Posts tagged Baron Fig
Experiment 22: An Inter-review of Baron Fig's Raspberry Honey Notebook
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Earlier this week, Baron Fig released a new limited edition notebook. There are many things that I instantly loved about this release: the debossed cover, the color choices, and the illustrated inner covers and box to name a few. But what honestly excited me most was that Baron Fig had chosen to do another artist collaboration. I really value it when companies choose to partner with makers to release this type of product. First of all, it gives me a chance to learn about and connect with new individuals doing great work and making cool things. Secondly, I love to see art and ideas paired with product design in a way that moves beyond marketing and embodies a life of its own. As I read through the short story that was included with the notebook, I was curious about the processes Geoff Gouveia used to write and illustrate for the project. I decided to reach out to him to see if we would answer a few questions for the blog. He was kind enough to agree, and so I present to you the interview portion of this inter-review:

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You have a very distinct illustration and writing style. What have been your primary sources of inspiration over the years, and how has your style evolved over time?

My style is a whimsical mix of Shel Silverstein characters and Van Gogh’s color sense. I’ve been drawn to clear styles throughout the years and actively sought to create my own. What I’ve found is that it’s a continual process, one that is ongoing for as long as I create.

Tell us about your process for writing the short story and creating the illustrations for the Raspberry Honey notebook. What was your starting point? Which came first the illustrations or the story?

Baron Fig approached me to do a collaboration after we worked together on a different small project (A canvas piece/book board project where we went around the city asking the question: what would you do if you could not fail?). They wanted me to illustrate something for the packaging and the inside cover but I pitched back the idea of using a short story I had recently written to be the basis for the edition. The story had natural imagery that leant itself towards my cheeky illustration style and I thought it would be something that a company like Baron Fig would never have considered. They liked the idea and we began rolling.

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Where do you come up with your names for your short stories? Are Yuri McLevell, Briarton, and Steffonn Yungbum modeled after real people and places? Have you ever tried raspberry-flavored honey?

The names in a story like this make me laugh. I can’t point to a particular reason why but the stranger the name the more I’ll like it. We all have people in our life that quench our dreams – those are our Steffon Yungbums. As for the trying of raspberry honey, I honestly thought I was writing about something fictional. I was pretty bummed it was an actual thing (I’ve written about 4 unpublished short stories with weird fruit combinations at the core.).

Talk to us about how digital and analog tools intersect in your work. How much of your writing and illustration processes are done on paper vs. on a computer?

Everything starts in my sketchbook. I’ve been exclusively using Baron Fig’s blank sketchbooks for about 2 years now. Close to zero percent of my writing is analog now, though I did get my start using notebooks as a journal. That flipped in 2010 when I realized I enjoyed typing more than writing and began to use the new space for images. All of my illustrations begin in the real world and then I touch them up in Photoshop. I’ve been illustrating more and more work with a digital tablet but nothing beats the mistakes a real sketchbook gives you. I say mistakes because the best aspects of an illustration are the imperfections. A machine is built to edit that out so working digitally takes me longer because I have to put the imperfections in myself.

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What are some of your favorite analog tools?

I use ballpoint pen to sketch. I used to use pencil but I started erasing too much. It’s better to use something permanent as a record of what you’ve done before- like drafts on a short story. It’s great to look back through the thousands of sketchbook pages over the years and see how those mistakes and old ways of doing things shift over time.

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You can find Geoff at his website, on Instagram, and on Twitter. Now that I've been made aware of his work, I look forward to following along and supporting! Thanks again to him for taking the time to dig into a little of the backstory with me!

As for the review portion of this inter-review, there's really nothing I can think of that I don't like about this release. I absolutely love the style of Geoff's illustrations and that the short story added an experiential component to the theme. There's something about a notebook that already has art within it that makes me want to write in it, and I started mine almost as soon as I received it. This edition is the perfect companion for curling up with hot tea and a book, so I decided to finally start the reading/ reflecting journal I've been meaning to begin.

