Seriously, I hardly used my pens this summer. Since April, I think I’ve only used two pens at any length, and a third a little. And then only for little things, like work, or signing the occasional check. I had a lot of pens inked up, for sure. But what did I actually use? The occasional ballpoint or rollerball, the occasional pencil, two Sailor Professional Gear fountain pens (EF and F nibs), and a Pelikan M205 (M nib).
But I have been doing pen-related things. Every month, I go to my wonderful pen club, and that’s always fun. Hanging with pen friends is the best kind of pen thing.
I’ve been buying a few things, here and there, when I go into one of the two Chicago fountain pen stores to say hi, and, let’s be honest, look around. The “using” may be on the fritz, but the “buying” seems to always work.
Here’s what I’ve bought since the first weekend of May.
I shall start with paper. And, if I may indulge in a paper pun, I would like to “note” here that am not a paper person. It’s paper: it’s flat, it’s white, it cuts your finger. Where’s the magic?
And yet, I have so much paper. I have cheap legal pads (for work). I have printer paper (also cheap, also for work). I have excellent notebooks and pads of paper from Rhodia, Clairefontaine and some fantastic Japanese makers. I have stationery. I have loose Tomoe River paper. So. Much. Paper.
So here’s a question. Does everyone use up all their paper? Or do they just, eventually, set fire to their homes?
Asking for a friend.
That said, there is one category of paper that I do enthuse over: Field Notes. So I’ve ended up with a lot of Field Notes, as well. That remains true even though I use them daily, and pass them out to family members. I still have so many I could probably construct a three-bedroom home out of unused Field Notes.
My fellow pen clubbers admitted they’ve got similar backlogs. So, are we all like this? Field Notes are so little and easy to buy that, before you know it, you have piles of them? Then you feel a little guilt, or at least a sense of excess. Or maybe occasionally you have to ponder the difficult question, “Why are packs of Field Notes always falling on my head when I open this cabinet?”
I’ve long since halted the Field Notes subscription, slowed the purchases, and resolved to work down my stockpile. And yet, since the Pen Show, I’ve added four new sets of Field Notes. A “Mile Marker” set, which someone gave me, and which I really like and put in use immediately. Then all three sets of the “National Parks” series, which I bought myself, and also like, and will put into use at some point. I’m sure.
On the bright side, Set C of the National Parks series has cool animals on the covers, including an elk. These will look very nice in the yard I should add to my House of Field Notes.
I’ve, er, overbought ink.
What, you expect something different? Not in this life.
Sailor Ink Studio Inks: This is a potential problem area, confessionally speaking. In my defense, however, I enjoy the Ink Studio inks more than I expected. The ones I bought are nice colors. The packaging looks nice, and the bottles are fancy. That said, when I heard about the line, last year, I didn’t think I would buy these inks. They are too expensive for me. They are $18-$20 in the US, and you only get 20 ml.
However, Anderson’s Chicago store carries these, and I like to support our Chicago Pen Show sponsors. Right after the show, I was in the Chicago store, and somehow I ended up buying three bottles. They hadn’t yet had time to make swatches, so I was choosing pretty blindly. I ended up with 024 (a blue one), 462 (a green one) and 130 (a pink one).
I love the blue one, 024. It’s not a flashy, sheeny, arty ink, but it’s a dark blue with a touch of green, and it’s great for work. I put 024 in my new Sailor pen from the Pen Show, and I have kept refilling it.
I also like Ink Studio 462 a lot. It’s a beautiful green, with gray-blue tint, and nice shading. But I just had to clean it out of the pen I’d put it in, because, despite a real fondness for the ink, I haven’t written with it all summer.
This bring me to 130, which is beautiful, but one I never should have bought myself. It’s one of Sailor’s beautiful pale pinks, a lovely shell pink, with a hint of orange. I love that color ink. Also, I inked it up, and didn’t use it once. A pale pink is really not an ink I have much occasion to use. Looking at the other bottles of pale pink ink on my shelves, this perhaps is an insight I’ve had before.
I’m starting to think that, whatever ink is for, at this point in history, it’s not really for writing.
It does make a nice city-scape, though.
Sharp readers may notice that are there more than three bottles there.
Last month, I happened to be at Anderson Chicago for a Sailor event, and they’d just restocked the Ink Studio inks. Lisa Anderson had made great swabs by then, so I found myself buying four more. 123, 162, 964 and 840. The last three are nice combinations of gray-blue-green, while 123 is a gray-purple. I bought 123 because it’s the popular ink online, and I figured someone I know would want it.
I have not, of course, inked up any of the bottles from the second tranche — because that would require me to need to write something. But I did encourage fellow pen clubbers to swab them at our July meetup, to
be nice spread the virus.
So in the end, I’ve added seven Ink Studio inks, for which I paid about $140, and that’s for a grand total of 140 ml of ink. Pricey. Now, except for the 130 (which I bought blind), and the 123 (which I bought thinking someone else would want it), I really expect to use all the inks. At some point. (People live a long time these days.) And it’s fun having something new to use … whenever you get around to it.
Would I have been better off buying just the 024 and saving the other $120 for my new cellphone? Hush. No one likes that kind of talk.
Central Ohio Pen Club Inks: I have mentioned that I consider myself an almost-member of the Central Ohio Pen Club, based in Columbus, Ohio. The actual members of the Central Ohio Pen Club are either completely unaware that I’ve glommed onto their club, or too polite to object.
But I picked wisely, because that club commissioned two special inks from Straits Pen Co., which they will sell at this year’s Ohio Pen Show. Also their logo is outright scary. Because, Ohio.
