Brand Focus: Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth

Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth is one of the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of first-rate stationery for schools, offices, and artists.

It was founded by Josef Hardtmuth in Vienna in 1790. However, in 1848 the production of graphite leads was relocated to České Budějovice, a city in Czech Republic. The pencils they have produced over the years have received recognition and awards in many world exhibitions. Since their inception, the brand has expanded their product range from pencils, to charcoal, chalk, crayons, watercolour, inks, and other drawing materials.

I’ve had the chance to visit Prague in Czech Republic recently, and of course I did not pass up the chance to score some products from the brand. I visited their store located in Na Příkopě which is a shopping street in Prague’s first district.

Here are the items i bought: Mondeluz 12 Aquarelle Coloured Pencils, Size 8 Kolinsky Watercolour Brush, 18 Pan Round Watercolours, and a “Gioconda” Aquarelle Pencil in 2B. (left to right)
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I didn’t get to note down the prices for each item but I assure you they were definitely affordable. You can get these items too from Amazon where I saw a bunch of online resellers. If you’re in Singapore, you can buy Koh-I-Noor products from Overjoyed’s online store.

I have made a swatch of the items in the picture below.

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For a quick review:

  • Round Watercolours – The colours from the pans are quite pigmented but a little chalky. It takes time to rewet the pans and pick the colour off to get into the brush. However for the price, the colours produced by the set is okay. I was even surprised when I used it to paint a portrait, the reds and oranges form the set produced a really nice flesh tone. I can easily whip up skin tones from the warm colours in the set. I’m not quite sure about the colours’ lightfastness but I doubt that they are.
  • Aquarelle Pencil in 2B – I’ve used this as my pencil for creating the outline before painting with watercolour. It writes easily without much pressure. Moreover, it seamlessly melts into your washes as long as you use a light hand when doing your line work.
  • Aquarelle Coloured Pencils – This set of watercolour pencils really impressed me. I think Koh-I-Noor does pencils really well. Anyway, the leads are soft enough that you’re not digging into the paper to get that solid and super saturated colour you want. Once you wet it with your brush the pigment just melts and creates this vibrant wash of colour. One thing though, if you’re the type of person who mixes a lot of colours together, it might be a bit tricky doing it with these coloured pencils. I say try it first and practice with them. Also if you really want more colours, they offer a set with much more pencils in them.
  • Kolinsky Watercolour Brush – This has got to be my most favourite purchase out of all of them. I didn’t expect much from this brush since it was really affordable. However, I was blown away. Once I wet it, it became this really soft brush that holds a decent amount of water and still retains its pointed tip once you’ve used it. It made painting washes and small details easier by just using this one brush. I would dare say the quality is pretty comparable to much more expensive brushes like ones form Escoda.

There you have it a quick introduction to the brand Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth. For art supply hoarders like me, I hope this post gave you a few things to add to your wishlists!

Where Art Thou: Common Room x Power Plant Mall

Back in August of 2015, Common Room PH opened its magical doors to arts and crafts enthusiasts, makers, and curious beings alike. We cannot contain our excitement when we heard of its opening and, of course, shared it to you here.

True to its tagline, A place where makers gather, an extension of the store for those who do not have easy access to Katipunan in the North is a wise idea… where else but a south counterpart! The same time this year, a second store, almost twice the size of the Katipunan store, was opened (surprise!) in Power Plant Mall in Makati.

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Unfortunately, we can’t get too much of a good thing. Their Rockwell counterpart is a pop-up with a theme #180DaysOfMaking and will last for only 180 days.

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If haven’t dropped by this place yet, these photos might encourage you even more to visit the place before it’s too late!Read More »

Where Art Thou: Leopold Museum

Hallo! Guten tag! We’re back in Vienna as we discover the work and life of Egon Schiele. Our journey will start at the Leopold Museum, in the Museumsquartier.

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The Museumsquartier is a large complex dedicated to modern art and culture. It has a total of nine permanent art spaces, the Leopold Museum being one of them. It is located in the middle of the bustling city of Vienna, sandwiched in between old historic buildings and districts. Apart from exhibition and event halls, there are a variety of shops, restaurants, and outdoor cafes in the area as well.Read More »

Where Art Thou: Craft Carrot

Art hoarders unite! If you’re a fellow calligrapher, crafter, or art hoarder, you might have seen this online store in the hopes of getting that specific kind of brush or color of ink you can’t find in regular book stores. In case you missed it, one of our favorite online craft stores, the Craft Carrot, recently opened its flagship store last May 2016.

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Don’t be fooled by the laundry shop facade when you look for it. You came to the right address. (Check out the address at the bottom part of this post.) The sign is there… you just have to ask the guard or the laundry shop staff how to get to the store and they’ll point you to a hidden staircase at the back end of the laundry shop towards craft heaven!

