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Gain a pen. Lost a pen.


As an artistic person, pen matters. As such, a few days ago, when I saw a retro-style Stylist and Pen from Kirkland in a new store that I discover (which by the way, have clock made from bike chain and a corner dedicated to knitting – love!), I was sold. I handed over 5 bucks for the pen, and 2 bucks for a knitting magazine with an adorable pattern that I like, then hop on my bike and went on my merry way.

Here is some photo of the pen, which  by the way, was supposed to be refill with a Cross 8513 cartridge and not a Kirkland brand:

Kirkland Retro Pen + Stylist
Before I went, I took some photo of the store:Serendipity A-Frame Sign

Serendipity Interior

The store is call Serendipty, and it is over at 19th and Valencia Street.
Isn’t this beautiful? A corner of yarns in San Francisco! I thought I can only see similar scene in Imagknit, the SF yarn shop that every knitter heard of if they live in SF, since it was suppose to the only yarn shop in the city.
Fast forward to later afternoon, I opened my backpack to check out my new pen collection, only to discover my fountain pen, Sheaffer VFM, has gone missing.
I want to comfort myself by saying it is destined that I found a new pen the day I lost my old pen, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the pen I lost was a fountain pen triple the price of my new ballpoint pen.
Insert depressing signs.
I guess I can comfort myself by saying that I can try another fountain pen. To be honest, the cap on VFM is quite irritating. It doesn’t cap onto the end of the pen, so everything I write, I have to find a place to safely place my cap. I can’t count the number of times it roll off and drop onto a ground with very, very audible click (the cap is metal). I will have to make sure my next pen don’t do that.
Meanwhile, a day later I saw this guy on Dwell’s email:

Kaweco’s Classic Sport Fountain Pen

Quite cute in design, but it’s acrylic. I want metal. I want a solid weight.
Which by the way, leads me to my review of my new Kirkland pen, and one of the reason why I adore:
It have a good, heavy weight that makes writing in good hand-writing a pleasure.
At first glance, I thought it was made of light-weight plastic, but the pen construction is actually very sturdy and solid. For a ballpoint pen, the ink flow is good. Adding in the stylist, it is combination of retro, modern, and craftsmanship. It makes me feel awesome about writing in class. The fact that I flip it over immediately to change something on my tablet or laptop is definitely a great bonus.

Which begs the question – what fountain pen should I get. I want something other than Sheaffer this time around. Still want a metal barrel and some weight, but a better cap this time. I don’t need a calligraphy nib this time since I got a Viewpoint, but it wouldn’t hurt if it does. Choices, choices… well, I guess I will visit Sunset Stationary this Friday. Maybe I can brainstorm with the staff. Sunset Stationary is this cute little stationary store in… well, Sunset district. I have been going to it since high school. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable, and they have some cute stuff. Speaking of which, I need a new journal and maybe some stamp for my new scrapbook (I got tired of the random magazine cutout and postal stamps that I have stacked up together. I have purchase a scrapbook and plan to make something out of that stack, eventually). I also need to renew my DeYoung membership. Hmm… sounds like it is going to be a busy Friday.


JS Meetup Day 3, Stuck because one sign… Oh, and new graphic design project!

Web Design

= vs ===.

I even blogged about it for my JS Day 2 blog post. I couldn’t believe I got stuck for 30 minutes thinking I got the wrong value or variable name when all I did was forgot to add a = sign.

I am an idiot.

Graphic Design

I just got a new book, The Graphic Design Exercise Book.

Very neat with all sort of projects to work with. First up is design a package for an eco laundry product. Shall read more and report back later!

Array, Pen Review, and Adobe Cloud

Web Design

I have been working a bit more on my JavaScript skill so I can understand JQuery. So far, I am still at array portion of the tutorial, and I was getting sleepy there for a moment because I felt like I was repeating my Java and Python class. So, that’s what the professors meant when they say that once we learn a language, the others are pretty much the same. Still, array is something I am always confuse with, so it is a good review. For one, when .length is use in array, it means the number of elements in it, and not the number of letter in the array name. I don’t remember learning that from my other classes, so that’s good.

I printed out the jQuery code of the sample gallery template that I want to use for my ePortfolio. It’s definitely more advance than what I am learning. I am thinking maybe I should find another template, but I really like the one I found… Maybe I will borrow an actual book on jQuery and see where it takes me, then decide.


