Writing on Bananas

Or, rather, drawing on banana paper. And I lurve it.

Banana Paper Company small blank journal

It was sitting on my pile of notebooks and journals and I thought, “Self, drawing on trees is so passé.” So, I took out my ink and watercolors and flipped open the small blank journal. (My first illustration turned out to be an homage to my high school painting “Trail of Forgotten Souls”.)

Screaming Head Homage

When it came time to paint I was rather surprised at how well it handled the water. Sure it warped the pages underneath it (no big deal for me), but it didn’t turn into mush like some notebooks would. I was even able to re-wet a few sections.


The only problems I’ve run into were some of the more solid flecks lifting up or chipping away from the paper while writing. Also, once the book has been held open for any length of time, it tends to stay open (hence the binder clip in the first picture). Neither of these things I mind very much.

Even though the paper is a pale brown color, it’s best used with dark or bright ink colors. That means pastel colored inks are a no-go, 2H lead was nearly invisible, and even HB was difficult to read. And for all its strength and durability, the paper is thin enough for you to see what’s on the other side, but the ink doesn’t actually bleed through.

(Click on the image for a full size view with more detail.)

Right now, I’m content using the small blank journal as an art journal. It started with a single sentence with an accompanying inspired image and I’ve just continued with that theme. I flip to a random blank page, draw a preliminary sketch, and then paint. I may even add some collage in the future. (I’ve always wanted to get into collage, but I just never had a true knack for it.)

Oh, and the paper is acid free. (At least, that’s the claim anyway. I haven’t tested it. Maybe I should.) And these journals can be purchased at Target.

One of these pens is not like the others, or my first JetPens customer service experience.

In 2008 I discovered a cool website called JetPens which specialized in Japanese pens and stationary products. It was like in the movies when the clouds would part to reveal rays of light shining down on me and heavenly voices would chant, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, halle-lu-jah!”.

JetPens managed to work its way into my life and I became almost evangelical about them. To the point where I joined and participated in their Facebook page and trolled their Flickr group and they even featured me in one of their JetPics columns. What was even more impressive was that I never needed to contact customer service with any problems.

Until recently.

It wasn’t a big problem, though. My order arrived, one of pens was used and didn’t write properly. I figured maybe someone returned a defective pen and it got mixed back into the lot. So, I sent an email asking how I could send it back and receive a replacement. Fairly straightforward.

What I received, instead of an answer to my question, was:

“I can assure you that we do not sell any products that have been used.”

Hmm. Really?

To that I say, one of these pens is not like the others…


It might have been a manufacturing error, but this wasn’t the first time I’d received a pen showing signs of use. (In fact, that other pen looked more thoroughly used than this one and it was a different manufacturer.) I just never said anything before because it was an inexpensive pen and it worked.

The response email then told me to hold the tip in front of a blow dryer for a few seconds, scribbling intermittently, to see if I could get the ink flowing. That is a great tip and I’ll certainly use it in the future.

But, hello, they sent me a pen that seemed used and didn’t even work properly ; all I wanted to do was exchange it. I didn’t want to be told that I was mistaken about it being used and that I should fiddle around with hair care products first.

So, I politely responded explaining why my very first customer service experience with JetPens left me feeling cold. What I received was:

“I should have been more clear in stating that at times, pen ink levels can be a little off…”

I’m (usually) not a complete tool. I know ink levels vary from pen to pen, which is why I was sure to say in my first email that close to 1/4 of the ink was missing. That does not qualify as a “little off”. So, no, there was no way to be more clear on that.

“Sometimes the little wax or plastic protective balls can come off pens while they are in the warehouse (especially retractable pens).” (For context, this is referencing my previous used pen experience which I detailed in my response email.)

I said the protective ball was missing and the ink level was also obviously depleted. In fact, more than 1/4 of the ink was missing from the pen in that case. Again, not just a “little off”.

“As a policy we do not accept any used items for return, but when that special case arises and we receive used items back, we do not restock them.”

It may be policy, but it doesn’t explain how on two separate occasions I received pens which showed signs of being used. Or, why, again I feel as though I’m being told that I’m hallucinating.

They’re sending me a new pen though. I can “feel free to keep or discard the faulty pen”, but what I feel is rather unsatisfied by the experience.

What should have happened—what I expected to have happen—was the receipt of the obligatory apology for the inconvenience (which is so common in retail today), followed by the prompt shipment of a replacement and instructions for sending back the defective product. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. The world keeps turning and the company still has a loyal happy evangelical customer who will sing praises of her wonderful experiences with them.

Instead, I got sKo0led on how wrong I am for thinking a pen that was missing considerable quantities of ink was used and that I should have taken a blow dryer to it before complaining. Thank you for that JetPens customer service. It was also a nice touch that all the email salutations began with the name assigned by my email provider rather than the actual name I signed my emails with.

This was very much like meeting my hero in real life and realizing he’s not as amazing as I made him out to be in my head. I still like him and think he’s pretty cool, just slightly less so. *sigh*

UPDATE 02/25/11: My woebegone pen arrived today. I’m glad to report that there’s no missing ink and it works (no blow dryer necessary). Yay.