Another fountain pen post

I am, slowly but surely, getting back to a routine. As though, you know, things weren’t…(I can’t use that word, here). For the first time in a long time, I seem to have adapted to things like not going out (and having a lot of time to waste!).

Things are getting done on my end, though fortunately or not, getting things done cuts into my blogging time. I was out of here last Friday, for example, because I needed to work all weekend on my Library Science course. (I’m not using accommodations this time, so I need to stay on top of things.) Then on Monday I was recovering, and Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t even want to think about the computer. By Thursday (yesterday), I started studying again. Now it’s Friday morning and my eyes are burning at the computer, after I thought to myself earlier, that I didn’t have anything to write about.

I restarted my 日本語 (nihongo; Japanese language) lessons after I-don’t-know-how-many weeks, and I’m amazed at how much I remember. I still haven’t gotten back into the hang of repeating what I hear, every time I hear it; and I’m really not sure it’s necessary, at this point. (Words repeat.) I’m also starting to be able to recognize kanji along with (or even without) their readings.

I know for a fact that I’m fuzzy on terms for home interiors (I never really got “living room” vs. “kitchen”, for example: even though I did eventually find the translation icon), and might want to review that section (and write down the words, this time). Otherwise, even having lost that, I actually am making some headway (especially with number recognition — and the logic behind having different counters for everything).

The majority of yesterday…I mean, if I skip the Library Science studying (I have some things to do in order to keep up, but no deliverables this week)…has been devoted to playing around with my little set of fountain pens. I have a bunch of inexpensive-but-good ones, with a bunch of different colors of ink, and different-sized nibs. I’ve found that Pilot is my newly-preferred brand.

I’m actually appreciating my little $12 Pilot Kakuno with the Extra-Fine nib. If you want to use a lighter weight line or write anything tiny or finely, that’s one to go to (although it can have issues with paper incision, as it’s so sharp). The major annoyance I’m having with it right now, is capillary action drawing ink out of the grip section into the (transparent) cap, though I’m not sure it’s at all correctable, or just a design flaw. It might also be related to the specific ink I have in that one, right now (Iroshizuku Momiji, which is basically red with a touch of orange).

I’m also not sure how many of my other Pilot pens might have the issue, given that only one other of them (a Prera Demonstrator) is transparent at that juncture. The transparent Prera is fine. The design of the cap and section, and thus how they fit together, are just different. The Preras run around $30 to $40 online, depending on the model (Classic vs. Demonstrator) and your source, so Pilot could afford to invest in better design. They did, and it shows.

And no, I don’t know how different the more expensive models are, thanks! :) There is also the option of the Metropolitan lines (about $20 each), or the Penmanship line (about $10 each). They all use the same nibs, apparently (so says the Internet), though I haven’t tried switching them out.

There are also all the different colors of ink. I’m finding a theme in the ones I like…they aren’t simple colors, and they tend towards blue, green, and black for regular writing (meaning, not highlights or corrections). They also dry well — a reason I’m not planning on gambling with another Noodler’s ink.

I have Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses in a Broad Kaweco Sport (another inexpensive option, at least in the plastic models), which has a tendency not to dry. For a while. I understand this was likely done to preserve the interior mechanisms of the pens…but seriously, I want my ink to be able to dry. I write on the backs of my pages, and don’t want a ditto copy of my previous work, behind it.

I’m considering dumping out the rest of the ink in that pen and flushing it. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, after that: I’ve found that I prefer finer nibs, even though the novelty of the Broad nib was nice. It’s not so nice after your ink bleeds through to the backs of your pages and you can’t write anything small.

The Kaweco Sport was overtly an experiment to see whether I liked finer or bolder nibs, better — or whether I wanted a German pen, as versus a Japanese (Pilot, in this case) or Taiwanese one (TWSBI). They differ in aesthetics and intended end-use — though not as dramatically as dot-grid and lined notebooks!

