows?  However, it's a great color of ink and (like most of the De Atramentis inks) fantastically well-behaved, even if I can't exactly decide what that color is.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

One sad note -- this ink appears to be gone from the market now.  Not available from Goulet Pens, certainly -- I must have bought it as a closeout -- and not even listed on the De Atramentis website.  Oh well.  I will enjoy my sample until it is gone, I suppose.

So I was thinking about Brahms, and his music, in connection with this ink.  I am not familiar with very much of Brahms' work, but two of his works -- the German Requiem and his Symphony Number 1 -- are among my all-time favorite pieces of music.  The fourth movement of his German Requiem, "How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place," is especially fine.  If you have never heard it, you are missing one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.  So, thanks to the magic of YouTube, I would like to share this with you.

Here we are at the end of the Week of Ink, and I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have.  During this week, I have learned a few valuable things:
1. Always take the plunge and order the bottle of an ink that you like, because there's no guarantee that ink will be available forever.
2. I really like using a different color every day, or at least much more frequently than I am used to.  And it takes just a couple of minutes to flush a pen and switch out inks.  It's not that hard, if you have the right tools.
3. I like using colors, period.  This little experiment has made me much more comfortable using all kinds of colors of ink.  If you are one of my penfriends, there's no telling what color you will see from me in my next letter!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 6: De Atramentis Magic Druid

Today, a very interesting ink.  "Magic Druid" appears to be part of a "Myth and Magic" series that De Atramentis produced a couple of years back.  These inks are no longer available at Goulet Pens, where I got my sample, but a quick Internet search turns up some bottles still available out there.  However, this is one of the most important lessons I have learned from my Week of Ink -- if you like an ink, you should buy a bottle of it as soon as possible, because most inks eventually go off the market, or get their formulations changed, etc.  So when it comes to ink, carpe diem!

This ink is nice, but really too light for me.  Plus the scent is a little off -- the ink is probably supposed to smell like a deep, dark pine forest where druids are holding their mysterious rituals and doing all kinds of magical deeds.  Unfortunately, the ink scent reminds me of Pine-Sol.  Pleasant, to be sure, but not mysterious and magical.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 5: Private Reserve Foam Green

So by now we all know I like green ink.  Yep.  Probably at least a quarter to a third of the samples in my ink sample box are greens of one sort or another.  But all greens are NOT created equal!  Exhibit A: this very pretty (but way too light for me) Foam Green ink from Private Reserve.  I like Private Reserve inks a lot -- their Sherwood Green is one of my all-time favorites.  But this ink is definitely a miss for me.  Oh well -- during Ink Week there have to be some inks that don't make the cut!  (Cue dramatic music.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 4: Diamine Evergreen

I love green ink.  There.  I said it.  Even though green ink is traditionally associated with slightly unhinged people, I love it.  But it has to be the right shade of green.  I don't want an ink that looks like I smeared a bunch of leaves around on my paper.

Today's ink, Diamine Evergreen, is a perfect dark green ink -- almost a green-black, perhaps, although this photograph does not bring out those qualities.  Definitely a candidate for a bottle purchase!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 3: De Atramentis Chocolate

Either I have a lot of DeAtramentis scented inks in my ink box, or I need to go play the slot machines or something.  Calm down, we are NOT taking a trip to the casino (at least not today).  A while back I splurged on samples of just about every scented ink DeAtramentis makes (samples purchased from the supreme Goulet Pens, don't you know), and so my ink box is a little skewed in that direction.  But I don't mind!

Today we have a Chocolate ink that really does smell like chocolate.  But only in the bottle.  And even though it is a beautiful ink, it's a little too reddish for my taste.  This is definitely not milk chocolate.  In my book it would do pretty well not as a brown, but as a deep dark red.  It may be just the color for you, however!  Give a shout-out below and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 2: Lamy Turquoise

It struck me yesterday that I have been thinking about this week in my head as "Ink Week," which puts me in mind of "Shark Week."  Then I got to thinking -- there ought to be a cable channel just for pen and ink enthusiasts (why not? There's certainly a channel out there for EVERYBODY ELSE ON THE PLANET), and then we could have "Ink Week" and nobody would laugh at us.  Much.

Today -- a beautiful turquoise ink from Lamy.  One of my new favorites.  Makes me think of sun, sand, and the beach.  Mind you, I don't actually LIKE sun, sand, and the beach very much -- I just want to think about them.  And write with this ink!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Week of Ink, Day 1: De Atramentis Shiraz Wine Ink

First up in the Week of Ink: Shiraz Wine ink by DeAtramentis.  Yes, it looks like wine AND smells like wine!  A highly recommended and beautiful ink.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Week of Ink

Anyone who has been my penfriend for any length of time has likely heard me moan and groan about not being adventuresome enough with the ink colors that I use.  And this timidity is entirely my fault, since I am a member of the very excellent InkDrop service of Goulet Pens.  (I highly recommend this service -- you really should try it if you never have.)  Every month I get five fascinating fluids to put into my pens (otherwise known as "inks," but I just couldn't resist the alliteration), and yet I stick with the same boring blacks, blues, and browns.

My ink sample box.  It's a little like a hidden object game -- can you find the Pilot Varsity pen that somehow made its way into the box?

