Thursday, April 26, 2012

Field Notes The National Crop Limited Edition

This video above says more about the latest Limited Edition from Field Notes, The National Crop, than I ever could! 4 times a year, Field Notes produces a very limited edition run of themed notebooks and this is number 14. It's definitely the best ever, a total celebration of everything that the memo book stands for. In a way, these promotional farmers memo books carried all the info that a crop raiser needed to get by, all of his observations, his records, notes, calculations, successes and failures. Watching this, holding The National Crop, I can't help but be reminded of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. get that cuper cute sew on badge too!

From a time where the success/failure of a crop was literally the be all and end all, the axis about which a man's life would turn, you get a real appreciation of how much weight every single one of those scribbled numbers or notes would carry. As they say, I'm Not Writing It Down To Remember It Later, I'm Writing It Down To remember It Now! Few of us are in such a dire position these days, but the point remains that a pocket notebook really can be your best friend, the eidetic memory of everything noteworthy that we come across, everyday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Paper & 'The Middle Frequencies'

This Saturday April 21 is Record Store Day, an international celebration of your local independent record store. Melbourne is incredibly rich, per capita, in independent record stores so to my fellow Melbournians I say go find your local, have a browse and help support these wonderful places.

This may seem an odd topic for a stationery blog but anybody who has listened to vinyl probably knows why i'm bringing this up. It's what a friend of mine once described, however vaguely, as 'the middle frequencies' and it's common to any 'analog' record of anything - music, writing, sketching, scribbling...

Very quickly, a record is 'analog'. There are physical grooves etched into the vinyl which replicate the actual soundwave that any recording makes. Sound is just vibrations in the air and those exact vibrations are copied perfectly by a record. You get everything, a full sound, every single part of the spectrum. CDs, DVDs and MP3s are all abstractions in a way. They are varying degrees removed from the original and work by 'sampling' that sound wave. They do this pretty frequently, a CD 44000 times per second, but amazingly, there is still a stark difference between a CD and a record.

In many ways, it's no big deal, right? I mean, you get the notes, the melody, rhythm, the timbre stays the same but you miss those 'middle frequencies' because a CD isn't taking the whole signal, it's just choosing points of the soundwave to pick up. Put as simply as I can put it, a record sounds 'more live'. It's 'closer' to the actual sound, fuller, more rounded, more real.

I'm sure that by now the metaphor is quite clear. Hand writing is your Record, word processing is your CD. As i type this into Blogger, i'm getting all of the letters, the punctuation, it's even making sense. But as i look to my notebook on the left, i see 'middle' with an underline, 'handwriting' looking something like 'hand__-_k_' and i even tried to sketch a soundwave...dearest Blogger, you're robbing me of the middle frequencies!

Sometimes, a bland, emotionless reproduction is great. If i submitted last month's report to the boss with hand drawn graphs and my barely legible script, I'd be wasting everybody's time. But not everything should be so darn boring and objective. The progress of science has duped us into seeing, doing and making everything 'objectively'. To that i say poppycock! Stories, relationships, emotions, the kind of stuff that makes a day worthwhile, these are totally subjective and if you want to get the whole thing across, word processing does not cut it. Illustrator does not cut it and Photoshop is totally inept.

But it's not just the full spectrum of the soundwave (or the full gamut of emotion) that makes an analog record the business. There are endearing little rituals associated with each. Taken together, this does make anything analog 'more work', but the other side of the coin is that it makes them way better. It takes more time and more care to maintain a record than it does a CD and it takes more care to play the even have to get up and flip it after about 15 minutes. But audiophiles do this because capturing the whole sound, the closeness and richness of it, is totally worth it.

