Posts Tagged ‘moleskine’

inoxcrom nature

I’ve been asked, what’s the best beginner fountain pen?

As with anything, it’s a matter of preference. And like fashion, pens are where you find them. There are excellent pens at all price points.

Take, for instance, Spanish brand Inoxcrom, founded in 1955.

During its heyday it was largest and leading brand in Spain and its products were marketed in 80 countries. Its pens and other stationery were the default choices of Spanish students for decades. However, the Barcelona-based company fell upon hard financial times after the death of its founder, Manuel Vaque Ferrandis, in 2003. As of September 11 this year, the company is said to be in liquidation.

Despite its corporate woes, Inoxcrom produced a good-quality line of pens that were sturdy and reliable. The student pens are made of plastic barrels, caps, etc. with stainless-steel nibs.

This is the “Panda” fountain pen from the “Nature” collection. There are ten animals in the set: cow, cat, mouse, ram, donkey, penguin, chick, dolphin, toucan, panda. As far as I can find out, the collection was released in 2007.

Inexpensive pens such as Inoxcrom are great for experimenting with. In this pen, I’m running my own blend of ink – “Old Rose” – made of 9 parts Diamine Cerise and one part Parker Quink Black, more or less. I’m not sure I can duplicate this exact shade, which I can’t find among bottled brands. Anyway, ink blending is part of the fun of being an FP user.

The notebook is Moleskine. The nib is cooperative, no matter what kind of ink I fill the cartridge with. The text is something I made up after the manner of Sei Shonagon. 

Inoxcrom pens from 2007 and older were made in Europe; from 2008 onward, they were made in China.

If you ask me, I’d tell you to buy all the Inoxcrom you can get your hands on, seeing as the company is insolvent and this could be the end of their marvelous colorful reliable products. There still might be some stock at Fully Booked and National Bookstore in Manila.

Photo taken with an iPhone 4S.

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daily art: essay-a-day

Inspired by Summer Pierre’s one-page story writing exercise, I started an essay-a-day daily art project, a diary-slash-creative non-fiction effort.

Summer’s method of using keyword flashcards to choose a topic is interesting but I’m too lazy to make flashcards. I suppose instead of flashcards that I’d have to carry around, I could flip through a book and point to a word.

For now I rely on serendipitous random happenstance of whatever floats to the surface of my mind when faced with a blank sheet of paper, though I do have a theme going on now; all the pieces start with “In [add name of city].”

Here’s my second entry in a pocket plain Moleskine.

Materials: vintage Sheaffer Agio fountain pen inked with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Derwent Coloursoft pencils.

I follow Summer’s rules of writing whatever comes first to mind and no editing. The length of the piece is constrained by the size of the page, although I’ve done a two-page piece.

I posted the picture above on Instagram and Twitter, and tweeted a link to Summer’s article. That got a retweet and a favorite from Summer herself! (Follow her on Twitter @summerpierre).

I asked if she didn’t mind that I adopted her idea.

Her reply? “@jennyortuoste of course not! I am THRILLED you took to it!”

Art is global and knows no boundaries. 

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moleskine pocket plain “le petit prince”

My first Moleskine notebook, a pocket ruled, took me three years to fill up. It had been with me on all my travels, was the repository of my secrets and shopping lists, and over the years got so battered and beat-up that I had to mend the cracked spine with pink duct tape from Bleubug.

With the new year and its potential for new beginnings and moving on, I decided to break open a fresh notebook.

It’s still a Moleskine pocket – it’s my favorite format. This one is a limited-edition “Le Petit Prince” design, shown here with a vintage 1930s Waterman Lady Patricia “Persian” lever-fill fountain pen.

The inside front cover is adorned with illustrations from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Each Moleskine notebook comes with a multi-language insert that is a masterpiece of branding. Moleskine positions itself as a purveyor of fine quality notebooks and planners, keyed to the words “culture, imagination, memory, travel, personal identity”, which conjure up a wealth of potentials and possibilities for the user’s positioning and reinvention of self. 

