If you’ve ever seen photos from my home office, you will probably know that I’m a pretty cluttered person. I just like acquiring physical objects, and I form emotional attachments to them pretty easily. That may be a reason why I like writing about stationery — it gives me an excuse to amass more stationery.
I blame it on my mother, although that’s probably unfair.
There’s a great book that’s gained popularity in the last year or two, called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s a bit painful to read, mostly because it usually tells me things I don’t want to hear about consuming, mindfulness and time-management . One chapter that really stood out to me, though, is when Kondo lays out criteria of what possessions you should keep, and which you should get rid of — often, she says, we look at it wrong:
Focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness. Why? Because we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.
She continues writing to say that when deciding what to keep, you should hold it in your hand (if that’s possible), reflect on it, and if it sparks joy in your mind, keep it. It happens with more rarity than you might think.
(If you’re interested in learning more about this book, listen to this episode of Covered, a podcast by my friend Harry Marks. He discusses books, and reviewed this one in particular.)
All this is to say that while I do love pencils, notebooks, index cards and yes, even pens, not all of them bring me joy.
There are a few lately that do, however.
Nataraj Pop Pencil
I picked up a couple of these beauties last November when I went to CW Pencils. I didn’t expect much of them — I’ve heard of Nataraj before, but I’ve never really used their products.
Nataraj pencils are made by the Hindustan Pencils company, founded in 1958, they’re the largest pencil manufacturer in India. Hindustan also makes Apsara, another fantastic brand rare in the US.
They originally attracted me for their “extra dark” graphite — 2B, in fact, which I prefer over the regular HB (or #2 in America-talk). They write dark and smooth, and seem to retain a point a bit longer than other 2Bs, which I appreciate.
After a while, though, I realized I liked it more for aesthetic reasons. Each side of the hex alternates in a bright, candy color, and the capped end is dipped in an accent color. My favorite scheme, for example, has yellow and blue-grey sides, and a bright, green-apple-green cap. It matches my Baron Fig Three-Legged Juggler Confidante perfectly.
Write Notepads Kindred Spirit Edition Notebooks
Although I don’t think I’ve written about them here, which is a shame, I’m a huge fan of Write Notepads & Co, a Baltimore-based notepad company. Johnny Gamber, my friend and colleague from Pencil Revolution, and also a Baltimorean, gets to hang out at the WNP shop on the regs and I’m completely jealous.
Chris Rothe, the guy who runs WNP, recently started a pocket notebook membership service. Unlike the subscription service that Field Notes COLORS or Blackwing Volumes runs, his is a membership subscription that not only gets you those quarterly runs, but also makes extras available to you for purchase.
The second-ever edition, “Kindred Spirit” is magnificent, and definitely brings joy for me. It’s a bit wider and bit thicker than a Field Note cahier, and its perfect-bound spine looks more rugged, though I suspect it takes longer to break it in than a saddle-stitched binding like Field Notes.
The package is mind-blowingly gorgeous — while other pocket notebook page are bound austerely in a belly band, these three-packs come in a little box with an ornate illustrated pressed into it.
Once I’m past the box, I really love the cover — Chris used French Paper’s Dur-O-Tone Butcher Orange, pretty famous among paper nuts for being the first of Field Note’s COLORS edition.
(As perhaps a nod or a tribute to Field Notes, Chris threw in 25 Butcher Blue-covered notebooks, used for the second FN edition, and just as rare and coveted.)
What’s particularly joyful to me, though, are the insides. The pages are lined with a bright orange ink, that looks like it matches the cover, and there’s a couple of vertical lines a centimeter or two in from the left, making it perfect for to-do lists, and is unobtrusive if you want to ignore it.
What are the similarities here?
Well, for one thing, they’re both bright and colorful in a pretty unique way, and they’re both pretty simple in execution. Neither are top-shelf, yet are far from the bottom. They’re a joy to hold, to behold and to use.
That’s an interesting thing to think about — I never realized that these commonalities are something I’ve found particularly joyful. But it makes sense. I’m also a huge fan of the Three-Legged Juggler Baron Fig Confidante, European Bic Crystals that are orangish instead of clear and I keep buying those damn Staedtler Wopex pencils in bright colors, even though I’m not a huge fan of how it performs.
What kind of stationery brings you joy? Are there any common traits that run among them?