I had to note to myself not to buy any more 5mm dot-grid or grid notebooks, unless I was going to use them for Japanese language practice, or drawings: 5mm spacing is way too close for most English writing (unless you’re great with a Fine or Extra Fine nib). Lines with 6mm or 7mm spacing, are workable for the size at which I normally write.

If you look at some kanji, though (try 語, for starters) you can see fairly easily why people who write in ideographic languages might prefer a finer line. It’s likely why the Japanese pens run finer in nib width than the German ones; although I do believe TWSBI uses German nibs. That would account for my TWSBI ECO with a Fine nib being about equivalent to a Pilot with a Medium nib.

I have tried LAMY; I gave an AL-Star away because I couldn’t stand being forced to push down on it and scrape it into the paper, to get it to write. It doesn’t work well for Japanese language in other than romaji, that is. For cursive English, it’s likely fine (or maybe would have been, if these things have to be broken-in. I don’t know. The one at the art store I tried later, didn’t have this issue; so I’m pretty much in the dark, here).

I also like it when the inks shade well…which is difficult to see much of the time (unless you’re using a Broad, Italic, or Stub nib), but some inks show shading (unevenness of color on the interior of one’s lines: reminiscent of watercolors) even in Fine and Medium nibs. The two I have in front of me are Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, and Ku-jaku; which are basically blue-black with a hint of green (in a Medium nib), and greenish-blue (in a Fine nib), respectively.

I’ve had very good experiences with the Iroshizuku line of inks, so far (no trouble with dead pens or stuck ink that never comes out — or, which seals the cartridge down so fast that it snaps off rather than releasing [this happened with a Platinum Plaisir to someone close to me — luckily, the Plaisir uses the same section and cartridge as the Platinum Preppy, and so a different interior could be swapped out with no harm to the housing]), which is why I decided to get another Pilot pen. Well, two. One of them (a Metropolitan Calligraphy Medium) was around $20, the other (a Classic Prera) was around $30. I was going for inexpensive + quality, which I’m primarily gauging as “pleasant writing experience.”

So far as that goes, Pilot wins easily out of all the fountain-pen brands I’ve tried. A runner-up is TWSBI, although I’ve never used a pen of theirs higher than the ECO, and so I don’t really know if they get better. I’ve read that TWSBI’s quality control on the grind of their nibs can be hit-or-miss (that is, they can be scratchy and need “tuning”, which I’m told, likely invalidates any warranty)…which is not an issue I’ve had with Pilot. Ever. Although you still have to find the optimal writing angle (called the “sweet spot” online), particularly with Calligraphy nibs. Even the best pen isn’t going to write well if you’re using it on its side!

The thing about the TWSBI ECO line: they have integrated rubber gaskets which prevent your inks from evaporating while they’re capped. Pilot does not have this, and thus the ink in the converter (or, I would assume, cartridge [I write too much to use cartridges]) gradually evaporates and concentrates, over time. I’ve had good luck with just replenishing them (or flushing and soaking the section overnight in Pen Flush, in the case of a pen nearly drying out all the way). I was also able to take a TWSBI ECO on a plane without it leaking, so there’s that, as well.

Given what just happened to me, though: I’m not certain a converter should be soaked in Pen Flush (it appeared sediment or bacterial growth was in the converter, after a while — then disappeared with use — but this is the same pen [Kakuno] which had odor problems [skunky smell], a while back [it no longer stinks]). For the uninitiated, converters just allow you to use bottled ink instead of snap-in cartridges. Eco-friendly, yeah? (You should see how many disposable pens I’ve gone through, otherwise!)

I mean, if you really want to get into it — I’ve seen worse: like the Noodler’s Nib Creaper I got which could not be sealed off against the outside air (the top of the cap screws on!), and ended up dying from a combination of that and a tiny ink capacity. Then I was turning the piston and something decided to snap (it kept “snapping” even after I replaced the knob, so I don’t know what was up with that, and can’t remember — I just remember seeing a broken-off fragment on the inside end of the piston. It didn’t help that I couldn’t see the other end of the piston). I am not sure whether I discarded it or tried to save it…but it’s not on my list of priorities.