In the past, I have heard others describe the Baron Fig paper as less than fountain pen friendly, but I find the opposite to be true. Sometimes I enjoy writing on smoother paper like Rhodia with ink, but there's something to be said for writing with pen and ink on a paper with a little more tooth. The M400 pictured below has a sweet architect grind by Dan Smith, and it's a fairly wet writer. Still, there no feathering or bleed through and very little show through on this paper. The shading of the ink is also particularly evident. You can see how this edition holds up to a variety of different writing instruments over at From the Pen Cup. It's hard to find a paper where I truly enjoy using both graphite and ink, but this one of those papers for me.

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One of my favorite pen/ ink matchups is my Pelikan M400 with KWZ Honey ink, and I think I now have the perfect notebook to complete my writing trio. That trio inspired me to come up with a few more stationary pairings for the Rasberry Honey: 

Suggested Match-ups: 

Fountain Pen: Pelikan M400 Tortoise Brown

Ink: KWZ Honey Ink

Non-fountain Pen: Pilot Vision Elite BLX

Pencils: Viking Skjoldungen 400 or Rasberry Honey Hackwing (Blackwing 444+ 602 ferrule + brown eraser from Blackwing 211)

Other: Harney and Sons Rasberry Herbal Tea 

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You can learn more about the edition and get a copy here. Thanks to Baron Fig for providing me this notebook for review.

Experiment 19: Prisms, Archers, and a Giveaway!
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Today marks the release of Baron Fig's second limited edition pencil- the Prismatic Archer Pencil. A play on the prism, this pencil brings all three of the primacy colors to the original archer. After a few differences between the original Archer and the first limited edition, I was anxious to test the second edition. Spoiler alert: I wasn't disappointed.

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The packaging is the same minimal pencil tube as the other editions, this time in deep purple and decorated with a variety of colorful 3D cylinders, cubes, and rectangles. It's a nostalgic-grade-school-science-class-vibe, and I definitely dig it. My only small gripe with the packaging is that with the pencils in the tube, it doesn't seem to want to close all the way. In the picture above, the tube is empty- but if pencils were added there would be a small gap between the bottom and top halves of the tube. Definitely not a big deal, but something that I noticed compared to the previous packaging. This is still the pencil packaging I would be most likely to display on my desk or in my office. 

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The dozen pencils are split over three colors and each of the pencils has a gorgeous deep purple end dip. The end dip may very well be my favorite aesthetic detail of the pencil.

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Instead of one small simple logo on each pencil as we have seen with the other editions, these pencils have their respective logos all the way down one side of the hexagonal barrel. It still maintains the minimalistic Baron Fig look, but I appreciate the extra details and extra colors of this edition.

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I could tell by simply looking at the pencils that the quality control was back up to the Baron Fig standard that I have come to expect- the cores were centered, the cedar was fragrant, and the finishes looked great. Still, the real moment of truth was sharpening these up in my Classroom Friendly sharpener. I sharpened one of each color, and as I did- I couldn't help but smile. None of the issues I saw with my Snakes and Archers remained- they each sharpened to a long point beautifully. 

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The writing experience is a replication of exactly what I love about the original Archer pencil. The combination of the light weight barrel, matte finish, and a bit of good "scratchy" feedback on the page make the Archer the perfect long-form writing pencil for me. The point retention is excellent, and the pencil is truly the perfect match for Baron Fig paper. There are other pencils that I have come to love for different reasons- smooth, rich, dark, buttery cores that are both fun to write with and perfect for drawing, sketching, and shading. But for writing- I still prefer a firmer core and better point retention. Because my first love will always be micro gel pens, I'm naturally drawn to the crisp lines this type of pencil can produce. 

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I put the original Archer side-by-side with the first and second limited editions. Even visually (see below), it is clear how much closer this edition is to the original. Partnering with an oversees manufacturer has it's challenges, especially on a short time frame, and I think we saw some of those difficulties play out in the previous edition. But as we have seen recently with other companies, partnering with US manufacturers for pencils has it's own set of challenges. Overall, I think this is a case where we will see better quality pencils in the long run with an overseas manufacturer. It's great to see this edition get right back on track with quality and maintain the trend of good-looking aesthetics and great packaging. 

Don't just take my word for it. You can also check out two other great review from my friends at Leadfast and the Weekly Pencil.