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Craft Carrot sells over a thousand products that are usually hard to find in the Philippines. Last week, I was looking for a brush pen refill which, unfortunately, was out of stock in National Book Store branches and other nearby craft stores. Guess where I found it? *wink wink*

From acrylic paints, calligraphy and drawing inks, markers, drawing pens, brush pens, brushes, DIY crafting and painting tools, watercolor and specialty papers — name it.

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A collection of colorful Finecolour twin markers.

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Dr. PH Martin’s Hydrus concentrated watercolor bottles.

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Krink markers, Koi watercolor pans, Faber Castell and Staedtler watercolor pencil boxes.

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An array of watercolor paper packs of different sizes, press types, thickness, and shades.

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Watercolor tubes and manga markers.

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Sumi ink, silver mica, and other kinds of calligraphy inks.

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Silver Brushes of different types and sizes.

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Calligraphy supplies, oblique holders, and vintage nibs.

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A huge collection of Zig Kuretake markers!

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The place isn’t too big and you wouldn’t believe it can house such an amount of art supplies one could ask. In case you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you can just ask the very nice store owner by the cashier desk. Supplies can be requested and the store will notify you once stocks arrive. You can either pick them up at the store or have it delivered by your doorstep! 😉


The Craft Carrot flagship store is located at #19 East Capitol Drive corner San Rafael Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City. In case you’re looking for some landmarks, it’s just in front of Cab Cafe and Charlie’s Burgers! For a quick view of all their products and available supplies, you can check out their website at craftcarrot.com, or visit their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Store Hours:
Mondays 1PM-7PM
Tuesdays-Fridays 10AM-7PM
Saturdays, Sundays 9AM-7PM

Where Art Thou: Qur’an and Manuscript Gallery at I.A.M.M.

These past few weeks, we have shown you the ancient art of lacquer painting in Vietnam and the home of the famous works of Gustav Klimt in Vienna. This week, I would like to show you a place where you can learn a thing or two about the most fundamental element of Islamic art, which is Islamic calligraphy.

Islamic calligraphy is the highly venerated practice of handwriting for the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. Its development of becoming one of the major forms of artistic expression in Islamic cultures can be attributed to the Qur’an as it is a common text upon which Islamic calligraphy is based. It is said that in Islamic calligraphy, the pupil would copy their master’s work repeatedly until their handwriting was similar.

Come on! Let’s go and take a peek inside the Qur’an and Manuscript Gallery of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia!

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Read More »

Where Art Thou: Saigon Handicapped Handicrafts

In my recent trip to Vietnam, I couldn’t help but notice: decades of war influenced this country a lot. Most of the must-see destinations in Ho Chi Minh City, south of Vietnam, are giveaways to this. It’s really obvious, especially for places like the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Saigon Central Post Office showcasing its French and Gothic/Renaissance/Romanesque influences — going back to the days when Vietnam was part of the French Indochina in the late 19th century.

You can also see some cultural and social evidences in present-day Vietnam from the twenty-year war during the 50’s (up to the 70’s) as it left a very serious ecological and human impact. In War Remnants Museum, I learned about Agent Orange, one of the major herbicides used during the war, and how it left the Vietnamese with various diseases and disabilities due to the very harmful chemicals. It was a really depressing time, the war, and I can’t help but *sigh* and just… I don’t even know how I got through all those photographs. Leaving the museum gave me really heavy boots.

Two days after, the heavy boots became a little bit lighter than when I left the museum.  We were taken, as part of our guided tour to Cu Chi Tunnels, to a small lacquer painting shop in the countryside called Handicapped Handicrafts. Products from this shop were all created by handicaps, most of which were war victims who still want to earn a living but are no longer eligible for work in offices and other forms of work. It made me even more inspired when I learned that the ancient art of lacquer painting is not so ancient after all.

Lacquer painting is a famous ancient art in Vietnam said to have been found in ancient Vietnamese tombs dating back to the third and fourth centuries for the purpose of decoration and preservation. It was fused with French techniques later during the 30’s and was then considered as a distinct form of fine art painting in Vietnam known as sơn mài.

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The finished products undergo a very long, challenging, and complex process — so complex it qualifies as one of the finest and most impressive forms of art in the country. Read More »

Where Art Thou: Upper Belvedere

With the stunning architecture, picturesque landscapes, and overall ambiance partnered with good food and good liquor, no wonder a lot artists thrived in Europe. Eat, drink, be merry and create wonderful paintings! Most of the great artists we look up to honed their craft in some of the countries in Europe.

Today, I am taking you to Vienna, Austria to visit the home of the works of one of the most famous artists from Vienna – Gustav Klimt.

To start off, I visited the Belvedere Palace. It has Upper and Lower Palaces, both of which are now art museums. I chose to Visit the Upper Belvedere because I was mostly interested in viewing the works of Gustav Klimt, most especially so his painting “The Kiss”.

