art, ceramics, personal, self care, self-publishing, writing

Pen tinkering. Ceramics. Plus the hard stuff.

Last night I was having issues with my new TWSBI ECO stub-nib fountain pen hard-starting and skipping (that is, not writing well). Today I looked up possible reasons…and I think what happened is that the pen had likely rolled in my hand, causing me to write more with one corner of the nib than the other. This, plus the pressure I used to try and get it to write correctly, pushed the nib out of alignment with the feed. I could see it today with my 10x loupe. (I originally got the loupe for Geology classes. This is another occasion on which, I’m glad I never tossed it.)

I nudged everything back into position (this nib and feed are looser than on my initial ECO [a Medium nib], but that’s likely because when I tried to adjust the Medium’s nib and feed, it was dry, thus unlubricated and fragile). We’ll see how it works.

Last night I realized that if I flooded the feed with ink by manually advancing the plunger in the ink reservoir to expel all the air, I could get it to write again. But I really shouldn’t have to do that.

It’s like a puzzle in a pen. Anyhow, that’s just part of what I came here to write about.

As I may have mentioned…we’re getting rid of things over here. Last night as well, M had separated out a bunch of glassware and ceramics from storage, and told me to pick out anything I wanted to keep.

There is a small stoneware vessel, black and gunmetal glazed, which I made in high school…it’s about 4″ wide, maybe 2″ high. I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it’s beautiful. I washed the dust off of it and dried it…and holding it later, still warm from the water, I found another beauty to it: because I made it with my own hands, it nestles down right in my own hands. Still.

Apparently, my hands were fully grown when I made this pot. :)

I wasn’t expecting to find beauty in a tactile form…but once I did, I rescued two of my other pots…a pinch-pot and another which I had thrown, both from high school. This was to remind me of the beauty I could create with my hands.

I’m not in love with the decoration on those two — both of the latter are painted with underglaze and fired with a clear crackle glaze on top. The crackle glaze doesn’t make for a great surface feel. They’re…from early on in my development. But I kept them because they’re good as examples of form. I also kept the black and gunmetal piece because it’s just beautiful.

In the near future, I should be cleared to practice ceramics, again. There’s a place I can go which has a lot of time devoted to ceramic making, and will fire my pieces for me. As the major expenses (and barrier to making) ceramics are in the kiln, wheel, and stable wedging tables…it’s a big help. (Well, I don’t know if the wedging table is really a big expense. I know it’s hard to find something suitable; clay is a fairly sturdy material to be pushing around on top of it.)

So I am hoping to get back into this. Even though it will probably mean having to go back to routinely moisturizing my hands. :) If M and I do both get back into it (she also has taken years of ceramics classes), there’s the possibility of getting a wheel and kiln, ourselves. I know she has thought about it. So have I.

I think, at least, a kiln would make me feel safer than a torch. Though, the same place that does the ceramics, also gives Jewelry classes (both basic beadwork, and Silversmithing). I have a couple of semesters of Silversmithing practice under my belt; it would be interesting to get back into it without worrying about explosions or accidentally burning the building down.

Or maybe I should say, there will be other, more experienced people, around to help prevent those outcomes. And it won’t necessarily be my fault, if it happens. As a third benefit, I’m pretty sure the Fire Department has been called out there, before.

I also, last night, began writing again about gender and sexuality in a hard copy. As a note to myself, it’s in the pink journal…

I made the connection between avoiding making myself vulnerable and the reactions I’ve gotten in the past because I have made myself vulnerable, particularly from M, and also the Internet.

It makes sense not to go into some of this stuff with her. I think she may appreciate it, if I didn’t. She just isn’t the greatest person to talk to about emotions…she’s more action-oriented, and doesn’t know what to do if I’m talking to her about something she can do nothing to fix. She also is quick to snap to judgment…even if she doesn’t understand the situation. I don’t want to be exposing new tender baby shoots of ideas to that.

I had thought that when I had finally figured out my identity, that was it; I was done; I could stop working on it and obsessing over it, and move on with the rest of my life. But, in reality: the story doesn’t end when you figure out who you are. It is an answer, but life goes on, and along with it, the story continues.