Likewise is takes slightly more effort to write a letter and even to open one. But it's fun! There's anticipation, a small sense of wonder, and a big sense of absolute gratification that can only come with the fulfilment of that very human desire to own a physical artefact of something. To hold something augments all of the emotions and associations in memory that come from what it is. But it's not just correspondence, of course. Creative writing, journalling, reflection...these are stories, they are subjective and if you trust them to a screen you're missing the whole story, regardless of how much 'more work' is involved. Writers and storytellers do the extra work because it's totally worth it.

The last point worth mentioning is about memory. Psychologists and Neurologists have flooded the academic record with studies showing just how fickle and untrustworthy our memories are, especially when it comes to 'colouring' and 'shading', i mean, really filling in the finer detail. 'Was there the faintest breeze? And did she have a ponytail?" (To quote Gil-Scott Heron)...that's the stuff that makes a story! And that is the kind of thing that comes across in a paper record of something which a screen can't tell you. Not necessarily the words, but the way they are written, where they are written, how they are written. These are important degrees of meaning, the finer emotional details, the difference between the actual record and a sampled abstraction thereof.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All New MT Tape!

All New MT Tape! Look at it all! I love it, it is the one saving grace for people like me who are conspicuously low on craft skills, DIY skills or any kind of hand-maker abilities. But when i write a letter, (happening a lot lately since i got a new fountain pen) a strip of tape here or there makes me look like a pro! And, it's the kind of embellishment which is genuinely thoughtful. Call it Confucian if you want, but these tiny tokens make all the difference. Well, to me at least. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Design Stationery Boutique

We have a lot of stuff at NoteMaker. Obviously we like it all. Indeed, we love it all but i guess there are inevitably firsts among equals and with this in mind, I think I can speak on behalf of the crew when i say that we are Paper People.

Yes, as the last month attests, we love pens. Of course we'd be lost sans diary, couldn't work without desk accessories, wouldn't even bother leaving the house without a cool bag and would rather recede into hermitic loneliness than to imagine a world without albums and journals for memories.

But really, our first love, that thing that lit a flame in our heart way back in early 2006 was, is and forever will be paper. Paper People!

Perhaps the best thing about paper is that it is, in a literal and metaphoric sense, the soul of design stationery. Obviously, most stationery is made from paper so there is the tangible side of things but its the nature of paper - availability, ease of use, familiarity, adaptability - that allows so many people to get 'hands-on' and bring their ideas to life. This is the true design stationery story - the fact that so many people fall head over heels for it and devote their time, creativity and emotion to it.

Ask a designer who is bound by CAD or Illustrator the favourite part of their day or job and you'll hear 99 times out of a hundred that it is when they get to put pencil to paper and really explore their designs. They too are Paper People!

So we made a point recently to find and celebrate Paper People! We're starting with three: Ashleigh Dewar, creator of Peggy Takes Manhattan; Holly Webber, creator of Letterbox Love; The Paper Nomad team, itinerant brains of Paper Nomad. More about each over the coming days.

These people had a flame in their hearts too and turned to Paper to bring it to life. Hand made, Home made and done for the love of the process and their faith in Paper. Check out our Design Stationery Boutique, showcasing these awesome, wonderful designs.

Paper People of the world, Unite!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kaweco Ice Sport in Pink!

I know we have talked about Kaweco a lot lately (with good reason) but I just can't resist this. I've been staring at the all new Pink Kaweco Ice Sport pen for a couple of minutes arrived this morning (so did all new fine and medium nibs for Kaweco fans) and has swept the entire NoteMaker team off of our collective and individual feat! Pretty pretty to say the least!

Paper Nomad & Red Dot Design Award

I kind of feel like a part of the In Crowd today. See, i always knew these Paper Nomad sleeves were really cool and now that one of the world's most prestigious design awards, the Red Dot Product Design Award, has crowned Paper Nomad better than 4500 other entries from 58 countries and 1800 design houses, well,'s validating. Congrats to Paper Nomad for picking up the 2012 Red Dot Design Award!

