Pen People ethnography.

It is possible, using one’s powers of observation, to deduce the characteristics and motivations of the individual members of the peculiar tribe known as Pen People from their tools. Known to congregate around platters of pasta in centrally-located malls, Pen People are quite ingenious at devising ways to carry their pens and accessories.

Pens arranged neatly

Subject no. 1 Exhibit A

Subject 1 is a seasoned forager. Observe how he has accumulated pens of different forms and colors. Not only that, he has appropriated a commercial pen tray for his own use. The same subject also seems to be an ink enthusiast, as the contents of his bag indicate.

Subject no. 1 Exhibit B

Subject no. 1 Exhibit B

Subject 2 is very particular about grooming, as can be seen in his neat arrangement of pens, notebooks and pen repair tools, each with an assigned bag section.

Subject no. 2

Subject no. 2 Exhibit A

The same subject also displays an unusual level of logic and organization. His pens are in some kind of esoteric arrangement – perhaps alphabetical?

Subject no. 2 Exhibit B

Subject no. 2 Exhibit B

The third subject has a finely tuned sense of aesthetics. This sense is not crucial to survival (“Oh look, what a graceful sabretooth!” is usually followed by a scream and a gurgling, cracking sound) but is highly valued among the Pen People. Note the warm tones of the pen wrap complementing the leather bag’s golden clasp. The bead is a statement of form and function, beautifully keeping the ribbon in place.

Subject no. 3

Subject no. 3

Subject four is a stealthy, cunning creature, whom field researchers conjecture might be one of the tribe’s hidden leaders. The extensive use of black across bag interiors, pen case and notebook covers could be proof of that theory.

Subject no. 4

Subject no. 4

In the wild, Pen People can pass for other kinds of People. Subject five is a good example of this phenomenon. The thick cotton bag could very well be carried by Green Fashion People, belying the pen wrap with foulard print and mother-of-pearl mosaic ribbon stopper within. This form of mimicry has served the tribe well, allowing members to elude Predators and Pickpockets.

Subject no. 5

Subject no. 5

Our last subject belongs to the peculiar subset of Pen People we call Minimalist Pen People. This subset does not carry many pens or notebooks, usually preferring a single representative of each, two at most. While this behavior triggers inquiring looks from other Pen People (“What? You only brought one pen?”), it is not a deterrent to friendly interaction.

Subject no. 6

Subject no. 6

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing study, please do. If you have spotted other ways of carrying pens, you can also upload photos for analysis in the comments section.

 

  • Debra

    Hi Leigh, I really enjoy your whole website! Love the anthropological study, and will send some contributions from Sydney, Australia soon. My packing is a bit schizophrenic, where I’ll be working determines how I arm for the day. Pics soon, Debbie

  • leighpod

    Hi Debbie! Are you living out of a pen case? I’ve tried that. LOL. Look forward to your pictures. :)

  • Matt

    What about the genus pocket stuffers?  They might further be divided into the retro, the modern, and the hybrid.  The hybrid being the most genial.  All would be prone to spotting however.

  • Raphael Rosen

    Very nice.  I’ve had my eye on a leather carrying case with room for two pens; maybe I’ll make the splurge soon.

  • Ianthegreen

    Well done observation in the field. I do wonder are those who covet and use dip pens also a subset or are they a separate group entirely?

  • Erin

    Really enjoyed your brilliant observations of the Pen People in the wild, Leigh. For the most part, they seem a sophisticated bunch. I make pen wraps that you may put into a hybrid of neatnik/green category, as the fabrics were often repurposed. The pens are of a humble sort as well. :) One of these days I would like to make a video of using the pen wrap. Will let you know.

  • leighpod

    A retro pocket stuffer would have retro pens in a modern pocket or modern pens in a retro pocket? Or retro pens in a retro pocket? Okay, I’ve gone and confused myself now.

  • leighpod

    Which one are you looking at?

  • leighpod

    What I wonder is, is it possible to belong to different subsets at one time. Are you solely a dip pen person?

  • leighpod

    You must! :) I’m sure it would inspire people to see how a pen wrap is made.

  • Ben

    This reminds me of our small group of camera enthusiasts back in the 80s. Every Saturdays, we met at Dasmarinas Cafe, discussing, showing off new camera, lenses acquisitions, etc. One time, someone posited this: Does anyone here ever take pictures? Now I ask, how many of the pen people described above actually write? Majority or rarity?

  • leighpod

    Majority. :) Pens are so much more fun when they’re being used to write or draw with.

  • Cfclark

    Which of these is yours? ;)

    I have joined the camera-collector tribe, too…those aren’t quite as easy to carry along as one’s collection grows.

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  • Matt

    Retro pens in a modern pocket.  If  you have retro pens in a retro pocket you are likely to be H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper in, I believe, Southern California.  Pens do spot a leather apron.

    Penspotting is, of course, completely different,  .

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  • ignacio v
  • http://leighreyes.com Leigh Reyes

    I haven’t tried it. There are positive comments on Pentrace, and the nib certainly has the right vintage shape for flex. :)

  • http://leighreyes.com Leigh Reyes

    Oh no, I don’t want to think about cameras!

  • http://twitter.com/PeaceableWriter JD Eames

    Great! Okay, what does pen carried by shirt collar indicate?

  • http://twitter.com/hdbbstephen Stephen Smith

     no pockets…

  • allan

    damn!!! you got everything right. i love this! thanks!

  • joanne silverman

    While I am the owner of a zillion pens, often the one I depend on for daily comings, goings and jottings is my Fischer Space Pen. Its compact size is perfect for those days when I don’t want to carry a bag but know there will arise an occasion to write something. Even when I don’t have a pocket to stuff it in, I’ve stowed it in my bra. It is truly a “go anywhere” pen, and one thing I never leave home without.