Creative Living Creativity Corner

small sketchbooks

March 19, 2012

Last tuesday i rushed to the british library to catch the last day of the glorious exhibition: royal manuscripts: the genius of illumination. It showed the library’s unique collection of illuminated manuscripts amassed by kings and queens in england over 800 years. It was truly stunning.

Being at that exhibition got me thinking how our ancestors have paved the way for us to write, draw, sketch and paint. It always starts with a piece of paper and making a mark. From there, all kinds of projects are created. So today I want to introduce you to some of my ‘small’ sketchbooks collection and later on this week i will follow it up with some sketches i’ve done in them over the years.

Yes, for those who paid attention, there’s also a big sketchbook collection, but lets leave that for another time!

Paper and sketchbooks have always held a fascination for me. When i studied graphic design, back in the 80’s, i was fascinated by calligraphy and manuscripts. I think that however much i rely on technology, that love of a physical sketchbook and making a mark in it will never leave me. I go out of my way to collect interesting sketchbooks and the paper often will make a big difference to me.

I’ve picked out my favourites here below. What i love is that they get well worn from being carried around in handbags and used in different places, like on planes and in hotels. I love having home-made covers made like the ones made for me by my friend carole. Sometimes you find a great sketchbook like the red leather heart shaped one. Other times, I fall in love with a cover and then start searching for the right insert. Often, that involves cutting a sourced plain paper notebook to fit the size of the cover. In the yellow small hermes sketchbook, the refillable inside is made out of wafer thin rice paper. I first saw this in the bigger version when a japanese architect was sketching in it. Always on the hunt, i had to ask him where it was from. I love how it rolls and fastens with those push buttons and although a little cumbersome, it fascinates me. Gavin rookledge’s leather sketchbooks are totally unique. He’s a fascinating character and i urge everyone to have a special leather book commissioned. James balston, who photographed my home for heart home magazine wrote a wonderful post on gavin and his studio. Of course, these days I use my moleskine daily so my small sketchbooks are not getting enough attention.

How do you feel about sketchbooks for your handbag? Any preferences? Do you use them at all?


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  • Reply annie March 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Gosh Tina where do you store all this stuff that you keep? I’m the total opposite of a hoarder and don’t have any of my old stuff like this. I think I’ve told you before that Richard has a serial killer shelf of Moleskines going back fifteen years or so.

    I’m terrible at sketching, I just never do it so don’t bother anymore to carry a book with me. I think the iPhone camera was the final kiss of death for that. I am however a compulsive doodler so my work moleskine is full of floor plans, table lamp and bottles of wine.

    The heart sketchbook is very cute.

    • Reply tina March 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      I wouldn’t quite consider myself as a hoarder… It’s natural for designers/artists to keep their work as it often serves as inspiration for projects!

      Yes, the iPhone is a revelation and fantastic tool for that, especially using Instagram.. you doodle wine bottles?

  • Reply Holly March 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Tina! How interesting! Your collection is beautiful.

    I have to admit, I’ve never put much thought into sketch books, but then again, I don’t sketch. I have a diary (I rarely write in it!) that I like and a small black sketchbook that I always keep in my bag to jot things down in. But they’re not from anywhere special.

    There is something quite romantic about sketchbooks. I LOVE how the Pinetti ones fasten!

    Can’t wait to see what’s in these books!


    • Reply tina March 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      It’s so funny because wherever I go shops sell millions of sketchbooks, notebooks etc. Somebody must be buying them? I wonder what people do with them.

      There was a time I got obsessed. Harrods were the main suppliers for the Pinetti books. This particular model comes in 2 sizes (of course, I have both:) and you were able to order it in 20 different colours or more. I would sit there with the swatch book not able to make a decision. It would then take a few weeks to arrive (we all know what Italy is like). I could have bought ALL colours.

  • Reply Lauren March 19, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I love seeing all of your sketch books, and all the photos make me quite curious as to what’s inside! I don’t sketch at all (never have), and I’m even a horrible doodler, but I love blank books of all sorts, and have a hard time passing them up. Mine are half-filled (until the next one comes along and takes my fancy!) with words, not drawings!

    • Reply tina March 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Blank book are an addiction, right? What is it about them?

      For years I would be too scared to write or draw in a beautiful book for fear of messing it up. These days I’m less precious.

      Lauren, most of mine aren’t even half filled because as I was using one, another more beautiful one came along and I just had to have it!!! Recognise a pattern?

      Having said all that, I still treasure them and refer back from time to time. It’s fun looking back.

