Sunday, April 7, 2013

Exaclair, Part 1 (Tools of the Trade #8)

This week I will begin an in-depth review of inks, paper products, and traditional dip pen supplies that Exaclair, Inc. line of companies offer artists, calligraphers, pen enthusiasts, and paper lovers. 

Thanks to the generous support of Karen Doherty, Exaclair's Vice President for Marketing, I have an extensive selection of the company's products to work with. But I will begin by saying that my "sampler" is not exhaustive. The range of papers, working surface options, bindings, and sizes available in notepads/sketchbook/journals/stationary alone is amazing; there is literally something for everyone! (More on this later.)

To begin I have shown the subjects of this review above. They include: (top row) the hardbound Rhodia reporter's-style Webnotepad (measuring 3.5"x5.5") with dot-pattern paper; the Rhodia Webnotebook (also hardbound) in 3.5"x5.5" with blank paper; the Clairefontaine A5 (14.8 x 21cm) Notebook; a Brause "Kalligraphie" set; G. Lalo Verge de France stationary (5.25"x3.5"); and Rhodia (No. 12 & 13 Blocs and a 9x14cm Unlimited) ; (bottom row) Clairefontaine "Life. Unplugged" 9cm x 14cm & clothbound A5 journals (both the Roadbook with elastic closure & the Clarefontaine Basics); J. Herbin fountain pen inks; the Clairefontaine A5 "GraF It Sketch" journal (with its unique binding); and the clothbound Exacomta A5 Sketchbook.

Oops! I spoke too soon. A second package arrives with two more journals -- this time from Exaclair's Quo Vadis Habana line. Both are bound in the U.S. with fountain pen-friendly Clairfontaine papers -- 85g cream-colored blank pages in the 10x15cm notebook and 90g white lined paper in the 6"x9" notebook.


"Life. Unplugged. Takes you where no laptop can go."

Toss 'em in your backpack (or your pocket) and you're ready to hit the road!

As an artist who prefers to mix images and text in his journals, I'm not a big fan of ruled paper. But I have to admit that the 9 x 14cm Roadbook by Clairfontaine is brilliant! The 3.5"(ish) x 5.5" size fits perfectly into whatever is at hand, be it shirt, jacket or cargo pocket, sketch kit, or expedition backpack. The "plain brown wrapper" is deceptive. In fact, it is a very high quality (and I suspect water resistant) tan-colored binding with a surface texture that is quite pleasant in the hand and an understated but elegant embossed Clairefontaine logo on the lower right front. The front and back covers are scored to facilitate consistent opening and closing regardless of which page you're working on. An elastic ribbon is securely grommeted to the rear cover and acts to hold the notebook closed (and retain loose tickets, boarding passes, and other ephemera you may wish to deposit therein). Unlike the Rhodia Webnotebooks and Moleskine journals, the Roadbook does not contain an expandable pocket inside the rear cover. 

When's the last time that the feel of paper or simple act of writing made you smile?

Then there's the paper -- that wonderful, smooth-as-silk, 90g, pH neutral, acid-free, chlorine-free, fountain pen friendly paper that is synonymous with the name Clairefontaine. The paper is arguably the most fountain pen-friendly paper that is readily available around the world. It is organized into a four-signature, sewn structure that is firmly joined to the binding.

Because of its smoothness, I did have a slight reservation about how the paper would work with graphite. My concerns turned out to be unfounded, although I would probably opt to switch to 2Bs from my usual HBs to obtain a fuller tonal range.

This book's size and weight make it ideal as an everyday carry and perfect for jotting down ideas and observations on the fly -- especially if your writing instrument of choice is a fountain pen. (Feathering of even the wettest ink is nil, bleed-through is nonexistent, and show-through is moderate enough that writing on both sides of each sheet will be completely problem-free. I now use mine to jot down building names and addresses of new architectural finds (for my Little Texas series) during during scouting trips, to record project ideas (for new paintings and drawings) as quickly as they pop into my head, and as a catch-all for all of those fiddly bits that I so frequently decide have future creative potential.


"Graf it!"

the cover's score lines (indicated by the blue arrows) allow the open cover to lie flush with the sketchbook's surfaces

Two things struck me right away about the GraF It Sketch journal. First, the book is staple-bound in a way that resembles Japanese side binding. And, like Japanese books, the spine is on the right rather than the left side -- which makes it perfect for artists from cultures who write right-to-left and folks (like my wife and son) who are left handed.

my son was completely won over by the GraF it's ergonomic design, and the delightful feel of the Clairefontaine paper.

Tricks of the Trade -- 
#1.  If your lifestyle requires that you write on the go, but you use slow-drying inks and you want to avoid ink transfer between facing pages, cut a piece of blotter paper to match the shape of the Roadbook and use it as a handy bookmark.
#2.  Carry your Roadbook in a clear zip-lock bag to protect against both rain and excess scuffing.     

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