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Production Update 4-19-2019

Developing a product is hard work. A concept, really easy. But I have to hand it to guys like Tom McGuire from Fossil Bluff. He thinks it, designs it, then makes it. He's incredible and an inspiration.

Earlier this week, (yesterday) we unveiled what is/was to be our flagship product. A signature leather journal wrap (Buck Skin) with our logo, packaged with Black Volant Moleskine and a Staedtler Black Box. This set is what I envisioned from the start. Three quality products, that together make the perfect journaling/note taking system. No frills, no bullet system, no anything. Free form - you know what works for you.

The plan is/was to make just 33 of these and call it quits. The first 10 or so would get a Skull & Crown Ltd. T-Shirt also. So where are we? Well, I am still working out a distribution deal with the two companies mentioned above. I want to provide these things at bottom cost so you all can jump on the journaling bandwagon. I want to give you a stylish (limited and exclusive in design), functional and truly great experience.

Another set back is the distributor for our leather. We were on track to order the wraps and then I would begin personally stamping the logos. Unfortunately we will need to find another option with the leather.

I am committed to bringing you a journaling product. We will have something to offer, but I cannot say just when. All good things... (It's not just the worst TNG episode). Until then, we'll send updates when we can and continue to blog about great things and peripheral subjects related to quality logistics.

Talk to you all soon!

Finding the Perfect Bag

When I was nine years old, my dad carried a "man bag". I called it a purse. Of course, had I looked in the mirror, I would have seen my lime green fanny pack.🙄 My dad never went anywhere without his bag. It held a few effects but also, all of his loose change. I used to sneak into it and "borrow" a few lira, (Italian currency back in 1989/90) from the outermost pocket. A little lockable gusseted pocket that was always the heaviest part of the bag.

Through high school I carried a backpack. When I entered higher education, I stayed with a back pack. When I finally went into the workforce however, I switched to a messenger bag. It held most of what I needed. A book, some medicine, a notepad, pen, and probably a Game Boy of some sort. My first messenger bag was a cheap $10 bag I bought at Ikea after eating too many meatballs.

The Ikea Flort 

The next messenger bag I bought because technology had advanced. I now had an iPad and the other effects as well. I went to Fossil and bought this canvas bag (not pictured). It was great. In fact, it still is. It's held up over the years. It's got a camo print design and is a mixture of leather and canvas. It held most everything I needed. I eventually grew out of it. Why? I wasn't into the look. I'm not a hunter or anyone who would identify with camo. So I gave the bag to my son who may or may not use it someday.

The next bag I bought was a $75 leather messenger bag with waxed canvas inside. It's a no frills bag. It held mostly everything I needed. I say "mostly", because sometimes I ran into an issue holding more things that just didn't seem to fit. It's also on Amazon. Find it HERE.
The leather/waxed canvas bag.
No frills!
Since this classic and no frills leather bag seemed to be too small at times, I went pocket crazy. Also, I got away from the classic flap covering for a messenger bag. I hate the flaps. You can NEVER get into them easily. It's always a fumbling mess. Especially when you've got coffee in your hands..which is like me...all the time. So I bought this next bag, which turned into...a backpack. Lots of pockets lots of padding. Rigid. A super nice bag, especially for a carry on. The eventual issue? It was too big and it wasn't "professional enough" in terms of the look. You can buy it HERE.
The great travel bag that was too big
and "unprofessional". 

Then, one day...I was going through some things and I found dad's bag. When I held it in my hands, the soft leather and awesome craftsmanship of this Italian bag was just too much. I had to use it. It fit my 12" iPad Pro, my notebook and all my other items nicely. It's a vertical bag too, so it made it easy to grab and go. Sure the look was a little dated...I didn't care.