  • Reply Theresa March 20, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Your sketchbook collection is really beautiful. Of course, I love the Prada, LV, and Hermes ones…What a luxury. However, I’m going to guess that the handmade ones are a bit more special to you.
    I use to keep so many journals, each for a different purpose – quotes, ideas, thoughts, sketches, and so on. Then I got all confused and had a difficult time keeping track of them all. Now I keep one journal and put everything into it. (I think I’ve mentioned before that Moleskine is my favorite.)
    When I really have to sketch something proper, I use an 8.5 x 11″ Strathmore sketch pad. (That’s what I use for all my little fashion sketches.)
    I bet it’s fun to have all these to look back on, as well.

    • Reply tina March 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      I knew you would like the Prada, LV & Hermes. To be honest, I loved them. The leather is gorgeous and the colours so reflective of their brands.. (well, maybe not the Hermes:) Also I love that they are so subdued and you only notice it from the Epi Leather in the LV…. I think I will always cherish them.

      The handmade ones are very close to my heart. They are the special ones, because they are unique and made with love.

      I remember you saying how confused you were with having different journals. It is an incredibly relief to have it all in one now. I also use my Moleskine daily. Sometimes I long to use ALL, can you understand that? One for each mood, project, thought etc. It’s like having a big family:)

      And yes, I LOVE looking at all of them from time to time.

  • Reply Heather @ Canal Notes March 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Tina, what a wonderful post! Loved seeing your sketchbooks…I have a few myself, but I rarely use them. I think I felt they were too pretty for the mundane, so I shouldn’t write in them unless it was something really important or inspired. As a result, most of my sketchbooks/notebooks are empty or nearly empty!

    Back in my corporate days, I found the standard issue office supply notebooks to be too bulky, so I used to carry the ultra thin notebooks from Muji in my bag for meetings. I really liked those notebooks, and since they were basic and came in packages of 3, I had no problem writing in them. I do love Muji…

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your collection. I think I’ll go dig out my pretty notebooks now and start using them 🙂

    • Reply tina March 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      Oh, I have a whole lot more if truth be told…. I’m sure I used to have a sketchbook addiction. I kid you not. I would not be able to pass them in a shop without purchasing one.

      Do you remember when Liberty dedicated one whole room to notebooks etc. It was so beautiful. Now they’ve created that ‘stationery department’ somewhere by the side entrance that I liken to Paperchase. I don’t think they were impressed with me when I told them so.

      Yep, the I cannot start this sketchbook if my drawings, writings etc are not perfect syndrome!!! Been there, done that, wore that T-Shirt!!

      Ah, Muji, one has to love them just for being always there with a brilliant solution for one thing or other. Perfect!

  • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) March 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    What lovely sketchbook covers, such a fab personal idea.

    I’ve got a couple of sketchbooks on the go, one with plain paper and the other with a combo of plain and lines in it. I think I prefer the latter because I like to write things as well as sketch. Although my drawing is awful and I really don’t like doing it much. In fact, my sketchbooks get things stuck in them to fill up the space – magazine cuttings, fabric, blobs of paint and wallpaper. A cheats option 🙂

    You’ve just reminded me of the last time I covered a book – at high school we used to cover our exercise books with wallpaper, newspaper or magazine pages. I distinctly remember my favourite. A centre spread of Culture Club from that weeks’ edition of Smash Hits around my history book! And I’ve still got it x

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

      I normally only use plain sketchbooks, but sometimes it’s nice to have combo.
      Ha, I’m the queen of sticking stuff into the books. Is that really a cheats option?
      I always thought it was a good way to create inspiration for different projects.

      I also have some book covers I did out of thick paper and other stuff. I like the idea of wallpaper though. Culture Club, wow, those were the days…:)

  • Reply Erin March 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Ooh, I love your sketchbook collection. But I’m with Annie! How do you find room to keep all your old ones (big and small)? I’m such a purger of stuff like that. I’m all about having less stuff, so I think it’s good I never got in the habit of collecting such pretty sketchbooks. I have a few journals from high school but I don’t ever want to go back and read them, haha.

    I do keep a moleskine grid book in my bag for grocery lists, random notes, outfit planning, budget planning, etc. I love how beat up it gets being carried everywhere. And I love that I can look back at all the lists I’ve made (you know I love lists 🙂 over the months. I do love pretty notebooks, though. All paper products are kind of like porn to me, but I’ve been very strict about not letting myself buy lots of them. I think this is because I’ve moved every year for the past 7 years (fingers crossed I stay put for now) and I hate having to schlep tons of stuff with me. I will have an impressive collection of internet bookmarks when I’m older, though! xo

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 12:42 am

      Moleskine is everywhere. Yay!!

