“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” (Archilochus)
“…hedgehogs aren’t simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.” (Jim Collins)
At the start of 2017 I resolved to expand the range of inks in my possession and I’m happy to say it’s a resolution I’ve managed to keep to, buying both bottles and samples to test different makes and colours. This creates its own problems: i) where to keep the ink; and ii) how to keep track of what I’ve got. I haven’t really solved the first one, but I’ve made a start on the second. Enter the Hedgehog…
Like many people, when I first discovered the Midori Traveler’s Notebook I also stumbled on the vast array of stationery items that Midori also produces. They all seemed like a good idea at the time I bought them, but have mostly sat around my desk looking for a purpose in life. And so it was with a set of flash cards in the shape of a hedgehog. Nice enough to look at, but what on earth was I going to do with them?
With the number of inks I owned growing fast, I realised I needed to do something to keep a handle on what I had. My first attempt to catalogue my inks was with a Clairefontaine Age Bag notebook. Great idea I thought. Lots of high quality pure-white pages. What’s not to like? Well, a couple of things actually…
Sure the paper is good, but I really, really hate the way this book is put together. To say it’s not a lay-flat binding is an understatement. Call me squeamish, but I can’t quite bring myself to inflict the level of physical violence on a poor, defenceless book that is necessary to make it stay open at the page I’m interested in. Also, and presumably to save cost, the faux aged card covers are stuck on top of the spine tape, rather than integral to the binding.
The flaw in the plan with notebooks
There also some practical problems on the horizon. However you group inks and categorise them, if you use a book you are almost guaranteed to want to compare two inks that are on different pages. Short of tearing out pages, you’re going to struggle to make all the side-by-side comparisons you’ll want. Also, unless you’re brilliant at predicting how many inks of each colour you’re going to end up with, allowing enough space for each in (say) the blue section is going to be tricky.
Here’s where the Hedgehog comes in. It’s a stack of 80 flash cards, held together by a metal ring. The ring can be opened to add, remove, move cards, but you can just add a swatch for each new ink without worrying about any particular sequence.
I’ve taken to numbering each swatch and keeping a list of which ink the number corresponds to. I also try to “double up” on half of the swatch (i.e. two passes of the cotton bud) as a means of getting an idea about saturation and also to help spot things like sheen.
I like to compare how one ink looks against another. It helps me figure out what to make of a new ink, if I can look at it alongside one that I already know. The real utility of the Hedgehog is the ability to pull out several colours and compare them…
A set of flash cards will cost you around £3/$3. As well as hedgehogs you can have ducks, cats, dogs, bears, strawberries (you get the picture). I got mine from the Journal Shop, but Jet Pens and the Tokyo Pen Shop also sell them. I haven’t managed to figure what weight the paper is, but it’s plenty heavy enough and there’s been no hint of feathering, show-through or bleed-through.
Hedgehogs are truly wise creatures.