Laura's New Year Goal Ideas, Part One:  Use my Fountain Pens and Inks More!

Laura's New Year Goal Ideas, Part One: Use my Fountain Pens and Inks More!

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Happy New Year, blog readers!  I don't know about you, but I'm glad December is over and it's time to think about the year ahead. The holiday season can be rough, but it feels good to start fresh and focus on new things to look forward to. I asked my team mates the question, "What is your Pen Boutique New Year resolution?" and we made a cute series of videos for Instagram based on this theme, but I really want to delve more deeply into some creative goals that I think will help me enjoy and appreciate my pen hobby more.  Yes, sharing my love of pens, inks, and paper is my job, but, like you, I take pleasure in them, have fun with them, learn from them, and use them for both recreation and work. How can we take our enthusiasm further?  I brainstormed ideas on New Year's Day, and I wanted to share some of them with you this week. 

Incorporate Fountain Pens into Every Day

Even though I love pens and think about pens every day, I struggle to use my own pen collection as much as I would like.  The pens we choose are such a wonderful expression of our personality, our sense of style, and what we find beautiful and pleasurable, but when we let them sit unused on our desks and in our drawers, we are missing out.  This year, I want to make a greater effort to incorporate using my pens into my daily life.

One of the best ways to use your pens regularly is with a journal or a planner.  I have tried keeping journals a few times, but I never stick with it.  This year, an extremely nice customer gave me a planner that he wanted me to try, and I am very excited about it.  Instead of struggling to keep up with a diary-type journal, I am going to write daily notes about random stuff I want to remember, like what to make videos about, Pen Boutique store events, places I visit, favorite foods and music, TV shows and movies I watch, operas I'm obsessed with, people I write letters to, new people I meet, inks I try, and pens I love. 

(We don't carry this planner, but another great notebook that we do sell is the Traveler's Notebook system!  They are very popular with customers and feature a leather notebook cover with a collection of completely customizable inserts that allow your notebook to be anything you want it to be. They are perfect for travel, art, and daily use.)

Because my planner allots one page per day, I can't get overwhelmed by my tendency to write too much, but there is always a space assigned for writing or drawing something. So far, I've used the December calendar part of the planner to do a daily swatch of the Diamine Inkvent inks (no, I didn't actually swatch one every day... I did them in batches when I was in the mood and was less busy, and that's okay!), I used the January freeform page to write a list of my 13 Favorite Fruits (getting 12 lucky fruits for New Year's Eve is a Filipino tradition that my sister-in-law introduced to me, so I thought it would be fun to do a list of my favorites as a twist on this idea, and I added one additional fruit for good luck), and I have been writing on the daily pages every day so far. I also have a page in the back where I'm keeping a list of inks I want to try.

I found that finer nibs work better for writing small in the planner, and this has made me appreciate my fine-medium, fine, and extra-fine pens a lot more. The pens in my collection are a wide variety of different nib sizes, but in the past I enjoyed using my medium nibs more because they are so smooth and great for showing off ink's beautiful shading and sheening properties. I used to write long letters to people and long journal entries, and I liked the comfort of the medium nibs.   Now, I am beginning to get captivated by my finer nibs and with discovering which inks work best with them and look good in my planner.

I haven't come up with any organized color-coded schemes or fancy layouts for my planner (although it's inspiring and fun to look at other people's ideas for them online, I prefer to be more spontaneous), and I've just been grabbing a random pen each time I add something, so on some days I have used three or four different ink colors!  Seeing all my pretty inks together makes me happy, and I know this will encourage me to switch up my ink colors more often and try more new inks.

Use Cases to Carry Pens with Me

I've been bringing my planner with me to work, so this means I need to also bring some fountain pens.  I always have my Hexo with me at the store because I love to use it to plan blogs and Instagram videos in my Maruman Mnemosyne notebook (and because I'm always letting Winnie and Shriya borrow it, and asking customers to try it!), but writing in the planner with just one pen is too boring, so I am going to start carrying a few different pens with me. To further my goal of using my pens more, I also want to carry a pen or two with me when I go other places.  If I have them with me, I will use them. 

