Lab and Studio Notebooks

I’ve decided to resurrect my studio journal and post about ongoing projects, tests, software and the like, and I thought I’d kick it off with how I keep all my lab notes together.

For a long time I used a system of notebooks and binders to keep handwritten lab notes for chemistry formulas, prints, (platinum, silver and 3-colour gum dichromate), polymer photogravure film positives and platemaking, and also film processing times. Sometimes I’d forget to take notes, other times I’d just be duplicating information if the print data hadn’t changed and many, many Post-It notes would be added. They were being used daily and so pages would get torn and creased and the whole thing became a beautiful mess. 

I progressed from keeping physcal notes in binders, which, quite honestly, were always nice to write in and handle (being something tangible), to a dedicated website built on Kirby CMS using Markdown. Unfortunately the theme I had chosen, Kirby Book, which allowed me to print out individual pages or the entire website as a book (useful for workshops), became unusable, as Kirby progressed to version 3, and the theme was no longer developed or supported.

My studio notes are now happily running on Obsidian. Obsidian is a knowledge base that works using Markdown too, which made it easy for me to move everything over. The folders and files are kept in iCloud Drive, meaning everything syncs effortlessly between the Obsidian apps on my Mac Mini, MacBook Air or my iPad. Obsidian offers a built-in sync feature that does the same, but it’s not necessary if you’re already paying for another similar service such as Sync, my preferred alternative to Dropbox. The same with its Publish feature. I don’t need to put it out there for the world to see, so that’s unnecessary for me. And backups are a breeze as there’s no database to contend with, just a local folder and files.

It all looks clean, runs fast and can be edited without online access, except when it needs to sync. Easily updating information is key to me keeping things organised and current, something that the website version was not. And using Obsidian allows me to keep not just lab notes for the darkroom, but notes on general studio practice, materials and their suppliers, equipment serial numbers, my book arts projects and any printing or size information for clients’ jobs. The best part is that unless you use their Obsidian Sync or Obsidian Publish features, everything is free!

My Lab Notebook
Obsidian Lab Notebook

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