I have also been practicing my calligraphy skill. Good handwriting is a useful skill to have. Being able to make art out of handwriting is even better. So far, I am doing the basic font, Chancery Italic Hand. The pen I am using is Sheaffer Viewpoint, medium 1.5mm nib size. I brought it on a total impulse after going ga-ga mode on fountain pen discussion with the store owner at Sunset Stationary. It is pretty much an economy student pen. Pretty good for what I am doing. The flow is smooth most of the time. The soft grip is nice, though I must say that I prefer heavier pens. Viewpoint is a pretty cheap pen make of plastic, and it is far too light for my preference. That’s what happen when you buys things impulsively, I guess. Once I move pass the basic Calligraphy font, I think I will invest in a higher end pen, one made of metal – I have always prefer metal even when I was just a high school student doing basic drafting my architecture class. The weight gives a sense of sturdiness to my drafting pencil that I really like… but back to Viewpoint – I don’t use the pen as much as I should, but the ink don’t dry or evaporate into a mysterious black hole. Can’t say the same for my VFM pen, whose ink cartridge empties itself without me even using it once. I just brought a Pilot Parallel for an artist friend though, and after reading the review and seeing the pretty pictures, I want another pen too! But I must not. It is not an expected expense at current time – in the future, yes. Currently? No. I must save for Adobe Create Suite! Every $20 must be carefully spend! Budget must be follow!

Ownership vs Subscription

Speaking of Adobe Creative Suite, I got a bit irritated after researching about the recent trend. I know about Adobe Cloud for a while, but after recent readings, it seems like Adobe is planning to stop selling the program itself and sell subscription instead. Digital subscription is not true ownership. It is one of the reason I am not a big buyer of ebook despite being a bookworm. Digital subscription and digital ebook are link to the manufacturer, and they can cut off that link. Amazon, for example, have taken ebooks from customers before. Fortunately, with ebook, there are ways to severe that connection once you purchase it. I, for one, like to keep a copy of every ebook I purchased. A digital subscription of an entire program by a company like Adobe is a bit hard to do so. Quite frankly, with the numerous cyber attacks – particularly DoS, I wouldn’t want any thing related to the operation of my professional material depended on the network connection and safety. If I am paying hundreds of dollar, I want to own the program for sure. I want it to operate at all time, at all situation, and at my computer without connection to the web. Fortunately, there is still old version of Adobe Creative Suite on online website like eBay and Amazon. Unfortunately, after this, I will probably not update my own Adobe for a long time. Better yet, I may switch to Corel and other alternatives where I can keep a physical DVD copy. After all, I am just buying Adobe now because I am taking classes at community college and wants to take advantage of the student discount. So far, the program I have been using have been Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus for my portfolio. As a free open-sourced program, they are actually quite good and gets jobs done for people who may have budget problems.

JS Meetup, Day 2, Code Academy

I have been trying to figure out Javascript and JQuery so I can add a Jquery gallery on my portfolio. (I am refurbishing my website using HTML & CSS. Hopefully, it will result in a “built-from-scratch”, mobile-friendly website.)

So right now I am at a JS Meetup hosted at Zoosk, going through the beginner tutorial of Code Academy. I am still debating whether I want Code Academy or Code School… Anyway, just noting down on my e-sketchbook right now about things I found amusing or educational:

  • Code Academy’s graphic makes it so much more fun to use than Eloquent Javascript. Learn by Doing!
  • Code Academy’s console.log tutorial page does not work on Firefox, which I found weird with so many people using that browser.
  • Printing is universal. Printing method, however, is not. Python is straight-forward, using Print. JS uses… um, console.log?
  • In Javascript, user need to declare variable by adding var to the front of variable names.
  • In Javascript, user need to use semicolon.
  • So far, it seems system of string numbering is universal, where string numbering starts at 0. Yeh!
  • Code Academy uses “===”, which confuse me for a moment since I am used to “==” in Java and Python. JS still accepts “==”, but it is not the preferable object in term of speed. “==” will do type conversion, which takes up time. “===” is faster in that it skips that process by assuming that both inputs are the same type, and returns false if it is not same type.
  • Universal in all codes – watch out for the parentheses and quotation marks!
  • Code Academy classes can be finished so much quicker if you have prior programming language experience.
  • I like the organization in JS and the minimalist feel of Python.

