Guest Spotlight — JH’s “She Believed” Journal

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As a respected educator who is involved in numerous district and county programs, Jennifer Howe embodies the ethos of the affirmation featured on her journal: She Believed She Could So She Did. In her professional role as a German and English teacher at Lake Orion High School, Jennifer has spent her career helping students believe in their potential while she has continually pushed her own.

At home, Jennifer is just as engaged as she is in her classroom. She and her husband, who live in Auburn Hills, MI, have two daughters who are active, curious, and full of their mother’s eagerness to engage with the world. These qualities will help the girls make the most of their family’s first international trip, which will take them and their parents to Germany this summer.

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Germany’s town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Jennifer has a long history with personal writing, beginning with a diary that she maintained in elementary school. Only a few years later, one of her favorite journals was formed when she was a student in a creative writing class in high school. That notebook is one that she still revisits. When Jennifer moved on to college she journaled on a computer for a while (saving the entries to disc), but then migrated back to paper. During the summer of 2018 she journaled steadily, but her return to teaching in the fall cut down on the frequency of her opening the cover.

With the dawning of the New Year, Jennifer recommited to personal writing. She dedicates at least 5 minutes per day to journaling, most often in the early morning when her home is quiet. She finds journaling beneficial because it allows her to, “remember important events, to clear [her] mind, or work through challenges.” With wide-ruled pages and an 8.5″ x 11″ size, her notebook provides ample space for all three. Amazon.com currently has the She Believed journal, which 67% of reviewers provide with a 5-star rating, priced at only $4.99

Traditionally, Jennifer composes in cursive, using Pilot G2 gel ink pens — a favorite among many writers, including the author of this blog post. However, her 8-year-old daughter has recently convinced her to give another option a try: Paper Mate’s Flair Pens. One can be seen in the top photograph. These felt tip pens, which are available in several dozen colors as well as three different point variations (medium, fine, and extra-fine), hold a special place at her daughter’s school: they can only be used when students are writing (i.e. not for artwork or doodling).

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The cover of Jennifer’s journal features a powerful phrase, “she believed she could so she did,” whose original author is unknown. Based on web research data, we know that it has been circulating on-line since the early 2000s. Curiously, what is also shaded by a degree of uncertainty is arguably the most iconic image — and slogan — used to promote female empowerment in recent decades: the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s “We Can Do It!” poster.

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In 1942, the Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Corporation, which manufactured numerous electrical devices including turbines and generators, hired graphic artist J. Howard Miller (ca. 1915-1990) to create a series of posters to promote the efforts of the company’s internal War Production Co-Ordinating Committee. Very little is known about Miller, who earned a degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1939 and was living in that city during World War II. Even his birth and death dates are uncertain. But the impact of his illustration is now legendary, and it continues to grow.

However, a significant misconception regarding the poster is prominent today because the name “Rosie the Riveter” identifies several other artifacts from the World War II era — namely a song and a painting featured on a magazine cover. Despite what many people believe, J. Howard Miller’s boldly-colored poster was not designed to rally public support for the war effort, and neither has it served as a symbol of female empowerment since the 1940s. Rather, the poster — which was essentially invisible to the public during the War — was seen by few Americans until the 1980s.

In a remarkable New York Times article from January 22, 2018, Dr. James J. Kimball of Seton Hall University is quoted as saying that, “It turns out that almost everything we think about Rosie the Riveter is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.”

Although Miller’s poster was revealed in 1943, its reach was very restricted. It did not become a cultural symbol of patriotism and women’s strength during the wartime years. Instead, the poster was only on display inside a few Westinghouse manufacturing plants for several weeks in February of 1943 until it was replaced by the next one in the series. Notice the small “Post Feb. 15 to Feb. 28” instruction found in the lower-left corner of the image. Miller designed 42 posters — most featuring men — and their goals were to boost morale and reduce absenteeism among Westinghouse’s factory workers.