The first Ohio ink, Park of Roses, is a pinkish-red with a tinge of blue, and it comes in a fancy and pretty glass bottle. The second ink is a green-gray, called Storm Warning, and sold in a utilitarian plastic bottle. I got both inks early last month, and, because there has been no writing to be done, I only got around to inking them up this week.
At first, I felt guilty about not using the new inks. Except now, seriously, I’m starting to feel normal, even correct. Who writes with all this ink? Let’s be honest: almost no one.
So the red-pink ink, Park of Roses, is exactly the kind of color I like. And I love the bottle. At this point, however, I want to interrupt my bottle worship to include a snapshot of the two Ohio bottles next to a Waterman bottle, to provide a sense of scale. Because the beautiful bottle is really just a little thing, so not really that exciting, to normal people with normal priorities.
The second Ohio ink, Storm Warning, is a greenish-gray, and it does have the benefit of having the scary Ohio Pen Club logo right on the label, as you can see. The ink is a green that’s been grayed down, favoring the yellow rather than blue side of green, and it is just slightly muddy.
The Storm Warning bottle? Meh. The Storm Warning bottle has all the charm of a Soviet-bloc apartment building. My colorful Field Notes house will put that to shame.
Maybe I will make the Storm Warning bottle into a silo. This is the silo that stores the corn. That feeds the elk. That lives in the backyard. That is part of the house. That Field Notes built.
As for the inks, my pen club (in Chicago) loved Storm Warning ink — I think it was more popular than Park of Roses with the rest of my club. But Park of Roses is more popular with me. I say don’t sleep on either: I think both inks will be hot sellers at the Ohio Pen Show.
Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby: I actually got a sample at the Chicago Pen Show, i.e., early May, but I didn’t ink it up until I inked up the Park of Roses ink, just last week. That’s not the ink’s fault. I’ve just been writing almost nothing by hand.
And, I mean, I’m realizing I’m not alone. I’m thinking we’re all mostly faking the “writing” part, right? And why not?
They say we’re crazy but I just don’t care. To that end, here’s what I’ve written so far with Star Ruby. “This is Star Ruby.” Which I then followed up with “This is Park of Roses,” using Park of Roses. I slay.
I do love the color of Star Ruby. It reminds me of the no-longer-available Edelstein Turmaline, still my favorite reddish pink ink. Star Ruby is more saturated, doesn’t shade much, and is a fuller, pinker color. So I need a bottle of Star Ruby, too.
Lamy Crystal Agate: It is gray. I bought this right after the pen show, too, at another sponsor’s store, Atlas Stationers in Chicago. They had all the Lamy Crystal inks to try, most of which are dark and very saturated (a very popular look). But the one I liked was the quiet one, Agate.
Agate is a medium dark gray, with shading, that’s easy to read. I’ve been using in my Pelikan M205, which places it in the top two of inks I’ve bought this summer, in terms of words written.
J. Herbin Vert de Gris: Another post-pen show purchase from Atlas, and another ink that I got the chance to try before buying, because Atlas had pens inked with all the new J. Herbin inks. (Pen stores are great. Also pen shows.)
The newer Vert de Gris is a muted slate blue, with nice shading, and I like it very much. I gave samples out, including to a sketcher friend who likes it, too. Vert de Gris reminds me a little of Bayou Nightfall from Papier Plume, though Vert de Gris has no green and is less complex.
So many inks, so many colors.
And now, for the best time. Pen time!
Lamy Safari USA Edition. It’s a blue pen with the white and red cap, which is exactly the same as I made for myself as my Chicago Cubs pen back in 2016. But, of course, I bought the new USA Safari. I like it. It celebrates the USA, and it’s a Lamy Safari.
I will not use this USA Safari, of course. It’s for the collection. When you have dozens of Safaris, you don’t need to write with all of them. Or, indeed, any of them! This is exactly what I am learning today.
Pelikan M205 Red. I just bought this from a friend. She never actually got around to writing with it. (I asked.) And, as I told her, I probably won’t either. High five! But does it matter? Even with the pens I write with, I’m mostly signing my name, or writing “don’t forget milk.” Well, also, “Star Ruby.”
Which reminds me that I’m absolutely ordering the Star Ruby M205 pen from my friend Dan Smith the Nibsmith. I have had that on the list since he told me about it early this year. This pen one I will use, too: it’s dark pink.
But I’m not fussed about the ones I don’t use. This is the 21st century. My friend and I can’t be the only pen fans without a lot of natural opportunities to use dozens of pens and inks. Most of us stretch to find uses for these, if we have more than a few. Which leaves the bulk on the shelf.
But I think that’s okay. The “on the shelf” expression is apt.
What if it turns out that pens and inks are like books?
Like the books in your library, you buy your pens (and inks and even paper) for reasons, that seem important at the time. “Some of it is just transcendental, some of it is just really dumb.”
A book is a promise, a possibility. It requires time and attention. You have to read it. And often you have to be in the right mood, place or time. The thing itself holds the promise, though — new imaginative experiences, right inside the covers. No one would say, limit yourself to your a few books, the ones you can use every day, or the ones you are reading right now, or the ones that are your favorites.
A pen, an ink, even paper for some, is endowed with a similar possibility, at least for nuts like us. You buy it because it fits who you are, or your collection, or because it inspires you. Or maybe you just take a shine to it.
It’s all okay.
Whatever these things are for, it turns out, it’s all just for fun. Meet some nice people, buy some pretty things, collect them if you want, play with them like blocks if you want. Just enjoy your summer. And your winter, spring, fall. When you write something, hopefully you can pick up a pen you like and an ink you like, and write on paper you like. If you’re lucky there’s music in it.
None of these things matter, except to the extent that they make us happy.