The one Noodler’s pen (this is a U.S. brand) I tried that I’d use again is the Ahab Flex, but that one is a bit large for my hand, meaning it can slip and roll out of my fingers. The next step down (in terms of size) in that line is the Noodler’s Konrad Flex — which leaked. Prolifically. I’m not sure if I did something wrong (there is a slot for the nib I noticed later, which maybe I overlooked); I also never tried to heat-set the feed (as was recommended online). But seriously, I didn’t get this pen to mess with it until it writes.

Anyway. The Ahab, works; it’s also able to be completely disassembled, if you really want a thorough cleaning. I’m not sure exactly how a pen would get dirty enough to warrant that, though. (Actually, I do: it gets neglected for forever and likely should just be replaced.)

Pretty much, the biggest drawback to Pilot pens is that Pilot has a tendency to recommend only Pilot inks, with them. This is the initial reason I branched out to TWSBI and Noodler’s and Kaweco. It’s just that the Pilot pens write, so nicely.

So frikkin’ nicely.

Anyhow. I should probably go to bed, right now. :) I do have some updates as regards the potential debacle with watercolor half-pans (I really should have layered the paint instead of dispensing it all at once), but who’s counting? I also had a catastrophic paint-tube failure from my M. Graham Hansa Yellow on Tuesday night, which got me to realize that one 15ml tube is likely going to fill a full pan approximately four times, or a half-pan, about eight. (I got 3.5 pans out of it, and had already dispensed approximately 0.5 pans.)

The same thing happened with the M. Graham tube as happened a while back with a few of my Liquitex tubes: the part of the cap you hold, peeled off of the part of the cap that was screwed onto the tube. AWWWWW.

And yes, I do realize (now) that M. Graham may never dry because it has honey in it!

Disclaimer: These are all my opinions without input or compensation from any company or manufacturer. I speak only for myself and for no one else, and paid for these materials with my own funds.

art, comics, creativity, psychology, self care, spirituality

Another heat wave. Stationery, art, and metaphysics?

I’ve been largely offline for a couple of days, and that’s due to another heat wave passing through the area. When I associate the computer with work (or back pain…or ill health from being sedentary), it tends to cause me to find reasons not to be on the computer.

Over the long term, this is probably an important self-preservation skill, as regards my physical and mental well-being, but in the short term it means that things either go unlogged, or they get logged in hard copy, which is (understandably) harder to scan for content. Hyperlinks help.

If you don’t want to read about stationery, hop on down to the separator bar, below.

Right now I’m on page 115 of 160 in my journal, and have found myself wanting to finish it. After having tried a number of different brands, I found one I really like using: it’s an 80-leaf A5 Kokuyo Soft Ring notebook. The squishable spine (allowing one to lay their hand flat on the pages) may be a gimmick, but it’s a nice one.

This notebook is very good at avoiding bleedthrough of fountain pen ink, the words on the other side of the page don’t show through to a distracting degree, the paper feels nice under fountain pens (I say this even though my first fountain pen [a Pilot Metropolitan] is still my favorite one), and 80 leaves at an A5 size means that the page divisions suit the length of time I can tolerate writing (clearly) by hand.

The one thing I don’t like about this notebook is that my Pilot Iroshizuku inks tend to smear even after they have dried. I am not certain why this is, but I think it has to do with a coating on the pages.

I’ve also found that the one Noodler’s ink I’m using (Black Swan in Australian Roses [BSAR]) has a hard time drying and needs to be blotted. It also doesn’t show the black tone of the ink very well in this notebook — BSAR’s black component (it’s pink with black overtones) shows up much better on cheaper paper — but this may be due to the formulation of the ink. I’ve had BSAR in a Broad Kaweco Sport for months, and it hasn’t dried out or needed to be refilled even with rare use, which I find curious. I’m not sure if it has to do with the quality of the seal on the Sport, or if it has to do with something in the ink preventing it from evaporating.