Rather than Miller’s poster, it was a painting by famed American artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) that became a national symbol during the 1940s. Rockwell’s painting, which graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943, was entitled “Rosie the Riveter.” The name of the painting references a popular song with the same title that was produced in 1942 and recorded by several musicians. It was Rockwell’s painting — not Miller’s illustration — that became widespread during World War II. In fact, Rockwell’s rugged and defiant Rosie (her feet rest on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf) was so popular that The Post allowed the U.S. Department of Treasury to use it to market war bonds.

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It was not until the 1980s, when Miller’s 17″ x 22″ poster was rediscovered, that it began to creep into the national consciousness and started serving as an influential vehicle for promoting women’s strength and capabilities. “Rosie the Riveter” definitely was an extremely influential cultural concept in the 1940s, but the “We Can Do It!” illustration was not. A fascinating history of J. Howard Miller’s poster — and the ways its likeness has been utilized by innumerable people and organizations since its public rebirth in the 1980s — can be found here.

Today, some journals like Jennifer Howe’s feature affirming slogans of women accomplishing what they set their sights on. And whether those goals involve riveting, writing, or reforming standards in business or civic affairs, the “we can — and do” message continues to spread. Jennifer’s two daughters will undoubtedly carry on that tradition. In fact, they are likely already doing so.

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Note — The image of J. Howard Miller’s poster was obtained from the website of The National Museum of American History. The photograph of Germany’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber was taken by Roman Kraft, and it was obtained from Unsplash.com. The image of the cover of The Saturday Evening Post was found on the website for the Norman Rockwell Museum. Finally, the image of the “She Believed” journal featured at the bottom of this post was borrowed from Amazon.com.

Guest Spotlight — AC’s Medici Lion Journal

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This gorgeous tooled-leather journal belongs to Adriana Cashwell, a former Michigan resident who now lives in Richmond, VA, where she studied psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received this notebook from a family member when she was a student at Lake Orion High School, but has not begun using it until now. Why? She explains that, “I’ve always found it too beautiful to write in if I wasn’t going to be serious about it.” I can relate, as I have received several journals over the years that seemed too ornamental for regular use.

Fortunately, Adriana has started journaling again, citing the fact that she has “always considered writing as a part of [her] soul.” And she maintains “hopes of getting her thoughts out of [her] head and onto paper, where they feel a little less threatening and make more sense.” Again, I can fully understand; writing helps me to re-consider the perplexing thoughts — and difficult decisions — that I ruminate about.

To make the transfer process as smooth as possible, Adriana relies on Pilot’s G2 Gel Ink pens. Most often she uses the fine-point variety, but recently she has been reaching for an extra-fine pen that has found its way into her arsenal. The G2, which is available in a striking range of colors, is a favorite of mine. I explain why on ink + sky‘s Materials page.

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Adriana’s journal was imported to the U.S. by Fiorentina, a distributor of stationery and gifts from across the Atlantic. One of its primary sources of leather goods is Italy, but it also gathers high-quality writing-related products from artisans in many European countries. If you are looking for its products locally, one of the best bets is Barnes & Noble. And online, check out BarnesAndNoble.com. Please be aware that Fiorentina’s website loads very slowly.

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Although the 9″ x 7″ Medici Lions Italian Leather Journal seems expensive at $39.95, it features refillable pages; therefore, you can use it for years because its recycled leather exterior is rugged and wear-resistant. Simply insert a new pad of paper when you finish the current one!

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Here is an image displaying the perimeter’s woven binding as well as the tooled leather interior of the front cover. Notice how the first page of the inner paper tablet inserts into the inside cover’s vertical leather “pocket,” which holds it securely.

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The lion is a common symbol of nobility in heraldry, a word that refers to the art and science of armorial bearings (or the armory). The most well-known segment of heraldry encompasses the coat of arms. For hundreds of years, lions have been used in countless coats of arms of different families, countries, and nations. The lions featured in coats of arms — as well as on actual armor and weaponry — are presented in different positions or attitudes. The Wikipedia.org page for “Lion (heraldry)” features a fascinating chart that outlines the most common lion attitudes.