And sometimes…what you think you’ve figured out, isn’t the whole story. (Such as: “I’ve figured out who I am; now how do I interact with the world?”) Or the answer isn’t sufficient to last you your entire life. You find out that the categories you used to figure yourself out as a youth were flawed, or you realize that the way a person looks has little to do with the person they are beneath (but much to do with their experience), which revolutionizes the way you think about people. Or you realize maybe you can be attracted to a range of people, despite being celibate. Or maybe gender isn’t always (or perhaps, ever) the prime qualifying category you love in others.

It’s just that way.

At this point, I kind of wonder about the efficacy of working in a fictional format…as versus a blog one, or a semi-autobiographical one. It’s one of those things you’ll want to know before you post anything online. :) Basically, posting it verbatim online counts as publication, and will take First Publication Rights away from others, which are generally what traditional Publishers seek to acquire from an author before publishing a work. They tend to want to be the first to bring it to the world — though there are exceptions.

Of course…there’s also the question of whether one wants to publish their work in book format, or in ebook or PDF format, or as part of a website or blog. That’s a really big question, though; not one which I feel confident about tackling in public, at this point in time. What I will say is that…I’m leaning towards the blog format, right now. Tentatively.

I know that it’s easier for me to write articles, than it is to think about tackling a long, integral whole that I keep secret until some future time at which I sell my intellectual rights to the work. It’s fairly certain that I won’t make a fantastic amount of money off of it, but I didn’t get into writing to do so.

It’s more important to me to reach people who need to hear from my experience and perspective, to help them figure out where they stand in this whole diverse world. Because it really is diverse; moreso than I ever could have really imagined, as a youth.

self care

In which I get nothing done but caring for myself

I’m pretty sure you can see here that I didn’t do anything this weekend…well, aside from playing with pens. I had started to psych myself out over the new job (starting tomorrow), so I took a much-needed rest, instead of going out to buy things, and to the street fair. Yes, that means I might still have to buy new shoes, but I have an idea of what I want, weekends happen, and the other shoes will work in the interim. It might even be better this way, because I’ll have a sense of how long I’ll need to be on my feet.

I also took a shower while the sun was still up, washed and conditioned my hair, and…well, just basically took care of myself. I have a copy of the tentative schedule for the next three weeks, and it doesn’t look like it will be too hard — despite what I had heard. While I do still need to re-pot this poor Leaning Tower of Umbrella Plant in my room (I have the soil, the pot, the gravel — just haven’t made a day to lay down the newsprint: we don’t get a newspaper anymore, so I have to cannibalize my huge drawing pads)…it’s looking okay for the next week, or so. Or until the pot tips over. One or the other. :)

We’ve also been doing a lot of cleaning, which I might have mentioned — so things are looking fairly nice right now. I also found my missing piece of mail from work (I remembered where it might have been, last night in bed), so that’s good.

I was able to re-purpose my IKEA bag into a holder for my A5 notes (though I may want to sew my own pack, eventually), and I tried the Maruman filler paper with Uni-Ball Signo pens (I have a bunch of these from when I was thinking of cartooning with them). The setup works great: I can write on the front and back of each page. The only drawback is having to travel 45 minutes away to get another 100-page refill for the Maruman (my normal place online, doesn’t stock this exact brand — I’d have to get another 20-hole A5 paper, and I don’t know if that will fit my binder).

It’s pretty much been a quiet, peaceful, beautiful day, which contrasts with what came before it.

I didn’t mention…when I got my shitajiki (pencil board) the other day, I also got to try out a LAMY Al-Star fountain pen. I filled it with Iroshizuku Tsutsuji (Azalea) ink using a converter, and so the majority of last night was spent practicing writing with all of my different fountain pens, trying to suss out the differences in feel and design.

I believe the LAMY is better suited to cursive writing. By that, I mean that it takes a bit of pressure to get a non-hairline mark on smooth paper…compared to the Pilot Metropolitan, the Pilot Prera, or the TWSBI Eco, though; you do have to press down. I believe this is better designed for leaving the nib down for an entire word than any of the other three. It may be self-explanatory, but TWSBI is a Taiwanese brand, Pilot is Japanese, and LAMY is German. There are some very different writing habits contained, there!