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After the first two editions, I can definitely say that I look forward to seeing what Baron Fig comes up with for the Archer in the future. The pictures below speak for themselves. And finally, a chance to win your own pack of Prismatics! Baron Fig provided me with a dozen of these pencils for review, and because I already subscribe to the Archer- I am passing along to the love to you. To enter, just leave a comment below. Unfortunately, this giveaway will have to be limited to the CONUS. Check back next Tuesday, July 4th when the winner will be announced here on the blog.

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Experiment 16: Snakes and Ladders- The 24 Pencil Test
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Something new showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago from Baron Fig. In a truly rare event, I didn't know exactly what I was opening when it arrived. It takes quite a feat for a limited release to hit my doorstep before I find out about it on the internet, and I truly appreciated Baron Fig's approach of getting them out early to limited edition subscribers before the official announcement was made. I, of course, had the package opened before I even made it back inside, and it's safe to say that the first limited release of the Archer Pencil left quite the first impression on me.

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As usual for Baron Fig, the packing is beautiful. The vermilion coloring paired with the white and dark icons is simple and killer. The back of the packaging briefly elaborates on the theme- Snakes & Ladders- and as typical connects the theme to the creative process. This is something I find unique about Baron Fig, and again something that I dig. 

As Baron Fig mentions, snakes and ladders is first and foremost an ancient philosophy. But it also happens to be an old board game- the original version of the game "Chutes and Ladders" that some may be more familiar with. When I'm not geeking out over stationery, I also have a thing for boardgames, so it was safe to say I was immediately doubly drawn into this specific theme.

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Each pencil is branded with "Baron Fig", one snake icon, and one ladder icon. Again- simple execution, great theme, and beautiful coloring. My feelings on this topic are simple and obvious- these pencils are freakin' gorgeous.

But now we must get into a topic where my feelings are a little more mixed- the actual testing/ use of pencils. 

Results in Pictures:

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Testing two types of sharpeners

Testing two types of sharpeners

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Archer Limited Edition vs. Original 

Archer Limited Edition vs. Original 

Crumbly core

Crumbly core

One pencil down!

One pencil down!

Results in Words:

  • My immediate impression side-by-side with the original Archer led me to believe there was NO possible way that the core of the two pencils was the same.
  • Unfortunately, the more I worked my way through my 12 pencils, the more problems I had. The core was not just soft, but incredibly breakable- to the point where I felt the pencils were unusable. I started looking around the internet, and saw that some people were noticing some variation- but my particular batch seemed extreme. My classroom friendly completely ate the pencils, and I found the cores breaking off in hand-held sharpeners as well. Several seemed to have shattered cores. I went through 3 entire pencils doing the small drawing you see above. 
  • I decided to reach out to Baron Fig, and they were honest about the variation. They also offered to send me another set. I took them up on the offer. 
  • Unfortunately, the second set arrived on the first day of my recent trip to San Francisco... so it wasn't until the last couple of days that I have gotten the chance to sit down and work my way though the second set. 
  • I've sharpened all 24 pencils- tried 4 different pencil sharpeners- and used the pencils for both writing and drawing. I can confidently say my first batch was on the extreme end of the variation scale. My second set is still a softer core than the original Archer, with slight variation even among the 12. BUT, the new set is definitely useable. For example, the new ones work perfectly in my classroom friendly and all the hand sharpeners I tested.
  • In general, I still like the original Archer better- and hope that Baron Fig can work out the quality variations with the manufacturer before the next edition. I am definitely excited to see the future editions based on what they have done here with the first one.
  • Even though I do not like the core as much with these pencils, I am still glad they are in my collection. I will likely use them more for sketching than for writing, especially because I tend to have a heavy hand- which makes the point retention on these not ideal for long-form writing. Even through the Classroom Friendly works, I still don't think a long-point sharpener is ideal for these pencils. 
  • If you can only buy one set, I have to recommend the original at the end of the day. But if you already have the originals, prefer shorter-point pencils, are light-handed, and do more pencil sketching than pencil writing- these might be a good fit for you. They also might be a good fit for you if your robust pencil collection just NEEDS a vermilion board-game themed pencil.  #priorities 
  • Other reviews: Pen Addict, Lead Fast
  • You can get more information and purchase the pencils here. 
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