The attitude of the lion on Adriana’s journal is known as rampant. Why? The Lion is standing erect, and its forepaws are raised. It is ready for battle.

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As a companion image, consider this photograph of an amazing 800-year-old shield that belonged to Konrad von Thüringen (ca. 1201-1240). Its lion also stands in the rampant attitude (but faces the opposite direction):

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Finally, what does the word Medici mean?

Medici is the name of a family from Italy that was very influential in the financial sector. The Medici Bank was founded in Florence in 1397, but the family did not achieve its greatest social, political, artistic, and economic power until the early 15th century. An incredible resource for learning more about this legendary family — and its many noteworthy members — is The Medici Archive Project.

In 2016, Netflix released an original 8-part series entitled Medici: Masters of Florence. It carries an IMDB rating of 7.9/10. Actor Richard Madden (seen below) plays the role of Cosimo de Medici, the young heir to his murdered father’s banking fortune. A second season of the historical drama ran in the fall of 2018.

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Note — The image of the Fiorentina logo was obtained from Fiorentinaltd.com. The image of the Medici Lion journal found beneath the logo was located on BarnesAndNoble.com. The close-up shots of the notebook were taken by the author of this blog post. The image of the Pilot Pens was borrowed from Walmart.com. The publicity image of Netflix’s Medici series was located on IMDB.com.

Guest Spotlight — BW’s Eco Cork Journal

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Boasting an exterior made of natural materials, this 5″ X 8″ journal belongs to Brian Willer, the President and Director of Fun at StudySkills.com. Featuring 180 pages, the Lemome Eco Cork Journal is an Amazon top-seller with over 460 reviews. It retails for $22.99, but if you are a Prime member it will be shipped to you in a couple of days for $15.99.

As a National Board Certified teacher and a successful entrepreneur, Brian has much that he can write about. So there’s no better individual to articulate why he chose this particular journal than the Lake Orion resident himself. His explanation follows…

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After a careful search, I chose this one because it had many features that I value:

1. I love the look and feel of the cork exterior. I find it very inviting.

2. The attached bookmark makes it easy to mark/find the next available page for an entry.

3.  The pages are lined and are composed of off-white paper. I find the lines convenient for writing and I really enjoy the off-white color; it is easier on my eyes.

4.  The pages have a slight perforation so that they can be torn out. I like this because occasionally I want to jot a note or use my journal for something other than journaling. Being able to remove the pages allows me to “edit” my notebook by withdrawing sheets that are not truly related to journaling — but were needed in a pinch for another task.

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5. There is a pocket in the rear for small slips of paper. This is nice for placing notes or reminders for future journal entry ideas.

6.  The journal has an elastic band that wraps around the front to hold it securely closed. While this isn’t necessary, there’s something ceremonial about “unlatching” it as you prepare to write, and then “latching” it at the conclusion of journaling.

7. I like the pen/pencil holder that is sewn into the side. It is very convenient and makes the notebook feel like its own complete journaling kit.

8. Just when I thought my journal couldn’t possibly have any more features, I discovered this sheet of stickers; they are used to create tabs for marking different sections.img_4546

Who would have imagined that there could be so many features related to a journal? I never would have thought that such a number existed until I came across this notebook and started paying closer attention to all that it has to offer. And, now that I’m becoming accustomed to these features, I think I’ll be looking for future journals to require the same.

Finally, I have to laugh at myself. Picking out a journal that has so many features is completely in line with how I shop for virtually everything else. Whether it’s a TV, a car, a cell phone, or a refrigerator, I’m all about “what are the best features that I can find in a unit?” So, why would it be any different when selecting a journal?! 😂

Happy writing!!!

-Brian Willer

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Why cork?

A material found in the bark of the cork oak trees, which are most plentiful in Portugal and Spain, cork offers a number of valuable qualities:

  • As opposed to plastics and vinyl, which can emit chemical odors, cork is non-toxic.
  • Cork is flexible, fire-resistant, and naturally impermeable to water.
  • Because harvesting cork from the cork oak trees does not permanently harm them, it is generally considered to be a sustainable material.

