The Bic Stops Here: In Priase of the Humble Stick Pen | Elizabeth Stinson, Wired

The Bic Stops Here: In Priase of the Humble Stick Pen | Elizabeht Stinson, Wired

In a world full of retractable, hybrid ink pens with ultra-cushioned finger pads, the simple stick pen is not remarkable for its technical qualities. Its ink stutters across the page. Its lightweight, plastic body is designed for the lowest common ergonomic denominator. Writing with it is like chiseling with a sharpened stone: It requires a not-insignificant amount of effort to produce marks on the page. But as is the case with many of life’s best things—NYC dirty water dogs, the smell of gas—its very badness is ultimately what makes it so great.”

Stinson goes on to list a bunch of great reasons why sometimes the simplest, cheapest pen is the best, and it all boils down to one thing: deliberateness. Definitely what we believe in.

There’re also some neat bits about the stick pen’s (complicated and opaque) history in here.

Hand-Copying the Constitution

Friend of The Cramped Petey “Pete” Conklin sent me this especially timely New York Times article by Morgan O’Hara, an artist who began copying the Unites States Constitution by hand in January. From the article:

Hand copying a document can produce an intimate connection to the text and its meaning. The handwriter may discover things about this document that they never knew, a passage that challenges or moves them. They may even leave with a deeper connection to the founders and the country, or even a sense of encouragement.

I began this project motivated by psychological necessity. I now see it as a social art practice. My hope is that it will become a movement of sorts, with sessions throughout the country. It is important for us to become more intensely aware of our rights as citizens of the United States, so that as the current government tries to take them away, we will see what is happening in time to act.

Certainly what we believe in, and what we wish more people believed in.

In an effort to help make this practice a movement, Good ol’ Pete has set up a quick and dirty landing page: http://copytheconstitution.org

Happy Fourth!

The History of Movable Paper in One Massive, 9,000-Book Collection — Atlas Obscura

The History of Movable Paper in One Massive, 9,000-Book Collection — Atlas Obscura

Ellen G.K. Rubin never saw a pop-up book as she was growing up, so when she bought two for her young sons in the 1980s, she was amazed. “I was blown away, probably much more than they were,” she says. Those two books—one about dinosaurs, another about vehicles—set off an obsession. Today she has a collection of some 9,000 books, as well as countless postcards and advertisements, that pop up or move in some way—hence her nickname, “The Popuplady.”

Some really cool photos and videos in here.

How Letter Press Printing Came Back from the Dead — Wired

How Letter Press Printing Came Back from the Dead — Wired

Thousands of tiny letterpress shops (and a good helping of larger ones) now crank out wedding invitations, greeting cards, business cards, and other printed ephemera, many with type printed as deep, tactile depressions in paper. Pinterest is full of pictures of bespoke letterpress cards, many of which can be purchased on Etsy. Large communities of printers have cropped up on Instagram, where designers swap tips on machine maintenance and craftsmanship.

Balabanoff Baron Fig Confidant Cover

I, like many users of analog writing tools, am a big fan of leather notebooks. Nothing beats the smell, the heft, the tactile sensation, and the air of importance lent to one’s writing by a good leather notebook. But leather-bound notebooks are, of course, expensive, and purchasing a new one every time I fill the pages is, at best, impractical.

Fortunately, there are many great refillable leather notebook options, like the classic Midori Traveler’s system, and there are also plenty of leather covers one can purchase for Moleskines and other similarly sized notebooks.

My daily driver, however, is the uniquely sized fabric-covered Baron Fig Confidant, and the leather cover options for the Confidant are slim. Baron Fig themselves make one, and although I haven’t used it, I’ve heard great things. It is, however, lacking a pen loop, and I really like having a pen loop.

Enter Balabanoff’s handcrafted Baron Fig cover, which my wife purchased for me a few months ago as an anniversary present. This thing is gorgeous. It’s made from hand-stitched quality leather from the Horween tannery. I’ve been using it for the last few months, and so far it’s aging beautifully. One of my cats got his paws on the cover the day after I received it, scratching it a little, and the marks have faded and softened in the way that happens only with good leather, actually adding to the cover’s elegance.

This cover, and other hand-made leather goods, like wallets, belts, and covers for several other notebooks, are available in Balabanoff’s Etsy shop. Because I live in the U.S. and Balabanoff is based in the Ukraine, shipping did take several weeks, but it was worth it. Highly recommended.

Gerhard Steidl is Making Books an Art Form — The New Yorker

Gerhard Steidl is Making Books an Art Form — The New Yorker

Fascinating profile in the New Yorker last week. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few of my favorite bits.

Steidl was struck by the book’s durability: despite having been made in the fourteen-fifties, it looked almost new.

Dayanita Singh, an artist who lives in New Delhi, has been publishing with Steidl since 2000. She told me, “Everything is done to keep you focussed on whatever you are doing. There is this utter concentration—nothing else that is going on in your life is relevant. It’s like if you went to a Vipassana retreat for ten days.” She added, “He might call you down at five in the morning and you could be stark naked, and he wouldn’t notice.

Steidl is not sentimental about print qua print; he reads the newspaper on an iPad when he is travelling. But there is nonetheless a moral dimension to his bookmaking, a conviction that the book remains an ideal vehicle for culture’s remediating powers.

Steidl’s family was poor, and his parents had received no formal education. There were few books at home, and it was momentous for Steidl when he received one—Hans Christian Andersen’s “Thumbelina”—as a Christmas gift. Steidl begged his sister to read it aloud to him immediately, and afterward he told his father how much he had loved it. Steidl’s father, angered that the children had finished the book so quickly, struck the sister. Years later, Steidl’s father explained that he had believed the book, having been read through, was now useless; before buying the gift, he’d never been in a bookstore.