Q: What are your favorite pens?
A: The ones I can sell.
Q: Hahaha… what do you collect?
A: The ones I can’t sell.
That was me, chatting with David Ushkow (pen-site.com) — who came from New York — at one point on Friday, with his east-coast, Nu-Yoak, matter-of-fact … charm After I re-composed myself from laughing hard, he said that joking aside, his heart is into Maki-e pens from Japan. So there you go.
Third Year, No Longer the Newbie
This is my third pen show. I consider myself super-lucky to have a pen show where I don’t have to fly somewhere. And this year I was asked to organize the vendor registration (and re-designing the website and continue to do the first-timer tours). Not too surprising that these tasks went hand-in-hand. I get to know the names of the vendors, correspond with them, which in turn made it super easy for me to talk about them during the tours.
The new website went online just in time for the vendors to start mailing their registrations. And one cool feature is the live Instagram feed that is visible from the website “Gallery” section:
Getting involved in organizing a pen show opened my eyes and mind to the complexity of managing expectations from a lot of people to achieve the goal of minimizing the heartburn so everyone involved could and would enjoy the show. I knew it from the get go, that this won’t be an easy task. But after my actual involvement, I know how difficult it actually is.
Also a big kudos to the members of the Dallas Pen Club under the leadership of Mike Walker, for volunteering much of their time, sometimes at the cost of their rightful portion to enjoy the show for themselves. These are amazing people to work with.
The People, It Always Comes Back to the People
Nothing stood out so clearly to me than the fact that the pen show is exciting because of the pens and the ink, but it became memorable because of the people.
I often hear that there is a very high percentage of nice people in the fountain pen community. At a pen show, you just naturally get to experience how true that statement is. So here are my summaries about those whom I met at the show this year:
- Chris Thompson. As a pen restorer, I am fascinated by those who could fashion a pen out of nothing, so there I was, chatting with Chris Thompson while holding a handmade Parker Duofold replica with a sterling silver cap and micarta barrel, a beautiful, and functional artwork.I asked him what’s the story with a huge (almost a foot long) Parker pen on his desk. He said that it’s a Parker sales tool to illustrate that they made pens as big as this, and as small as … then he proceeded to popped out of the end of the big pen, a tiny eye-dropper the size of a toothpick!But wait, that’s not the most interesting part of the story. He said that someone stole the original nib of the big pen, so he created a new one out of a tuna can (it works), as a way for him to say to future thieves: “Take this!”
- David Broadwell. I managed to find time to discuss with David about how he got started with making custom pens, as a big name in the knife-making community, he entered the pen-making scene from a unique angle, designing the pens as well as making them. If you never seen his designs, they are exquisite. And one thing that he said resonated with me: “I love to draw sketches”.
- Michael Sull. I regret that I didn’t get a chance to spend more time watching his beautiful calligraphy, let alone to chat with him. His table was almost always full of people lining up. Next time.
- Andreas Lambrou. One of my highlights on Friday was listening to Mr. Lambrou as he told some of the the stories on how he researched the material for his books to a buyer. Of course, the buyer asked him to sign his book that was purchased. Mr. Lambrou proceeded to take one of the pens he produced and sign the book. How many book authors can whip up a pen that they produced themselves?
- Danny Fudge. He looked at my name tag and a puzzled look appeared on his face. He said that my name sounds familiar. When I told him that I hang out on reddit and often suggested people to contact him, his face lit up and he said: “So that’s you who sent people to me from reddit!” I clarified that I was only one of many, and that he’s quite famous in the FP community Such a humble and cool man.
- Newcomers. I met Troy Hudson and Scott Coats, two newcomers in custom pen-making who showed creativity and innovation in their pens. We hit it off right away and I can see a bright future for both of them. I’m sure we’ll see more interesting things from them next year.
The Fountain People
I started well in this regard, chatting with Brian and Lisa Anderson on Thursday evening as they finished setting up their tables. On Friday, I started out by visiting (of course) the Vanness Pens tables, chatted with Lisa Vanness, Chris and Diane Wright.
Then I caught a glimpse of a tall man whose photos I’ve seen before, then I walked up to him, introduced myself to Cary Yeager, Mr. Fountain Pen Day (FPD) himself. This is his first at the Dallas Pen Show, and to me, a historical moment for an “old-school” pen shows such as the Dallas Pen Show! We talked and he produced the coveted and ultra-collectible FPD button, specially made for the Dallas Pen Show 2017. I thank him for the buttons, but most importantly, for his support of the show and for organizing the after-show get-together.