The Le Petit Prince edition has a mobile of the title character on the back cover, with instructions for assembly.

A closer look at the mobile insert.

The mobile, fully assembled. I attached a length of gold thread and hung it from the whiteboard at my office.

I have other kinds of Moleskine notebooks, plain and with different artwork, but I chose this particular one to remind me that “what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

And that which is truly essential cannot be written down in any notebook, but only on the heart.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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moleskine pocket weekly planner 2012

Perhaps a couple of weeks before the year ends, we start shopping around for next year’s planner. Over the years, I’ve learned to be guided by experience and instinct on what format suits me best, based on my working style.

After having used many different types and sizes of planners – Franklin Covey, Starbucks – and because I tend to carry everything and the kitchen sink with me wherever I go, I’ve tried to minimize weight and mass by choosing “pocket” versions of things, including planners.

And the winner is…the Moleskine Pocket Weekly Planner, Horizontal Layout!

I got this one way back last September at Diesel Bookstore, Oakland, California. As is usually the case with such goods, I got it cheaper there than for what it was later sold here in Manila.

Cover of Moleskine Pocket Planner. The artwork was outsourced from the Moleskine community. -> See the artist draw. Draw, draw, draw.

Back cover. -> See the monster. He is waiting for the artist to finish drawing. Wait, wait, wait.

Cover spread. -> See the monster and the artist. Look at the weird art all around them. Look, look, look. And run away. Far, far away.

Inside front cover.

Inside spread with horizontal week-at-a-glance layout. The Moleskine’s ribbon bookmark is always useful.

For fountain pen users, I recommend using an extra-fine or fine FP with Moleskine paper to minimize show-through. Ballpoint and gel pen users should have no problem at all and will find Moleys a joy to write upon.

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moleskine memo pockets

From a small selection of notebooks similar to those beloved of writers and artists in the past to its present wide range of stationery products, Moleskine is engaging buyers with things that evoke the artistic lifestyle.

The Moleskine Memo Pockets lets you keep receipts, notes, tickets, and other little bits in a stylish case that looks exactly like one of their notebooks.

The same elastic as in their notebooks runs down the right side.

The case has six pockets made of acid-free paper.

The pockets open wide to provide lots of space. The edges are reinforced with red ribbon.

Moleskine Memo Pockets also come in black. They have a larger version in black of a notebook full of pockets, called the Folio, for papers, drawings, and such.

Moleskine seems to be developing a one-stop system for organizing your paperwork. Notebooks are for jotting down your thoughts and other information – let’s face it, it’s still easier to write something down than take out an iPad or a Galaxy Tab, boot it up, and do the touch-pressing on the virtual keyboard. Planners help you keep to a schedule.  The cases like the Memo Pockets and the Folio help you sort and stash your bits of paper, the journals help you store information specific to a certain topic (books, wine, recipes, etc.). I’m looking forward to what they’ll come up with next.

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moleskine le petit prince

Moleskine was the pioneer of the luxury “writer’s notebook” market, positioning its product as something that traces its origin back to the old-fashioned journals used by writers and artists like Hemingway, Van Gogh, and Picasso, that until the mid-80s were still being peddled in obscure bookshops in Paris, as rhapsodized by Bruce Chatwin in his book Songlines.

Fast-forward to 1997, when a Milanese publisher revives the product and launches a trend.

Today there are many imitators and rip-offs, and Moleskine has to keep several steps ahead by coming out with interesting designs.

This is one such limited edition design – Moleskine Le Petit Prince.

Inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s self-illustrated 1941 novella, the line features pocket and large ruled and plain notebooks with covers engraved with drawings from the book.

Pocket notebooks, ruled and plain.

The back covers are plain black, but the paper label has all the information on product specs.

Detail of front cover of pocket notebook showing an engraved line from the book – “What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

Detail of the front cover of the other version of the pocket notebook.

I haven’t opened my pocket notebooks yet, but I got these images from other sources to show you what they look inside.

The inside front cover and  first page have more drawings from the book. The text says: “If found, please return to planet _____. As a reward, my secret about ____.”  Image of large notebook here.