To protect my pens, I like to keep them in a case so they don't get scratched.  A single pen -sized sleeve is great for this because it doesn't take up a lot of space and can easily fit in a pocket or bag.  I really like our simple Pen Boutique Bote Leather sleeves because they are made of soft flexible leather and fully cover my pens.

(Pictured:  Bote Leather sleeve with Rhodia notebook and our store exclusive Montegrappa Venetia fountain pen, which I don't own, but would love to!)

I learned my lesson about using a pen sleeve because I had been throwing my white Lamy Safari with red clip in my mini backpack, and now it has some dark stains on the cap!  Oops.  They are quite subtle, but, still, even a tough pen like a Safari deserves to be protected!

Another great pen sleeve is the kind made by Rickshaw.  These also cover your whole pen and are made from durable Cordura nylon fabric on the outside, lined with plush fleece that snuggles your pen.  Their designs are always fun and interesting, and some of their collaborations with Retro 51 are quite beautiful. These are designed to match Retro 51 pens, but you can use them on any pen, of course.  I paired a purple "Down the Rabbit Hole!" case with an Iris colored Rhodia Goalbook.  (I love the Alice in Wonderland reference, which is so true about what happens when you buy your first pen!)

The Goalbook is a very versatile soft-cover notebook with lots of space for freeform plans, ideas, lists, notes, journal entries, or whatever you want.  It's super organized, with a 6-page table of contents, an undated annual calendar, and undated monthly pages, so you can start it whenever you want and use it in any way that inspires you.  The rest of the notebook contains 224 dot-grid fountain pen -friendly pages in a nice soft ivory color that is easy on the eyes.  I love that the book includes page numbers, so you can easily find what you have written by making your own table of contents. The leatherette cover has a wonderful soft feel and comes in beautiful colors!  

The Goalbook even has a handy pen loop on the side, although I would only use this if I were carrying my pen under my arm, leaving it by my bedside, or putting it into the protected inner pocket of a bag.  

Here's how the Bote Leather sleeve looks with a pen inside it.  It fits all my pens really well, from my smallest vintage pens to my Esterbrook Estie and Montegrappa Zero. (Oh, and in case you were wondering... yes, the Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwich was insanely good!  It's a local brand, and I tried it just for this photo shoot.  The things I do for art!)  

I also love small cases that hold 2-5 pens and keep them fully enclosed.  Cases that have space for a small notebook are my favorite because you have everything you need for notes, lists, or little drawings.  I really like the new Pen Boutique exclusive Yak Leather Field Note -sized Zipped Folios for this.  They are an upgrade from our old Yak pen cases, with a nice smooth zipper and two different luxurious leather finishes. The folios have a pocket for a passport-sized notebook and come with a removable inner tray with sturdy elastic that firmly holds five pens.  You can bring just a few, or fill it up for lots of variety. It's a tight fit to close the case when it's completely full, but the flexible leather accomodates everything and holds it nice and snug.

Both color choices, Crazy Horse Tan and Vegetable Tanned Pastel Green, are very nice. The Crazy Horse Tan version has a beautiful distressed look and soft feel. Crazy Horse leather gets better and better with time and use, as it develops its own patina unique to you. Small scratches and the oils from your hands add to the character.  The cool Vegetable Tanned Pastel Green version is my favorite, though.  I just love the unusual color, and it's been a hit with customers, too.  Vegetable Tanned leather is artisanally-crafted with traditional techniques using tannins derived from plants. It starts out fairly stiff but gets soft and supple with use, also developing its own patina over time.  The natural leather tanning process used on these Yak brand cases allows the original fibers of the cow's hide to show, giving each case variations in texture and color. I think it's a lot more interesting than plain smooth leather!

Write More Lists and Do More Art!

In a similar vein, I want to keep more lists, especially pen and ink related lists. As I mentioned, I have already started a list of Inks I Want To Try in the back of my planner.  A lot of the inks on this list are ones that were recommended to me by customers, and I hope to write a blog article in the future about the inks and my experiences with them.  