Back to my job at the show along with my wife (recruited again for the second year, yeah!), that is helping out at Pete’s Pen Shop tables, also known as four tables of absolutely mind-boggling rare vintage pen collection, I was introduced to one of Pete’s many good friends (name withheld because I don’t want to endanger him) who was once a distributor for Pilot pens in the US. A very charming man whose perspectives are very interesting, with a sharp wit to match them. He brought with him from where he lives, a place of high-altitude, a leather suitcase that unassumingly contains quite a few number of Pilot Maki-e pens.
Some of these are Pilot Emperor -class pens, yes, the one with a gigantic No. 50 nib, adorned with handmade Maki-e art that takes 13-month to finish… per pen. Use your imagination on how much it cost and how rare it is to be found in uninked, NOS condition. And the rest of the case are only slightly less in terms of size, beauty and price. Gulp.
Finally on Saturday, I get to know the Bittners, who are a team of husband and wife (Detlef and Cindy) and quite well-known at pen shows. Not a month ago, we visited California, and happen to go to Carmel-By-The-Sea, and there we saw their store, a real pen store. Not wanting to disrupt them at work, we simply look around the shop and left, knowing that we’ll see them soon at the show. So we chatted about that and I just found out that they have run the shop for 27 years. That is simply amazing!
I also bought a bottle of Red Beans and Rice (how can you not?) from Renzo Amares of Papier Plume. I chatted a bit with him and of course Mr. Rideau.
Bloggers? I am happy to see both Well-Appointed Desk and Inkdependence made their appearance once more in Dallas.
The People in the Tours
My tours this year are reduced in its frequency. I did the tours only every two hours, and this time I seem to get more people who are interested to join the pen club, so that is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
A highlight: I had this gentleman in one of the tours who showed me his grandfather’s Parker Duofold, the barrel broken in half. I suggested for him to talk to Chris Thompson and have him fashion a new barrel for the pen. It’s such a rewarding feeling to help others find the connection to their past.
As I was waiting for the people for the last tour, I sauntered to the Pen World Magazine, asked a ‘just-curious’ question that led to a very interesting conversation with one of their staff.
What is a pen show article without some talk about “the haul”.
I am a very happy with what I got this year. And again, the happiness of getting the pens was enhanced by my exchange with the people who sold them. Again the proof that a hobby alone could be satisfying, but a shared hobby is electrifying and inspiring.
Because I am a vintage pen restorer, when it comes to pen show haul, I look for things that normal pen enthusiasts may not be interested in, namely unrestored pens. Having said that, for the price, I can’t say no to a green ebonite pen from FPR (left-most in the photo) nor to a Sailor pen with ‘Fude’ nib from Pendemonium (right-most).
The rest of the haul are: A LeTigre French piston filler from Tim Pierson (you can’t call yourself a vintage pen fan if you don’t drool over his 3000 displayed pens — at least once — at the pen show). I am happy that he called the Dallas Pen Show his “home show” because he’s quite well-known at other shows as well. Next, a neat Croxley pen with a lever that is shaped like an arrow! A long and graceful Eclipse in the color that I’ve never seen before, sort of like a muted green. And some beautiful celluloid pens for my workbench, coming up for restoration and sale soon (‘soon’ means as I get to them, so watch for them listed on Pen Agora, or Redeem Pens mailing list).
But the best part of the show happened at the end, when we were packing up, Pete came to me and he said, “since you like this pen, why don’t you keep it, as a thanks for helping me out” and handed to me a pen that I’ve been drooling over since Friday. To Pete, that is just one of his thousands of pens in the collection, but to me, it’s an unexpected reward. Even more surprisingly, I didn’t even know how Pete knew that I liked that pen. Little gets past my boss (for the show) when it comes to pens, I guess.
- Growing into a hobby can be very satisfying. The immediate rewards are the pens, but the long-lasting impact squarely rest on the relationship you build with others in the community. The number of people with whom I connected is quite a jump from last year, and for that I am grateful.
- To me, even an event such as the Dallas Pen Show undergoes constant changes. The positive changes such as more attendees, a lot of young people came to the show, providing energy on top of the enthusiasm. But then there is also still a gap of perspective between the older, collection-oriented part of the community vs the younger, user-oriented one. This is by no means isolated to the Dallas Pen Show, I see it as a common “ailment” in our community. I personally embrace both the using and the collecting -aspects of the hobby. This is why I appreciate a lot popular figures such as FPD for doing what they do, because it increases the contact point between the two “camps” and allow people to know each other and share this wonderful hobby of ours. In my own little ways, I am trying my best to bridge the gap and hopefully more people who think like I do would connect with me and we’ll make some necessary changes both in Dallas, and who knows, maybe in a larger scope as well.
But for now, the long wait to the next Dallas Pen Show in 2018.
NOTE: I closed the comment section because of the number of commenters who seem to have a strange interest in helping my blog to “go viral” whatever that means ;). If you’d like to comment, use FPGeeks forum, Reddit or Instagram where I’ll post about this write-up. Thanks for reading.