PEN AND INK LOVERS

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If you’ve backread this blog, you’ll realize that many of my old posts center on fountain pens and on my friends who use and collect them. The Facebook group I help moderate, Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, has grown exponentially over the last few years and now has about 3,300+ members. What’s the culture like, in this group?

Much has been written about the demise of cursive handwriting. They no longer teach it in many schools around the world, in favor of learning how to operate digital keyboards. Some people tend to think of using fountain pens as a hipster-ish affectation. In fact, while most fountain pen lovers dig analog stuff, many just like the way fountain pens write – smoothly, and under their own weight. For many it’s to escape the aching, death grip they use on ballpoint pens. It’s no surprise that many of the users and collectors are of a certain age. Here in the Philippines many of the traditional users are professionals like lawyers (or law students) and artists. Nowadays FPN-P members are from all walks of life, and the number of younger people using fountain pens (high school and college students) is growing.

Many new members come to us interested in calligraphy. They start with dip pens and calligraphy ink, and branch out into fountain pens with flex or italic nibs. Some of the more adventurous members learn to hack some fountain pens (usually the inexpensive Jinhao or the Ranga) by installing dip nibs like the Zebra G nib in them. Some people stick to the inexpensive, daily carry budget pens, like the Platinum Preppy and the Pilot Metropolitan, while others confine themselves to vintage pens, or have upgraded to well-known fine writing instruments with gold nibs and better build quality. There are those who claim they’re only users, not collectors, and are later surprised to find themselves amassing an accumulation of pens in the journey to find “the perfect pen”. Some collect pens in a single color, or different colors of the same model, or a single brand. Some joke that they collect only “Axis Powers” pens (from Japan, Italy and Germany). There are arguments over whether to ink a pen or not (the usual comment is, you might as well use it as it depreciates, as rarely does it increase in value over time). We geek out over pens, the same way others do over anime or guns or other hobbies.

I’ll admit, one of the things that keeps me interested in fountain pens is the possibility of using the myriad ink colors now available. Back in 2008, when FPN-P was first founded, the only place you could buy fountain pens (Parker and Sheaffer) was National Bookstore and (other brands) on eBay. The only ink colors you could buy back then were black, blue-black, blue and red. Fast-forward to 2016, and you have different brands and colors of fountain pen inks being offered by a number of brick-and-mortar and online stores. My friends amass ink collections, not just pen collections. Some hoard their favorite colors, some trade different colors. Some are obsessed with inks that sheen or shimmer. And then there’s the continuous hunt for the best quality paper for one’s budget, from Bevania Splendorgel to Tomoe River. There are brands of journals for everything! (And the perennial question: Is next year’s planner paper fountain pen-friendly?)

There’s never been such a good time for fountain pen users as now.

Daily Prompt: Culture

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