Also, though: Iroshizuku’s Yama-Budo competes directly with BSAR; they’re very minorly different in appearance, but apparently not so in formulation. Yama-Budo is, to my eye, a reddish purple; just a little more purple than BSAR. Yama-Budo also doesn’t have the weird drying-time issue, but BSAR might be more permanent if accidentally re-wet. (I’m not sure: haven’t done the test for myself, yet.)

Two other notebooks I enjoy using are the Maruman SeptCouleur and the Maruman Mnemosyne (although I’ve only tried writing in their dot grid layout, so far. I have purchased a lined version, but don’t yet know if I like it: there’s some possibly culturally-specific stuff going on with dividing a B5-size page up into thirds).

I’ve also tried Kyokuto (the Expedient and their F.O.B Coop), but I wouldn’t put anything too…important, in there. The Expedient has issues with bleedthrough of my fountain pens, although I do still really like the Expedient’s dot grid, which falls back enough visually not to worry me. Looking back on it, the Expedient performed well with gel pens (I was using it as a Bullet Journal in grad school) — it’s just not great with the fluid inks I’m using.

These are largely Pilot Iroshizuku inks, some Sailor Shikiori inks, and that one Noodler’s (BSAR), with the Shikiori and Noodler’s reserved for non-Pilot pens (sometimes Pilot pens are only recommended to be used with Pilot inks). I did try out Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts briefly, before I read/saw that it can gel up inside one’s pen. That didn’t happen to me, but 54th Massachusetts gave me problems with nib creep (on a Noodler’s Ahab, no less) and bleedthrough on my pages. (Nib creep is what happens when ink seeps out of the nib when you aren’t using it, and seems to want to cover the nib, of its own accord. I found weird buildup under the nib when I disassembled and cleaned the pen out. Later, I used the same pen with both Shikiori Souten and Nioi-Sumire inks. No issues.)

The F.O.B Coop notebook I have is a Cross-Grid layout, which is basically like a dot grid but with little + and × marks instead of dots. I wouldn’t recommend it except for broad, flex, and stub nibs; otherwise, the crosses distract (me) from the text. Combine that with the fact that I often can see the writing on the back of the page (though never a full bleedthrough, even when I accidentally dropped a bunch of Sailor Shikiori Yodaki ink onto the paper), and that for legibility I need to double-space on this paper (5mm spacing isn’t quite wide enough to give my eye space to rest between lines); and the situation gets a little busy and ugly for my tastes. (I don’t know, however, how this paper would fare if someone were writing in a language that uses a grid rather than lines. I can see the use for the extra crosses, for example, in learning how to write kanji.)

I much prefer the paper in the Kokuyo Soft Ring notebooks (which, in my version, include tiny marks on the lines which give one a sense of space, somewhat like tab stops every 6mm) although I wonder what uses the Cross-Grid can be put to. For example, I could see the Cross-Grid being useful in modeling page layout. The pages really aren’t designed to be torn out for reproduction, however. Neither are the Kyokuto Expedient pages. The Kokuyo Soft Ring and the Maruman Septcouleur notebook pages do have tear lines; so do the Maruman Mnemosyne notebook pages.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get into international stationery. Hmm.

Disclaimer: I bought all of these items with my own funds, I do not represent anyone but myself, and I am not materially gaining anything (no kickbacks, etc.) by writing this.

I’ve been working with a lot of paper. Particularly, journals (including an art journal and a sketchbook I recently decided to use again), books, and watercolor paper. I’ve been going through books focused around art on my bookshelf, which I initially intended to read, and didn’t get around to.

