Stationery Club and Confessions of a Moleskine Fangirl

From Moleitau's Flickr stream: want

After seeing James Ward‘s presentation on London Twirls at Ignite, we found out about Stationery Club.  The second meeting was last night and today people have asked:

“Is it a real club?” Yes.  A real-life, lots of people in a bar, scaring the non-stationery normals out of the room type club.  It looked like there were more than thirty of us upstairs at the Horse and Groom.  I’m not quite sure what I’d expected but yes, it was a semi-serious, question-led discussion which only occasionally descended into drunken chatter, rowdiness and generously traded insults.

“Did you really talk about stationery for two hours?” And the rest. We left about 9:30 because we were ravenous, but I think conversation and debate continued on. There was voting.  It was awesomely good fun.

The topic of choice was the Notebook and it was always going to descend into mayhem when the word Moleskine came up.  Firstly as to whether they’re made of real moleskin,  and should we choose a pronounciation? Or go with the slightly affected ‘Mo-lay-skeen-ay’ in tribute to the the Johnny-come-lately Italian company who’ve reissued them? They used to be produced by family businesses in Paris until 1986.  Is its success a triumph of marketing?  Surely nobody buys into the schlocky story that they peddle with the books – that it was beloved of Bruce Chatwin, Ernest Hemmingway et al.  Meh, who cares? Instead, look at the practical, stylish Muji number which was championed at the meeting – typical thoughtful Japanese design which includes a plastic pocket for cards, two elastics and dotted paper (ooooooh) for versatility.  It was popular, for sure…

But I’m going to be honest.  Even though I’m not quite sure why, I’m a roaring Moleskine fangirl (Clairefontaine being my second choice).  First and foremost because I’ve always liked the stock (though I’ve had issues with the soft-cover A5 folio and bleed-through recently) and paper is always the first and foremost consideration in buying a notebook for me. I’ve got quite the collection in current rotation – currently using the red 18-month week to view diary, the monthly planner for work, various sizes of A6 and A5 black ruled hardcovers for notes, red large cahier journals for writing projects and black ones for morning pages.

I used to have a bad habit of starting lots of different notebooks and running them concurrently for the same projects. I’m trying to stop doing that. Stopping buying them is another matter altogether.  It could also be because I see things like this and this and they make me think that maybe having the notebook is the first step to actually doing something interesting with it, to expressing yourself more creatively:

:: Mike Rohde’s amazing SWSW Interactive 2010 Sketchnotes ::

Perhaps it’s because I’m a freelancer:

Freelancers are more likely than most people to love Moleskine notebooks. We need to keep and manage our own schedules and to-dos. We’re creative, so we need a place to store and expand ideas. We need to take notes at meetings with clients–or at least look like we are. We need to appear productive and busy in coffee-shops–even when we aren’t.

The Freelance Switch

Or because I’m a geek. And an analog geek at that. Maybe I’ve just always had a thing about paper, pens (ooh, pens!) and the potential of a new page.  Perhaps it’s because fond as I am of my mac and iPhone, the former is on its last legs and I need to be super organised at the moment. A notebook doesn’t run out of battery at a crucial moment.

I’m investigating GTD at the moment so what I’m most interested to see is the new Moleskine Folio.  Paper with rounded corners that you can print yourself? Bring. It. On.

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What Katie Did: Fascinator Workshop

Earlier this month I went to a fascinator workshop at What Katie Did boutique in West London.

I’ve been to many really good crafting spaces and providers over the past year or so, and tried many different crafts with various teachers.  I’m pretty meh about this particular offering.

So what were we promised?

Sunday 13th December : make your own fascinators

1-4pm, £45

Choose from either a mini tophat or a sinnamay hat-base to create a beautiful fascinator to take home and keep. Learn how to manipulate feathers, attach ribbons and trimmings and pick up tips and tricks for creating glamorous and individual headwear.

You’ll have access to the WKD fabrics in case you’d like to make a pair to match a corset, and also a receive a 10% What Katie Did discount voucher to spend in the boutique on the day of the class. Tea and cakes will be served.

All materials inclusive

All sounds good so far, yes?  Apart from the bit about ‘make a pair’ which I assume referred to a previous workshop on making pasties. I went along with three friends – I had some problems finding the shop which were entirely my fault (it’s inside a shopping centre which was somewhat hidden by the tat market that takes place on a Sunday). So me, three friends, in this very pretty shop, full to the rafters of pretty corsetry – and five other girls. Nine of us, with one teacher. Sometimes that kind of ratio can work. Not there. Firstly, the workspace wasn’t at all appropriate. We were using hot glue guns on the floor of what is normally the changing area. Bloody uncomfortable, apart from anything else.  Fail.

We had three model heads to use for positioning fripperies and net on sinamay bases or mini top hats. As it happens there were four natural groups within the class so we made do. But there was nowhere near enough space – we were using the top of a display cabinet as a table and others worked on the floor – and only one or two stools. Come to that, only two people could have tea, as only two cups were to be found.  The promised cakes were supermarket mini muffins although some participants were offered bubbly on arrival. Not all of us, mind you. Fail.

How was the teaching? Well I’ve been to some classes with Ruka from Sugarlesque at other venues. She’s very enthusiastic and when we could get her attention, she taught us handy tricks about attaching net and how to singe elastic. But she was in demand in a group of nine and is a little haphazard, forgetting to tell us to do certain steps (like cutting felt shapes to the size of the base) before starting, which made things more difficult later, and getting pulled away to other people frequently. It was similar to other classes I’ve taken with her – she’s very talented as a maker but needs a schedule as a teacher.

I’d expect to come away from a workshop with a list of suppliers, and instructions or illustrations to remind me what we’d done in class. We did get a 10% off voucher to spend at the shop – but couldn’t shop that day because the shop was closing early for the staff Christmas party. Fail.

So who could show them a trick or two?  You always leave the Make Lounge with handouts covering what you’ve done; plus a list of suppliers if they don’t sell the tools and materials themselves. Sweet Pea Flowers lays on an amazing spread for afternoon tea during the floristry masterclasses (my review here).  The Making Space keeps class numbers to the appropriate size for the space.

Stars: *****

I came away with something fun that I’ll wear to one of the many upcoming balls and burlesque events.  I didn’t learn very much that I didn’t know already or couldn’t have gleaned from internet tutorials, and the £45 might have been better spent at the Milliners’ Warehouse or the Trimmings Company.

Update: I received an email from the owner of What Katie Did, and now know that the classes are entirely the responsibility of the teacher, WKD takes no money for the classes and indeed was under the impression that all of the equipment needs (from crockery and catering to chairs) were well taken care of, as well as providing a dedicated space for glueing etc.  I think that future workshops there will be run rather differently, and class sizes will be kept to six as was always intended.  It sounds as if it’s worth giving it another shot

What Katie Did boutique, 26 Portobello Green, 281 Portobello Road, London W10 5TZ