2017 flew by, and I'm glad, because it was kind of a sucky year for nearly everyone involved. But, ultimately, it was a good year for Lead Fast. The site grew faster and bigger than I expected. I launched a shop with some stickers to help fund it, and the response was beyond what I expected...thanks to you! I couldn't have built the site without the help of some cool people in this community.Read More
Holy crap, Baron Fig launched a TON of products this year. Where some of the other companies just stuck to what works and iterated on already established markets, Baron Fig jumped into almost everything stationery related this year. This humble author may even say too many things, and not without controversy.Read More
Write Notepads puts out consistently great quarterly releases with seemingly little fanfare. This year was no different. They didn't have the barrage of products like Baron Fig or the quality / marketing snafus of Field Notes, so in our little stationery circles there wasn't as much discussion about them. They just kept on making Baltimore and Baltimore-adjacent themed notebooks. That's a good thing.Read More
At first glance, it seemed to me that Field Notes had a slow year, but after I looked back, it was actually a lot busier than I had initially thought. It's likely that I just didn't succumb to as much FOMO as I did in years past, and I skipped a few releases, mainly the simple collaborations. There was also a little bit of drama with them this year, first with the quality control of some of the early 2017 items, then with the tone-deaf collaboration with Abercrombie & Fitch towards the latter part of the year. First, I'll dig into the Quarterly releases, then we'll talk about the other stuff.Read More
We're into Year 3 of the Volumes series. Palomino continued to do a few different things with the limited pencils this year, some cool, some not...along with a few head scratchers. Some thoughts on each Volumes series release, then we'll get into the rest of what they did with the line.Read More
We’re into Year Two of the Blackwing Volumes series and Palomino has continued to release interesting pencils, if not maybe a little stale at times…this year there were only 2 leads used out of the 4 Volumes releases. I’ll go down my thoughts on the releases, then a few items on some things that happened in 2016.
Volume 24: John Steinbeck Edition
The introduction of the extra firm lead. All black: the lacquer, the ferrule, and the eraser. Imprinted but not foil stamped. Although this is the hardest Blackwing lead, still dark and somewhat soft. I liken the core to a high-end Japanese B. My favorite of the Blackwing releases, and my favorite pencil of the year. In honor of John Steinbeck, a prolific original EF Blackwing user, who, according to his son, would’ve loved this pencil.
Volume 56: Joe DiMaggio Edition
Dedicated to the 56 game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio, this pencil is striped like the Yankee uniforms he played in. It uses the 602 core and is foil stamped in gold with a gold ferrule and blue eraser. I ended up buying red erasers for this and making it a Cubs pencil.
Volume 344: Dorothea Lange Edition
Dedicated to Dorothea Lange and her famous photographs, 344 stands for the lot number at the Library of Congress that contains many of her photos, including the famous, iconic “Migrant Mother”. The core is 602…again. It has a deep red barrel (closer to brown, to my eyes), red imprint, red ferrule and black eraser. It’s supposed to look like a 602 pencil in a dark room. This was the first Vol. Edition to get the new logo and word mark, as well as the new erasers…more on that below.
Volume 530: Gold Rush Edition
Sutter’s Mill, California is the place where gold was first discovered, and is CA Historical Site 530, the namesake of this pencil. Gold barrel and ferrule with a black stripe, black imprint and black eraser. This has the extra firm, or 24, core in it. Not dedicated to a person, but a feeling, the feeling of striking gold, of those “Eureka!” moments. See my full review and my video.
Rebranding of Palomino
This year Palomino rebranded, taking away the horse logo and replacing it with a Three Tree logo. The first Volumes pencil to have it was the 344, but they rebranded all their pencils this year. They also changed the word mark from a thin, extended sans-serif to a more geometric sans-serif, furthering the homogenization of basically every word mark on the planet. I don’t mind the logo change, Palomino is owned by Cal-Cedar and their logo is 3 trees, and it further puts the brand under the umbrella, but the word mark change bugs me. Was the old word mark ugly and dated? Yeah. It was time for something different. But to use the same thing that everyone else is doing, moving word marks to plain geometric sans-serif fonts…it just rubs me the wrong way. I would’ve rather stayed with the old ugly one than this. This is a huge misstep that’s overshadowed by the fact that no one really pays attention to this type of thing.
New Eraser style
Finally we got dust-free erasers. They’re still nowhere near as good as the Tomboy 2558 eraser, but I can happily say that, after a few months with these, they have satisfied my want to NOT carry a separate eraser with me, and the day I’m carrying a Blackwing, I don’t have to.
Blackwing Point Guard
See my full review and video. This thing is junk and was not well thought out. I understand the need for wanting to do something different and something all-in-one, with no pieces to slide up and down to hold it in place, the need for something solid…but this ain’t it, folks. It makes a long pencil much longer, and I just don’t see the use case for it. It certainly struggles to fit in a pencil case when using it on a newly started Blackwing.
Blackwing Colors Colored Pencils
Special wax core, only 12 colors. I didn’t get any, nor do I care to. Instead, I’ll let Ana do the talking.