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Do you want to participate?

Are you working on a journal that you would like to see featured as part of ink + sky’s series of Guest Spotlight posts? If yes, reach out for details. It’s a free, fun, and functional way to publicly validate your writing habits and showcase your unique notebook. Let the world know that pens, pencils, and paper still matter — especially in the digital age. Please contact me here if you are interested.

To see the first journal in this series, click on Guest Spotlight — KP’s Lemon Journal.

To read about the journal (pictured below) that is taking me into 2019, please see my post entitled New Year’s Adventure Journal. There I document how I created the notebook’s cover, and I provide a photograph of its first hand-written entry — which describes an early Sunday morning at Starbucks.

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Note — The image of the perforated paper was obtained from Amazon.com’s page for the Lemome Eco Cork Journal. The photograph of the cork board and yellow sticky note was taken by AbsolutVision, and the image of the cork coaster and mug was captured by Ben Kolde; they were both found on Unsplash.com. The photograph of the cork oak tree was obtained from the Rainforest Alliance’s website.

Guest Spotlight — KP’s Lemon Journal

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This eye-catching journal belongs to Kristin Penrose — a sophomore at Oakland University in Rochester, MI — who is studying Public Relations and Strategic Communication. Why did she choose this particular notebook? The lemons remind her of a citrus tree that she had while growing up in Tampa, FL.

Kristin has been journaling since she was 10 years old. In her words, she feels most “put together” when she is placing her thoughts on the page. Depending on the kind of material she is composing, Kristin uses different writing tools. A black or blue pen allows her to “get something out” — an act that lends itself to ink, whose permanence mirrors the irreversible process of pulling powerful material from the heart or mind. In contrast, she reaches for a pencil when she is planning, sketching, or organizing.

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your journal. May it continue to provide you with the space and perspective that you seek as the New Year unfolds.

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If lemons appeal to you, many manufacturers offer notebooks featuring the bright yellow fruit. A quick search on Amazon.com reveals numerous options, including this college-ruled 120-page composition book, which measures 8″ X 10″ and retails for $5.99:

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Fun fact about lemons:

Like oranges, limes, and grapefruit — which all grow on trees — lemons are categorized as hesperidia. A hesperidium is a kind of berry (oh!) with a traditionally inedible exterior. One exception is the kumquat, which features a sweet, delicious skin:

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Do you want to participate?

Are you working on a journal that you would like to see featured as part of ink + sky’s series of Guest Spotlight posts? If yes, reach out for details. It’s a free, fun, and functional way to publicly validate your writing habits and showcase your unique notebook. Let the world know that pens, pencils, and paper still matter — especially in the digital age. Please contact me here if you are interested.

To read about the journal (pictured below) that is taking me into 2019, please see my post entitled New Year’s Adventure Journal. There I document how I created the notebook’s cover, and I provide a photograph of its first hand-written entry — which describes an early Sunday morning at Starbucks.

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Note — The image of a lemon tree in this post was taken by photographer Dan Gold, and it was obtained from Unsplash.com.

New Year’s Adventure Journal

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On December 15, I finished the last page of my Viking Bear Journal. But several days prior to that I had selected a yellow composition book and an image — a greeting card from Trader Joe’s — to serve as my new journal, one that would take me into the New Year. Knowing that I would have to customize the journal by cutting up the card and affixing parts of it to the notebook’s front and back cover, I figured that I would make a post that includes before and after photos.

The above image features the tools that I used: an inexpensive composition book from Meijer, a metal ruler, an X-ACTO knife, 2″-wide STAPLES-brand packing tape, and a Creative Memories cutting board that I found next to a neighbor’s garbage can several years ago. (Why do people throw away functional objects?) The focus of this journal is the artwork featured on a Happy Birthday greeting card designed by Rae Ritchie. I found the card at TJ’s, so it only set me back one dollar. A buck!

