Author: Pao Alfonso

Review: Contrail Street Journal

Review: Contrail Street Journal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I saw these cute little journals on my way to a mini pen meet last Sunday at Glorietta, when I dropped by Powerbooks at Greenbelt. They’re kinda hard to miss because the covers are just so pretty! I wasn’t familiar with the brand, so discreetly printed at the back of the cover, but the paper seemed nice so I bought three. A quick search on Google showed that Contrail is made by Itoya, a Japanese stationery company. I’ve had such good experience with Japanese stationery that I was pretty sure I’d like this one too, and I was right.

I just love the design of their covers. Really. I love the colors that they used, and the patterns. These are very tastefully designed covers. I also like that the binding is neatly stitched with white thread. It looks very cleanly done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m not sure what you call these lines. They’re grids but rectangular instead of square, and they spacing is pretty tight. I imagine it could be designed specifically for Japanese characters? I’m not sure. I’m not too crazy about the guide lines, but they don’t bother me much. I like that the lines are light brown, you can just ignore them completely when you write.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The paper is pretty good. It’s not smooth, it definitely has texture to it, but there’s very little feathering using my fine to broad nib. Some feathering can be noticeable with my 1.5 mm stub, though. Here are a few close ups:

The texture is beautiful. It’s not going to show off sheen, but it will show off some shading. It’s hard to explain why but sometimes I miss enjoying texture on paper because oftentimes when the paper has some texture to it, fountain pens bleed all over the place. It’s pretty rare to find paper that allows you to enjoy texture while you write without excessive bleeding and feathering.

The paper handles brush pens very well. It distributes the ink smoothly, and allows the pen to glide on the paper without difficulties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s a bit of ghosting at the back, though I would not consider it bothersome. There’s also a bit of bleedthrough where I wrote with my 1.5mm nib. It could be because I used a very wet ink (J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor). It’s not so bad either, in my opinion.

The size is about 3.25 x 5.75 inches. It’s pretty small and can comfortably fit in your backpocket or your bag. I heard they’re also available in National Bookstore, at P149 per piece. These are great for everyday writing and small brush calligraphy projects. I’m so happy we have Itoya here in the Philippines now. What a great time to be a stationery fan!

Journal Art Catch-Up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been so busy these past few days that I haven’t had time to update my blog. The little free time I have, I just spend with family , reading, writing, and the occasional update in IG or FB. For an introvert, I have a semi-bustling social media life, which sometimes I find strange, but other times I completely understand. While I’m very communicative (even quite chatty) in social media, I’m the exact opposite in person. Maybe it’s just a lot easier for me to communicate that way.

Anyway, even if it’s a seriously busy time at work, I find that it’s during these times when you really need to make a conscious effort to slow down. I find that doing this, breaking the monotony of work, in order to read the Bible, write my thoughts about it and a variety of other things, can spell the difference regarding how stressed out I will be during the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also realized that doing a little bit of artwork whether it’s as simple as scrawling something on a page with your brush pen or little watercolor paintings in your journal, or using stamps and washi tapes to decorate your page can be so relaxing. Of course, I know many people prefer to just write on their journal instead of decorating it or painting on it. It’s all good. I just personally prefer to have a visual of the little things that happen in my life. Like picking an espresso machine (and justifying it to myself through in an entire page’s worth of journal entry).

IMG_3944Documenting the simple joys has become an exercise in looking for the bright spots of life. I used to be so paranoid about putting only my best drawings in my journal when I was younger, but I realized that life isn’t made up of perfect moments. Sometimes pages get scrunched up, torn in some places, stained with a bit of coffee splashes…in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter. After all, you don’t live for the perfect moments. So fill up that journal with your drawings, no matter how imperfect you think they are, or how it isn’t at par with what you expect from yourself. I think it would also be pretty cool to see how your style evolves and improves through the years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Velveteen Rabbit, one of my favorite books when I was a kid.

Back in my college years, there was never any color in my journals. I only used black ink and drew little creepy line art to match the perpetually sad poetry I used to write. Now my journals are filled with splashes of colors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
That weekend I learned how to make Cafe Americano for my husband. 

These little watercolor paintings are so much fun to do. They’re a bit challenging because you need to include just the right amount of details with your brushwork to make it shine. I am also enjoying how great Tomoe River paper is for watercolor paintings (I use a Hobonichi for daily journals and planning, and made an insert for my traveler’s notebook as a supplement). The crinkling of the paper doesn’t bother me one bit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ah. These past weeks, I also discovered the joy that is a Palomino Blackwing pencil. A friend of mine sent it to me as a gift, and I’m going to write a review about it soon. It’s amazing how pencils aren’t all the same.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So there, these past few weeks have been pretty busy, but there are a lot of great moments too. I’m particularly excited with the range of paper, watercolor, brush pens, pencils, and other art stuff available locally. It’s an exciting time for art and stationery lovers in the Philippines. I can still remember when the options were very limited. Oh, how times are changing. 🙂

Write on!