Random Sketches While Working: Chair and Pattern


Chair & PatternEven though I am working mostly at the print center, I have been placed on cash register shift in the morning. I think one of the morning girls left… Anyhow, it provides ample time for me to do random sketches. Here one wher I sketched a leather chair on display at the front. Next to it is more chairs, but textured with pattern, of which I have doodled on this post-it note too.

Speaking of post-it, Evernote have their own post-it now! And they sell it in Office Depot! I so want one. Along with the Evernote sketchbook! But… must save money!

…Hmm, I want to tag this as sketch, but I just realized I never created that tag. Even though my blog is named Natural Sketcher. Oops? What have I been tagging my sketches with?

Draw Like David Hackley? … Sadly, I May Need A Tinsy Bit More Practice.

Part of my 2014 New Year resolution is to draw more, blog more, and communicate with friends and people more. Naturally, it means that I started going to Meetup events again. So, when I saw SF Sketcher’s “Draw Like David Hackney” on a time when I am not working, I signed up rather enthusatically – getting free ticket as a DeYoung member helps. Did I mentioned that I finally got the membership from FAMSF and Asian Art Museum?

One of the goodies as a FAMSF is that I get a free ticket the David Hockney Exhibition… AND a guest ticket for me to share with fellow MU art lovers. It’s quite nice, and it is an entire year. If SFMOMA isn’t going through renovation, I would had got their membership, too.Onto Hackney. I actually started on writing this post while I was looking at the exhibition:



20140111-155027.jpg… I don’t think anyone could read my terrible cursives, and there’s barely any complete sentence, as expected from notes. Another NY resolution: finally using my fountain pen for calligraphy practice and get back my architecture drafting ability in term of writing.

But it is a bit late now, so let me translate:

Our group started in the Camera Lucida gallery, which is not part of the main Hackney exhibition and does not require a ticket. Though Hackney did not drew it, but only composed it, I was awed by the display, The Great Wall. The reason is not just its size, but the reason he did the work, his urge for investigation and his passion for finding the origin of art. Essentially, he did a full wall display that took up three side of DeYoung’s exhibition area, posting artwork from the past as he traced back to when artist started using optical tools. He traced it down to 1940.

In the same part of the exhibition, it showed Hackney’s recent works, including charcoal drawings and the acrylic drawings he did after he switch back to acrylic media in 2013 – he started doing more charcoal works beginning October 2012. In 2013, he also went back to the places where he drew a series of charcoal version, Arrival of Spring, in 2012 at England. He went back. And re-did the scenery with iPad. That is something fascinating about his persistence and love for artistic exploration. Later on the exhibition, I read one of the note that he never stopped drawing. He art definitely reflects that.

In his work, he shows a great use of stoke. In fact, I think he revere in the expressive quality of rough, obvious stroke works. When he draws nature, he often blackens it up to emphasis the focus on nature. When he draws figures, the background becomes a great wash of single color wall. His work can see rough in apperances, but it is actually quite detail in where he wants. They invoking feeling. Expressive is definitely how I would define his work.

I took a liking to his Cactus Garden lll. The variation of green is nicely done. There is a sensation of a bright outdoor that makes me miss the sunny weather weather and beautiful landscape of suburban San Luis Obispo. Though the work focus on the garden, there is a small detail that shows a sketchbook and paints. For some reason, it makes me smile. I think it is because it adds such a common, human aspect. I later brought a postcard as souvenir:20140111-155049.jpg20140111-155056.jpg

I found the Masaccre & and the Problem of Depiction a bit strange from the rest of his work. I wish DeYoung would put a note about it, but looks like I have to research later.

I also learned that en plein art means outdoor, which I am happy to finally know after volunteering at San Luis Obispo Art Center when it does its annual Plein Air Fair.

The idea of Cubist movie is quite interesting to explore. In a sense, he brought video to fine art. Watching it was… it’s kind of hard to describe, but I guess it is like I am traveling to several places of similar environment at the same time.

His work regarding a biblic tale, interestingly, took on a childlike quality. Some of the figure even becomes geometric in shape. It is as if he is storytelling through his work – an age old tradition.

His iPad work in Yosemite was quite grand – 12 feet high grand. As a print associate, I can’t even image where he found a printer that would do that and how much time it took. It is quite an image, but at the same time, using a digital iPad image seems to add a flatness that dulls the granduer a bit for me. However, it depicts the fog beautifully. That sense of transparency played well in his iPad drawing.