I think that about wraps it up for Palomino’s 2016. Overall, it was a good year for them, but not a homerun. I would like to see a little more exploration in cores next year, as they really only have 4 they play with and we only saw two this year. I would like to see a year-round offering with the Extra-Firm 24 core in it, and maybe another natural offering. More to come in my 2017 Wish List post…be on the lookout for that.
There was a lot of activity surrounding Field Notes this year, more than I can remember in previous years. They did quite a few collaborations apart from the usual ones. They started a new series of city flag books, and added a whole new size and style to the line. Let’s take a look at what was released this year.
Quarterly Colors editions
Sweet Tooth: Spring release. Colored paper, blank, the same color as the cover. Perforated for tearing out to leave behind notes, use as note cards, etc. 100# cover with 70# paper. Foil stamped. Personally, not a favorite of mine, but we saw a lot of illustrators and sketchers have some fun with this. Tina over at Fueled By Clouds & Coffee did some great work with the Sweet Tooth.
Byline: Summer release. The reporter’s notebook. John Dickerson from Face the Nation enlisted Field Notes to help create this, and after years of getting requests for one, the decided to go ahead with it. Wire-bound at the top, the dark gray cover also protects the wire binding from getting snagged on things, instead of just being an extra sheet on top of paper. 120# cover with 70# text, ruled paper inside that has a slight stone gray tinge to it. They claim pocketability, but that’s if you’re not planning on sitting down. For me, it was great to use as a short form diary/journal, to round out the thoughts of the day. And I hung one up on our kitchen bulletin board for grocery lists…in our house, it’s the perfect size for that task.
Lunacy: Fall release. A black cover die cut to show the moon behind it that’s printed on the flyleaf. Reticle grid, slightly gray paper. Embossed Field Notes logo and embossed moon on the back. Each book’s die cut is different stages of the moon, full, half, crescent. Subscribers also get a book with no die-cut, or the “New Moon”. See my full review.
Black Ice: Winter release. Pur-bound, entire cover foil stamped, except for the spine. Lined paper. 100# Cover with 70# text, the same Finch Paper that graces the America the Beautiful edition. See my full review.
Nixon: An America the Beautiful-esque set of 3 different glossy covers, one blank, one ruled, one graph. The second in as many years from Nixon. I like the look of these things, but the one I used blew up in my pocket fairly quickly.
LL Bean: The first in what seems like will be an on-going series. Kraft-style books that are just different covers. One camo, one hunter green, one kraft with green lettering. I wasn’t super-impressed with these, but if the next ones that have leaked on eBay are any indication, they look like they’ve stepped it up a notch.
Carhartt: My favorite Field Notes release of the year. All lined, Carhartt logo on the cover, different colors for each book, different outdoors theme on each back cover. See my full review.
XOXO: Another year, another XOXO book. These are trippy books designed by Mark Weaver. The XOXO books have been getting crazier and crazier every year, and that’s an awesome thing. But unfortunately, there are rumors this may be the last year…it remains to be seen, but if it is, they went out with a bang.
Tournament of Books: Red cover kraft wth the ToB logo on the front. Sold as singles for $2, and Field Notes matched the $2, and donated it to 826 National. Cool idea, and I’ll be buying more of these when they do it this year.
EEEK: This year, Field Notes co-creator and designer Aaron Draplin released a monograph / mid-career retrospective called Pretty Much Everything. In addition to this, he released the “Everything Else Enhancement Kit” which included, among many things, a special made Field Notes that everyone has since termed the “EEEK” pack. Black canvas-style cover with orange foil stamp, orange paper. Not one of my favorites for actual use, but a great collector piece and a nice piece of design.
Subscriber reprints: Field Notes Colors subscribers got a treat this year in the form of a surprise shipment of a 2-pack that contained one Butcher Orange and one Butcher Blue book, a reprinting of the original first 2 Colors editions, with each subscribers name on the belly band. These are exact reprints other than the edition declaration on the inside cover. They also gave these away for free if you went to FNHQ during announced weekends during the holidays and spent over $20.
Brand’s Hall Pen: A special release, super-expensive pen that was made from wood from reclaimed from a famous Chicago building, created in partnership with Allegory Goods. This is a $160 rollerball pen that, unless you’re a completist, probably doesn’t need to be purchased. Limited to 1500 pens.
New year-round books
Front Line: The standard version of the Byline edition. The differences are a lighter gray for the cover and a more standard white paper. A great addition to the line.
Chicago & Portland: The first two in what I hope is a series of city flag books. These are Kraft editions with city flag designs printed on them. The Chicago books came out first, at the beginning of the year, then the Portland books later in the year. Both are still available and don’t seem to be limited as of yet. Chicago and Portland were picked because of the home cities of Field Notes and Draplin Design Co, respectively. I will be interested to see where this goes in the future.
I may have missed some! What I didn't do is look for all the after-market, re-branded, Kraft books out there, like the High West Distillery. There are just too many of those instances and most people, besides the craziest Nut, don't see these books. Hell, I even made my own in my printer.
I have a wish list for what I'd like to see in 2017 coming soon!