This limited edition line comes with cut-out and stand-up scenes from the book. Image cropped from here.

Sunset scene above comes with the pocket notebook, flower scene below comes with the large. Image here.

For lovers of the Little Prince, literature, and fine notebooks, here’s a product that combines all those for you.

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library in your pocket: amazon kindle 2

When I was growing up we had so many books that we could have built a house with them, the way environmentalists today build structures from plastic soda bottles or beer cans. I can’t imagine living without books. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I found out not everyone loved to read as much as our family did.

So every time I’d visit other people’s homes I’d see if they had books and how they stored them. When I was in college there was this guy, a friend of friends, who invited a bunch of us to their big old house in Manila. His name was Ditto Amador, the brother of the actress Pinky. He had science fiction and fantasy books piled up on the floor of his bedroom knee-high while a sheaf of papers was impaled to the wall with a sword, I swear I am not making this up. We all thought it was extremely cool and we wanted one.

Over the years, hundreds of my books were lost or damaged or stolen or given away. I wish I still had them, so I can revisit the familiar cadences of sentences that drew me to different worlds. Now, through the marvels of new technology, I can rebuild the library of my childhood, and carry with me the books I love as an adult, and later on bequeath them to my children, the stories and wisdom and knowledge of the world all in a gadget I can hold in my hand.

I recently acquired a pre-loved Kindle 2. This gadget is a brainchild of founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The first-gen model – Kindle 1 – was released in 2007 and followed in 2009 by the second-gen version, while the third-gen device – Kindle 3 – ships on August 27 and pre-orders are sold out.

The Kindle uses e-ink (electronic ink) technology reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch and is not backlit, eliminating eyestrain caused by glare which is the problem when reading on computer monitors, phones, and the iPad. You can read in bright sunlight, but you’ll need a booklight in the dark.

Kindle 2 uses only one font but offers eight font sizes and both landscape and portrait orientation options.

How does it all work? Digital files of books in the proprietary .azw format are sold at the website and may be downloaded to your Kindle through wireless technology called Whispernet (the Kindle comes in 3G and WiFi flavors). A file may be received practically anywhere in the world there is telecom access in under 60 seconds – yes, in the Philippines too. It’s like it was sent as a mobile phone message to you – it’s that fast, and it’s free.

The Kindle 2 also reads other formats such as .mobi (Amazon bought out Mobipocket some time ago), .txt, and supports .pdf and mp3 and Audible audio book files.

The device is light and thin and may be held comfortably in one hand for a long period of time, say, reading in bed at night or while waiting for your police clearance at the NBI. The Kindle 2 has a 6-inch display in 16-point grayscale, giving an acceptable level of detail for viewing some types of graphics. For text, it is superb.

Control buttons are at the edges and bottom of the device. “Previous page” and “Next Page” on the left, “Home”, “Next Page” “Menu”, “Back”, and the five-point joystick on the right. On the bottom is a QWERTY keyboard for searching for books at the Kindle website through wireless; for looking up word definitions in the built-in dictionary; adding annotations (the e-equivalent of scribbling notes in the margins); and more.

The Kindle 2 only came in white, which looks clean, though newer versions also come in graphite that offers better contrast.  No, they don’t have it in pink yet, though I have hopes.

The power switch is located at the top of the gadget, with a headphone jack for listening to audio books.

Beneath the Kindle is a USB port for downloading books from a PC and for recharging. Once fully charged, the battery lasts about a week to ten days with normal use and wireless switched off.

It is a delight to read on the Kindle, and to be able to hold 1,500 books with one hand and carry them with you wherever you go. I can give away most of my ink-and-paper books now, saving only those that have sentimental value.

But I still want a sword.

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advice fail

A can of Pepsi Max sits in front of me and gives advice.

“I know what you want,” it whispers. Beads of cold sweat roll off  its rouge et noir exterior. “I know how you can get it. Just do what you’re thinking right now. Go for it.”