Comparison: Elias and Tomoe River Loose Sheets

Comparison: Elias and Tomoe River Loose Sheets

EverythingCalligraphy sent over a few loose sheets of Elias and Tomoe River Papers for me to compare. These two are my favorite types of paper, and I was really happy to compare them side by side. I must admit it’s quite difficult to do that, though, because they’re quite different. To the uninitiated, paper is paper is paper. To the true pen and paper fans, it doesn’t matter if you have the best writing implement in the world. If you write on poor quality paper, it just grates on the nerves. Writing on good paper is such a pleasurable, tactile experience that I enjoy so thoroughly that it takes me a long time to pick a notebook, and only a few make it to my “staples”. These two are at the top rung.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I tested the paper samples with different pens and inks. Here are a few close up shots of the writing samples.

For Elias’ 90gsm loose sheets

Elias paper is so easy to like. It’s smooth and creamy and makes your pen’s nib just glide on the paper. Even scratchy nibs feel smoother on it, and I’ve yet to see a pen and ink combo that will make it bleed through or feather. Here are some writing samples below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “Comparison: Elias and Tomoe River Loose Sheets”

Review: Parker Vacumatic Debutante

Review: Parker Vacumatic Debutante

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before the crazy Monday shift starts, I decided to write a short review of this pen I acquired last week. It’s a Parker Vacumatic Debutante in azure blue and it’s been on my wishlist for as long as I’ve been collecting pens. I had a bit of hard time determining what kind of vacumatic this is because some parts of the pen don’t match the documentation available for it.

IMG_3830Based on the date code, this was made in the third quarter of 1941. This corresponds with the speedline plunger, double-jewel, and the blue diamond on the clip. However, the cap band was throwing me off. It was a little wider than the usual cap band for debutantes of its era, and it was also smooth, without the usual chevron design of Parker Debutantes. Luckily, there are people in the international FPN group that know way more about vintage Parker pens than I do. There are so many different variations of these pens, it can be so confusing sometimes. Apparently I got a debutante (not a sub-debutante, like I initially thought) that is off-catalog, which is uncommon. Azure blue is the more uncommon color of this small batch of debutantes for that year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
L-R Parker Vacumatic Major, Junior, Debutante

Here’s a comparison of the clips. Isn’t the clip cute? It’s short and so adorable. I like these old Parker clips and how the arrow shows art deco inspiration. In person, they’re very detailed and elegant. Modern clips just don’t compare with these.

Below is a size comparison with my other Parker pens (debutante is at the rightmost). Considering that none of these are oversized pens, it is really pretty small. It’s even smaller than the Parker 51 special’s pencil, and that’s already small in my hand. I cannot get over the squee-ness of this pen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are a few close ups of the pen’s details. Look at that gorgeous blue diamond clip. As I mentioned in other Parker-related entries, this is the lifetime guarantee that Parker used to mark its products with until the regulations changed about these guarantees. The speedline filler was eventually replaced with plastic plungers because metals were used for the war effort.

My absolute favorite kind of Parker are the 51’s, but I love the celluloid rings of these vacs too. They are fascinating to look at. This is what I love about these kinds of pen. It’s virtually impossible to find two identical pens because each pen will have unique celluloid rings. I love the nib of Parker pens of this era. They are so sleek and the design really makes you feel like you’re writing with an arrow head. This pen writes so smooth. Like butter! Here’s a video of the writing sample.


The 14k gold nib is an absolute joy to write with. It’s like when I start writing, I don’t want to stop. It just glides on paper, and the ink it lays down is moderately wet. The nib is springy and wonderful.

Overall, I am so happy to add this to my collection. 🙂 Inner peace. For now.

Review: Elias Traveler’s Notebook Insert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think many people have been waiting for Elias to come out with these inserts for a while. I’m so happy that they finally made these. Traveler’s notebook inserts aren’t very easy to come by in bookstores. They’re not always readily available, so it’s always good to find online stores that sell them. I bought a set of three inserts from Everything Calligraphy last week, and I couldn’t be happier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s to give you an idea how thick the insert is. These are 40 pages of 90gsm, acid-free, ivory-colored, fountain pen-friendly paper. I suggest you buy the pack of 3, since it’s a little bit cheaper. I like the cover of the inserts. It’s easy to slip into a traveler’s notebook because the cover is sufficiently thick. I also like the color which is a very dark blue. I wish they would offer options, though, like craft or white. I like that the cover is plain and there’s a simple “ELIAS” logo at the back. Plain covers can be decorated with stickers, stamps, and other stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Note to self…buy white chalk-based stamp pads. ^_^

The paper and cover are stapled together. It’s nice enough for daily use. As usual, the paper is excellent. I can’t quite describe how pleasurable writing on it is, except to say that it’s creamy. It makes your nibs feel smoother.

IMG_3857

The word “February” was written with a brush pen, and it works great with those too. It’s smooth and shows off the gradients with the strokes. It works fabulously with fountain pen inks, and I’m glad that one can enjoy the same paper quality as with those in their bigger journals.

Here are a few writing samples below.

It also takes my Pilot Parallel pen without issues. The paper stays smooth even when I scrape at it with some very fast writing, like what I did below. There’s no feathering or bleed through either.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is an example of Pilot Parallel pen over watercolor. It’s pretty neat. 🙂

IMG_3841

Overall, I love the quality of the paper and I think the price is really good. I’m glad we journal junkies have more options now, especially for the regular TN size.

Elias travelers notebook inserts are now available at Everything Calligraphy.