The display of monitors that plays video of his art process was so fun and educational to watch: to see just how he slowly builds up the layers, to see how he adds up the little details here and there… if I am not broke, I’d brought the CD that documents his process in store. I think what I like most about him is the attention he pays to his increase process.

It was interesting to note that he had strange turn of process in 2009 to 2010, where some of his landscape works turns slightly eerie. The details blurs at the main object – typically a cluster of bushes or trees – so that it turns into a giant blurb. At first, it looks like he decided to forgo details when he got lazy, but then you wonder why it is so eerie. Then you realize, he abstracts the object and set the brushwork and color so that it looks like the trees itself is “rushing” to the vanishing line. The strange shadow and sudden detailed grassfield away from the main object all adds the idea that this is not a complete depiction of reality. That sensation of ir-reality and rushness seems to want to force view into the painting. It is not my favorite work of his, but it is definitely one of the most curious one for me.

On a funny note, I heard one of the viewer says that it looks like the bushes are going to turn into cartoon worm and jump out anytime.

Fun, fun time.

I couldn’t find my MU group in the cafe afterward, but I did got to taste some delicious but pricy celery soup. I ended up sketching a vase with flower in the cafe and some passenger while I was in the bus. But looking at the other sketch at the MU album later… Practice, Amy. Practice!




Tweak. Tweak. It’s a box of DIY fun.

Caffeinated high on my delicious cup of Gibraltar today, I walked by Collage Gallery on my way to my car – and got completely distracted from my walk. My first DIY projects were jewelries. They give me fond memories. Though I don’t wear lots of accessories at a time, I always have one piece on me at all time – not counting my glasses, of course. It’s typically a watch. I really like wearing watch now. Functional, elegant, and can usually take a beating.

I like earring too. Originally I was only going to get an earring, then I got sidetracked by this:

The inside of Steampunk Jewelry Kit by The Weekend Store.

What’s That?

It is a jewelry kit. A kit for jewelries make out of watch parts.

Steampunk Jewelry Kit by The Weekend Store.

Steampunk Jewelry Kit by The Weekend Store.


I always did wanted to take my watch apart, though my sister – who was the one that brought my watch – would probably kill me for doing that to her gift, then proceed to tell me I am an idiot for destroying something just to sate my curiousity.

But now I don’t have to! I have a kit with broken watch part already! With copper color, antiquity-y looking jewelry parts.

I am so happy. Just don’t ask me how much money I wasted. I shall pledge my fifth.


And I did brought my earring. It’s one by Marian Mc Kee Designer. She has no website that I know of, but I brought one of her earrings before, so I know it’s pretty good quality and design for its price, which is very affordable despite that it’s a local, indie product.

The stone, metal, and hook from my last earring is made of good quality item, and does not rust, bend, or broke easily. This one seems to be of similar quality:

Earring by Marian Mc Kee Designer of San Francisco

Earring by Marian Mc Kee Designer of San Francisco

The metal and stone sparkles together nicely, which the iPhone photo does not reflect. I like how it is simple but elegant. I can see it work in formal and casual occasion. I like how the stone is hold by the metal frame showing a teethed pattern, instead of being held by glue or a band of metal.

I also noticed that the pattern matches my cup (also locally made, by company “miam.mian“) and decided to display them together for some photo fun:

Earring and Cup. Always an excellent combination.

Earring and Cup. Always an excellent combination.

See what I mean?

Alas, I really should take that photo during the day instead of using lamp light, but I am just so eager to play with them. That’s especially true for the kit. I haven’t taken stuff apart or put parts together for a while!

Hmm… maybe I should buy a $10 watch and take it apart. Or find a used one of Craigslist. A girl can never have too much jewelries.

A Puzzle on the Wall

I came into the DeYoung expected to be taken away by The Girl with a Pearl Earring, which came true in the end, but I was also surprisingly inspired by Rembrandt early sketches – much more than his later softer work in contrast to many other famous artists – and the dramatic and vivid coloration of Ruysch’s flower paintings.

I am someone who typically prefer sculpture than painting (ironic, considering I have never sculpted once in my life, but have painted and draw frequently as a teen) but Vemeer’s painting have always fascinated me. I loved that airy lightness, that realism, that sense of being in an everyday life scenery. When I went to DeYoung Museum for its Girl with sPearl Earring special exhibition, I have expected that too. The Girl with a Pearl Earring is often remembered by my modern generation as the name of a book, movie, a famous painting centered on a single pearl earring.