Today — well, yesterday, Sunday — I woke up at 5:30 AM after a few hours of sleep. I don’t entirely remember what I was doing, but I do know that for a portion of that time, I was drawing (because I have the drawings). If my memory is correct, I could have been going through the art books I mentioned, to try and glean what each was about…but I honestly don’t recall if I did that before or after I slept.

I’ve decided to just go ahead and mark these books up. Someone at Goodwill will appreciate them after I’m done (generally speaking, writing in a book greatly decreases its resale value).

The day before that — I think it was Saturday — I did complete painting out the vast majority of the Daniel Smith dot cards I got, however long ago. That was a chore. I probably should have stopped at some point, but I was like, “I only have one more card to go!” Same thing I do with books.

So, generally speaking, I’m succeeding in incorporating more things that I actually want to do, into my life. Making art, learning Japanese language, journaling, reading.

There have been issues coming up from my reading about learning to be stifled (to put it shortly), when creativity is an overall human trait. I’ve been thinking about the necessity of “play,” in, “art,” the freedom kids have in making art, how most of us lose that as we age; and how I’ve found artists and artwork to be generally undervalued. I’m wondering if this is because artists are expected to explain their worth and what they do in verbal language, to which the portion of the brain involved in creating art, has no access.

For that matter, a number of references have come up to learning, “the rules of art,” with one author (a social psychologist and artist) saying we’re better off if we don’t know them and hence aren’t restricted by them; while to others (this was likely an art critic and not an artist), art can’t even be art if no one interacts with it. So on one hand you’ve got Outsider Art, on the other…someone I don’t want to be like, but then there is the constant question of What Art Is, which is the title of a book on the philosophy of Art I picked up, quite a while ago.

I’m guessing I take what works, and leave the rest.

I’ve also begun to look into the books from the bibliography of Rethinking Information Work. They aren’t that great (without discarding 92% of what the book says because I either already know it or it doesn’t apply to me)…with the exception of Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been through decades of introspection and therapy and counseling. You kind of end up knowing yourself better than some random book that wasn’t intended for you, does.

And…yes. I know I want to learn Japanese language, and I know I want to create art. The two are likely linked in that I find fulfillment in creating and decoding texts, and Japanese language — in text — is partially ideographic, which may be triggering a part of my brain that hasn’t been used. (That is, when I write using kanji, I am also writing in pictures, not just sounds. The same could be said of my sketches, my past “comics,” and my art.)

Cataloging, Classification, and Metadata are more like logic puzzles. They stimulate a part of my brain which is already very strong — my analytical and verbal skills. I am not sure if I would have chosen Librarianship as a career without the influence of my Vocational program, but I’m here now, and there are ways forward from this. One of these is Translation; one is Editing, one is Writing. And, of course, there are Library Technical Services, and/or working for a Library Vendor or Aggregator, or otherwise within the Publishing industry.

What I’m learning to do is compartmentalize the times when I deal with rules (as in my career), and the times when I know I can choose my own rules (as in my creating).

I haven’t scanned or photographed anything for a few days, but I’m learning not to become ashamed when my art is comic-style art (and hence to try and do things more realistically); or when my drawings don’t resemble reality. That’s possibly a good thing. It means I’m being inventive. It doesn’t mean I need to be different, to change who I am and what comes out of me, because other people have personal issues with the genres my style is associated with.

I’m not normally a person who deals in faith, but that doesn’t mean I won’t consider an idea that could help me. One of those ideas is that I did not come into being in order to reify what I see around me. My creativity was not given to me so that I could copy my surroundings. I have something to contribute, even if finding it is akin to asking a fish to recognize water.

What I believe isn’t necessarily true. I see the validity in that statement by looking at everyone else and then finding my commonality with, “everyone else.” So there really isn’t harm, not now for me, at least, to try on the provisional belief that maybe I have a soul. Even if I can’t understand the workings of the universe with my primate brain, that doesn’t mean that things are as bad as they seem. I got here once. The Universe provided me with a life.

