If you follow any makers on YouTube you probably saw this ugly yet somehow charming little mechanical pencil in action. The Paper Mate SharpWriter is a strange beast, full of surprises. It’s a mechanical pencil with a twist mechanism in the tip instead of a click mechanism under the cap, it actually has a serviceable eraser, and it’s non-refillable. It’s as if Paper Mate saw the “Think Different” ad and said, “yes, but how can we apply that to a mechanical pencil?”
First of all, you can buy the Paper Mate SharpWriter in many different widths, as long as they’re all 0.7mm. This has the added value of saving Paper Mate the need to indicate the lead width on the pencil, because there’s only one width to rule them all. I can’t honestly fault them for that. It’s a pencil that’s meant for students and bills itself as having less lead breakage, and so 0.7mm is the way to go.
There are some interesting things going on with the business side of this pencil. First and foremost, that’s where the lead propelling mechanism is, which caught me by surprise. It’s a twist mechanism, and it’s pretty sophisticated as it allows you to easily extend and retract the lead to suit your needs. The second part is the “lead cushioning mechanism” which means that the lead springs up and down as you right, preventing you from breaking it if you exert too much pressure. It works, but I’m not a fan as it makes me feel as if the lead is broken inside and I have to extend it to get rid of the small broken piece and reach the “real” lead left inside. It’s going to take some time for me to get used to it.
The eraser is downright phenomenal, as it actually erases things quite well, and doesn’t tear into the page. The lead itself is a solid HB 0.7mm lead that is smooth and on the slightly darker side of HB.
The Paper Mate SharpWriter isn’t a pretty of fancy mechanical pencil, but it’s comfortable to hold, lightweight, and has a playful colour scheme that recalls a woodcase pencil. And like a woodcase pencil, it’s disposable, which is where my only real beef with this pencil lies. Yes, this is a student pencil, and so it’s likely to get lost or somehow broken (it’s far from flimsy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way), and if the pencil won’t be lost, the leads will, and yet… The last thing the world needs is more plastic waste.
So, do I recommend the Paper Mate SharpWriter? No, and not because there’s anything wrong with the pencil, it’s just that there’s very little justification for a disposable mechanical pencil when there are cheap, good and even great refillable options to be had in the market.
But I do understand the makers who have fallen for this ugly duckling.
My late grandmother was a talented knitter, but I never had the sense to ask her to teach me to knit while she was still alive. I asked my parents’ neighbour, a lovely lady in her late 80s, to teach me to knit and crochet. She tried several times but there’s a difference between knowing how to knit and teaching someone else how to knit. In the end she always asked me what I wanted to knit, grabbed the wool and knitted it herself for me. I love the things she knitted me as the result of these sessions, but that’s beside the point.
I tried to teach myself to knit using books and youtube videos. Each time I’d create a crooked mess and give up. Yesterday I sat down yet again, this time with a new book (the funny and lovely “Stitch n’ Bitch” by Debbie Stoller), and when four rows into my first swatch I blew it again, I stopped, searched for “common knitting mistakes” on YouTube and figured out where I had gone wrong. It took several videos but once I figured it out, I started over and managed to create my very first garter stitch swatch (20 stitches by 30 rows). I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even though it really sucked at first. I only wish that my grandmother could have seen and critiqued it.
I used an embroidery hoop this time, as well as thicker fabric. The white fabric allowed me to pencil in my design for Bruni, the fire spirit from Frozen 2.
The pieces ready for assembly: clean and crushed Nespresso capsule, cardboard backing and embroidered piece.
The back of the capsule:
The finished piece:
This turned out much better than my first try, even though there’s still room for improvement. This new fabric didn’t mount like I expected because it was thicker than I had planned and the result is the little gap you see in the bottom. I plan on making more of these, so I’ll hopefully get better with practice.
I decided not to take part in Inktober this year. Instead I’ll be drawing at least one page a day in my Stillman and Birn pocket Alphas. It happens that there are just a few pages left in my first pocket Alpha, the one I got gifted by Stillman and Birn as part of their sponsorship of Gabi Campanario’s Urban Sketches Porto 2018 symposium class. I use multiple sketchbooks at the same time, and finishing and starting a notebook is always the hardest part for me. So I decided to challenge myself to finish my old Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha and start on a new one, by challenging myself to draw at least a page a day for 30 days straight.
I will be batch uploading these 5 days at a time, so here’s what I drew on the 17th of September until today, the 21st of September:
ReaperCon started yesterday and for the first time ever I’m actually able to participate. Yesterday I just listened to the classes, but today I jumped back in to painting minis.
This is the Reaper Bones Townsfolk Rioting Villager. After I took these photosI went back and softened the shading on his face a bit. I gave him a dirty, rusty pitchfork, and I tried not to take too much time on him (it still took longer than I would have liked). I also had a bad time with cutting off the mold lines, so I gave up after a few tries. In any case he’s not a display piece, but meant to be used in a game (when I can return to in person games).