Dad's original bag.
It didn't take long for the weight of my items to snap the shoulder strap of the bag. I took it to a leather repair shop where it was expertly repaired. One week later, I broke the carry handle. I was
crushed. I scoured the web for a similar bag. It had to have:

-No flaps
-Five compartments that close
-2 slip-pockets
-A single handle
-A Shoulder strap
-Must be vertical.
-Leather (preferably black)
-Silk or rayon lined
-Oh, and it has to hold the 12"iPad Pro

Guess who makes that bag today? No one. Yep, Dad's bag was a one of a kind. I couldn't find a version of it anywhere. Even when I said, "Price is no object." No one made it. I did find a similar bag. A PU (Polyurethane) Faux Leather bag with almost the same design except it was missing one slip pocket. A whopping $36 on Amazon. Find it HERE.
The "almost" Dad's Original bag.
$36 on Amazon.
It lasted about 4 months before the handles ripped. Total bummer considering I am not carrying an insane amount of weight. You can see the pictures and my review of the bag HERE on Amazon. The game was now afoot. I needed a new bag. I checked out everything I could find. I even sent my friends and family out in a frenzy looking for something to meet my prerequisites above.

I couldn't find anything. I didn't want to buy the PU bag again. I wanted to buy a heritage bag. Something I could pass on or, at the very least, beat the crap out of it. Take it on trips, be a carry-on, be a briefcase, be a bag I just grab when I leave the house.

I checked the Goodwill for used items. Nothing. I eventually went to the mall to look around. Maybe I could find a luggage shop or something. That's when I came across Wilson's Leather. I went in, with all four of my kids. The woman who assisted me showed amazing patience. Also, she was super attentive to what I was looking for. I remember saying, "Sorry, I'm just really particular about stuff. Especially when I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars." She totally understood.

I just didn't find anything I liked. Everything was either too deep (thick), had a flap, or didn't have the real estate needed. I mean, I'm a secretary and a dad of four kids. There just isn't anything in the world I shouldn't have with me... ALL. THE. TIME.

Maybe it's a sign. Maybe I needed to thin out what my everyday carry was. You might ask about what my everyday carry is. I'll compose this as a post soon. So hang tight.

So I went back home. I went to the Wilson's Leather website. I found two bags. I gave up the idea that it had to be vertical. ( It killed me.) Of the two, one was a black Italian Lambskin bag. It was thin. The other was a pocket laden  classic bag. I bought both--regularly $600 total, I paid shipped to my door about $201. I suppose I lucked out. I waited a whole seven days to receive the bags. It was painful realizing that this wasn't an Amazon Prime deal. No two-day shipping for this guy.
The Lambskin Bag.

It was a Friday afternoon. I received the bags. I opened them both up, examined them and packed them both with everything from my in-use bag. The Italian Lambskin bag was busting at the seams. I liked it better, but I couldn't keep it. I checked out the other. It was like a giant hobo bag with additional garbage bags inside. There was no rigidity to it. I couldn't stand it.

The bag w/out form. :(
I had posted on the web that afternoon my extreme disappointment in trying to find something. Lots of great suggestions. Just nothing that spoke to me. I really didn't want to go to a backpack. So the next day, my family and I went back out to the mall. I brought the two bags with that I had bought online. They allowed returns in the store. I also brought my oldest son Griffin with me. I said, "Griff, you know what I need. Help me find this bag, man." I looked in the store for about 10 minutes.

The nice lady from before remembered me and held the other bags at the counter for me while we looked. It took Griff about five minutes to come to me and say, "Dad, how about this one? It looks like you. Plus no flaps." I was immediately intrigued. I also liked another bag. It had flaps, but small ones. One side had buckles which I had trouble operating. Griff looked at me and said, "Dad, I can't let you get that bag. If you can't operate those buckles now, you're gonna hate it later." I had to agree.

An unflattering look at the bag I almost kept....
So, I bought the bag he suggested. It held everything I needed plus some. I wasn't 100% on the size of the bag, in fact, I made some real concessions with it. It wasn't vertical, it didn't have all the slip pockets I wanted and it had a double handle. In the end I had to fall in love with what was available. Maybe that's okay.

