Can there be a sketchbook better than the two Perfect Sketchbooks? Technically speaking, I haven't tried drawing on this Arkademie sketchbook that I received yesterday yet, so I can't give you the verdict, but I can talk about the highlights.
Arkademie is the new company started by a friend James Lee, a designer and crafter who used to teach at LASALLE College of the Arts. Among the products he sells, there's this line of archival grade sketchbooks he said he wanted me to see.
The sketchbooks differ by paper weight. There are the sketchbooks with 120gsm and 170gm Swedish Maple Ivory paper. Those are targeted at designers. Then there's the 220gsm Fabriano Rosaspina paper targeted at watercolor and mixed media artists. The sketchbooks with the Maple paper are called Designer Journals while the one with Fabriano paper is called the Artist's Sketchbook.
The sketchbook with thicker paper only has 60 pages while the other two has 112 and 120 pages.
The covers are made of leather, cowhide vegetable tanned. There are only two colours currently, black and tanned, but the colours are not available to all series. The tanned one looks nicer to me.
That's the leather strap that holds the covers together. All the stitching are done by hand by the Society of Physically Disabled (Singapore) (SPD). I've got several sketchbooks made by SPD in the past and the quality of their bookbinding is second to none.
Each sketchbook has a small leather bookmark.
The Fabriano Rosaspina paper has nice deckle edges top and bottom.
The Rosaspina paper is fine grain paper with 60% cotton content. I've not used this type of paper before. Reviews that I've found online are mostly positive. Fabriano is a reputable paper manufacturer so I don't really have any worries here. The paper is off-white.
The Artist's Sketchbook also has a small leather loop to hold a pen.
The binding quality looks good. These look like they are going to be very durable sketchbooks. The pages are stitched together. When opened, there's a gap between the spine and the cover.
The sketchbooks do not open flat though. I was told they would lay flat after some use. So the leather needs some seasoning before it can be softer.
However, the cover, front and back, are actually quite stiff that they can be considered hardcovers.
This is the Swedish Maple paper. It's off-white too. The paper is very smooth. It should be great for pen and ink, and pencil. I don't think markers will be suitable as the paper isn't really that thick.
As you can tell, these are premium sketchbooks. James told me that the reason he wanted to make these sketchbooks is because archival grade sketchbooks are difficult to find. The paper he used are rated as permanent paper with certain ISO certification.
Quality comes with a price. These sketchbooks are not cheap. The A5 landscape Artist's Sketchbook cost SGD $97 (~USD $70). That's more expensive compared to the customized sketchbook that I got SPD to make for me (SGD $55 for a hardcover Arches sketchbook).
For artists who demand a top quality archival sketchbook, there's now the Arkademie sketchbooks.
One area of concern for these sketchbooks is the maintenance required for the leather. Leather in humid climate can be susceptible to mold attack. I've problems with mold attacking my sketchbooks even when they are not leather bound, so I'm apprehensive about these Arkademie sketchbooks with so much leather use. I'll see how it goes in the months to come. I'll put out a detailed review when I've filled up the sketchbook.