Review of the Clairefontaine My.essential Paginated Notebook & Gfeller leather cover #Clairefontaine #Exaclair #Gfeller

A few weeks back, I was delighted to find that I had won a Clairefontaine My.Essential Paginated notebook with a Gfeller leather cover.  The leather cover was a special add-on for the giveaway, but the My.Essential Paginated notebook is a brand-new Clairefontaine product that will be available later this year.

  My.essential paginated notebook

Size: A5/148 × 210 mm/5.83 × 8.27 inches
No. Pages: 96 sheets/192 pages
Format: Lined with numbered pages
Paper Weight: 90 gsm
Paper Color: Ivory with gray lines
Binding: Sewn
Extras: 8-page blank Table of Contents,  Front and Back corner pockets, Color coordinated ribbon bookmark elastic band, 8 perforated sheets
Pages 169-184 are perforated for easy removal.

My.Essential Paginated Notebook: Look and Feel
The My.Essential Paginated notebook has a textured cardboard cover, with color-coordinated bookmark ribbon and elastic band.  The cover is heavy enough to resist bending, but light enough to make it a good carry.   The Clairefontaine logo is embossed in the lower right-hand corner.  The copy that I won has is tan colored, but will probably be available in Black, Red, Green, and Blue as well.


The paper is an ivory Clairefontaine 90 gsm, with a smooth satin finish.  Clairefontaine paper is fountain-pen friendly even at 80 gsm or 85 gsm, so you know there will be little bleed-through or show-through. 

The pages lie flat with very little slope even in the middle of the book.

The main body of the book has paginated pages, with a title box at top, and a page number in lower, outer corners of the page.  The last eight pages of the book are perforated for easy removal.  That seems a little odd to me since the pages are numbered, and I would have preferred not having the perforation.  That's a matter of preference though.  It does mean you have some pages for testing your pens or other media, that you could just get rid of later.

Four sheets/eight pages at the beginning of the book are formatted for indexing.

Both the front and back inside covers have a corner pocket.

The book is sewn, with sturdy even stitching, but it is flexible enough... allow you to fold the book back almost flat, if you want to write in it without a surface to support it.

The frontispiece has a place for you to write your identity or title information.  The back gives you some information on Clairefontaine paper.

About the only bone I have to pick (and it's a might puny bone) is in regards to the elastic band.  You can see where it is attached on the inside of the back cover.  It doesn't hurt anything, and is common in books of this kind.  In fact, I can't see how they could work around it.  It's just one of the things that bugs me, but isn't a deal-breaker.

Gfeller Leather Cover: Look and Feel
Do you have to have a refillable cover for your My.essential? Not absolutely, but it would sure help to keep the cardboard cover unbent and looking nice.  The Gfeller Leather cover that was custom-made to fit my notebook is sweet one.

It's a lighter tan color that coordinates well with the tan My.essential. You don't really see that when the book is in the cover, but it's one of the things that resonates with me.

The stitching is small and even with thread the same color as the cover.  The leather is a smooth grain with just a hint of texture.  I believe it will become more textured, and possibly darker with use.

The notebook fits snugly, but there is enough give in the leather flaps that you can slide the notebook in and out easily.  A cutout on the right side lets you use the elastic band from the My.essential.

There is no embossing or debossing except for the Gfeller logo on the inside of the cover.

This cover is heavy enough to be sturdy, but thin enough that it doesn't add a lot of weight to the notebook.

To learn more about these leather covers, you can find a Rhodia Drive interview with Steve Derricott of Gfeller Casemakers here.

Clairefontaine Paper: Performance

I plan to use my copy of the My.essential to keep track of recipes that I find on the internet.  I won't be writing the entire recipe, because I wouldn't want to get stains on my beautiful Gfeller cover, but I'm writing down the ingredients and where I found the recipe, so I can look it up, if needed, and can use the book when making my shopping lists for the week.

I used a J. Herbin's fountain pen with Blue Pervenche ink to write this one (because it's my favorite color, and because most of my fountain pens and inks are packed away at the moment, while I get new curtains installed).

Fountain Pen Drawing
I used the J. Herbin fountain pen and ink again, with J. Herbin's Ocean Bleu in a Lamy Vista for the darker tones.  In some areas, I totally saturated the page, working wet into wet.

My scanner picked up more show-through than I can see with the eye.  There were a few areas of bleed-through but they only occurred at the lower bottom of the dress where I worked the Ocean Bleu into the paper.  I don't think you would be likely to see bleed-through with writing.

Water-soluble markers
I was pleasantly surprised when I used my Tombow and Distress water-soluble markers on this paper.  I used the markers dry for the most part, adding the bubbles as a test for lots of water.  I fully expected both show-through and bleed-through.  There was none. Zero, even where I really saturated it.  There was no dimpling or buckling in the wet areas either.  Now, I'm going to cover myself, and admit that I still believe there would be bleed-through and dimpling if you used enough water over a large enough area.  This isn't water-color paper.  But this drawing proves you can get away with quite a bit before that happens.

Colored Pencil
Another nice surprise happened when I tested my newest set of colored pencils.  They are woodless pencils, fairly soft, and I expected to get streaks and to not be able to build values well.  Colored pencils prefer a paper with tooth.

So I did get streaks - I left the violet background the way it looks with a single unblended layer of color so you can see.

However, the minute I started blending, the color just smooshed together beautifully, allowing me to layer and blend several times.  At least six layers of color in some areas, and I was able to use a technique for coloring glassy gems that is very popular at the moment.  When I rubbed my finger across the color, I didn't pick up a lot of pigment--something that is always a concern with unfixed colored pencil.

I'll cover myself again--not all colored pencils are the same, and I'd definitely test a brand in a corner or on a back page before going all out.  While I wouldn't recommend this notebook as a colored pencil book, I will say it is one that you can use with colored pencil.

The Clairefontaine My.essential Paginated Notebook is both rugged enough and light enough to carry, though the cardboard cover could be bent, if not easily.  The paper is satin smooth, providing a lovely writing experience, and it has very little show-through or bleed-through, even with wet media.  I wouldn't recommend it as a watercolor or colored pencil book, but you can use both to good effect.

The paginated format, and the ability to use several types of media, makes it a good choice for bullet journaling, or keeping track of just about anything you can think of, whether just for writing or for visual journaling. 

The outside spine is wide enough for titles or dates.  I think a stack of the notebooks would look cool sitting on a desk or a shelf, and I intend to have such a stack as the years go by.

The Gfeller Leather custom cover would have to be purchased separately, but would definitely be an elegant and useful addition.  The two combined would make a great gift.

Disclaimer: I won a copy of the Clairefontaine My.essential paginated notebook with a Gfeller leather cover in a Rhodia Drive giveaway here.  I was asked to review it, but that was not a condition of the giveaway, and I would have reviewed it anyway.  All opinions are my own.