In a system I can’t control and don’t understand, maybe just trusting — myself, the Universe, and if there is anything Divine, the Divine — will help me through. At least, through this method of creation.

Could it hurt? I mean, with discernment: could it hurt?

art, creative writing, creativity, writing

Getting off-track

Long version short: I’m waffling again on whether to write my story out longform, in prose — or to make it a graphic novel. I do think that no matter what happens, I’ll end up keeping Photoshop (PS), simply because optimizing images is so discouraging with GIMP 2 that I just avoid it (and I haven’t yet discovered other programs with a UX [User Experience] as simple as PS). That is an exorbitant amount of money per year, but it’s far less than keeping access to all of Adobe CC.

(First-world problems.)

The waffling has largely come out because of contacting people about the project and realizing just how much of a writer I am. It’s even kind of hard to keep to a regular conversation online because, when given the chance to think things through “out loud”…I do.

I…somehow don’t think that’s a usual trait.

I also realize that I have forgotten about my fountain pens. Right now I’m soaking three of them, which had either almost totally dried out, or were getting there. Two of my Pilots are in that batch (the Prera stub-nib and a Metropolitan), and the Noodler’s Nib Creaper, which is easily the most disposable of my pens, due to the fact that this is the second time it has dried out (tiny ink capacity + no airtight seal in the cap), and I may have broken it unwittingly. (On top of that, it’s hard to flush.)

Fountain pens have to be continually used to be kept in operating condition. I’ve just now realized how long it has been since I’ve used them. I’ve been writing online and reading and seeking out materials to trial, instead.

Amazingly, maybe so or maybe not (not), all of my TWSBI ECOs — with the rubber gaskets — are still in good working condition, though I haven’t tried the stub-nib recently, for any appreciable length of writing. This is the one that kept skipping (missing parts of letters) whenever I wrote on for too long…

But yes, I can see where I went on a fountain pen kick and then a dip pen kick and then an Adobe kick, and kind of lost touch with the actual story I’m supposed to be writing. That story, in turn, only showed up after I had been writing by hand for a while and pondering why it was that my content was the same, time after time. The answer to that was the condition that I was afraid to take risks in my writing. Also there is the fact that for a while, I’ve had the tendency to view my characters as “people” and hated to make them suffer.

However, when stories are based around conflict…it happens. Even if you don’t want it to. And the characters are better for it, I’d say. They can’t learn and grow if they don’t confront some obstacles. Plus, they’re never really, “dead,” if they were never really, “alive,” in the first place. Their life is from my life, even if their continued existence doesn’t make sense in the plot. ;) Plot is machination; character is essence with decision.

And if you believe that essence continues after death…you’re in a good place. I think that this is one of the lessons the current version of this story is taking me to — even though, yes, I know it’s fiction. My believing mind doesn’t know that, though.

While I’m thinking that growth out of overcoming obstacles may be a metaphysical phenomenon which kind of epitomizes life on this planet…(I’ll try not to get into it, but the system of multi-tiered and -branched worlds based on life lessons and quality of vibration comes into play)…maybe that sort of view will help me rationalize why I’m causing my characters to feel things that I don’t even want to feel.

Mirror neurons.

Oh gosh, how much of this is mirror neurons?

Anyway…I’ve been questioning whether it would help me to write in a notebook with easily removable pages, so that I can shuffle the different parts of the story — given that it takes place in at least two different time periods. Also, writing in a $2 notebook means that I don’t have to be afraid of messing it up.

But if I’m going to do that, it just makes more sense to use a memo pad with holes punched into one side, or to use my A5 binder, for now. At least then, I could keep things in one place.

That actually sounds good.

And while I realize that I couldn’t have come to the production of this post without my skill at writing prose…I have a feeling I’m going to go back and forth some more before I settle on one form for this project.

Which does, of course, mean that I can post supplementary concept art on this blog. :)

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.