Friday, November 18, 2011

Design Stationery Gift Sets!

If we had an employee of the month award at NoteMaker and if i was lucky enough to crown its winner (yes, a crown would be the prize), then I reckon, even though we're only half-way through the month, that the Australia Post driver who swings by our warehouse would win. Hands down.

It's pretty much been daily these last couple of weeks that he drops off a present for somebody here...or rather, that somebody's somebody, and the morale boost is palpable every time. I bring this up here because at the start of the week i commented that everyone seems to be really organised, I mean, its ages before that alarm for gift buying goes off, right? Right?

Apparently not! The days are flying by. It's the 18th today! The 18th!! I swear it was the 3rd like a couple of days ago...

Anyway, if you too haven't really set that gift alarm yet then maybe now is a good time. Don't rush about it, don't panic...just think about it. We thought about it as a group last week and after a couple of afternoons of gratuitous fun, we came up with some Design Stationery Gift Sets!

This is all hand-picked, stuff we love, stuff that works well together, stuff we would proudly, happily give to loved ones. They were pretty much designed for people we know and hold dear and for those people who are always hard to buy for. Not this year, Pal. This year was easy for you!

And fun! We didn't really want to go back to real work in a hurry, so Gift Wrapping Kits were also made! See now it's no issue that days seem to be 12 hours long instead of 24, we're actually hanging out for the next couple of weeks to go by!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Palomino Blackwing Pencils!!!

Three exclamation marks in the title of this post - probably a personal record - and all for good reason! The Palomino Blackwing is not just another pencil and yes, it is worth every seemingly superfluous piece of punctuation. Variously described as 'Black Velvet', 'like writing with butter', 'the best wood pencil in the world' and the 'fountain pen of pencils', the Blackwing (and Blackwing 602 for that) is something you just have to try.

It's so good it will make you re-evaluate your standards, your whole pencil cosmology, of just what a wood pencil can be. Even if you don't really like pencils, you still have to try it. Maybe I'm just stuck in some ill-proportioned infatuation with pencils (see below for my last Rhodia pencil), but the scope of expression that the Blackwing gives its lucky user is entirely endearing.

Where to start? Well, there is a key difference or two between the Blackwing Pencil and the Blackwing 602 Pencil. These are most easily summed up as: The Blackwing is great for sketching. The Blackwing 602 is great for writing.

The Blackwing is a modern homage to the famous Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602 (discontinued in 1998) and like a phoenix, rose from the cedar wood ashes of its forebear to be better than ever. It is made for sketching and has a special graphite formulation lead which is distinguished for two reasons. It is seriously black (see the gradation below) and seriously smooth.

The point more or less vanishes, wearing away much faster than 4B lead, and probably has a small amount of wax too. It's just ridiculous. For sketching, the degrees of blackness you can get out of the Blackwing, the breadth of shading possibilities and the feedback you get is so much more than you can reasonably expect from a wood pencil.

The Blackwing 602, on the other hand, is a writer's pencil. It is super fast (Half the Pressure. Twice the Speed), more grey-black than straight black like the Blackwing and has greater point retention. It too is extremely expressive, i quite like the comparison to a fountain pen. It is smoother, faster, more free and gives much greater feedback than its proverbial ballpoint competitors in the world of lead pencils.

This point about expression is worth noting. The lead formulation sits around HB if you just want to write with it normally. But take a little care, caress it just right, and you can get anything from H to 3B or 4B out of the Blackwing 602.

The Blackwing is an homage to the infamous original whereas the Blackwing 602 is more of a revision, an audacious attempt at direct improvement on its namesake made by Eberhard-Faber. And a success at that.

The common traits are equally endearing. That beautiful gold ferrule, the removable eraser, the incense cedar body. Its so elegant, seemingly aware of its preeminence and not shy about it either.

Grab a long-point sharpener (oh, how I could bang on about my love of this sharpener...) and Blackwing and just enjoy something that is the very best of its kind in the world. Few things, humble like a pencil or not, are exceptional enough to make us reconsider our view of them, to re-organise our schemata, but these are that good. I'm in love.

Friday, October 28, 2011

2012 Moleskine Diaries are Back!

A very quick post to end the week with good news - 2012 Moleskine Diaries are finally back in stock! We have all been really amazed at how popular they have been already, with 2012 still two months way! A nice spot of vindication, perhaps, for those of us who have never doubted the preeminence of paper planning! Be quick!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just Landed: Rifle Paper Co

Just Landed: the amazing, highly sought after Rifle Paper Co! Cards, Invitations & Prints designed, made and almost invariably brought back from a holiday in the U S of A, Rifle Paper is made by a small team in an idyllic studio in Winter Park, Florida.

There is something warm and sunny about Rifle Paper too, a real joie de vivre in the designs. Rifle cards are generally thought of as having this nostalgic vibe to them, something whimsical or carefree.

Now i tend to steer clear of describing things as nostalgic. To me, the adjective has been associated too often with derivative or perfunctory work. Rifle paper definitely can't be described as derivative, but there is something that reminds me of an awesome children's book going on here.

The animals and circus theme is really cute but i think the Botanical theme is where Rifle's quality really comes through. See, here is the thing that makes stationery fans swoon in the presence of a rifle card - they're so real!

They are original, hand drawn designs but the way they are translated onto a printed card, thanks to the paper stock and care taken in printing, is so vivid. More than any other card I've really seen, these are alive. And it is actually quite engaging.

