It's all about the written word...

Celebrating three years in publication. Thank you for visiting often!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is it a collection, or is it just a lot of pens?

I have a lot of pens, and I assume you do, too, since last week’s survey on this site (How many pens do you own?) revealed that more than half of the respondents own more than 50. Since I know some of you, I also know that, like me, you own MANY more than that. But are you a collector or do you just like pens? Take the following test to find out:

I purchase pens…
a) with premeditation
b) as an impulse buy

Do you keep all the original packaging?
a)     yes
b)    no

Do you catalog your pens in any way?
a)     yes
b)    no

Do you gravitate toward a certain brand purchasing just about everything they produce and often ordering it before it ever hits the stores?
a)     yes
b)    no

Do you own any other collectibles?           
            a)  yes
            b)  no

Is there a “theme” to your pens (such as a certain era, color, manufacturer, etc.)?
a)     yes
b)    no

Do you keep track of the current value of your pens?
a)     yes
b)    no

Of course there are many other ways to tell what type of pen aficionado you might be, but if you answered mostly “a”, you are most likely a collector. But you probably already knew that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A gift forever...

My book club is currently reading Mao’s Last Dancer, the autobiography of Li Cunxin, whose life began in a poor village in northeast China and years later took him to fame and success in the US. The young peasant boy left home to study ballet in Beijing at the behest of Madame Mao during the Cultural Revolution in China, and his father gave him a pen as a gift on his first visit home after almost a year. “I hope you will use it every day…and every time you use it, you will remember your parents and our expectations of you,” said his father. A pen always has and always will be a gift with meaning.

Share your own stories—from books or personal experience—about pens as gifts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sometimes it's fun to be me...

I’ve been a fan of Curtis Australia for a while now, and a fan of the owners, Heather and Glenn Curtis since I first met them in California a few years ago. I particularly like the company’s jewelry-inspired pens, probably because jewelry is the root of the brand, with pens being a relatively new offering. I met Glenn and Heather at the Parasol Bar at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and their precious cargo, which they nonchalantly carted about in a nondescript package, was the pen and the necklace from their latest Morning Mist collection. The collection (which also includes bracelets, pendants, earrings and cufflinks) features silvery-gray diamonds known as Silvermist, introduced by Rio Tinto earlier this year. The fountain pen is 18-karat white and yellow gold with over 600 handset diamonds. In order to get the pen finished in time for the JCK show—the reason we were all in Las Vegas—Glenn personally set each stone. The articulated necklace is also made of white and yellow gold and features over 600 diamonds. The first picture shows Glenn and Heather and the pen, priced at $95,000. Though we all know that pens are my first love, it was fun to try on that necklace, which retails for $119,000. I thought it looked quite nice with my dress, which cost a whole lost less.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Surprise, at least to me...

Of the people who responded to my last poll (the question: What is the source of your pen purchases?), 66 percent said they purchased their pens online. The remaining number was equally distributed among “pens shops,” “mass market stores” and “other collectors.” Powerful sales medium, this Internet is. It makes me wonder about the fate of brick-and-mortar stores, particularly since I am of the generation that remembers what personal service is all about. These days, most people think good service is getting an item on time and as described, and of course this is important. But I also like being wooed by the touch of a prospective purchase or the ambience of a store and its personnel. It’s retail foreplay.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow…

The Shoppes at the Palazzo in Las Vegas is home to one of Montblanc’s gorgeous boutiques, and it is in fitting company, with such neighbors as Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Coach, Jimmy Choo and other notables in the jewelry and fashion industries. I walked from the Sands Convention Center, where I was attending the JCK show (not a short jaunt, I might add), and arrived a few minutes early for my meeting with Kelly Hodrick, director of communications for Montblanc North America. Kelly is a credit to her industry. Enthusiastic, funny and smart, she is one of my favorite people to talk to, though we don’t often have the opportunity. So here’s the scoop: the Mark Twain Limited Edition 2010 Writers Edition will be in stores in August, and to commemorate the hundredth year of Twain’s passing, Montblanc is hosting an event in mid-August at the Mark Twain Museum in Missouri (there will be another event in September at Foxwoods in Connecticut).
      Montblanc has been prolific this year. Among the new introductions are three new additions to its Annual Edition, including Mythical Creatures (Papillon); Venetian Carnival (Il Dottore) and Classical Mythology (Athene). This year’s Patron of the Art pen was an homage to Elizabeth I. There’s a new and feminine Etoile de Montblanc coming in October and another ultra-special pen making its debut about the same time. If I say more, I will be mysteriously and permanently muzzled and I would not like that.
     More on Mark Twain…According to company literature, the Mark Twain is “entirely inspired by the works of the legendary writer and his Southern roots, apparent in many of his works. The sinuous curving lines on the deep blue precious resin are inspired by the Mississippi and its shallow waves. It was this imposing “Ol’ Man River” that captivated Twain and influenced him throughout his life. The top of the cap is shaped to resemble the steamboat chimneys, whose steam is illustrated by ivory-colored precious resin. The clip is reminiscent of a stylized jaw’s harp, a musical instrument that was popular in the southern states during Twain’s lifetime. Beneath the clip, the cap ring is marked with the author’s signature, as well as the limited edition number. Finally, the delicately designed 18-karat gold nib is engraved with two fathoms used in former times as an indication for the depth under the keel of a sailboat. The fountain pen is priced at $960.
     My favorite quote from Twain: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thankfully, what happens in Vegas stays there…