I take a sip. ” It’s not a very good plan, and I don’t have a backup.”

“You don’t need one.” Chuckles coldly.

I turn Plan A over in my mind. It is possible it could work, like any scheme using brute force.  ”Perhaps,” I say.

The Moleskine chimes in. “Wait,” it says in a rustle of paper. ” Have you thought about the consequences and possible scenarios?”

The Sheaffer Balance makes marks. Numbers, words. “Holes in the plan,” it agrees,  ”here and there, where the mission could fail.”

Another sip of Pepsi Max. “You’re right – Plan A lacks finesse. And Plan B does not exist.”

The drink rallies. “Unnecessary, I swear.”

Anxious looks from the Moleskine and the Sheaffer. “This is too important to trust to chance. Preparedness is key to achieving the desired outcome. Remember how it hurt when you smacked concrete after jumping from a plane without a parachute? You need an improved Plan A. And a Plan B. And C, and D.”

I think of what I want and how badly I want it. The prize is worth waiting for.

I drain the drink. “But…!” it squeaks. “Think instant gratifica…!” I crumple the can and toss it, open the Moley, take up the Sheaffer, and think.

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basic fountain pens 1: beginner’s guide

Wella - a friend from college who turned 27 some weeks ago (*wink*) - asked me to write an introduction to fountain pens as she is thinking of getting into them as well. While I don’t feel qualified to write a definitive and comprehensive beginner’s guide about this interesting and complex topic, I can at least share my personal experiences.

To begin with, as a writer and aesthete of sorts, I’ve always been fascinated by things that make marks on paper - all sorts of writing instruments, typewriters, brushes, seals and rubber stamps – and the things that make the marks – ink, paint, seal paste, and so on.

Over the years, I became more interested in vintage and antique things over modern things because of the historical  and aesthetic aspects. I find a fountain pen with its gleaming, pointed nib more visually appealing than a ballpoint pen, and found my interest concentrating on FPs.

Fountain Pens in the Philippines

However, in the Philippines, where I live, there isn’t much of a fountain pen culture. According to older folks who are now in their mid-50′s and older, usage of FPs was prevalent in schools until they were in high school, when ballpoints became cheaper and more readily available.

A 62-year old friend of mine told me of he and his elementary schoolmates stabbing the nibs of their Parkers and Sheaffers into their desks when they were bored. They eagerly embraced BP use later on as FPs, he said, “leaked, and my mom would get mad when I’d come home with ink stains all over my uniform.” (Apparently he never figured out that if he didn’t have the habit of stabbing his pen nibs into desks, perhaps his pens wouldn’t leak.)

FPs were also de riguer in some Philippine law schools and in some accountancy programs until perhaps fifteen years ago, though there are still a few law schools today, like Far Eastern University, that recommend FPs to their students.

Still, in the mainstream, few Filipinos have even heard of FPs, much less used them. I first learned of FPs as a child through reading and movies; I don’t recall actually seeing an FP being used by anyone in my family.

In college, I finally got myself an inexpensive Parker Jotter from National Bookstore. All I did was go to the pen section, browse, and get something I could afford.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years back that my interest really grew, when the choices of affordable FP brands available in readily accessible malls and chain bookstore expanded. Fully Booked began carrying Inoxcrom pens; they were made of plastic with steel nibs, and had colorful and attractive graphics.

The pink pens are Inoxcrom from the Jordi Labanda line; the red FP is a Pilot 78G and one of the best starter pens ever, available online for about $12. All three have steel nibs.

Enter the power of the Internet. After blogging about the demise of one of my early Inoxcrom Jordi Labandas, I received an email from University of the Philippines professor Dr. Butch Dalisay inviting me to a gathering of FP collectors at his home, the first such meeting ever.

Upon meeting other collectors, I was exposed to more brands, kinds of nibs, modern and vintage pens, and a wide assortment of ink. The more I learned about FPs, the more I wanted to collect, and because of my newfound knowledge, I was able to discover what I really wanted, which are vintage pens, mainly 1930s Sheaffers and Parkers; pens with flexible nibs, whether vintage or modern; and Japanese pens.