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Who is Rae Ritchie? She’s a Minneapolis-based illustrator who has created work for a range of clients, from the Los Angeles Times to American Greetings to the Manhattan Toy Company. Purchase her prints and original artwork at her Etsy shop. Learn more about this talented designer at rae-ritchie.com, which is where I obtained this photograph:

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After spending ten minutes with the X-ACTO knife, ruler, and packing tape, here is the finished product:

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One aspect that I really like about this particular card is that it features artwork and text on the inside in addition to the expected “Happy Birthday” message.  The presence of the bonus language and illustration allowed me to adorn the composition book’s back cover with a small insignia:

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Wondering what that small red object is in the center? It’s a lantern. What better way to symbolize the concept of starting a New Year — and embarking on a new adventure! — than an old-fashioned lantern?

Here’s a photo of my first entry (penned several weeks ago) followed by a transcription:

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12-16-18  7:37AM — Starbucks, M-24

Yesterday I finished the last page of my Viking Bear journal, so today I begin a new one. This composition book lacks at [sic]* a cover, but I have selected the greeting card that will adorn the front (and back!) side. It’s a Trader Joe’s birthday card, and it will work perfectly because of its “new year” greeting and a scene of forest animals who are hiking into a “new adventure.” I’ll be proud to carry this notebook to the end of December, and then onto the first frosty days of the New Year.

Starbucks is quiet at this hour — only one other customer, a gentleman in shorts ( ! ) who is wearing an Oxford Wildcats t-shirt. There’s a few [sic] crew of baristas, probably six, talking cordially behind the counter. Even the drive-thru is slow. No music yet, which is nice. The silence is accompanied by pops, clicks, whooshes, and the low grumble of the garbage disposal: the sounds of preparing coffee and salvation for sleepy-eyed visitors. Before long the volume of the bean-machine will increase, and the silence of a Sunday morning will vanish beneath the clamor of orders and blenders and children’s voices.


My Challenge to You, Dear Reader…

Start your own journal in 2019, and begin a new adventure of writing, reflection, and renewal. If you choose to make this simple yet powerful investment in your health and well-being, please send me a photo of your notebook. I’d love to feature it on ink + sky as a separate blog post created exclusively for you. Think of the post as an affirmation of your bravery, initiative, and resolve.

Contact me here.

If you’d like some tips about the journaling process, please see my Getting Started page.

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* – [sic] is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase sic erat scriptum, which means “thus was it written” or “intentionally so written.” By including [sic] in my typed transcription I am alerting readers to the fact that an error — two, actually — was made in my hand-written journal entry, but that I am recording that error exactly as it was written.

Lucie Rice’s sports-themed cards

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Bowl game season is here, and if you have recently cheered on your favorite college football team at a friend’s party then you have several options for a proper thank-you: (1) send a thoughtful text, (2) place a phone call, or (3) mail a card like the one featured above by Nashville-based designer Lucie Rice. (By the way, doing nothing is not an option; hosts deserve gratitude.)

Curious about the cool purple dragon stamp? Learn more about the artist who designed it — as well as see the three other boldly-colored serpents in the series — in my post entitled Dragons are descending!

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Who is Lucie Rice? She is an artist and illustrator who, in her words, creates “whimsical and sometimes ridiculous imagery” for children and adults. Her work adorns book covers, posters, and corporate publications. In more than a few of her creations you can find references to animals, one of her passions. She and her husband live with two dogs, Lola and Hank. Learn more about this talented graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design at LucieRice.com.

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Through her affiliation with the Jen Vaughn Artist Agency, Ms. Rice has produced a series of blank cards (i.e. ones that feature no internal greeting) for grocer Trader Joe’s. That is where I purchased the football and basketball cards pictured in this post. And because they were obtained from TJ’s, the price for each one was a mind-blowing $1.00. That’s more insane than a 60-yard field goal or a buzzer-beating jump shot launched from a yard behind the three-point line. One dollar!

When March Madness rolls around in three months, you can use this card to send a few words of thanks to whichever friend or family member invites you into his/her family room — and grants you access to hoop hysterics on a 77″ OLED 4K television.

