Sunday, April 22, 2012

Product Review: Rickshaw Bagworks Folio

4/18/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, Pitt Artist Pen
One of my favorite sketching locations is in coffee shops, but to sketch there successfully, one has to be discreet. If I’m caught, my “models” are likely to become self-conscious or even offended and move away. So I like to pick out an ideal table quickly (one that faces at a right angle to other people), sit down quietly, and then become invisible. The trick is to be able to observe as many people as possible without being observed (much) myself.

Opening up traditional watercolors is out of the question. Digging around constantly in my bag for pens or brushes might attract attention. In addition, a large or horizontal format sketchbook screams “sketchbook,” so I stick to books in sizes and formats that look more like journals (writing in a journal never attracts attention; I remember that from my grad school poetry-writing days).

Rickshaw Folio cover
After much shopping around, I found the ideal coffee shop sketch kit: a folio intended for a 5¼” x 8¼” Moleskine sketchbook. (I discovered it on Plannerisms, where blogger Laurie keeps journal-keeping geeks like me up to date on all the latest personal planners, notebooks and related bags and covers.) The Smartphone Folio, handmade by Rickshaw Bagworks of San Francisco, is made of a durable Cordura nylon (and other fabrics) in your choice of dozens of colors that can be mixed and matched with trim colors to your custom order at no extra cost. Rickshaw’s website includes a fun, design-it-yourself tool that can make trying out color combinations last all afternoon!

But back to my sketch kit: a zip-around zipper keeps everything secure, and the Folio fits into my (admittedly not very small) everyday bag. Inside the front cover are two vertical pockets intended for pens and a smartphone. I use both to hold a variety of pens, pencils, markers and waterbrushes, and they are easy to slip out quickly and quietly without a lot of digging around. A zipped compartment behind these pockets can hold a passport or other documents securely. A small transparent pocket is ideal for business cards or ID.

Folio front pockets
A protective flap keeps the cover of the sketchbook from getting marred by the pens. The back cover of the Moleskine slides into the flap in the back cover, which also has a second transparent pocket for small papers. (A Global Art Materials Hand Book sketchbook in the 5¼” x 8¼” size will also fit in the Folio, although the Hand Book’s cover is very slightly thicker, so it’s a bit snug. I use both Hand Book and Moleskine sketchbooks, so they can be interchanged easily in the Folio.)

When I first saw photos of the Folio, I wondered whether the bulk of pens in the front pockets would make the sketchbook slant upwards, making sketching uncomfortable or impossible. On my first field test, the Folio passed this test beautifully. The pages lie open flat without having to remove the sketchbook. I can sketch, slip out various pens or brushes I need, and then sketch some more, all without looking like I’m doing anything but writing in a journal.

Moleskine sketchbook in Folio


  1. Am absolutely loving your blog! Thanks so much for all the tips! I wondered if you had spotted the Customized Classic Moleskine Folio - maybe it's new!

    Happy Sketching from one Urban Sketcher to Another!
    Kathy Crabbe

    1. Thanks for your comments, Kathy! I'm going to go check out your blog now.

  2. Have you checked out the Jet Pens website for bags? Perfect for using as inserts to other bags. Can hold all your art supplies. i bought the small one for my Rickshaw bag.

    1. Yes, Jetpens has some great bags and pencil cases! I just got a pencil case to use a small divider in my Rickshaw.

  3. I know. So many lovely options. I still have an old case made by RhinoSkin, which was originally for a Palm Pilot but perfectly fits the smaller Moleskines and pens. I also have another case that I ordered way back when that is like an army khaki green that holds small Moleskines and pens. This Jetpen case hols the medium size Moleskine, and they have a larger one that holds a large version or even a macbook air supposedly. The one I got, the A5, supposedly holds an iPad 2, but I have the iPad 4 and it doesn't hold it. Too small. Anyway...

  4. After reading your review, I had failed to consider the discreet factor. I figured I have bags to transport large amounts, but it was the small and discreet that is the challenge. Thank you for your guidance.

    I had narrow my options to the following: (a)W&N Watercolour Travel Bag (b)Maxexpedition Beef Pocket Organizer (c) RickShaw Moleskine Folio (d)Tom Bihn Field Journal [available in 2016] or their (e) Small Cafe Bag.

    W&N width is little too large, but made for traveling art. Maxexpedition is nice size and reasonable, just not sure how it will hold a journal. RickShaw's might be too thin to hold watercolor set. Tom Bihn Journal looks perfect, but isnt available yet plus expensive; their cafe bag is a nice option (available sz S, M & L)...[thanks for the jetpen bag organizer idea above]

    I just came across the Art Tookit last night. Very nice --

    I want to carry sm WC Set, small bottle, 3 pencil+pens, travel brush, collapse water cup, trading cards or 5x8.25 journal....BUT easy to transport around....and discreet to use.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into your sketch kit! Happy sketching!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...