Reality is a bit different. Away from the modern preconception of what The Girl with a Pearl Earring is, the painting’s most striking feature was what Vemeer was most noted for – light. The way that light hits the flesh, the smooth of the painting, that contrast and cleanness of the color – the painting was truly striking in person, but not merely for the pearl earring. No. The earring accents it, but what drawn my eyes the moment they met the painting is the face. It was the smoothness of her skin, the glow of her cheek, and the close-to-real life facial expression.

Before going to exhibition, I went to the Docent’s lecture first, and I am glad I did, for what she informed me make sense after I saw the paintings of Vemeer. According to the excellent lecture by Rita Dunlay – which I sadly did not get to stay to the end because my ticket was schedule in the middle of her lecture – The Girl with a Pearl Earring was originally named as The Girl with Blue Turban. I do not know why historians changed the name – perhaps to bring some the elegance to the name? But I found that the later name is much more suitable when I saw the painting in person. The brilliant blue hue of her turban plays beautifully with the pink tint of the flesh and her yellow tone attire, and it brings out the light and airiness of the work. The earring adds a sense of elegance and femininity, and it also exhibits Vemeer’s talent in reflecting light in his work, but I don’t feel that it is the strongest features at all.

Rembrandt. Oh, I have to admit, I was never very fascinated with his work. It never connected to me on paper. But in person? His work in etching is unbelievable. I can’t helped but go up close to it and try to see the line work’s detail. I started drawing because I like the art in Japanese comic books, manga, then later on I began studying architecture because I like drafting. While I love color, the more art I do, the more I realize I like line work. Seeing the detail and the precision of Rembrandt’s work and how it magically brings its object to life… I wished I had a microscope and could study them all day.

Typically, when I go to see painting in person, I try to step back to get an overall view – paintings, after all, were typically made to be seen in a distance. I can’t do that with Rembrandt. In fact, I have to get close with almost all the Dutch paintings and etchings. I quickly realized that the best way to observed them is to step a good distance away, then slowly get closer and closer to the work. The details and the stroke (or etch) works unrevealed themselves only as you get closer. As I was observing the 16th century art works, a quote from a modern day show popped up in my head. The show is called “Once Upon A Time”, and one of its character, Bella, once said “To me, love is layered. Love is a mystery to be uncovered. I could never truly give my heart to someone as superficial as he.” The quotes talks about love to a person, but it applies so well to the attitude of Dutch painters and what their paintings bring. Their paintings are layered. Their paintings are mysterious. They are something that must be observed slowly and repeatedly to be truly appreciated. It is not a mere superficial beauty that can see though just by walking by.

Ah, I am feeling so poetic and so happy now. Nevertheless, let me move on from my musings to… my prizes from the museum!


Mini puzzles! I got one last time for the Italy exhibition, but that one was far too big, and I have to say that I didn’t like the theme of the paintings. This one though, I love both of them. I can’t wait to put them together. They were, in fact, my favorite paintings from the exhibition outside of the etching works. I can’t believe my luck! The left is The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. The right, as everyone probably recognized, is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. They are wooden puzzles sized to 82mm x 120 mm. Considering that I have just talked about the mystery of Dutch paintings, I can’t think of a better way to remember them by putting puzzles of their paintings together.


Two postcard of another two works that I particularly like. On the left is The Large Cat by Cornlis Visscher. The museum display says the cat is resting, but as a gardener, I can’t help but wonder if it is sniffing a cat mint… If you look at it closer, there is also a worry looking mouse in the back. Love the etch work. On the right is the famous Vase of Flowers by Rachel Ruysch. I have always thought his work is beautiful when it is show in books. But seeing it in person… wow. It is not just the realism and the deep meaning of time passage hidden in the pattern, but… this definitely CANNOT be translated and expressed through reprints in books and even in my postcard. The color’s vividness draws a viewer’s eye right to the center of the painting. The white petals is practically glowing. My postcard and all the images I have seen in books don’t even come close to the real work. Amazing. Truly amazing. Indeed, amazing is the perfect word to describe my trip to DeYoung’s special exhibition today.

The Art of Pen

One day, I reached to the side pocket of my backpack, seeking for the fountain pen I have owned for four years. To my horror, it had vanished.

I turned up bag upside down. Searched my jacket pockets. Searched my desk. Traced my steps.

Nowhere can it be found.

My hand is itchy. My sketchbook looks too empty. I realized that my wallet will suffer soon, because I want a fountain pen, and they – at least the one of decent quality – are never cheap. But hey, I can try a different pen this time. I am not a student anymore, and I just got a part time job, so maybe it will be ok for me to a bit relax about the price.

Is it strange to mourn for the lost of a pen yet excited for the prospect of a new one?

Actually, why would someone lust after a pen? For those of us in a generation dominated by digital technology, fountain pen is not a daily tool anymore. They are also appear ridiculously expensive to us for a reason.

For this generation, we write a lot less. Most of us is good with a pack of Bic ballpoint pen. But for those of us who have writing or artistic hobby, that’s just not enough. Bic pen are cheap for a reason. They are designed to be dedicated for casual light writing, to be toss around, and not intended to last. Their line weight don’t change, nor do the change the matter. Their ink flow don’t change or leak if upside down, but their construction is fragile and flimsy because of the cheap plastic material. They are not designed for heavy amount of writing, so it is just a cylinder shaped, hard plastic pen where long term writing would result in a sour hand. People buy them in packs, because they lost, breaks, taken, and run of writing power in packs. People probably never think about the life span of a Bic pen, because they don’t have life span. People don’t cherish them – and they don’t need to, because it was never designed for that intention.

Fountain pen, technical pen, and other artistic pen are different. In the case of fountain pen, it writes smoothly, its line weight varies, and I can even change ink color and nibs. Because of its more flexible nibs, I can write for a much longer time and quicker without hurting my hands. I don’t worry about it breaking, since it tend to be of a sturdier construction. Since I can change ink cartridges, the pen last a really long time instead of getting throw away the moment it’s done. I wouldn’t deny that it is much more expensive than a pack of Bic pen, and that most people would probably never need that quality of pen in their life for this era, but for me who journals and draws, it is a cherished pen.

And so, a few week afterward, when I slowly settle into my new job and I finally have some income, I decided to have my parents drive me to Flax Art for a new pen after a family lunch outing. Unfortunately, the store don’t have my old pen:

Actually, the store associate don’t even know the pen, which is slightly disappointing. I had a Sheaffer No Nonsense, which was an old classical student pen. But hey, I should be grateful that the store still have a fountain pen department.

He eventually recommend me me to use the same brand of pen, especially since I needed a student budget pen. I took a look and immediately find the sets of pen he displayed attractive – especially the blue one. I ask him to let me hold it, and after a try, I know I like it right away. Just like my old Nonsense pen, it is just a cheap-end fountain pen, but its build is definitely different. It is made of metal, so it got a nice smooth texture combine with a little weight. It also give it a sense of classy-ness. The slim body also helps – it is not as thick as my older pen. The pen cap, unlike Nonsense where the cap is open by twisting, snaps on and off with a nice click. Classy… I like it!

Here a picture:

Sheaffer VFM


The pen is known as Sheaffer VFM. I keep misspelling it though – why don’t they use a easier to remember name? No one would forget a name like Nonsense.

… Although VFM does sound great deal more professional than Nonsense, which does give any non-fountainpen-fan the urge to giggles.

The pen is pretty nice for a student-budget pen. The only few problems are that, unlike my old Nonsense pen, it only have one nib choice (instead of letting me change different size nib, including ones good for calligraphy), its cap keeps falling off the end of the pen when I am writing, and …. it uses INTERNATIONAL INK!?

I had to stop myself from banging my head against the wall. Really, Sheaffer? You have manufactured and designed your pen to fit your own company-designed ink cartridge, and now you suddenly change to international ink cartridge design fountain pen WITHOUT a warning on the label? I have over 10 ink cartridges, and they are pricy too.

In addition, because I neglected to remember that I do practice calligraphy on occasion, now I have to get a calligraphy pen because Sheaffer didn’t design this pen to be nib-exchangeable.

Alas, the pen is great if I am just taking notes and working with my journal/sketchbook. The ink flows fine, the pen feels good in my hand, and it is easy to use – didn’t realize how inconvenience it is to having constantly twisting pen cap of Nonsense until I got my VFM’s snap-able pen cap.

Now I just to wait another month since… well, budget, budget.