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Ms. Rice has also designed a baseball-themed card, whose image I found on the Jennifer Vaughn Artist Agency website. As of now, TJ’s is not carrying it. Maybe in the spring?

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If you are curious about the writing supplies available at Trader Joe’s, please click on this link to reach my post entitled Trader Joe’s knows cards.

If you are interested in learning about how Trader Joe’s has risen to become the top-grossing grocer in America (based on sales per square foot), click on this link to reach my post entitled Succeed by defying conventions.

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Note — The image featured above was obtained from jenvaughnart.com.

Decomposition Books

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Are you searching for a unique, environmentally-friendly notebook to use as your next journal, to-do list location, or place for planning? Look no further than the Decomposition Book, the stand-out product from a company called Michael Roger, Inc.

Why choose Decomposition Books?

  • Their cover art is creative yet tasteful.
  • They feature dozens of unique designs and color schemes.
  • They come in a range of sizes.
  • They are constructed of 100% recycled post-consumer materials.
  • They are made with soy-based inks.
  • They are moderately priced. The models shown here are $8.00 or less.
  • They are manufactured with solid construction (i.e. they’re rugged).
  • They offer several models with spiral binding (see an example, below).
  • They are made in the USA.
  • They are shipped FREE for orders over $50.

Decomposition Books are available from retailers like Target, which is where I obtained the examples featured in this post, Amazon.com, and Decomposition’s beautifully-designed and easy-to-navigate website, decomposition.com:

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Rather than offer the standard conversion charts and/or “Class Schedule” organizers found inside traditional composition books, the Decomposition Books offer a much more creative and fun approach for their inner covers:

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I love the expressive designs, which rely on only one color of ink:

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For individuals seeking spiral binding, that format is available too:

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If ink + sky ever opens a brick-and-mortar retail location — wouldn’t that be great?! — I would immediately approach Michael Roger, Inc. to be one of my key suppliers. The company’s notebooks, greeting cards, gift wrap, and canvas totes feature the kind of unique aesthetic and quality construction that I could heartily endorse.

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I am totally going to make a blog post about this retail concept! After constructing the image featured above, I realize that my head is swimming with ideas. Stay tuned.

Dragons are descending!

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These stunning stamps, which feature digitally-produced artwork, are available at post offices and USPS.com. A sheet of sixteen stamps — four each of four different designs — will set you back $8.00. Ordering from USPS.com adds a modest $1.25 shipping charge.

These remarkable dragons were created by Don Clark who, along with his brother Ryan, established Invisible Creature studio in Maple Valley, Washington in 2006. Here is an image of the siblings at the entrance to their two-story barn/workspace. The photo was obtained from the duo’s extraordinary website. Ryan is on the left; Don is on the right.

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The Clarks, who are talented designers and accomplished musicians, benefit from a strong family influence of creativity. Their grandfather was an illustrator who worked at NASA for 28 years. Their father tinkered passionately in his home, where he produced furniture and toys made of wood. The upper level of the Clarks’ barn studio houses a workspace that their formative forebears would be proud of:

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The online store at the Invisible Creature website features a range of products created by the über-talented brothers. Books, t-shirts, toys, prints, posters, and super-cool wool felt pennants are all available. If you are searching for a special present for December’s celebrations, check out the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. There you will find, among other dazzlingly-designed goods, a Little Golden Book version of the Disney PIXAR film The Incredibles. Its illustrations were created by Don Clark. Here is an example of its retro-styled artwork:

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Do you have holiday cards to mail? Stop at your local post office or visit USPS.com for a sheet of Dragon stamps, which feature the Forever USA guarantee. You will always be able to use them to send first-class letters.

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Note — Except for the photograph at the top of this post, all of the images of Don and Ryan Clark and their products and artwork were obtained from the Invisible Creature website.

Of Pencils and Passion

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If you savor the glossy yellow finish and subtle woody scent of a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, then your heart might soar with joy when you peruse the amazing selection of writing utensils and supplies available from CW Pencil Enterprise. With the tag line “Purveyors of Superior Graphite,” this New York City-based specialty retailer is the expression of Caroline Weaver. In late 2014, the life-long pencil devotee launched CW Pencil Enterprise online; a brick and mortar storefront followed in March of 2015.

