Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Travel Sketchbook Issue – Resolved!

BroLeatherWorks sketchbook cover
For a while now I’ve been on a mission to reduce the weight and bulk of my sketch bag. Specifically, I’m trying to reduce the strain on my shoulder when I sketch standing up, and more generally, I want to minimize everything I carry in preparation for travel to Europe next month.

I’ve pulled out a lot of pens and other art materials over time, although my acceptable “bare essentials” keeps changing. The one thing that’s the most difficult to make smaller and lighter is my favorite sketchbook – an 8½” x 5½” Stillman & Birn – which is always the heaviest part of my sketching supplies. I’ve tried S & B’s 4” x 6” size, which is definitely lighter and less bulky, but the small page size leaves me feeling cramped.

A couple months ago while reading Mary Ann Moss’s blog, I had a light bulb moment. To prep for a trip to Italy, Mary Ann had stitched a stack of signatures in advance, and she was planning to pop one into her bag each day. Upon her return home, she would bind them all together into a single volume. Carry a series of thin, lightweight signatures on the go, then bind them all later at home: Sheer genius!
"The Stefano" sketchbook in the field.

I quickly realized that Mary Ann’s elegantly simple yet ingenious idea could be my solution, too – I’ve handbound books using the Coptic stitch, and I also know how to stitch single signatures. There was just one snag: Any sketchbook I use has to be stiff enough to support my attachable watercolor kit. A single signature wouldn’t cut it, so it would need some kind of cover. . . and that’s when I remembered Stefano!

Shortly before I saw Mary Ann’s blog post, I had read on Stefano Bramato’s blog that he was selling his handmade leather products on Etsy. Styled after the ever-popular Midori Traveler’s Notebook, which has an almost cult-like following of devotees, Stefano’s leather notebooks fasten with simple elastic bands, making them flexible and easily customizable. At this point, the light bulb in my head was a wildly flashing beacon: Get a sketchbook cover large enough to accommodate a signature of my favorite size pages! The leather cover would protect the pages and would also be stiff enough to support my clip-on watercolor box.

I immediately contacted Stefano, a sketcher in Italy whose delightful blog I read regularly. After a brief exchange of Etsy convos about the dimensions I needed and, specifically, how I would be using it, Stefano designed a custom sketchbook cover that would exactly accommodate my needs – at a very reasonable price. The Midori Traveler’s Notebook has always appealed to me in concept – it’s hard to resist something so simple, straightforward and therefore easily customizable – but the sizes that it comes in are too small for my sketching needs. Now I have one designed especially for my needs, handmade in Italy. He named the design after me, J but I like to call it “the Stefano.”

By the way, the Stefano has already done its share of traveling. Due to a U.S. Postal Service delivery mishap (not Stefano’s fault), my sketchbook cover came all the way from Italy and made it as far as my neighbor’s house – then got returned all the way back to Italy, where Stefano had to ship it to me again. I think it just means it was meant to travel. The next time it goes back to Europe, it will be in my bag!


  1. Hello Tina,
    thanks a lot for your great appreciation on our (your!) leather cover.
    I hope it will serve you as well as you deserve!

    THanks again!


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