I first heard about Anand Prakash a few years ago when I read a footnote in a review of Indian fountain pens; the note was very complimentary and talked about how old blueprints had been saved and recycled into notebook covers and the like. I was intrigued by this and took a trip to the website and sure enough there were the blueprint notebooks and a whole host of other wonderful things. I purchased a few items as gifts and was very impressed and then this year I ordered quite a few things and decided to review them.
Now as this promises to be quite a long review you will definitely need a good supply of coffee (or tea), and good supply of cookies and/or cake and if you don’t have time to read the whole review please feel free to dip in and just read the bits that interest you.
I am aware that not everyone will have heard of Anand Prakash so before jumping into the review I just wanted to provide a little background on the company and how it operates.
Anand Prakash runs a very ethical business and produces some genuinely beautiful pieces of stationery, each of which comes with its own story. To help me highlight what I mean by this I’d like to quote directly from the website page about Indigo:
“Our Indigo range of products uses authentic Indigo-dyed textiles sourced from village cooperatives that are keeping alive the traditional art of natural Indigo extraction and dyeing. Every journal comes with a booklet that speaks about the origin, extraction process and the history of Indigo.”
This is the company you are dealing with; I have no doubt it would be very easy to source mass produced materials that would meet the criteria but this would simply be the easy route to mass production; and when you go down this road you see the end of traditional skills and the communities that rely upon them.
Personally, I like knowing that my notebooks aren’t 100% mass produced perfect but do have little differences because that tells me someone, somewhere, made this by hand.
Ordering was something of an experience; the last time I ordered from them I just put in my card number and that was that. Since then card security has tightened and it wasn’t that easy; so, I contacted customer services who politely advised me to reorder as there may have been a glitch in the system, I did and the glitch continued.
So, I wrote to the store instead and explained what had happened and how I now had two orders but only wanted one and would it be possible for them to set up a PayPal invoice, which they did.
What surprised me was that Anand Prakash, himself, sorted out the mess I had managed to get into when trying to place an order, set up the PayPal invoice and kept in touch with me so I knew what was happening at every stage.
For someone who runs a busy company to take time out to resolve a problem with what, in the great scheme of things, was a small order tells you all you need to know about his commitment to customer service.
Once the order was sorted and shipped it arrived very quickly thanks to the nice people at FedEx and I got to unpack my order and as you can see from the image below everything was well packaged in bubble wrap with extra padding inside the box.
The following picture is a bit more of a staged shot so you can see what everything looked like once it was fully unpacked; the only addition to the picture is my Ranga 8B fountain pen.
The first thing that struck me was how well made everything is, I had one of those rare moments you sometimes have when you only need to look at something to know it’s something special.
Then I started to unpack my order and take a closer look, the majority of the notebooks use recycled papers made specially for them and each notebook comes with a leaflet explaining how this paper is made (see below) and anything that is not recycled is clearly labelled as ‘mill-made’ so it is very easy for you to choose. I ordered mostly recycled but did order two Kala Ghoda notebooks that contain mill made paper.
So now you have some background on my order and Anand Prakash it is time to press on with the review.
First up are the notebooks and notepads and the first of these is the Anonymous notebook; I will then wind up the review with the pen stand and the pencils.
Anonymous is a white pocket sized (15.3 x 11.2cm) hardback stitch bound notebook with brass corners and 50 sheets of mill made paper giving you 100 sides to write upon and it comes with brass bookmark. Aside from being beautifully made and finished what sets this notebook apart is that it is dedicated to those who live in anonymity but whose kindness to others has made a difference.
It’s not often you can say that you have been humbled by a piece of stationery but this one did it to me; I am touched by the fact that it even exists to recognise those we do not and will never know whose words or deeds have changed lives.
This is another small (15.3 x 11.2cm) handmade notebook that comes in either red or blue, I chose a red simply because I liked it. It is a handstitched hardback notebook with brass corners. The cover design is sketches of Indian birds printed on recycled paper and then applied to the hardback cover and the spine is covered with handloom red silk that sparkles a little when the sun hits it.
Inside the notebook you have 50 sheets/100 sides of recycled paper to write upon; and what you will notice is this paper is a light beige and feels slightly thicker and softer than most notebook paper having the texture cloth and you can still see fibres in the paper. There is no little pocket built into the rear cover like you find in a lot of notebooks and if there was, I think it would spoil the design.
The notebook comes with a brass bird bookmark, attached to gold thread, which looks like it is based on either a Sparrow or a Finch but either way it is a lovely addition to the notebook. Overall this is a wonderful little notebook and it is a pleasure to own; for me it is a collector’s piece, something I own but will never use but will take off the bookcase every once in a while, to admire.
The Jute notebook is a small (15.7 x 11.4cm) softcover notebook built from stitched sections that are then glued to the jute cover; the cover of my notebook has a brass elephant and comes with small but intricately made bookmark, that is attached to jute thread.
It has 50 sheets/100 sides of recycled paper; the paper is made from jute and is a natural off-white shade.
The attention to detail is amazing, for instance, when you look closely at the elephant on the front cover you can see it is stitched to the piece of recycled paper it is mounted on, but the thread used is a perfect colour match for the paper, so you don’t see it unless you are looking for it.