Belvedere and Leopold-1Read More »

Where Art Thou: Filipinos in the Gilded Age

Crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets, damask wallpapers, heavily draped doors — it felt like a time warp as I opened the doors of Leon Gallery to visit a once in a blue moon exhibit.

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Collected by gallery owner Jaime Ponce de Leon and curated by Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, Ramon Villegas, and Liliane Manahan, the Filipinos in a Gilded Age is a collection of works that showcase the highest orders of art, politics, history, culture, and society in the 19th century.

LeonGallery_JuanLuna-6455Read More »

Where Art Thou: Museo Dabawenyo

You know a city is soulful when its history and culture is preserved so well it entirely moves you. When we went to Davao City a few weeks ago, we were really clueless about which places to prioritize visiting given the number of places our friends recommended and the limited amount of time we had . We’ve heard it from our friends, and we’ve read it in most of the travel blogs in our research: Museo Dabawenyo is one for the books.

Locals say they also call it the “people’s museum” —

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True to its dubbed nickname, the people around are so friendly. Look at Kuya waving by the entrance… 😀

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Upon entry, a beautiful work of art in the staircase leading to the second floor of the museum welcomes everyone.

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It is named Tri-people by Banjo Satorre, Jr., a mixed media art that represents the three people in Davao: the Islams (10% of the population), the Christians (85%), and the Lumads (5%). To date, it has become one of the icons of the museum. If you’re wondering how it became a mixed media art, let’s zoom in to the “jewels” on one of the sides of the canvas.

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Photography is prohibited inside the museum. All I can share in this short entry is a quick rundown of the galleries inside. Some notable features include a peek into the life of the Lumads or the different tribal groups in Southern Philippines: photos of the appointed heads and their families, replicas of their houses, weapons, and a showcase of their official tribal costumes. (The beadwork, the patterns, and the method of making them were jawdropping! What kind of detail and how much effort was put into it?)

Other things in museum include Spanish, American, and Japanese war artifacts, a Japanese map of Davao prior to its conversion to a charter city prompted by the Philippine government, a history of undivided Davao, a memorabilia gallery for olden day clothes, currencies, and porcelains from old Davao, a gallery of paintings of city mayors with some photos recognizing the prestigious Datu Bago awardees, and some awards and recognitions that the city got for peace and good governance.

I fell in love too much with this particular gallery about the Lumads, the tribes in Southern Philippines, that I wanted to remember a piece of something about this museum trip. When I got the chance, I bought a piece of their traditional clothing, the malong, in the market. A malong is big piece of tubular cloth adorned with patterns that are innate to the tribe. Every tribe has a recognizable pattern, and I am toooooo amazed by the intricate details!

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I’m really proud of how such art is tied with a very rich culture. Some malongs are made of silk while some are made using batik. The malong I got had gold threads woven with regular colors, majority of which is royal blue. I also learned that, aside from the patterns, the material and the method of making the malong itself is different for every tribe.

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Soledad Roa Duterte, fondly called Nanay Soling, is the better half of the last undivided Davao Governor Vicente Duterte. She envisioned the whole idea of Museo Dabawenyo which first opened last March 14-16, 2008. It was, indeed, a very good idea as the museum has become a valuable gem to Davao. It shares an intangible treasure to everyone who visits it: knowledge — of how rich and beautiful the city is. I even learned (and relearned) some things I can’t imagine. I was too amazed by the preservation of their heritage especially when I learned from one of the guides that all (Southern Philippine) tribes are still being represented by a “mayor” and helping the incumbent mayor of the city. I also learned that the current president of the Philippines native to the city of Davao, President Duterte, is part Tausug, a tribe of the South.

It would take me a while to list down all the things I learned and realized from this visit but the best recommendation is an actual visit to the place. If you find yourself in Davao, don’t forget to visit this place! It only takes less than an hour to walk around the area (and sometimes a few more for digesting the facts). The entrance fee is free of charge and there is always a friendly museum staff to guide you through all the galleries. Believe me, it will make you appreciate this lovely city and their living culture and tradition even more. 😉


Museo Dabawenyo, translated as Davao Museum, is one of the two known museums in the city of Davao. The building, formerly the Court of First Instance, was restored and rehabilitated to house and showcase the rich history and diverse cultural heritage of the people of Davao. First opened into public during the 71st Araw ng Dabaw grand opening celebration on March 2008, it was established by the City Government of Davao under the City Ordinance No. 0266-2006 and was signed into law last November 2006 by Mayor (now President of the Philippines) Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays at 9:00AM-12:00PM and 1:00PM-6:00PM. It is located near the Andres Bonifacio Rotunda at Pichon corner CM Recto Street, Poblacion District, Davao City, Davao del Sur.