Just about every bookstore has that one display of notebooks up by the register; filled with the same, cookie-cutter selection of bound paper. The journals aren't so much dated as they are uninspiring. Thus, we're happy to have come across Plumb, a new brand of notebooks designed by artists. They are the creation of San Francisco-based artist Tucker Nichols, who would hack store-bought journals to create ones that better suited him. Soon, neighboring creative studio MacFadden and Thorpe and the design-driven gift company Knock Knock from Venice, CA, hopped on board. Together, they conjured up a concept: each season, Plumb would ask three artists to create notebooks based on their desires and visions—and the sky's the limit.
The artists who designed the inaugural batch are Nichols himself, LA-based collaborative drawing project Sumi Ink Club and painter Katherine Bradford, who divides her time between Brooklyn and Maine. All three have taken different approaches to creating a notebook, with the results ranging from a tiny journal that fits in your back pocket to an art box that's intended to encourage scrapbooking.
"The artists so far have embraced the forms themselves; the format, the covers, and the how the books are bound," Nichols says. "Katherine Bradford’s Titanic sketchbook has colored paper with unexpected perforations that might change how people draw on two pages at once. Two of the notebooks I did have DayGlo dyed edges, and the texture of the Dot Notebook cover feels sleek and weird. Sometimes a quirky but intentional detail makes a thing feel just right in your hands."
We should all be asking artists to help us solve problems outside of what they normally do.
Nichols, along with MacFadden and Thorpe, have collaborated before with the CH favorite, The Thing Quarterly—an experience that proved to be quite inspirational. "I love how Jonn and Will talk to artists and think about art. And so to some extent, Plumb was created with The Thing in mind. I think we share a suspicion that we should all be asking artists to help us solve problems outside of what they normally do. We need all of the creative thinking we can get at this point."
Nichols emphasizes how important choosing the right notebook is for a specific trip or project, but notes that it's less about "nifty features" and more about the overall feeling. That said, certain components can prove helpful: "I tend to work on a lot of things at once, so my main notebook works much better if it has tabbed edges for different projects. So I’ve been cutting tabs into existing notebooks. I also use tape on the cover to show the orientation of the book because it feels pretty lame to open up your notebook upside down."
"I couldn't guess at this point how many notebooks I’ve filled," says Nichols. "I'm not very consistent, and there have been long stretches where I am almost entirely index card-based. But I have shelves full of filled notebooks. Retrieving ideas from them isn’t that important to me. It’s more that I want to get something down. Once it’s down, it’s in play, even if I don’t go back to it or remember it."
Whether you're rewriting a scene for a play, sketching a 3D print prototype or simply jotting down a reminder for lunch, Plumb notebooks feel like a "home base" rather than an afterthought. We're particularly enamored with the Day + Night set of journals by Sumi Ink Club, which accommodate the different sides of yourself—whether you're channeling Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde.
Plumb launches its e-commerce site today, 12 March 2014, with notebooks starting at $10. The next batch will be designed by Linda Geary, Jason Polan and Nathaniel Russell (whose work was recently featured in our round-up of 2014 calendars) and will be released this summer.
Photos of Dot and Mini Superhero notebook, Sumi Ink Club art box by Nara Shin, all others courtesy of Plumb Goods