Introducting Notebooks and Pencils (Maybe)

Two weeks ago I activated listings for 15 categories of vintage American made pencils and 11 of my Vari-Dot notebooks. June will mark a year that I have spent prototyping these notebooks. I have given away as many as I now have available for sale and I have scrapped a fair number in the research and development process.

Silver Coca-Cola Pencils

Silver Coca-Cola Pencils: I love how the lacquer dripped over the edge of these pencils.

I’m a little nervous about the addition of pencils and the direction I want to take Neat & Keen. At times I’ve considered buying things wholesale to sell retail. In my mind it has always been a small amount of carefully curated items related to the process of my own art and design. To that end the addition of pencils is not out of line. The niche has to be a careful collection to bother competing with Amazon or Blick Art.

General's Badger 310 Pencils

General’s Badger 310: Classic No. 2…and 2/4th?

Pencils can’t derail me from my goal of designing and making things with my own hands. It’s a surprising amount of work to scout out large lots and photograph them and write snappy things about them. With one particular item I came to realize that if I sold every single one of them I would make less than $10 and I feel I put considerably more than $10 worth of work into them. Live and learn.

Dixon Blue No. 2210

Dixon Blue No. 2210-B: Sometimes the color core vintage pencils fetch a high premium; I try to find the diamonds in the rough.

My hope is that having a modest supply of vintage implements will get some folks in here to look at my notebooks and artwork. If you’ve been following my notebook exploits from the beginning, you know that one of the things I considered was grooming this product for a crowdfunding campaign. There are very few US made notebooks available. It’s still a possibility if I found the right manufacturer and process, but right now I’m focusing on getting the prototypes right and making them by hand. To date I’ve spent over $700 on research and development. I could cut my losses now and forget about notebooks, but I’ve learned too much to just walk away now. I have ideas for new rulings, adding ribbon bookmarks, consistent covers, and limited edition models. Lately I’ve been playing on the classic composition book marbling.

Composition Notebook Mockups

Notebook Mockups shown in four different colors (CW from top left): Black ink on blue cover, brown ink on kraft cover, black ink on red, gold and black ink on red.

All The Rest

Six more prototype envelopes have been sewn and await glue and covers. Additional cases of paper need to be acquired to start a more serious production.

I have not yet added, but still considering, adding envelopes in various colors along with some other stationery. Every time I acquire inventory it is a bit of a nail biting experience. The worst case scenario is that I’m stuck with a lifetime supply of pencils and envelopes, right?

There are still numbers to be crunched and I’m still trying to decide what noteworthy investment to help Neat & Keen grow more this year. Top of my list includes: New computer, pigment ink printer, a proper camera, website redesign, and hiring some part-time help to make notebooks. As mentioned in my last update I will have some extra funds in a month or two.

For the first time in a while I’m working on a new song. It’s cheeky and cheesy, but good to get the songwriting shops flowing again. It will be a while before any original music plays a part here in a meaningful way, but I might upload a video for fun once the song is done.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *