Everyday Carry: Pen Case Deconstructed

December 15, 2016 @ 4:22 pm | Filed under: ,

pen case contents

I put this on Instagram and decided to carry it over here in case anyone needs stocking stuffer ideas. 😉 The Amazon links are affiliate but not the JetPens links and the rest.

Everyday pen carry, deconstructed. Washi samples, a beloved Hokusai print I cut out of an old desk calendar, postage stamps, scissors. Hobonichi stencil, Galison notepad (last sheet, wah!), and a Reset Girl “planner honey” clip. I think the washi samples were a freebie included with an order from Etsy seller Cute Things From Japan.

Favorite drawing pens, left to right: Zebra brush pen, Kuretake brush pen in gray ink (my new love), Tombow blue body brush pen, hard tip (which I find myself reaching for more and more often—I like it better than the UniPin or Micron), Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (this one has been a total game-changer for me).

Favorite writing pens: Lamy Safari (pink), medium nib, blue-black ink. Pilot Metropolitan fountain pens, both medium nibs, one gray ink (I forget which, from a Goulet gray sampler), one my dream ink, Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai, a deep navy blue.

I always carry a few Prismacolor pencils with me. Turquoise is essential to my well-being and then I always pack an orange, green, or ruby red/fuschia shade for contrast. I use these for sketching and fancy headers as well as for calling out key events in my planner, or coloring in my to-do boxes. And then I like to pack one or two Faber Castell watercolor pencils for easy planner/journal decoration. Deep blue is my favorite. (That link goes to a set of 36, with a price tag way beyond my art supply budget. I have exactly three colors of these pencils—blue, cranberry, and grape. They layer wonderfully.)

All of these inks and pigments are dreamy in my Hobonichi Cousin and Weeks planners, my Midori Travelers Notebook (I favor their 002 grid inserts), and on the flecked, recycled papers of the impossibly lovely Wild Simplicity Daybook inserts.

Floral pen case from MochiThings (I recommend watching for their sales because otherwise they’re pricey). I carry my tiny watercolor palette and waterbrushes in a separate pouch, but they fit in this case too if I leave a few pens home.

For the papery side of things—see these posts:
Planner Love
Notebooks and Sketchbooks and Planners, Oh My

pen case and planners

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Hanni says:

    I adore the pen case. I have been looking for something like that. Would love to see the inside when all of your stuff is in it.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      That I can do! This post was sparked by someone asking the same question. I posted a pic of the inside on IG yesterday (on my planner/sketchbook account) and today I decided to pull everything out and itemize. 🙂 Link

      I’ll add that pic above when I get a sec! 🙂

      • Hanni says:

        Thanks so much! I have loved watching your journey of learning to sketch and draw. I want to start myself but I’m nervous. Have you always been a person who doodled etc? Or did it start when you made it a goal to sketch everyday? Wi seeing if there is hope for a person like me who has never done it naturally but has always been inspired by others.

        • Melissa Wiley says:

          Hanni, start, start!!! I wasn’t a real doodler before…I used to try to draw as a kid and was always so frustrated by my inability to make anything look the way I wanted it to. In college I took a costume design course that included a brief unit on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. That book blew me away!! And in doing those exercises in class, I was astonished at how much better I got. But then I dropped it again…for like 20 years. I started this daily practice with Lisa Congdon’s line drawing class at Creativebug in fall 2014. From there I jumped to Sketchbook Skool and was really inspired and energized by those classes. (They are offering a new work-at-your-own-pace course for $29 called How to Draw With No Talent!) 🙂 🙂 🙂 I guess actually I started with a Creativebug class on art journaling (Dawn DeVries Sokol) before the Congdon line drawing class, and I liked that one but found that what I really wanted was to learn to draw (vs art journaling which I always admire when I see other people’s but don’t seem drawn to in my own practice).

          Since then, Creativebug has added SO MANY great drawing classes (all for your $5/mo subscription). I especially like the ones that are Daily Drawing Challenges because they walk you through how to draw specific things. (I’m currently obsessed with spatulas. Don’t ask me why. Just something really satisfying about that shape, LOL.)

          I would also point you toward Jane LaFazio’s online courses (or in person if you’re lucky enough to be in the area)—I encountered her via Sketchbook Skool and then took one of her online nature journaling classes. LOVED IT. And then she came to San Diego for a one-day workshop version of the nature journaling/watercoloring class, so I signed up for that. And oh my! So awesome. I have pix here somewhere of the work I did in that class. You could do a search for Jane LaFazio here.

