Fantastical Escape

An annual pilgrimage of sorts used to happen for me when I lived in Texas:  attending the fall Renaissance Festival. Billed as the world’s largest such event (both in size and permanence, at least back then), it was always a glorious day of escape into world of visual (and culinary) delights.

I haven’t been to a RenFest since moving to Ohio in 2005, despite having two within a few hours drive. Not sure why I haven’t upheld this fall ritual, perhaps because I feared the local versions would not live up to the legend that was the Texas Renaissance Festival.

This past Sunday I finally made the journey to the Ohio Renaissance Festival and thoroughly enjoyed myself. With wenches and dragons and knights and fools aplenty, it was a most enjoyable step back in time to wander and shed the worries of modern life. This weekend’s theme was “Fantasy” mixed historical expectations but still delighted. Enough chatter! A picture feast awaits you below…Huzzah!

All photos as shot, unretouched, and ©Gary Varner, 2018.













Following the White Rabbit Down the Rabbit Hole

Where is the border between sanity achieved through practicality and impulsive lust lived vicariously through bright, shiny things? I confess to having owned more stationery supplies in pencils, pens, inks and notebooks at various times than I was capable of using in my lifetime, unless modern science figures out how to extend human lifespan to 200 years.

SABLE as they call it (stash acquisition beyond life expectation) was first coined, some say, by knitters. Makes sense, every knitter I’ve known had closets of yarn they’ll likely never use up in their lifetimes. For stationery nuts, it means boxes and shelves of pens, drawer after drawer of bottled inks, and closets full of notebooks of all sizes and shapes, and much more. What drives such behavior? Definitely a first-world problem, it seems to derive from the pleasure one gets acquiring, more than using. There are many rationales to SABLEing:  hoarding because “someday I’ll need this and I’ll have it” or “look how much I saved buying a dozen of these versus one or two” or “I can always sell or trade it later” or the most dangerous one:  “that’s really cool and I don’t have that one.” Of course, relative to fine art or vintage automobiles, paper and pencils are cheap, at least by the single or dozen. The cheap justification tends to fly out the window when the laws of multiplication take over.

Like weight loss, I’ve swung up and down over the years in my battle against SABLE. It always feels great to minimize and reach that noble stage of stash = near-term usage levels, but it never stays there for long. There’s always a deal, there’s always a fear of running out of a special pencil or notebook you think they’ll quit making, and there’s always the fresh nudge from suddenly writing more in the notebooks, pushing more ink through pens, and grinding through more pencils evidenced by the sudden increase in pencil potpourri (sharpening shavings). Any one of those is an open door for a fresh taste of how good it feels to buy, acquire, stash-up on the beloved stationery goodies.

Seasoned SABLErs will always counter with “there are worst addictions” and while that’s true, justified like that assumes we’e all supposed to have at least one addiction and hey, stationery is a minor one that harms no one (unlike many of the more serious addictions). I never hear SABLErs mutter, “I can stop any time” and not because they think they can or can’t, but because they don’t see it as one of THOSE addictions. The only apparent harm is to your wallet, maybe your spousal relationship, and in extreme SABLEing, compromising the structural integrity of your house.

As I write this, I want to believe I’m finally on the path to redemption. I’ve systematically culled and reduced twice this year, and currently in a third wave I believe will get me to the promised land:  nothing kept that won’t be consumed within a year, more or less. But those damn Field Notes Dime Novels…had to grabbed eight packs because they are so me…and yes, the four boxes of Blackwing Volumes 1 were necessary because they won’t be around long and they’re round!. I guess the ultimate question is not how to stop this behavior, but rather what does a fashionable White Rabbit follower wear this season for excursions down the velvet-lined rabbit hole? Inquiring SABLE minds want to know.


Had a great, intense journaling session this morning, which included an unplanned (best kind!) sidetrack into thoughts about “journey.” Sharing a part here in hopes you find my thoughts useful in prompting your own thinking on journey. It is shared as written and unedited, but I think you can read my writing well enough to make out all the words.