So I just got back from Las Vegas. It was a balmy 106 degrees while I was there, but the Couture and the JCK shows were held in controlled environments at the Wynn Hotel and the Sands Convention Center, respectively. In addition to some beautiful watches and jewelry, I saw some great pens. David Oscarson was hosted by W.Ink, the small-but-oh-so-elegant pen shop in the Wynn Hotel—a fitting spot to showcase Oscarson’s elegant pens. Too, he had pen displays at the Wynn & Company watch and jewelry store on the Esplanade, as well as right next door at the Encore, Steve Wynn’s newest hotel. I also met with Glenn and Heather Curtis of Curtis Australia and visited the Montblanc Boutique at the adjacent Palazzo. More on these later. And, yes, I did gamble a bit, but came home a few bucks lighter than when I left, unlike my colleagues who were much luckier. An observation: I’d hate to think that a visitor from another galaxy would assume Vegas is representative of earthlings' culture. There's a great future in plastics. Still.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A sense of humor and a $2 mirror

Yair Greenberg has been in the pen business for as long as I can remember, and that’s a very long time. He is the founder of YAFA (an acronym formed from the first two letters of his name and the first two letters of his wife, Fay’s), which distributes a number of pen brands, including Monteverde, which he founded (the name means “green mountain,” as does his surname), Conklin and Delta. He is also the distributor of Schmidt, Hauser and Star Minen refills. A busy man, he is, since he typically introduces between five and ten new pen collections each year. It was fun to catch up with him recently in NYC, since we always have lots to talk about, not the least of which is pens.

When YAFA purchased Conklin not too long ago, Greenberg immersed himself in the brand, studying its history and its products. The result is a refreshed line that makes the most of contemporary ingredients—like some really lovely acrylics—all the while paying homage to what made Conklin a favorite during its heyday many years ago. The new Deco Crest in silver and rose gold vermeil is reaching stores right about now. It’s a very pretty pen with a vintage-style overlay, available as a fountain pen or ballpoint pen. The ballpoint with a partial overlay retails for $595, and the fountain pen, $695. With a full overlay, the ballpoint is priced at $1,495 and the fountain pen, $1,595. Within the next two or three months, a new Symetric will be coming out in vintage-looking colors: red, green or brown. Later in the year, watch for the Glider and a piston-filled Nozac. Greenberg is also working on a Duragraph and a great looking Mark Twain Crescent (it’s crescent filled—just like the old days) in a chased design, black and ivory and burgundy and blue.

In case you haven’t guessed it, Greenberg is captivated by names, and this extends to his Monteverde line in which each collection ends with the letter “a.” Most of what’s new here are line extensions, except for one as-yet-to-be-named collection launching later this year. Rest assured that it, too, will end in the letter “a.” There’s a new Mini Jewelria, new colors in the Prima and Regatta lines, and the new Color Fusion in red or yellow (based on the Black Stealth) in the Invincia Collection.

Delta, based in Naples, Italy, also has some exciting news. The Dolce Vita Oro with yellow gold vermeil trim launched in May. It is available as a ballpoint, rollerball and fountain pen in two styles: oversized or piston-filled. Also making its debut is the Titanio with a titanium nib (very smooth and flexible) and the Mapuche. The limited edition Windows collection is gorgeous. The transparent body of the pen features a scene from each of the four seasons, and there are just 200 pens in each of the four designs.

When I asked Greenberg if he avails himself of any help in managing all of his companies and indeed designing new products and even inventing a few things (he patented the Mega Ink Ball rollerball that fills like a fountain pen), he replied with characteristic good humor that he gets his best advice “from a $2 mirror.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I know you're out there

Last week’s poll confirmed that of the respondents, 62 percent had written a letter in the previous week and 25 percent had written one in the last month. That’s great news, considering that most of what comes in the mail is pre-printed junk. I am always thrilled when I see real handwriting in real ink on the front of an envelope, and that’s the piece that I dive for first when sorting through the plethora of bills and ads...and an offer for a discount on my cremation. Yup, that’s just what I got, and I promptly threw it away, since I want only the best when it comes to torching my deceased self. Also on the subject of mail, is anyone else at a moral crossroads when using the little return address labels that are sent free by organizations hoping for donations?