          Other wonderful instructors: Liz Steel and Roz Stendahl. Their online classes are video-based and include extremely detailed PDF handouts to download.

          But before you go that route, I would recommend trying out some of Koosje Koene’s free “Draw Tip Tuesday” videos on Youtube! So good and totally doable. Search YT for them and then maybe scroll back to some earlier ones and work forward. You’ll see that a lot of the stuff in my sketchbook comes from Koosje’s lessons.

          Honestly, I don’t have natural drawing talent. I think in words, not pictures, and I can’t just sit down and draw something out of my head and have the angle look right. I’m frustrated a LOT of the time by my shortcomings. But natural drawing talent isn’t required to be able to *learn* to draw. If you can sign your name, you can already make all the basic shapes that every single drawing is composed of. That was one of the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain revelations that floored me, way back when. Anyone can learn. Danny Gregory (the other co-founder of SB Skool along with Koosje) makes a distinction between small-a art (which we can all make) and capital-A Art (you know, museum stuff). 😉 I’m not striving for Art, just art. My sketchbook journey has made me really happy. About every ten pages I draw something I actually love. 🙂 That’s plenty for me, for now! I usually mess up the page with something else, but sketching is truly something I do that is about process, not product. The pens and paints feel so good in my hand. Mark-making, color-swirling–it’s incredibly satisfying. It feels good, too, to have this thing I do that is purely about personal satisfaction—because on the flip side, there’s writing, which is the Thing I have always done, the Thing that defines me—and because I’m good at it, it’s the Thing I do for a living. Which…puts you in a different relationship with the Thing. If that makes sense.

          At times I yearn for a better eye, a stronger sense of artistic vision in my sketches (like the brilliant creative vision I see manifested in the work of the sketchbook artists I admire on Instagram), and as I said I get plenty frustrated with my fumbling, my un-originality. But that’s all before and after the fact. DURING, when the pen is in my hand, all of that drops away and I experience the pure, absorbed joy of mark-making. That’s what keeps me at it, not a sense of progress (although when I look back, I can see that I have improved).

          I hope you’ll dive in! Let me know if you wind up taking any classes…

          Oh and I’ll add that a lot of instructors weigh in very strongly against sketching in pencil, on the grounds that it makes beginners too fussy, too prone to erase. I will say that while I understand that thinking [and do a fair amount of sketching directly in ink myself, because I’m addicted to pens], for *me* that advice was a misdirect. I spent about a year and a half obediently eschewing pencil before I had a light bulb moment of: OH WAIT, I LOVE HOW PENCIL FEELS GOING ON THE PAGE. And boom, just like that things opened wide. I love pencil sketching and then putting ink over it. That suits me really well. Diminished a lot of my frustration over ‘ruining’ things because it takes me a few tries to get the shape right. And I just plain like the texture! It’s funny that with everything else in life (curriculum, eh?) my entire approach is: take what works and do my own thing, but with drawing I was quite cowed by authority at first. 😉 😉 🙂

          This got so long I should maybe make it its own post!

  2. Penny says:


    My eldest uses one of these for her daily calligraphy needs 🙂

    Happy Christmas Lissa 🙂

  3. Susanne Barrett says:

    I love seeing the contents and then the inside of your pen case, Melissa! Very cool!

    I am a devoted fan of Waterman fountain pens after receiving one as a college graduation gift. Unfortunately, I found out (the hard way) that transporting fountain pens up and down “the hill” from our Pine Valley home to San Diego and back tends to affect the seals of even Waterman fountain pens. My beloved pen “blew up” after too many trips from 3700 feet elevation to 500 feet and back. 🙁

    So I replaced it with this gem–a Waterman Hemisphere stainless steel fine point–which I caught on sale for $35 on Amazon, and I adore it. It’s in my hand constantly: https://www.amazon.com/Waterman-Hemisphere-Essential-Stainless-Fountain/dp/B005PEHDXI/ref=sr_1_3?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1481915420&sr=1-3&keywords=waterman+fountain+pen

    I keep it for “up the hill” use only, transporting bottled ink and a dip pen in a ZipLok for writing needs “down the hill.”

    I’m really wanting to try the brush pens; they look amazing!

    Thank you for this peek! Now it’s back to commenting on poems on this last day of the Playing with Poetry Workshop at Brave Writer!! And welcome to the team!! 😀

    Susanne 🙂

  4. Dana says:

    Beautiful pen case! I especially love the papers!