Vintage Sheaffer Balances. All are from the 1930s except the red Tuckaway in the center. I love ’30s pens for their Art Deco design, flexible and responsive nibs, and lovely celluloid barrels.

Fountain Pen Facts

You need to know that:

1. FPs differ from BPs in that they have nibs. The nibs come in a wide variety of types. Referring to the width of the line they lay down, there are the extra-fine (EF or XF), fine (F), medium (M), and broad (B) nibs. Some brands such as Pelikan carry double-broad and triple-broad nibs. The nibs of Japanese brands such as Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum tend to be ”one size smaller” – their M is a Western F, their XF a Western XXF, and so on.

Nibs come in gold, steel, and other metal alloys and are generally pointed in shape and have a ball of iridium on the tip for strength. But there are other shapes. Stubs are nibs with the iridium gone because the shape of the tip is flat across. Italics are pretty much the same but with sharper edges; they are used mainly for calligraphy. Obliques are cut at an angle.

Nibs may also differ as to whether they are flexible, semi-flexible, or firm. Modern nibs are usually very firm – “nails”, in collector parlance – since users most likely will have grown up as members of the BP generation. Some modern nibs are flexible – pens from Nakaya and Danitrio, and Pilot’s Falcon nib come to mind.

Semi-flex nibs give a bit of line variation – examples are the Pelikan M1000 and the Sailor Professional Gear -  but the best results in that regard may be had from true flex nibs. Many vintage pens, especially those from the ’40s and earlier, have flexible nibs because they were often made of 14K gold, and gold nibs tend to be more flexible than steel. In addition, antique pens were designed to flex to accommodate use of the Spencerian and Copperplate styles of handwriting.


Two of my favorite flexy pens – a Moore vest pen, and a Sheaffer black hard rubber ringtop, meant to be worn by ladies around their neck on a chain. Notice the line variation with the Sheaffer.

2. FPs, unlike BPs, are refillable with ink from a bottle. For green advocates, they are a better choice as they are not disposable. Modern fill systems use a cartridge - a plastic tube pre-filled with ink is snapped inside the pen – or converter - also a plastic tube but with a twister-thingy that allows you to draw ink up through the nib. A converter is better since it is re-used over and over, but a cartridge can also be refilled using a syringe. Vintage pens have a variety of filling systems ranging from lever-fill, button-fill, etc. Stick to c/c (cartridge-converter) pens at the start for less mess.

Collecting Fountain Pens

If you would like to start a collection of fountain pens, you might want to:

1. Ask friends or family for their old fountain pens. Chances are there are pens gathering dust in some drawer or box somewhere, and your relatives and friends will only be too glad to pass them on to you.

2. Check out the fountain pens for sale at office supply stores. In the Philippines, try:

a) National Bookstore for the Parker Jotter, Vector, and other models that might catch your fancy. They also carry Aurora, Waterman, Inoxcrom, Cross, and Rotring. Inoxcrom make the most affordable kinds – plastic cartridge-fill pens suitable for children, or for anyone looking for a sturdy daily road warrior.

b) Luis Pen Store is the only fountain pen store in the country. Established in the late 1940s, it’s still near its original location on Escolta Avenue, Manila, near Sta. Cruz Church. There you’ll find NOS Parkers, Sheaffers, and Pilots from the ’70s, as well as newer models of those brands and Cross and Mont Blanc. They also do FP repair, do engraving, and sell Parker Quink ink.

c) Office Warehouse has cheap and fun Schneiders – the Zippi and other models.

d) Fully Booked carries Inoxcrom.

e) Office supplies stores in Recto, near the university belt, carry NOS (new old stock) Pilot Japanese pens from the ’70s – terrific buys for their reliability and beauty, and the antique factor as well. You might also find Lamy pens.

Try checking fountain pen sellers online for modern pens, and eBay for vintage pens.