      I love it, you note down outfit planning. Is that just for your trip or generally? And budget planning! Wow. That’s a first. I know, isn’t it great to look back and wonder?

      You’ve moved every year for the past 7 years? No wonder you don’t want to store anything. I would probably only have a suitcase full plus some kitchen equipment, bedding and towels and be done with it. I really hope you get to stay for a while. It is nice to feel at home and that takes more than a year in one place! I don’t like schlepping either:)

      I am sure you’ll be able to sell your internet bookmark collection for a lot of money one day x

  • Reply Michael March 21, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Love the Carole Waddle ones but I think every sketchbook is totally unique the moment you start to collect your thoughts and inspirations. I´m using them – since I started as a trainee back in the late 90s – strictly for the job and I don´t collect them really, but I have the last ten years in my small office-place. No need to look back and remember what we talked about project “A” and who is responsible for “B” or what to do in “C” times :-).
    But inspired by your blog I started a try today.
    Astonishing things happened these days. So many ideas who are hip today and realized. And how many times I had to wonder “Did I really do this? Did I think that way” 🙂
    To the books: The weight was only on function not on design – can´t tell any brands.
    Even in the 90´s I was the last dinosaur using sketchbooks in times with filofax, blackberry and and and. Today the only person WITHOUT any kind of smartphone in meetings I feel more comfortable than ever with my little “helpers”.
    I love the way you present the items. You´ve got the eye 🙂

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 6:27 am

      I love Carole’s covers and I’ve asked her for years to sell them (only so I can have as many as I want). No luck there, so they’re even more precious to me!

      I know how organised and disciplined you are and you’re right. A notebook or sketchbook takes on a life of its own once the first marks have been made inside. So you collect them in your office? Ha.

      I can imagine that brand or paper makes no difference to you and why should it? It’s just a facilitation for our thoughts and there’s no need to be precious about it. The more mundane the notebook the easier it is to actually just see it as that. That’s exactly where I go wrong. I make the item too precious and that can often interfere with the raw thoughts of writing and drawing.

      Are you the last person without a smartphone? I don’t think so. In fact, I think you’re trendsetting. I bet, very soon, we’ll see a backlash on it and people will want to go back to just a phone that makes calls and has text facility. That’s when you will probably get a smartphone:)

      Always the rebel…. xx

  • Reply ursula (room to bloom) March 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I have about 5 notebooks/sketchbooks on the go and it drives me nuts! I try to use the same one during a project so everything related is together – but I always manage to grab another one and mix everything up. Oh well.

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Welcome to my world. But hey, isn’t that the prerogative of a creative:) I have the same sketchbooks for entire projects as well. Of course, amongst the madness I am really very organised!!
      I say, let’s mix it up… x

  • Reply Toni March 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I would love to have one of your fab designer sketchbooks but do feel that my ability to draw would let it down if that makes any sense! However, your collection is impressive and I would like to have a closer look next time I come by.

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      I must get you a designer sketchbook and you can use it for keeping up with all kinds of things around your business.
      I don’t always sketch or draw. In fact, mostly I don’t:)

      Come and have a look. Next time we won’t be under such time pressure x

  • Reply Nicola March 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    This is a great post Tina, you have so many! I like them all.

    I have a hotchpotch collection of moleskines and a few others, that are filled with sketches, notes and ideas. I particularly like to do a sketch when travelling to a special place, it evokes a memory more than any photograph.

    I was given a very special small one from Smythson last year. It says ‘INSPIRATIONS AND IDEAS’ in rather nice type on the front, has lovely fine blue lined paper and is named ‘The Panama’ I seem to be filling it more slowly as it seems more precious!

    • Reply tina March 21, 2012 at 11:48 pm

      Ha. Smythson. I was waiting for someone to mention them. Do you think, all these people buy their notebooks/diaries so they don’t have to fill them? They seem so precious with rather thin paper. I think I could stick a finger through..

      Every trip I take my sketching tools come with me and I dream of sketching my way through the places I visit. All good intentions fail me. Maybe I should come travelling with you..
      Hotchpotch sounds rather good to me x

  • Reply Chi @ Carousel March 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I do love everyday objects made out of luxurious materials – it just makes the things that we do with them extra special, I think. I’m a Moleskinner myself. 🙂

    You have a wonderful collection and I want them all!!! 😀

    But, back up a moment ……… your home was photographed? For Heart Home Magazine?! OMG, how exciting!!!

    Must dash! 😉

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