When I returned my other two bags, and I went to buy this one, I expected to owe $40. Instead I still got a refund of $91. So I spent less, and walked out with a great bag. Maybe one day I will find IT. I remember a movie I once saw in which they said something along the lines of, "It's not the right guy, it's the right now guy." Maybe that's this bag. It's the right now bag. Who knows, it may turn into the right bag. The seeming end to the saga? Not yet.

It took 4 days for this bag to rip. :( So, I returned it and received store credit for $103. I walked out without buying another bag there. They just didn't have anything else. As you can see from the pictures, the design flaw is apparent. It's pulling in a way that would be conducive to anything ripping.

I went home, melancholy over a bag. It just feels like in this day and age, there should be a bag that can do what I need and not fall apart! But apparently not. So I thinned out what I carry on a day to day, seemingly not prepared for all situations. And I tossed my effects into an old friend. The original Ikea bag, The Flort, pictured earlier.

Right after returning the bag that ripped, I walked my son to Gamestop, and while he was looking around, is when I ordered it. I love immediate gratification, and while I tried to subdue this passion, I went ahead and spent $17 on the latest iteration of Ikea's "euro style" bags. Instead of driving out there which takes 50 minutes each way, I spent $10 on shipping. So $28 whole dollars.

I have zero expectations. If I've learned anything about looking for the perfect bag, it's that it likely doesn't exist. If the above works out, wonderful! If not, well, I still have that $103 to spend at Wilson's Leather. Here's hoping...

Guidelines on Better Handwriting

Greetings to all!

Recently, I was contacted by a good friend and Fraternity member about advice on how to get better at handwriting. Let me first say, I am no expert. I scroll through social media often and see the images of exquisite lines and curves that form beautifully crafted words. Then I look at my best attempts...Not. Even. Close.

But that doesn't stop me from trying. In fact I recognize my quirks in my handwriting as my personal flair. How many of you have thoughtfully crafted the way your signature looks? Chances are most of us have done this. Handwriting is similar. Instead of deciding how you want your name to look on paper, we decide how we want everything to look when we decide to write it down.

As a follower or a general reader of this blog, you likely understand the goal of journaling and writing. You like to hand write letters, you like nice paper, a good pen, and maybe even a wax seal. For whatever reason, it just feels right, doesn't it? "But RJ, my handwriting is terrible and it stops me from pursuing my goals of sending personal correspondences and notes to people I care about and love...What do I do?"

Well, lucky for you...I just happen to have my own layman's advice on the topic of getting better at handwriting. Here goes:

  • Get a $15 calligraphy set from Manuscript. Buy it HERE. They are cheap and come with little guide that shows what your letters should look like in the way of calligraphy . You want to practice these letters just a few times. The goal isn't to be letter perfect. The goal is to be distinctive. e.g. When you write a word, to be able to pick out each letter instead of a vague gist--"I think that's an "a", or is it an "o"..." We should be able to tell what it is and so should you. I know you might be saying, "Calligraphy? I just want to write better." Trust me. Practicing the art of each letter aids us in the process. 
  • Write larger than you're used to. The larger size will accommodate your goal of seeing each letter for being a letter and not a squiggly line that you're mind has to guess about. Also, the larger letter will allow your muscles to feel the curvature of each letter. You will become more aware of what it feels like to write a letter. 
  • Using a calligraphy pen will give you a way to uniquely appreciate each letter as you write it. Again, don't be concerned with perfection. Instead focus on how the letter looks in calligraphy. Can you make it your own when you switch to a pen without a fancy tip (a nib)? Yes you can. 
  • Every time you need to write something, use that pen (the calligraphy pen). Groceries, to do:, it doesn't matter. Use it for everything. This is the practice element of it all. The part that sucks.
  • Remember that cursive is not for speed. That's decidedly anti what it is for. It's script. So slow down. Say each letter in a word as you skate along the paper. This helps the motion of your hand replicate what it's supposed to be. You're not sailing through the fog right? You're turning your thoughts into an artistic expression that will be read by someone. It will make an impression. 
  • When you feel like you've made adequate progress, when you know what the calligraphy letters look like and you can do them without referring back to the sheet, then switch to a fountain pen. Pick up an old Sheaffer or something. Even a new Pilot Metropolitan. Buy on HERE. The fountain pen gives you the feel of calligraphy but the ease and convenience of a modern roller ball.