As regards my writing style, as well, I’d say I prefer the Metropolitan. I have a Fine nib version of this, which was really my first fountain pen. Because its nib is stiff and very fine, I get a good amount of feedback as to how hard I’m pressing. It takes some getting used to, to get the nib to glide over the paper, but I’ve got it down now. The bright point to the Metropolitan is that it’s extremely precise, so if I’m printing — as is my normal handwriting style — it’s really good. It looks incredibly sloppy with my cursive hand, though — just because it does show that precision (or lack of it)!

In contrast with that, the LAMY Al-Star and the TWSBI Eco are better suited to cursive writing. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the wider footprint it makes on the page; my TWSBI is a Medium, as is the LAMY. I also haven’t used the TWSBI or the LAMY anywhere near as much as my Pilot Metropolitan (I can’t even remember how long ago I got the latter — it wasn’t online, so I’d have to dig up a paper receipt), so it could be that the Metropolitan’s nib has just been polished down from use. I do recall that it used to be scratchier. It’s a really great workhorse pen, for either English or Japanese writing (though note, I’ve only relatively recently broken into kanji).

I also may have messed up my TWSBI right out of the box by trying to remove the nib and feed (TWSBI encourages tinkering, so of course I had to disassemble the thing) — I had pen skipping until I took out my loupe and saw that the feed was misaligned with the nib, from where I had twisted it (but not removed it: too scared to do that). Once that was straightened out, though, it wrote well.

As a note: the TWSBI feed and nib are looser when they’re wet. But I wouldn’t encourage trying to remove it without knowing what you’re doing; I was just lucky that I recalled what I did and was able to fix it (I still am not sure if I damaged the feed or not: it may have cracked, but that’s not affecting its performance, to my knowledge).

Because my Pilot Prera is a stub-nib pen (its tip is flat), it’s the scratchiest out of any of the four I have now. It does work with either print or cursive, and for me, the writing comes out looking nice. I try to keep the nib at about a 45° angle to my baseline when I’m writing, but I’m pretty much not doing any intentional italic hand. One’s angle of approach does matter with this nib as well: it’s smoother working on a table as versus leaning back, that is!

It’s interesting to work the stub nib with a contrasting ink — I’ve been using it with Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-gaki (Winter Persimmon) ink, which is basically a red-orange. Contrasting that with the Fine Metropolitan loaded with Iroshizuku Ku-jaku (Peacock, basically a dark blue-green), has been pretty sweet. They’re really good complements to each other. The reason I even tried the wider nibs, though, is that I would like to see more shading than within that needle-thin line provided by the Metropolitan Fine nib. Using the Ku-jaku in the Prera, does provide some nice shading. I haven’t yet tried the Ku-jaku in the TWSBI, and probably won’t, in the LAMY.

I’ve been sticking to the Iroshizuku inks for the Pilot pens because I’ve read that other inks may tend to clog them up. This is also the reason why I’ve branched out to the TWSBI Eco and the LAMY Al-Star. I really am not certain I’d buy another LAMY, just due to my handwriting style contrasted with the springiness of the nib, and the need to put pressure on it. I don’t like to bear down on my writing instruments…which is probably a good thing to take note of before trying a flex-nib pen, like Noodler’s Ahab. (I almost tried it, then backed off.)

So basically, I like the Pilot and the TWSBI, though at least for now, the Pilot’s nib (on the Metropolitan, the first of my fountain pens) is smoother. The real nice thing about the TWSBI Eco is that it has a fairly gigantic ink reservoir in comparison to either the Pilot or LAMY converters — though that isn’t necessarily a great thing if you don’t like the ink you loaded. Right now it’s full of Yama-budo (Mountain Grapes) — a reddish purple — though I’m thinking of switching to a bluer violet, in the future.