I like this notebook; it feels tough and durable the kind of notebook that you could toss into you bag and carry with you wherever you go, and it would always look good.
As part of my order I included a Khadi Journal, Khadi is a very significant fabric in India; it is hand spun and hand woven and its significance stretches far beyond it being a fabric it is, in fact, a movement started by Mohandas Gandhi himself and rather fittingly this journal comes with a bookmark of Gandhi.
The journal is approximately A5 sized (21.1 x 14.3cm) and has 72 sheets/144 sides to write upon. It is book bound with brass corners and has a Khadi fabric cover. The pages are the same recycled paper found in either the Birds or the Jute notebook.
This is a very tactile book that at a glance looks like a hardback book minus its dust jacket, however, as journals go this is one, I think, you will want to keep because it is the kind of book you want to commit your thoughts to. Whether it becomes a daily journal or a commonplace book, that is up to you.
When browsing the site, I had noticed the small (13.5 x 8.4cm) Indigo Notepad, it has 50 sheets/100 sides of recycled paper to write upon but what really caught my attention was the colour and the brass ‘New Flower’ rivetted to the centre of the cover. The gold of the brass perfectly complements the Indigo coloured cover, the Indigo cover is made from hand loomed material that is sourced from both traditional and rural co-operatives.
The Indigo cover is glued to a thin card cover which is then glued to the stiff card backing, and not the top edge of the pages, allowing you to fully open the cover when taking notes; whilst the pages themselves are glue bound along the top edge to enable you to peel them off once they are used.
All in all, this is a very well thought out pocket notepad that you could take and use anywhere; I just wish it was a notebook you could buy refills for but you can’t so that just means I will need to buy more next time I order.
As well as this notepad I also found in my order a complementary small (7.9 x 12.9cm) notepad with a biscuit coloured cover in which I can see what I guess to be silk threads and printed on it, in cream, is a flowering tree; this notepad has 25 sheets/50 sides to write upon. It was a wonderful surprise to find it in amongst my order and it will come in very handy as it is just the right size for any pocket.
I decided to test the recycled papers from the notepads, above, and the mill-made paper from the Kala Ghoda notebooks doing both a text and Q-Tip test using Diamine Oxford Blue. Interestingly the results came out the opposite to what I had expected. The recycled paper was fountain pen friendly whilst the mill-made paper was not having both ghosting and a little bleed through, however, it should be fine with a ballpoint and pencils would be no problem.
The pen stand is a substantial chunk of polished hexagonal brass which arrives in a matching hexagonal box in the bottom of which is a layer of foam with a cut out to take the pen stand.
In the top of the pen stand is a curved dip where you rest your pen; I tested mine with a Ranga 8B which is a substantial pen made by Ranga Pens in India and fits perfectly as you can see from the picture. Whatever pen you decide to use this for you can be sure it will look good on your desk, mine is already in daily use and will feature in future pen reviews.
Currently I’m thinking of lining the curved dip with either leather or felt; it was an idea I had when I first saw it on the website but, for now, I’m going to live with it for a while before I make a decision.
However, this is the one thing where I think things could have been done a little better; for global travel the pen stand needs to be better packaged. Mine had come loose in transit and rattled around so the ends had got scuffed and scratched, whilst this is no big deal, for me, because I can re-polish it, not everybody has that option.
Finally, the pencils, and what a range you have to choose from. You can buy individual pencils with decorative danglers that make wonderful gifts, there are packs of twelve pencils with and without danglers in many different colours and there is no shortage of dangler designs, the tiger is a particularly nice one.
Then there are the pencils I bought; I started out with the intention of buying one set of three in an upcycled wooden tray and ended up buying three. I chose from the range that includes old blueprints, revenue documents and other documents; so I ordered one set of blueprints, one set of revenue documents and a mixed set.
The pencils arrive pre-sharpened. They are triangular in shape and very comfortable to hold and use and each pencil has a gold-plated cap fitted to the top pencil, where you would normally find the eraser.
When I tested them by sharpening, making lines, shading, text and erasing and the results were very good. The pencil tested (chosen at random) was smooth in use and gave a consistent result and as far as I can tell they an HB pencil.
These are good quality pencils, and not only do they perform well they look good to.
In short, would I recommend Anand Prakash?
If you decide to shop with Anand Prakash you will shopping with a highly ethical company that offers an amazing range of products backed by outstanding customer service.
They have a commitment to supporting communities that is second to none and without their support a lot of people would find it difficult to make ends meet so you see you are not just supporting an ethical company, but you are helping them to support people and their livelihoods.
The products are excellent and in many cases I would hazard a guess and say they are unique; the build quality and materials used are all to a very high standard and it is obvious when you look at what you have bought that it is something special.
So, if you want to do some good and treat yourself or the stationery addict in your life visit Anand Prakash and place your order; it is also worth remembering that the sun might be shining but Christmas is sneaking up on us!
One last thing, aside from the complimentary notepad I also found in my order three very small but very lovely gift cards and an Indigo bookmark, no explanation they were just there, anonymous if you like.
Disclaimer: All of items in this review were purchased at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.