Ink-wise I am at the same stage of color maturity that I was when my wife and I were first married.  Back then I insisted on dressing almost completely in earth tones, but I assure you it wasn't in order to make a fashion statement, unless the statement was "I am a very boring individual who thinks his head will explode if he tries on a green shirt."  Luckily, my colorful wife soon took me in hand and now I am (mostly) comfortable wearing almost any color.  In fact, I was wearing yellow shorts just this morning.  Outside.  In daylight.

But I digress.  Suffice it to say that my ink color adventures lag far behind my clothing color choices.  So here's my solution.  For a week, I am going to try a new random color of ink from my box every day, using the same pen (my trusty Kaigelu M nib pen) and the same paper (Bloc Rhodia No. 16) just for consistency of experience.  I will handwrite a mini review of each ink, just for reference.  At the end of the week, I expect to have found some new favorite inks, and I will have (hopefully) become more comfortable with using some of the wealth of ink colors available to fountain pen users today.

Let's have fun with ink!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Little Experiment

I have been reading a new book on lettering, called Creative Lettering, and if you have an interest in lettering and calligraphy, you must get a copy!  It is chock full of ideas and I am enjoying it immensely.

One of the artists in the book did a piece where she lettered the alphabet onto a piece of watercolor paper using masking fluid.  Then after the masking fluid dried, she layered washes of color onto the background.  The last step is to remove the masking fluid, and you have a very striking piece of calligraphy.

I saw this and thought, hey, I can do that!  And here's the result -- not great, but good and fun for a start:

Years ago I used to paint in watercolor and really enjoyed it -- maybe this could be the start of a new venture?  I'd welcome your thoughts or ideas in the comments!

Monday, April 15, 2013

OK, How About 2 Winners?

I have not heard from Pamela K yet (oh yoo hoo, Pamela!!), so I am going to pick another winner for the giveaway.  However, Pamela may just have forgotten to check back to see if she won, so I am going to hang on to her prize and give it to her in case she shows up later (especially since it kind of doesn't exist yet...).  And in the meantime, I am going to choose another winner.  Drumroll, please!

And the second winner is... Ria!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tick Tock...

... time is fleeting.  Specifically, since I have not heard back from Pamela K (Oh Pamela, where are you!?!), I am going to put a deadline on redemption of my calligraphy giveaway prize. If you know Pamela, please alert her that time is running out!

If I don't hear from her by Monday, April 15, I will choose another winner from the list of commenters on the original post.

And maybe one day soon I'll post something else interesting for you to read!  Stranger things have been known to happen...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Calligraphy Giveaway Results

I was very gratified and flattered by all the nice comments concerning my calligraphy and the giveaway (see this post).  So, as promised, today I am picking a winner.  There were 11 total comments, so I numbered them and consulted the Magic 8 Ball Random Number Generator, and here's the result:

And that means that Pamela K is the winner!

Pamela, you have a Blogger profile but I cannot find an email address to go with it, so you will have to email me.  Congratulations, and I look forward to creating something special for you!

I really appreciate all the interest and kind comments of everyone else, however, so I have a surprise: there's a consolation prize!  Everyone is a winner!

The above is a piece that I wrote as an "all-purpose" piece of clip art that you can use on stationery, notecards, stickers -- however and wherever you would like to use it.  I personally am going to start with using it on stationery:

I am not quite sure how to make this freely available, however.  If you click and try to save the above image, it will not be quite as high resolution as the original (but it may still be OK for your purposes).  Email me (at the link above) and I will send you the original file post-haste!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway, and look for another one when the blog hits 10,000!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let's Celebrate With a Giveaway!

My blog is coming up on 5,000 total hits.  Yes, I know that is a blip on the blogosphere.  And probably 4,993 of those hits will be me checking to see what the blog looks like.  :-)

But seriously, 5,000 hits is a personal milestone for me, because... it's a nice round number.  Yeah.  And it's way better than 500, which is where my blog hovered for quite some time.

So, what better way to celebrate this milestone, however infinitesimal, than with a giveaway?  But not just any giveaway.  A personalized giveaway.

If you have been reading the blog lately (and of course you have... where do you think those 5,000 hits came from?), you know that I have recently been highly enamored of calligraphy and envelopes and mail.  I made myself the following monogram, using a Zebra Comic G nib and Sumi Moon Palace ink on HP premium laser printer paper:

Then I scanned it at 1200 dpi and saved it as a JPEG.  Now I can use it as clip art, essentially, on my own personalized letterhead, or labels, or notecards -- anything my little brain can think up.  And this makes me happy.  I also cropped the H out and made this tonight:

This all got me to thinking: there are probably a few of you out there that might like the same thing.  With your own initials, of course, not mine.

So that's going to be the giveaway.  The winner will get the services of me and my pen to create a one-of-a-kind, personalized calligraphy piece (in copperplate, as shown above, or italic, or what I like to call my "funky copperplate" hand).  I will let you decide what it will be exactly.  Then I will scan it at high resolution and email the file to you for your own use as clip art on anything you wish.  It will be my gift to you!

And the rules are simple: leave a comment below, in the comments section, and you're entered.  This is not a high-traffic blog (ya think??!), so I'll leave the giveaway open for roughly 10 days or so, until the end of March.  Then on April 1, I and my friendly neighborhood random number generator will pick a winner.  I'll announce the winner here, and if the winning comment is associated with an email, that person will be hearing from me shortly thereafter.  If not, the winner will have to email me instead.  But we're going to keep this as simple as possible.

Good luck!