Though, actually, having retrieved the LAMY just this moment…the fact that the nib does flex, means I have some minimal thick-to-thin differentiation in my lines, depending on pressure (as versus angle). This is on a Bee Paper, Pen Sketcher’s pad. I’m not even sure they make these things anymore, honestly…

I can keep flexible nibs in mind, for the future. For now…I should get some rest. Early morning, tomorrow.

calligraphy, psychology, writing

Recalling the reason to write

Continuing my run of entries with no pictures…I now have a new fountain pen, and ink. (For the fountain pen enthusiasts: this is a TWSBI Eco with dark purple ink and a Medium nib. So smooth.) It will help encourage me to keep up my habit of writing on a daily basis, which I’ve been doing for a couple of days now, offline. As I’ve been doing so, I’ve been reminded of the craft of writing, and how it is such a basic way of recording experience.

It’s kind of like drawing, but not. :) I wouldn’t say it’s of necessity less visual, but I get into more about the inner experience of existence and being than I can by drawing, which in my case is more like feeling surfaces rather than plumbing depths (and there I get into the tactile [as versus visual] aspect of drawing, which I hadn’t noticed before). Getting back to writing by hand is liberating, and I’m wanting to do it more. I used to fill up notebooks, especially as a teen; though then again, that was the age of IBMs and Netscape. There wasn’t as big a draw to the Web, for me, then.

It’s just so nice to be able to combine the tactile experience of writing, with the act of marking paper — surprisingly like drawing — and the experience of color and the ability to modulate how I write, how I form the words, and with whom (which pen, which ink; which are starting to have personalities, to me: helped by filling my standard Pilot Metropolitan Fine [used as my workhorse general pen right now] with blue-green ink, and my Medium Calligraphy pen with red-orange, which oddly enough coincides with basic graphic design principles).

Although a long time ago, I did start to practice calligraphy (which if nothing else, has improved my handwriting), calligraphy itself has not been an urgent draw for me. Maybe because of the cultural and historical associations with Germanic letters, and the connection of these to illuminated manuscripts and old official records. I think what I’m feeling, though, does tie in with the desire to add a decorative element to text, to ideas; to let the words blossom — to make symbols that mean things and to combine them into combinations I’ve never seen before, according to standard rules (grammar) which allow for it (or which I consciously break).

Of course, content also helps. When my writing is private, I get back to the seed of “why write?” which is missing on my blog. I mean, it’s really freeing to just write down what I’m feeling, knowing no one ever has to read it; just developing my own thoughts towards more advanced thoughts, and recording where I’m at, at any one time. There is no point to writing — for me, at least — never dealing directly with lived experience.

With me, my writing has pretty much always been intimate and personal, at least somewhat train-of-thought. I get into the “flow” state of creativity. When things are fragmented, I’m now trying to fill in the connections for you all, which are apparent to me but not necessarily to a reader who doesn’t have my experience. But there are things I would not feel open to sharing on the spur of the moment, online, without due consideration or commitment.

Words have power, that is; they have the power to change lives (for better or worse). The responsibility inherent in that is not something I’ve taken lightly, which is why, for years, I stopped writing. But the power of words to change lives is apparent, to me, from the connections I have made online in the past; people I would have never met, were it not for the Internet. And that — that is the reason that I decided to go into Digital Services, because I’ve met so many people online who have allowed me to explore my inner depths with them.

My mind and thoughts also routinely run deep — so deep that my grasp of the concepts I’m really talking about, is sometimes blurred — and it’s hard to clarify without records. With records, I can analyze things after the fact; I can have some degree of objectivity in the future toward what was entirely subjective, in the moment.

It is also…great to be able to elevate my life to a status where I can see it as something worth writing about. It’s something I don’t do to such an extent of intimacy, on this blog. I’ve remembered the reason for writing, that is.

It’s just great to be able to vent without having to actually have worked out whether it’s worth it to do so; or to acknowledge thoughts that would normally never be expressed in the course of civil life. Or to write things and then look at the words and ponder whether they’re really true, or if they’re skewed in some way. I write it; I see it; I get to ask, do I really believe that? Or, I get to start out with the self-agreement that I will write what comes to me, regardless of whether or not I know it to be true, as this will be an excellent opportunity to look back on later and gauge how, “on it,” I was at the time.

It’s been pretty great. Especially to validate real feelings I’ve had, which I know would be detrimental to social functioning, otherwise.

It’s good to be able to work things out. It’s good to be honest. And I’ll be doing more of it.