Taroko Design notebook paper
Review

Taroko Design and Tomoe River

Taroko Design notebook paper

The final part of our Taroko Design Trilogy is dedicated to the heart of the books, the Tomoe river paper.

For people that know Tomore River paper then you can just go ahead and skip to the lovely photos. Otherwise let us introduce you to something truly special.

The paper that comes in the Taroko Design notebooks is Tomoe River white 68gsm. This Japanese paper feels very different to the more familiar European paper from Rhodia and Clairefontaine. It is less glossy and more lightweight – reminds me a little of the old tracing paper used back at school, just a bit thicker and less transparent.

So what is it like to write on? Well the good stuff happens as soon as the pen meets paper. Every movement glides effortlessly, leaving a wet stroke behind. The ink sits on the paper for a moment as if on wax paper, floating above and wanting to burst out of line. But it behaves, keeps in and starts to settle into the page. Take a little break and grab a cuppa, it takes a while to dry but it is worth it. Or, do what I do watch and go:

Toy Story Green Alien ooooh

I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the colours and sheen left behind, I’ll leave that to the images below. It’s not like any other paper, there is some black magic going on but that’s okay with me! I’m afflicted by an addiction to try out any and all inks, pens, nibs and experience how it reacts with Tomoe River. I am filled with delight every time 🙂

I thought it would be good to point out couple of loved and also unwanted paper properties terminology that burden fountain pen geeks and then show you the difference that paper can make.

Bleedthrough happens when ink (or too much ink) gets absorbed in paper so much, that it gets to the other side of the page. Bleedthrough depends a lot on quality of paper and amount of ink on the page. Tomoe river clears this easily, other paper is not quite up to scratch…

Ghosting (or Showthrough ) happens when you flip the page and can see what’s written on the other side. Not so much that the ink bleeds through the page but just enough to cause a distraction. By the nature of Tomoe River being a lightweight paper it has some transparancy but it’s not the end of the world’ scenarios, it’s fairly light. The show through on something as thick as Rhodia 90gsm is very faint, almost completely opaque.

Bleedthrough on Moleskine paper

Moleskine paper - Bleedthrough

Ghosting on Tomoe River paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Ghosting

Ghosting on Rhodia paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Zero Bleedthrough

Feathering happens when ink on the page dries into a veiny looking tree. Lines don’t look sharp or crisp anymore. I can’t stand it! It is a true test of quality if paper can avoid this when writing with a fountain pen. Good news – Tomoe River paper excels in this category and shows absolutely no feathering at all 🙂

Zero feathering on Tomoe River paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Zero Feathering

Feathering on Moleskine paper

Moleskine notebook - Feathering

Shading is the variation between the light and dark parts of a written line. This is one property which makes writing with fountain pens stand out. Some people find it quirky, others distracting. I love it. This is more of an ink quality, but paper can help – colours on Tomoe River pop!

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Shading

Shimmer is when ink with particles, shine and sparkle in the light. J. Herbin 1670 inks come with gold particles; Diamine Shimmering inks have a range with gold or silver…forget the gel pens, fountain pens can do it too.

Sheen is when ink looks as though it has a metallic finish. It is more apparent when you get the right angle under the light. Sheen can be gentle and sit around the edges or it may completely cover the base colour of ink. For me, the more the better! Sheen is not just about the ink, paper and pen often play an important role. Pen – wetter the better. Paper, well, let’s just say that Tomoe River is the champion when it comes to showing off this quality.

Herbin Emerald of Chivor is beautiful green teal ink which has both sheen and shimmer which makes it simply the best 🙂

Taroko Design notebooks are a great first step into the amazing world of Tomoe River paper – great for travelling and using as a refill. However, sometimes you need something a bit meatier to work with. After discussing with Taroko Designs creator, Steven (interview here), we helped refine some ideas and proudly announce Enigma.