I suppose that's it for now. Get started with those steps. Remember not to over invest at first. No need to go buy a $200 pen, iron gall ink, $1 per sheet paper, wax and a seal. Not yet. Just find a calligraphy pen, buy some ink cartridges and practice. Yep...I said cartridge ink. No need to get nuts yet. At my level, I buy fancy paper at the second hand stores when they have it. I buy $7 antique pens that I clean using $5 cleaner and a paper towel. I use ink cartridges that I get at Office Max for $5. The point is, the investment isn't huge at all. The pay off, well...that's something that IS huge.

If your interested in practicing with a purpose, let's be pen pals. I could use the practice too. All the best to you all! Happy writing!

Updates on Production

Well, we've been working on production and dialing everything in. This once and done project has to be perfect. The stamping process proved to be interesting to say the least. I initially wanted to offer you all a synthetic leather wrap, but imprinting on faux leather just doesn't work with this particular process. So, we've abandoned it for the time being.

We are working with a distinguished leather producer to bring you the journals. But, before we commit to making the order, we have to try our process on the leather samples which have been shipped to us. Those samples, once tested will let us know if we can move forward or find another type of leather to use.

Stay tuned and thanks for checking in!

In the Beginning...

About a year ago I came up with the logo for Skull & Crown ltd. I arranged a skull from my own collection and set the scene for a mini photo shoot. The outcome was what you see on the website. At that time, I didn't know what Skull & Crown ltd. was going to be. Luckily my best friend pointed out an affinity I had for fine secretarial supplies and suggested perhaps this was what I needed to do.

Not long after, with no social media presence and only word of mouth we received our first commissioned work--a greeting card for the 2018 holiday season. After creating some designs, I picked my favorite, sent it to the client and went into production. 

I hand delivered this order. Not long after, I received one of my own designed cards in the mail as a thank you. I loved designing the card. Making an original design not seen anywhere else. Of course these designs, as any manufacturer or designer will tell you, are not always easy. This particular design was difficult for the printers. We were plagued with scan lines and only 6 out of every 10 cards came out from the manufacturing process would pass my inspection for quality control. 

The manufacturer made it right, of course, and we made our delivery deadline. We've now identified solutions for the issues that we had as well as  new manufacturers and printers. Quality is what Skull & Crown ltd. is all about. But more than that, it has to be unique.

If you're looking for a unique commissioned greeting card, get in contact with us via the "Shop" page. 

At your service, 

The Soft Launch

Skull & Crown ltd. was born out of a love for fine secretarial and communication supplies. What does that mean? It means fine papers, smooth and crisp writing utensils, meaningful cards, and making someone's day when they open a hand written letter.

At Skull & Crown ltd., we believe that each message should be unique--no canned messages. We believe that pens shouldn't gel up and smear. We believe that left-handers should enjoy writing without the fear or hassle of smearing ink. We believe that paper should absorb quality inks and dry in a reasonable time. We believe in sealing your envelopes in wax or sticker seals.

Communication is the basis on which humanity has made progress. Whether expressing sympathy, joy, saying hello, or journaling our thoughts, the art of writing stands above all as our most treasured and meaningful method of expressing ourselves to others.

Through Skull & Crown ltd., we hope to offer, in limited quantities, quality products which will serve you in your efforts to make an impact in your written communications and personal thoughts. We're just getting started. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for great posts and news on special projects.

Everything we offer is again, limited. I design and make or commission everything. Production takes time.

Happy writing,

Contact me at SkullandCrownltd@gmail.com
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