I first learned about CWPE courtesy of my dear friend Sandy, who adds unique pencils to her writing kit whenever they catch her eye. Several years ago Sandy came across an article about Caroline and her creative collections in The New York Times. Complete with full-color photos, the expose features a background of the twenty-something entrepreneur and a mouth-watering glimpse into what is available at her NYC boutique. From then on, I have visited CW’s beautifully-designed website semi-regularly when I feel a longing for an analog fix. It features a broad range of specialty pencils, books, carrying cases, erasers, and so much more. Many of her products are relatively rare and/or international in origin, so she is The Source for hard-to find writing supplies.

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Please consider paying CW Pencil Enterprise a visit the next time you are searching the web for a unique gift, a quality replacement for the stub you just threw out, or a guilty pleasure like the $9.00 Seed Super Gold High Class Rubber Eraser:

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Before you finish your shopping — or maybe before you begin! — check out Caroline’s helpful selection of pencil-related links on the site’s FAQ page. One of my favorites is How to Find Your Perfect #2.

For those who are curious to learn more, a short video about Caroline and CWPE is available here.

Note — The top two images in this post were obtained from the 2015 New York Times article about CW Pencil Enterprise. The image of the Seed Super Gold Rubber Eraser is from the CWPE website.

Trader Joe’s knows cards

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Your favorite small grocer may be just the place to find something that you didn’t know you needed: greeting cards. And even if you don’t think you need a personable and expressive note to send to friends or family, you might change your mind if you steer your red cart past the frozen veggies and domestic wines to the wall of mailable mementos.

After discovering the greeting card display at my local Trader Joe’s about five years ago, I became hooked. Every time I pick up their 50% Less Salt Dry Roasted & Salted Almonds (delicious!) or GT’s Gingerade Kombucha (lowest price anywhere!), I survey their continously-evolving selection of cards. I have never been disappointed.

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Trader Joe’s has broken with tradition and, for the first time, introduced a small number of seasonally-themed cards. The store on Walton Boulevard across from Oakland University currently stocks two aimed specifically at Halloween, and one that could be used for All Hallows’ Eve or a Dia de los Muertos (Oct. 31 – Nov. 2) celebration. I bought all three.

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Although greeting cards can be found at Target, Meijer, Walmart, and corner drug stores in addition to Hallmark, what sets Trader Joe’s apart from the competition is the price. All of their cards are only $0.99. That’s right — they’re a buck. And if you suspect that this low price translates to the likelihood that you will be disappointed by the cards’ mediocre artwork, structural flimsiness, or poor fabrication, you’d be wrong.

Trader Joe’s produces high-quality greeting cards. The artwork draws from a broad range of styles and artists, the folds are crisp and precise, and the edges are smoothly cut. Even the envelopes are sturdy, well-constructed, and adequately prepared with adhesive.  Plus, every card comes pre-packaged in a form-fitting plastic sleeve, which is a real benefit if you are sandwiching the cards in your shopping bag between pouches of organic chopped frozen fruit and boxes of TJ’s Pumpkin Pie Mocha Ice Cream. (Note — It has not escaped my attention that these sleeves are an environmental hazard.)

The categories of TJ’s greeting cards range from birthdays to weddings, new job to new baby, and get well to get lost (okay — the latter is an exaggeration). But there are a whole bunch of different themes, from serious to silly. And one of the best things about the selection is that Trader Joe’s routinely carries at least four or five cards that feature pleasing outer photography or artwork paired with blank interiors. These are perfect for people (like me) who enjoy penning their own message.

The next time you are composing your grocery list, add “greeting cards” to round out the selection of staples that you will store in your pantry or freezer. Trader Joe’s offers well-constructed cards in a broad range of styles at a price — only $0.99 — that can’t be beat. But please don’t take my word for it. According to the Trader Joe’s website, in 2017 shoppers purchased almost 17 million of their greeting cards!