Here’s one of the pens I bought at the Chicago Pen Show, in fact the last pen I bought at the pen show. It’s the Kanilea Hanauma Bay.
I really tried not to buy this pen. I tried to be sensible. But it was like going to a puppy adoption event, casually. You just want to “see the puppies.” You start playing with the little guys. Of course. Puppies are cute. Next thing you know, you’ve got little Bernard in the back seat, and you’re wondering if your husband will actually divorce you for this.
Except a fountain pen will not chew the baseboards and shred the curtains. So this was a comparatively sensible decision. Plus, it was my birthday, so the rules do not apply.
However, if you want to avoid succumbing to temptation, at least now I can help you. I can point out exactly where I went wrong: I picked it up. And then I really looked at it.
I kept looking. And then, it was too late. It was my puppy now.
The Hanauma Bay resin is a mixture of swirly bits and sparkly bits and even translucent bits, in blues, blue-greens, white and oranges. From every angle, in every way, it’s beautiful, and interesting.
The Kanilea Pen Company makes fountain pens designed around custom-made resins by Jonathon Brooks. The family behind Kanilea are Hugh and Karol Scher and Matt Baldwin, and they work with Jonathon to come up with resins that reflect elements from their travels in Hawaii. Together they’ve created eleven Kanilea fountain pen materials. This is the latest, named after Hanauma Bay in Hawaii.
There are all kinds of ways to customize a Kanilea pen, since they make five different body styles, and you can get it with a clip or clipless. Mine turns out to be the classic flush design, with a medallion in gold-plated sterling silver.
Even within a particular material, the resins, and thus the pens, are slightly different. This is mine.
I like pens in one of two categories: minimalist and modern, or colorful and fun. The pen body may be minimalist, but the material is very colorful. And very beautiful. In some spots, it makes me think of Van Gogh.
The material has depth. It repays your attention. You see something new every time, and on every part as you rotate it.
And no matter how it looks in photos, it looks much better in real life. I’d seen the pens before, in Kanilea’s wonderful product shots. That didn’t prepare me for how great they look in person.
It’s not surprising for a pen made in small numbers, with this care and attention, and with custom-designed material, but these are expensive. Mine was $395 with a steel nib. It’s a cartridge-converter pen, and you have a choice of steel nibs from extra-fine to stub. Or you could upcharge to a gold nib if you wanted. Hugh adjusts the nib to your liking. Mine has the steel stub.
A pen in this price range isn’t an impulse buy, or at least it wasn’t for me. But I had sold some pens and could buy this. And I haven’t had any second thoughts — in fact, the opposite. I feel pretty lucky to have it.
The nib writes well after Hugh’s ministrations, and the pen body is lightweight and a good size, with a comfortable section. I enjoy writing with it. But the bottom line is, it’s just gorgeous. And very time I pick it up, I’m delighted.
Artwork by Mary Jo Ernst, sketched at the 2018 Chicago Pen Show. Mary Jo can be found on Instagram under @mysteriousmannequin.