Tomorrow, Friday 2nd November 2018, is Fountain Pen Day and in its honour I thought I would give you another glimpse into my psyche by telling you about five stationery items that exert their influence in my life.
A favourite paper brand
I’ve said it before; I will say it again – Mark + Fold do some spectacular paper products. They use a fair amount of UK-produced paper in their line-up and that fits well with my desire to “shop local” where it is practical to do so without having to compromise too far on quality. They sell individual items on their website, but I currently have a subscription to their stationery box which arrives four times a year and is completely drool-worthy. I am already deeply regretting that I won’t be able to renew the subscription next February, but on the whole having my sanity is slightly more important to me and that means earning a much lower income than I would ideally like to. The unfortunate downside to these products is that they are really high-end when it comes to price. Are they worth it? Oh, yes, but only if you actually have the money to spend on them.
I use the diary every day and I love it to bits and it has been the single most-used item I have received, although remember that Graphite Writing Stick? Well, I am using that a ton too! As to the exercise book, well I am a big fan of exercise books in general because they are so portable and practical and I am still in love with the practice of having a “rough book” like we had at school to take random notes. Oh, dear – now I am overwhelmed by an urge to scrawl the names of the people I hero-worship over the cover. I must resist….
A fountain pen I own and love
Ah, the Cross Apogee. It is so pretty. It is quite large and quite heavy, at least compared to my other fountain pens. I love it so. If only I could find the magic way to get the ink flowing well again. I had this same problem with my other Cross fountain pen, and it resolved itself after many months of trial and error and sitting in the naughty corner. I still don’t know exactly what made it start working properly again,
I treated myself to the Apogee when I got a permanent full-time job; I had been admiring it in person and online for many months prior to actually buying it. It’s the only fountain pen I own with a gold nib and I must say I really like how it writes. Mainly, though, it’s the lacquer finish on the pen that has me hooked; the colour and the patterning are reminiscent of a man’s silk tie, subtle and resplendent by turns. Perhaps I need to buy some pen flush….
A fountain pen I would buy in a trice
Oh, hello, lovely – wanna come home with me?
This is the pen I have been promising myself I will buy the next time I am really flush and have something special to celebrate. I was thinking of treating myself to it for my 60th birthday in 2020, but that idea is receding. 65th? 70th? How long will they keep making this beauty?
If I could only have fountain pens of one colour, it would be this blue, the blue of the sky crossing from day to night, and always matched with a chrome finish to emulate the stars. (My Cross Century II and my blue Waterman Exception are similar to this shade.) I particularly love the design of this pen; the square profile, the slight taper to the barrel. It is sleek and futuristic but in a classic way, never veering towards pastiche. Plus, I love the Waterman pens I currently own and they are really my most-used so another model from this brand is high on my wish-list.
A fountain pen I would never buy
By rights I should love this fountain pen. It is a lovely shade of deep, dark blue and see that marbling? You get that on fountain pens that are made with resin and it always looks spectacular. The chrome trim is spot-on and that design is interesting with its faceted shaping which carries through onto the cap. Visconti is a great brand, too, with a proud history of pen-making and this design is one of the more affordable in their range.
So what makes this in particular a pen I would never buy? It is the fact that, for me, it just misses the mark in every way. I own a Visconti pen and I so want to like it; I so want to admire the way the marbling highlights the resin of the body; to be entranced by the magnetic cap which clicks so satisfyingly closed. In some ways I do love it; but there is one big way in which it frustrates me and that is how it behaves with ink. It is what the pen afficionados term “a gusher” and I like my nibs to be dry, dry and hard, fit the pen with a nail if need be. Wet nibs are a feature of Visconti pens and a lot of fountain pen users adore them, but wet nibs and me, we don’t get along together. I find it too hard to find a pairing of pen and ink that actually works for me. Almost every ink I ever put in my Visconti has led to smearing of work when I’ve closed a book long after the ink “should” be dry. It has made me paranoid. I put the same ink in my Watermans, my Lamys, my Crosses, none of them smudge; the Visconti? Every single time unless I am writing on highly absorbent paper in which case the ink will feather or bleed through.
So the Visconti Pentagon is a pen that a younger me might have lusted over, but the current me will happily leave for someone else.
An ink I love
Okay, ready to chorus with me? “Graf von Faber-Castell”. This brand of ink suits me so well. I understand from people who really know their inks that this is quite a dry ink and I can certainly see that when comparing it to, for example, the Diamine inks which I always want to like (they have an awesome range of colours), but somehow don’t get along with. Also, just what compares to the Graf von Faber-Castell ink bottle? Classy, that’s what it is. That’s the ink bottle Jay Gatsby would have. (Daisy would have Pilot Iroshizuku in the deep pink Yama-Budo, but really we aren’t here to fantasise about inks for fictional characters are we?).
My personal favourite colours from the Graf von Faber-Castell range are this classic Cobalt Blue; Hazelnut Brown; Moss Green and Violet Blue. I have also tried the Garnet Red (too close to Hazelnut); Deep Sea Green (nice, but Moss Green is nicer); and Midnight Blue (ho-hum). I haven’t tried Olive Green; Turquoise (I never like turquoise inks for some reason); Burned Orange (I am not in any way an orange person); Electric Pink (I would be up for a try-out of this one); Cognac (I am so happy with Hazelnut for my choice of brown); Carbon Black (I’m a blue or blue-black girl, although it’s useful to have one black ink tucked away for a rainy day so never say never); Royal Blue (well, it’s not Cobalt is it?). For the life of me I can’t remember whether I have tried the Stone Grey. I feel that I have and that it was okay, but it might have been a grey from a totally different brand.
When I am trying out an ink, I always opt for cartridges (if the ink comes in a standard International cartridge it will fit my Waterman pens), or a sample phial if the ink comes in a proprietary cartridge that won’t fit my current pen collection. If I like it enough to use all the cartridges, then I will look at getting a bottle, but I prefer to limit the number of bottles of ink I have.
Well, that was a marathon session, hope you didn’t fall asleep before you got to the end. Happy Fountain Pen Day – if you have a fountain pen, please use it. If you are out and about and can encourage anyone else to try a fountain pen, please do. If you have never tried a fountain and are intrigued, see if you can find someone who owns a fountain pen and can let you try it out.