I also want to keep track of which of my pens like which inks.  You may know this already, but a great way to remember which inks are most compatible with each of your pens is to keep a "Currently Inked" list with the name of your pen (usually brand and model), nib, current ink, and any notes on how you feel about the combination.  I use the Fountain Pen Companion's "Currently Inked" feature to do this, but it's also very helpful to periodically hand write a list so I can see how each ink looks in each pen and what combination of colors I currently have in my repertoire.  I used to do this fairly often, and I want to return to that practice.  Here's my current list.

(Yes, I give all my pens names. Don't you?)

I also want to use my pens and inks more often for art. I used to do random sketches more, and a lot of paintings with pens, watercolor brushes, and fountain pen ink, but I don't have as much time for that now.  Still, I know I enjoy it and that it relaxes me and uses my brain in a completely different way than other things I do.  I love playing with color and being able to explore the properties of the inks in my collection.  A new customer I really connected with came back to the store and gave me some special paper to try, so I want to experiment with that.  I loved talking with her about sheen, the behavior of ink on different kinds of paper, and how I do our ink splats in the store.  I need to remind myself that my art doesn't have to be "good," but it's something that feeds my soul.

I have a huge collection of inks (mostly samples, but full-sized bottles, too), and I love looking at my swatches, organizing them, and comparing similar colors.  I may have over 40 greens, but each one is unique. Even though I have so many, I am always discovering more colors I love.  The possibilities seem endless:  different hues,  sheen, shimmer, shading, saturation, and behavior on my paper and in my pen.  Right now I am trying to find an ink I like as much as the one I have in my Sea Glass Esterbrook Estie, because the one I'm using (PenBBS Lily of the Valley) is a sample that I can't get more of.  I'm comparing Sailor Shikiori Shitoshito from the "Sound of Rain" series, Colorverse Delaware, Sailor Ink Studio No. 264, and Bungubox Kaoru.  Which one will win?  I'm not sure yet.  Do you have a pen looking for the perfect ink?  I will definitely be creating a list of my Favorite Pen and Ink Combinations when I find them.

Work on My Handwriting, but Stay Laid-Back About It

The last goal for this week is the one I mentioned in the video I made for Instagram.  As I said in the video, I was looking at some old stuff I wrote when I was in high school, and my handwriting was so neat back then.  I was a lot more uptight back then, too, so it isn't realistic for my handwriting to look as consistent now... but, still, I think it's a worthy activity to practice, and I think an Oasis Notebook is the perfect tool.

I really like the unique line ruling in these notebooks.  The inside cover illustrates how you can use the guidelines if you so choose. 

The lines have subtle dotted divisions into four sections, so you can align your Cap Height, X-height (the height of lowercase letters), ascenders, and descenders. I'm not very good at this, but the paper helps! It's also (like all the paper I've recommended in this article) very fountain pen friendly, and shows off shading, sheen, and shimmer nicely.

The Oasis notebooks themselves are very beautiful, too, and a pleasure to use.  I especially love the blue ones.  

The regular Oasis ProFolio Notebook is 5/16" thick, with 80 pages, but it's still very lightweight, and I love that it lies open flat. It comes in the medium 8.3" x 5.8" size pictured and also a larger 9.9" x 7.0" version. The fancier Summit uses the same cool paper in a slightly heavier weight, with a studier cover that has beautiful metallic sheen.  It has 252 numbered pages and an index section at the front so you can create a table of contents.  This notebook is a little thicker (about 1/2"), and would be perfect for lists or a journal. It doesn't lie open as easily, but I think it would lie flat after more use. 

I think if I wrote in an Oasis notebook more often, my handwriting would look better when I have to write things for this blog!  I probably don't have time to do all these goal ideas regularly, but they are reasonable ones that I think I can incorporate into my life at least once in a while.  In my next article I plan to discuss some pen goals that involve trying new things. These will be a little scarier, but more exciting, too!  See you next time, and please let me know what your fountain pen and ink goals are for 2023.

-Laura P.

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