It's a very cool idea with a very cool story behind it. It's an extremely 'international' operation. Believe it or not, the idea and first stage of design was done over drinks in Melbourne, at the Espy of all places! Three mates put their heads together, met some 'general enthusiasts' from Austria and Finland and turned their cool idea into a commercial reality. Paper Nomad now lives in Vienna and they do all of their case sewing in Romania.

Their trick is all in the material. The patent is pending and it is a special pulping process that uses several layers of paper and a bio-polymer membrane. Thanks to the magic of chemistry, this makes the sleeves tear- and water-resistant. The insides are lined with sheep wool felt and cotton and the whole thing is biodegradable and happily, humbly, will one day return to the earth from whence it came.

As you can see in the video above, it's all very hands on, both in manufacturing and use. The paper exterior is obviously a dream come true for people who like to sketch or doodle or maybe don't carry a notebook with them everywhere. Whether you treat it like a mini canvas and do your own cool design or just treat it like a to-do list or notebook, the cool thing about Paper Nomad is that over time it will start to say something about you. Reminding you of that book the guy at the cafe suggested you read or that awesome song you heard streaming on your laptop...

I think people are really, finally, wholly giving up on apps (for whatever device) that 'help' with note taking and reminding. It's just nowhere near as easy as a pen and some paper. When they first met, a lot of people were worried, paper people mainly, that paper and this new generation of amazing digital smartness were going to meet head on and that one was going to crush the other. How silly! It's like when two dogs meet at a park, right? Paper & Digital have had enough time to sniff each other out and now they know what the one can do for the other...i look forward to watching them frolic and chase birds for years to come! So how perfect of Paper Nomad to put these new best buddies side-by-side?!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Yellow Owl Workshop Visit & New Arrivals

Where to start? We just received a delivery from Yellow Owl Workshop with plenty of New Arrivals! and we just made a visit to the Yellow Owl Workshop in San Francisco! The very headquarters of the company itself! Although it's so small that I am hesitant to call it a headquarters and only really consider Yellow Owl to be a company in the same sense that a local theatre company is a company or possibly even something smaller...and i mean that in the most complimentary fashion possible!

I don't quite know what i was expecting...I knew it's a small operation of passionate people who were driven and lucky enough to make a business out of what they love doing, a hobby, but still, one expects some degree of mechanisation such luck here! There are no big printing presses, no shiny cut-o-matic machines, just happy, smiling people, comfortably absorbed in what they're doing. I mean there is ink, paper, knives, rubber, pencils etc everywhere, if the space race of the 60s was actually a stamp race i imagine the NASA headquarters would have looked similar, but the whole scene taken in kind of stamps this impression (totally intended the pun!) of optimism on the lucky visitor.

See, i really like author Kurt Vonnegut and probably my favourite of his novels is Player Piano. It was written in 1952 and presents this dystopia, a caricature of the future as seen in the 50s really, where mechanisation has become complete and there is no longer any meaningful work for human hands, just a mass of unsatisfied, undignified people who clean and service machines. It's easy to fall for this with the scale of production in the 21st century, to think that any manufactured good which isn't wrapped in a calico bag or in a jar and bought at a farmer's market was actually just made by some cold humourless machine, but the paradox here is that the 21st century is more than ever an environment where genuinely hand made goods can be found easily and supported. The 50s may have been bleak but that's just because all of those things that open up markets, like transport, communication and travel hadn't caught up yet.

I mean look at this photo above! I love this, it looks like the sort of home storage for your old sewing materials that are kept on the top shelf in that cupboard that you really don't want to open yet this is how Yellow Owl run their workshop! It's because of the amazing internet that we first found Yellow Owl and because of the wonders of the modern world that we are able to have a relationship with them, to support this kind of hand made manufacture on a scale which is bigger than the first Sunday of every month. Vonnegut saw man serving machines but really, it's the other way around. So a triple thanks to Yellow Owl. Their lovely hospitality, awesome cards and stamps and a dose of optimism for the times we live in. Hurrah!