I made a wet palette out of an old takeout box, some paper towels and a bit of parchment paper. I’ll later improve on it, but for now it gets the job done. I’m also experimenting with a new of taking painting notes in a notebook, but l’ll see if it works before I write about it.
I’ve been playing around with Nespresso capsules, and after cleaning one out and hammering it flat I made a little prototype of Nespresso backed embroidery piece that I was thinking of creating. The first prototype came out better than I expected, and I got some valuable ideas on how to improve the design – mostly it was pure fun.
I took an old t-shirt and cut it out for scraps, using it as the fabric for my prototype. It’s much too lightweight, but I got a sense of how I should work and what to avoid. I also got a chance to work with a dark fabric background for the first time.
I was surprised to discover that I could use darker threads than I anticipated to be able to use on such a dark background. I thought that the green would be swallowed by the black, but it still pops.
I originally thought of gluing the fabric directly on the capsule, but even if the fabric wasn’t so lightweight that wouldn’t have worked, and the fabric was very lightweight. I decided to cut out a thin cardboard backing and lace the piece to the backing.
Here it is post lacing and before gluing on:
The finished prototype, the back side:
And the front side:
This was a quick and dirty prototype. I now know how to better place and create the work, and which materials I need to get my hands on. And I had a lot of fun along the way.
I was searching for a craft knife when I stumbled upon this cool pencil just lying around, being beautiful but of no use to anybody:
I’m pretty sure that I bought it somewhere in London, perhaps in the London Graphic Centre or in stationery section of Foyles, but in any case it isn’t new.
It’s an unlacquered woodcase pencil with a chequered print, a B grade core and it appears to be a Tombow Ki-Monogatari, part of their eco pencil range.
It has a silky smooth finish, and it’s one of the most attractive woodcase pencils I own. The wood is not cedar, but by the way it sharpens and feels it’s high quality stuff.
You can see the grain of the wood very nicely here:
And also come through the chequered pattern:
It sharpens like a dream, with a perfectly centred core and no splinters or chunks falling out. High quality wood, high quality design, so what about the core?
This is a Tombow pencil and one of the things that Tombow do exceedingly well is make woodcase pencils. Drawing with this pencil is a dream – it glides on the page, there’s no “grit” to the core, it offers a good range of shading for a B grade, it doesn’t smudge and it keeps a point really, really well. This is a grade A drawing pencil.
I found this pencil by accident, totally forgetting that I ever bought it. I have cool stuff, so why don’t I use it?
I have no idea what the actual model of the pencil is, I’m just guessing that it’s a Ki-Monogatari, which means that this isn’t a “you should buy it” review. It’s a “go open you stationery drawer(s) and see what cool stuff you find there” post. Treat yourself to the stuff you already own.
A handwritten journal is an artifact in a way that an app can never be. It’s tactile, endlessly flexible, there to be used and customized in every way possible. Tear out pages, glue stuff in, doodle, scribble, sketch and write whatever you wish however you wish. There’s no autocorrect, nothing editing or censuring your words. Analogue journalling is about freedom, flow and pure creativity.
This is my last day journaling in this journal, and tomorrow I’ll write up the last page and start a new one for the thoughts of that day.
Every time I finish a journal, I use the last two pages to summarize what that journal contains and means to me. Analogue journals are fantastic, but they do make searching for old entries a bit of a chore. Luckily I don’t find myself looking for an old entry that often, and if I do the last two pages help me narrow it down to the specific journal, and the dates and titles to the specific entry.
I also like taking the last few pages as a chance to reflect on the time the journal covers and how things have changed (and I have changed) as the time has gone by. There’s usually about three months in each journal, sometimes more, so that’s a good chuck of time to look back on: short enough to make it simple to summarize and contextualize, and yet long enough to have some impact and meaning. This journal contains two trips abroad, my decision to move into a new career path, and a pandemic that wrecked havoc on everyone I know (including me, of course). That’s quite a lot, even for a journal that covers a relatively long span of time (almost 6 months).
It’s also full of bits and pieces that I stuck in, to make the page come to life. So here’s part of the Diamine Inkvent packaging that I glued in after I opened the last window and before I tossed out the box:
Cool clothing tags also sometimes make it in, especially if it’s from a piece of clothing that I really like:
I got a lot of Star Wars themedvinyl stickers as a gift near the end of last year and a lot of them ended in my journal:
Even the silliest of things can be used to brighten up a page:
There are little drawings and illustrations everywhere:
And bits and pieces of washi tape that were leftover from other projects:
The point is, tomorrow I finish another journal, a small analogue memory artifact that is entirely mine. I created it for me and me only, and it was worth every minute I put into it.
If there’s one habit that you can pick up during your time at home these days, pick journaling. You’ll end up getting quite a treasure in the end, and I’d be truly surprised if you won’t enjoy the process.