Three 1940s Parker Vacumatics with their pretty striped celluloid barrels; a Parker 51, iconic for its hooded nib; a Parker 45; a (restored) Parker 75 Milleraies, the pen that started my collection; a Parkette; a red Esterbrook; and a gold Wahl set of refillable pencil and fountain pen.

3. Research online about fountain pens and join collectors’ forums. Wiki has this informative article on fountain pens. Check out Fountain Pen Network and join the Fountain Pen Network Philippines Yahoo! groups. For more information and pictures, visit Leigh Reyes’ blog, My Life as a Verb; Thomas Overfield’s Bleubug; and Dr. Butch Dalisay’s Pinoy Penman.

Getting Started

Getting started is easy. Just go to your favorite pen place and get the pen that you like best that you can afford.

I’d suggest you start with something inexpensive  – say, a cartridge-fill Parker Jotter or Vector with a steel nib – to get used to the nib and the way it lays ink on paper, which is different from the way you’d use a BP. FPs need very little pressure to lay a dark line (this is assuming you are using dark ink), whereas for BPs, you have to press hard to achieve  a darker line, making FPs terrific for writing for extended periods. In addition, FPs don’t score the back and succeeding pages of your notebook, unlike BPs.

You also need to find out what width of nib you prefer – F, M, or B? Get an inexpensive one of each kind, or try them out in the store first before buying. Testing an FP is done by “dipping” – dip the nib for a few seconds in ink, and doodle on paper.


A Lady Sheaffer from the ’70s; various Pilots, including a Pilot E Script pen, a Pilot 77 from Luis Store in Escolta, a teal Pilot from Recto, and a red Pilot 78G from Shanghai; an orange Sailor Professional Gear Colors; and Japanese long-shorts from the ’70s – a Sailor, a Pilot, and a Platinum.

Don’t forget to buy bottled ink! Available in Manila are Parker Quink, Waterman, and Aurora inks (at National Bookstore). Online, look for J. Herbin, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, Diamine, Caran d’Ache, and Pilot, especially their Iroshizuku line.

And as you become more enamoured of using FPs, you’ll also need to look for “fountain-pen friendly paper”. (Fully Booked has a nice assortment of Moleskine, Paper Blanks, Grand Luxe, and Miquelrius. For local brands, Corona and Cattleya are great – smooth paper, won’t snag your nib, no ink feathering.) Happy hunting!

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bend it like wahl and moore.

Vintage fountain pens are highly-prized by many collectors not just for their unusual materials and designs. For those connoisseurs who actually use these pens, not merely keep them tucked away in protective cases, the nibs are the biggest draw of these oldies but goodies.

Older nibs, those manufactured up to the 1930s with higher gold content, tend to be more flexible than steel nibs. They are also resistant to the corrosion that may be a side effect of some types of inks.

These pens hail from the 1920s. One is a gold-filled Wahl, the other a celluloid Moore vest pen.


The Wahl has a Greek-key design. It is slim and perfect for ladies’ smaller hands. The notebook is a Ruled Pocket Moleskine.


Its 14k gold nib looks like a stub with most of the iridium worn off. A heart-shaped breather hole in the nib helps with the exchange of air for ink the pen’s reservoir. It’s a lever-fill.


A beautiful monogram on the cap tassie.

Moore is a lesser-known brand, yet the quality of this particular pen is admirable.


Celluloid body, lever-fill, 14k gold nib.


The name engraved on the barrel may be that of the first owner.


The Moore also has a heart-shaped breather hole.

No matter how agile and lithe David Beckham is, he can’t bend it like the nibs of these vintage pens can.


Writing samples – top, the Wahl in Private Reserve Shell Pink; center, the Moore in a plum color, a mixture of Shell Pink and Tropical Blue. The Moore’s nib gives more line variation.

Flexibility was an important characteristic for early 20th century pens because they suited the handwriting styles of the period – Copperplate and Spencerian.

Having used flexible pens, modern pens feel stiff and rigid. “Like a nail”, is how some collectors describe them. Many FP users have both a vintage flexible and a stiff modern writer in their everyday pen case for different purposes.

Photos taken with a Nikon D60.

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