For the stationery-tools curious:  written with a Franklin-Christoph P66 (Masuyama italic cursive nib) fountain pen, Robert Oster Caffe Crema ink, in a Nanami Seven Seas A5 Writer journal.


Baron Fig’s Unfinish: Bold Play or Askew 2?

There’s been a flurry of reviews on Baron Fig’s latest Confidant, the Unfinish. When I received my review copy from Baron Fig, I decided to wait a bit for the early reviewer fog to lift before sharing my take on their latest creative notebook twist.

I have to admit I was not a fan of the Askew. I blame years and years of journaling using rule pages as setting an almost religious association in my mind between journals and straight, ruled lines. After all, to me, journals are meant for serious thoughts, not playtime. So when the chaos appeared between the covers of an Askew, I knew I’d never use one. Enter their second artistic twist in Unfinish, and I have a different feel for this one.

The numerous, faint, unfinished illustrations on many (not all) pages of Unfinish don’t bother me and they’re light enough for users to write through them. But then, you would not “have fun” as Baron Fig implores in the embossed slug on the back cover if you simply ignored them and wrote through.

Full specs are below, but let’s take a quick tour of Unfinish. It starts with the box and oh my, what a box! I love journals in boxes since it leaves me with a fun extra that’s useful long after the journal fills up. In this case, the blue box matching the pretty blue linen of Unfinish covers shows a spaceman in ghostly white and space thematic icons and little illustrations in a varnish hit that shows only when you tilt the box. A really nice effect that brings a smile to your face when you discover it’s there.

Opening the box there’s a loose sheet with a headless horse with a message on the reverse side to guide you through using the book:  give the horse a head or don’t and use it as a notebook…but above all, “…go have fun.” And that’s the essence of this book:  it’s a playful journey through the journal sketching to complete the unfinished illustrations or write through it as a notebook (or draw through as a sketchbook).

With any journal these days, once you’re past the aesthetics it all comes down to the paper:  how does it write? Unfinish continues Baron Fig’s growing reputation for providing quality paper in their journals and Unfinish comes through as paper that’s quite good with fountain pen and graphite alike. Although my fountain pen test did well, for my personal preference there’s a bit more feedback from the nibs than I like, but the ink lays down very well with no feathering and show-through only when forced with excessive ink lay-down. I wouldn’t hesitate using my pens in it at all, but I’d still prefer my current go-to paper for my pens (Rhodia’s Heritage notebooks with Clairfontane paper). Of course, points go to Unfinish for providing the whimsical discovery in turning each page to see what new illustration needs a bit to finish. The blank paper can be used with guide sheets behind as well, for those who don’t like writing on lineless pages.

Graphite feels great on this paper with just a tiny bit of smearing, but since my pencil of choice tends to be a Blackwing, they are prone to smear on a lot of papers. The smearing here only shows up on the really heavy lay-downs, as the photos show.

In my testing, graphite did not have nearly the amount of feedback as I got with my pens, but was a very nice and smooth feeling.

My closing thoughts are that this is a fun journal that provides just enough whimsy to keep you from getting too serious and does indeed encourage you to have fun! Die-hard journalers probably won’t find this as useful as infrequent journalers, but it does appeal to doodlers who also like to write. As Baron Fig states inside the back cover, “You’re only as good as your last doodle.” Words to have fun by, for sure.


  • Box and cover in non-repro blue
  • 5.4″ x 7.7″
  • 192 blank pages, 12 of them perforated (at the back)
  • 90 gsm acid-free paper
  • Page illustrations in non-repro blue

Unfinish can be purchased at Baron Fig’s site.

I received Unfinish from Baron Fig with no expectations on their part for a positive review. My comments and thoughts reflect my time spent playing with the journal, and were not influenced by receiving this product for review.