I have way too many hobbies (glances at my transaction history in my Mint app account). Calligraphy pen, please wait for me in a month…

The Matter of Print Center Jobs

One of my most vivid and fond childhood memories in Hong Kong was this tiny little stationary store, with shelves filled with goodies. The first outing I had with classmates was there. My parents also brought my school supplies there. With Chinese parents, that means I was there very frequently for shopping, and what do you know? New toys always excite kids. I think the only other place that I occupied just as much (outside of school and home) is the market across the mall, where fishes literally flied in the air and I ate delicious curry fish balls and sweet tofu custard. When I first came to US, two of my favorite stores is Sunset Stationary and Pearl Paint. One of the main reasons why I went into architecture is probably because trying different stationary and art supplies seems magical. They all produced different lines and color, and each is a different experience. Though technology has moved the subject into a digital art, I still has a set of Rapidograph pen in my desk drawer and take notes with fountain pen.

As an architecture student, we are doing presentations each school quarter, and that means large custom print jobs each quarter. I quickly learned how to format my print jobs and my USB organization to most time and cost efficiently do my projects. Learning to evade the craziness of print jobs for oneself and for print shop is a art that architecture and design major probably learns the first three year of school. Imagine my surprise when I was hired to help out at a print center years later. Surprise, but a pleasant surprise now that I finally have a job, and one that relates to my experience to boot!

As mentioned earlier, I promised to blog about my experience, so here it goes:

I do know that any job in a print center is quite chaotic and complex, but I never see the full-scoop of it. Now, I am learning them day by day, and it is truly fascinating. As a trainee, I definitely made mistakes here and there, but I really like seeing a project completed successfully.

With the powerful printers we have, I can center a smaller image on a bigger sheet of paper. I can even set the machine to duplicate the image so there is 2 copies on one sheet without having to print an extra sheets. I also got to learn to print large scale blueprints and colored posters, and I learned how to laminate and mount large works. We learn to think ahead for the client and match their need with correct print service – sometimes clients forget how the rain and fog in San Francisco may destroy their $20-ish paper poster.

Papers is also an art in itself. There are papers for black and white printing, then there is paper for color so the ink wouldn’t show in the back. While we have a large selection of color papers, half of there are thicker, so I have to finger it to see which one it is and price it accurately. Then there’s glossy papers, which can really transform the out look of an images. We also have resume papers, cardstock papers, business card paper, and clear cover sheets. With thicker and specialized papers like heavy cardstock and photos, we have to remember to warn the clients about the possibility of bubbles in lamination machine. Even with thin paper, I have a case where heat of the laminate shifted the ink. For people who wants their papers binded, there is coil and comb binding in store. We have to make sure that the books can be binded and can be done on time, because the number of pages and type of papers all affects the resulted projects. Different binding can take different numbers of pages, and there is different maximum for the book thickness with different binding. Again, we learn to observe and ask ahead of time in order to match client needs with services.

Even though it is 2013 and email is taking the postal business in storms, we still gets fax job on regular basis. While USPS is about to take off its weekend delivery services, there are still people mailing every single day (Surprisingly, we accepts both UPS and USPS service). Occasionally, we gets international shipping, and I am always surprise by the pricing – it goes up to the hundreds – and so does the client. Though I have seen very calm clients who obviously either had experience or had ask around. My eyebrows went up each time I see the prices though, so it will probably take me a while to get used to that.

Then there is the occasionally machine malfunction or such strange daily occurrence, such as when the lamination machine started smoking. (!) Oh, and I am still learning about the specialized services that can only be order and done with an outside facility, such as envelopes and checks. Ah, and there is the cash register. We have coupons with bar codes, coupons with only numbers, membership card, business client card, company credit cards, Print Shop cards, returns for unopened items, returns for damaged items, recycling ink cartridges, warranty plans purchases, and more. It is easier because I am in the print center and not on the sales floor, but it is still a lot of selections. I am glad that I have a trainee badge, because I can’t count the numbers of time I have to ask another coworker since there is so many ways a transaction can go differently! The pay is not high, because it is a retail job after all, but I am at least learning a lot. With jobs like printing, I can apply the skills I learn to any office jobs in the future. It is so complicated and specialized, no wonder there is still so many individual print shop despite the increasingly digitized world. Of course, this is my first month and my first retail job, so I am not sure how everything will turn out, but for now, it’s pretty ok.