Currently available in pocket A6, lots more pages to fill… Steven is working on an A5 version too so keep with us for more info 🙂

Taroko Design
Stories

An Interview with Steven from Taroko Design

Taroko Design

I have just finished my A5 Taroko dot notebook when it hit me…I don’t know a lot about the brand or the makers… Quick nosy Google search took me to their Etsy and Facebook page, but that did not satisfy my curiosity. The notebooks are incredibly popular (A5 dot is currently sold out), so I have set myself a mission to explore the brand, notebooks and paper in a 3-part blog 🙂

So we thought we would get Steven to share something of his background and love of stationery. I had a great time chatting and geeking out with him. Enjoy!

Interview with Steven Chang from Taroko Design

Tell me a little about your background.  What was the impulse to start making your own notebooks? We’re a small studio based in Taipei, Taiwan, and our story really started with the purchase of my first fountain pen, a Pilot Kakuno, several years back. With the fountain pen in hand, I was surprised at the difficulty of finding the right paper/notebook products in the market to use the fountain pen with. One thing lead to another (trying lots of different paper+pen combinations) and we’ve managed to secure three types of fountain pen friendly paper to make products with: Tomoegawa 52 and 68 gms, and our own Taroko Orchid paper at 80gsm. The mission is really to provide more choices to fountain pen users where most paper products cater to the rollerball/gel pen usages.

What’s the story behind your studio? After my earlier career in tech (product manager for notebooks and mobile phones), I decided to pursuit an industrial design degree. While taking the degree program, classmate at the time is my current studio partner Wenwen Liu. We decided to group up and start the studio a few months before graduation to keep the learning process going, by taking on projects as a team. Our past projects included graphic and floor plan design for photography exhibitions, souvenirs for tourist centers, and product branding and packaging. The creation of notebooks under the Taroko brand gives us the freedom of implementing our ideas (versus having to adhere to client design guidelines), as well as choosing the type of material that goes into our notebooks.

How did you come up with the brand name? Taroko is named after Taroko Gorge in my hometown of Hualien. Most people would think of Taiwan as an industrialized island packed with 20 million people, but there are still natural wonders on the eastern portion of the island. We will be incorporating elements from Taroko National Park into our notebooks in the future. 🙂 Here are some references on Taroko Gorge/National Park: http://www.earthtrekkers.com/taroko-national-park/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taroko_National_Park

What would you be making if not notebooks? Leathercrafts. Love the experience of making things by hand that will age well with usage. An important lesson from design school days is to always make things with your hand, draw with pen and pencils, and suppress the urge to jump right into Photoshop or a 3D rendering program. So we are always cutting and binding paper during our prototyping stage.

What do you attribute the success and/or demand for stationery today to? The product has to deliver a kind of “experience” to the customer, from the weight of the notebook, suprisingly light to unexpected heft. The touch of the materials used, and the subtle feedback of the nib sliding across the paper. It is a difficult balance to hold between achieving that unique experience and manufacturing constraints in delivering products, but I believe that’s what most leading brands are striving to achieve.

What’s your favourite item of stationery in your personal collection? It’s a little folding hand knife I bought in Nishiki market in Tokyo, and I use it to sharpen pencils with. The knife is handcrafted by a Japanese artisan, and when I use it to sharpen pencils, it serves as a reminder of the trip, as well as liberate the aroma from the pencil wood.

And finally – what is your current paper+pen+ink combo? Tomoe River paper 68gsm (of course) with Pilot Justus 95 filled with Sailor Seasons Yama-dori (teal blue). The Pilot Justus 95, with its adjustable nib hardness, is perfect for when I need to write interchangeably between English and Chinese. And the Yama-dori gives a wonderful red sheen on Tomoe River paper.

Thanks to Steven for sparing his time to give this great interview. We wish you and Taroko Design best of luck.

Watch out for Part 2 of Taroko Trilogy – we’ll focus a bit more on their notebooks.

Part 3 will be all about Tomoe River paper. (Hint: it’s amazing!:) )

Taroko Design notebooks are available here.