Imagine spotting a rare vintage pen in a flea market. Your breath catches. Your heartbeat accelerates. You pick it up and gently, gently, twist open the cap. Wait… there’s no nib. Could it be a safety pen? In that case, it might be even more valuable! You peer inside the section in anticipation. And then…
THOUSANDS OF VENOMOUS BATWINGED HAIRY SPIDERS BLAST OUT OF THE SECTION AND SURROUND YOUR HELPLESS SCREAMING HEAD IN A CHITTERING CLOUD OF BULLETPROOF EVIL.
That, in a rubber sac, was 2016. However improbable, however, there were highlights.
Aside from being The Year of Unbearable Ugh, it was also:
The Year We All Went Live
Everyone reviewed a pen on Periscope, before moving on to Facebook Live, Snapchat, and back to safe, searchable YouTube. Now that Instagram is rolling out IG Live (US users first, while the rest of the world glares in envy), expect live pen and ink reviews on top of your stream in 2017. And speaking of Instagram…
The Year Pen-Related Hashtags Ruled Instagram
2016 also saw usernames and hashtags with pen-related wordplay flooding Instagram, helping one #penaddict find others and keeping #fpgeeks connected. #fountainpen and its plural sibling are at around 400-500,000 mentions, as are #stationeryaddict, #journaling and #travelersnotebook. While less than a thousand, #inkstainedhands beat #inkstainedfingers, hands down. Brands need to scramble for the rest of the week in 2017, because #mondaymatchupgiveaway, #thINKthursday and #inkitupfriday are already taken.
The Year Unicorns Threw Up in the Ink Factory
Shimmer and sheen extended their rule in 2016, with J. Herbin releasing the unpronounceable Caroube de Chypre, and Diamine the 12-part Shimmertastic sequel. Robert Oster Signature Inks paired electric shades with high-contrast sheen and won over many hearts and filling systems. Lamy came out of left field with its limited edition Dark Lilac, triggering hoarding instincts across pen communities.
(KWZ Ink could hardly care less, though. Its Iron Gall inks, brilliant in the bottle, reliably darkened on the page, water-resistant and age-defiant, with not a speck of glitter in sight.)
The Year We Got By With a Little Help From Our Friends
Lamy x LineFriends released “Brown in Red”. Joey Feldman and Vanness 1938 teamed up on a special art edition for Retro 51. Franklin-Christoph and the Pen Addict released a grey and orange Model 02 exclusive. Dudek Modern Goods sold out of the Morse. Now we need ink, guys.
The Year It Was Better Lathe Than Never
Pen people queued for stalwarts Shawn Newton (Newton Pens) and Renee Meeks (Scriptorium Pens) in 2016. Shawn released new models like the Prospector, Breaker, and Vapor, adding to his already-famed Shinobi. Renee’s simple, elegant shapes in vibrant materials emerged from her lathe, rising from mountains of swarf. Other makers attracted followings. Among those that came to my attention were Jonathon Brooks, Carl Fisher (Fisher of Pens), and Tim Cullen’s Hooligan Pen Company.
I asked Carl to make a pen in vintage celluloid that approximated the shape of the Pilot Penmanship pen, with an added bronze stopper.
In my opinion, Yoshi Nakama of 18111 Pens is one of the most innovative pen makers today. He utilizes laser engraving and 3D printing, among other techniques. Based on my design, he created a suite of pens called Memory of Spring, cast alumilite resin with laser-engraved and resin-filled sakura blossoms and 3D branch stoppers.
I need to make special mention of the Kanilea Pen Company, which is quite possibly most comprehensive and impactful branding exercise I’ve seen for a brand new pen line. Kanilea pays attention to detail, down to the use of seed paper for packaging.
The Year We Couldn’t Leave Our Nibs Well Enough Alone
Mike Masuyama continued his reign as the 0.2 needlepoint champion and all-around iridium surfer. Everyone wanted an architect grind from Dan Smith. Jim Rouse’s SIG (stub-italic-gradient) nibs debuted in the latter half of the year and quickly became popular. Mark del Rosario (known as Doc Kram in these here parts) lent me a “shiro-cut” steel nib and yes, it was pretty flexible. (I’d like to see him do many more of those.)
The Year of Shocking Departures
Omas bid us farewell and left us clutching our Bronze Arcos in despair. Dante del Vecchio announced he was parting ways with Visconti, the company he founded. Early in the year, Nakaya discontinued the Dorsal Fin II and the shiro tamenuri finish.
(The Dorsal Fin II is now back on the order page, so anything is possible.)
The Year Searching For “Pen Video” Would Never Be the Same Again
Go ahead, just search for “pen video”.
The Year I Made the First Fountain Pen-Themed Sticker Pack for iMessage
iOS 10 didn’t exactly rock the world, but iMessage sticker packs certainly made me happier, and that can’t be a bad thing. Thanks to video tutorials, and a little trial and error with the App Store uploading and approval process, I now have two sticker packs for download: Feelblots and Extrafiner. Feelblots is ink blots with expressions. Extrafiner is fountain pen and handwriting elements, created with varying levels of transparency for more expressive layering, and made with 100% fountain pen ink and fountain pens.
I promise to update both soon with new stickers. Because I love making them.
There are problems in the world, and they are mighty, and fearsome, and intractable. Pens and ink might be a distraction – or they might be a way of taking a deep breath, before emerging calmer and better armed to fight and persevere. I wish, for all of you, steadfastness, resolve, and optimism in 2017.