Anna Bond (creator) believes that stories and memories are best told, at least where the tyranny of distance gets in the way, through a hand written note. And this combination of design and production quality that brings these cards to life ensures that your message is being told by a capable anecdotalist...the recipient will be paying attention.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just Landed: Anything Design!

We've always had a thing for Japan and Japanese Stationery but this last week and a half has gotten to be ridiculous! First, there was new Delfonics and Delfonics 2012 diaries. Then we received Pantone Markers, perhaps not immediately identifiable as Japanese but made in that country of stationery excellence. And now, good reader, we have Anything Design.

Anything Design is the product of designer Michael Sodeau (London, England) and manufacturer Suikosha (Osaka, Japan) - a great collaboration of experts sticking to their expertise.

Sodeau's guiding principle for designing the collection wasn't anything earth shattering. He believes that each item has its own place and autonomy but if you consider those places in the perspective of the whole, you will reach an amelioration of function. He saw the forest and the trees quite clearly when it came to desk accessories.

But that he actually saw it is the key! He acted on it in his design and consequently, there are small but considerable functional improvements. We end up with this desktop harmony that makes you happy to be at your computer.

Everything is the same size, the same orientation, the same height, the same non-slip bases. Aesthetically, the whole is beautiful and creates this sense of order. Of calm.

Suikosha's mission was not so much to see the forest. Or perhaps even the trees. They were looking for the leaves, or maybe even the bugs on the leaves...I guess i'm saying that every detail has been scrutinised and realised with precision. The materials used are really good, this stuff has weight and substance - the tape dispenser in particular really is the business!

We had one of those moments when photographing this. I think it involved a black stapler, a black alarm clock and an MMMG Ping Pong calendar. We set it up to photograph - knowing what we were doing - and then all three of us stopped. It was arresting, indeed kind of can that look so nice? I think over the next 10 seconds the three of us managed two and a half 'wow's before we came back to reality, looked at our now forever ruined desks and sighed our way back to work.

Any time desk accessories can do this, you kind of know you're in the presence of greatness.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Landed: 2012 Delfonics Diaries

It's October (already!?) and that can only mean one thing to design stationery devotees - a new Delfonics Diary! Dated from October 2011-December 2012 and perhaps, possibly, probably the best diary range in the world.

I feel like I can say that with some qualification. See, for over 260 days a year, I get to be immersed in design stationery, surrounded by it, and like everyone I have my favourites. But every October when i see that Delfonics Diary range I just can't help but be impressed by how absolutely, consummately perfect it is.

To try and describe it in words will only really lead to hyperbole and probably some overly poetic animism. I may even end up singing with a lute beneath a Delfonics Etoffe Diary's balcony, rose betwixt my teeth, so I'll go easy on the description.

Suffice to say, they are so thoroughly considered in their design and so faultlessly realised in their production that their utility knows no bounds. The paper passes a fountain pen test, the formats make sure you're keeping everything on track and the extra sections keep you covered.

Aesthetically, their preeminence is clear and creates a sense of preciousness, even of companionship...see, it's hard to hold one for a while and not start getting all sentimental about it.

But back to Delfonics and the yearly realisation that this could just about be the best stationery brand in the world. It's hard to, but forget the diaries for a sec and consider the whole of Delfonics.

It's such a concise collection, so harmonious in its parts. Everything comes together so well and insists on personal expression, that extension of yourself that we all love stationery for. Whether this is from utility (and an intellectual extension of self) or from aesthetics (an extension of personal taste and style), it is always there.

And it really is personal. The variety of colours in each line and the way that they are designed to come together, the sum always greater than the parts, permits this wonderful individual style, a product range perfectly malleable to each person's tastes.

And of course there is that Delfonics Rollbahn Notebook. I won't hesitate here - the Extra Large notebook is my vote for the world's best notebook. I'm not using one right now, it may be weeks before i pick one up again, but as an all-rounder, if I am asked to choose only one notebook which i would have to use every day, forever more, then I am taking this. And not thinking twice about it.

And the reasons why are the same reasons that i have this annual epiphany that Delfonics is outrageously close to perfection in everything they do. And the moment that brings this to the very front of my brain is the moment we start unpacking boxes of Delfonics Diaries.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Just Landed: O-Check Design Graphics!

Just Landed from O-Check Design Graphics, a big friendly bunch of warm personal stationery! And I really mean personal, O-Check's designers just have this incredible skill for creating things which we end up holding dear.

A lot of stationery can be ephemeral. Maybe you only need it to do your work, or maybe you just use it like a partner in your brainstorming to be discarded once you've settled on the way forward. Maybe it just lacks something genuine in its design, a cute fling instead of something more serious.

None of this can be said of O-Check's work. Whether it is the feel of that book linen cover or the smile you get from looking at an Owl or handsome little squirrel, these books invariably end up as permanent parts of your book shelves, your own library. So calming, creating an inviolable mood of harmony for the happy beholder.

And to return to the first paragraph, I really do mean warm too. There's so much optimism throughout. The new undated daily diaries have each page titled 'A Special Day For..." and let you pick up from there.

The red one is a favourite of mine, it's nice and small, though being for Jour Apres Jour it is quite chunky. Anyway, it strikes me as really precious when blank...a little wear and tear and character that comes with use can only endear it further.

I think another reason why O-Check has such enduring charm is the inherent poetry in its design. The use of French and also just generally poetic phrasing throughout the whole range is nice but there is metaphor in the imagery too.

I really like the Love pop up card for this...the black and white background against (or perhaps beyond) which is set these big bright pink flamingoes, like a beacon.

As you can tell, I quite like when we get a delivery from O-Check!