Unusual pens and exotic inks
The London Pen Show 2020 resided in the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, tucked away in a room at the back of the reception area, accessed by navigating your way through all the tourists and their wheelie suitcases. It’s a twice-yearly event much loved by pen enthusiasts and a nicer bunch of people you’d be hard pressed to find.
We were ourselves one of the exhibitors a few years back, showcasing the brand new KWZ ink from Poland, and we were struck by the variety of visitors. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a largely middle-aged man event, and actually you’d be correct. But there is nonetheless a mixture of age ranges, with women and even children scattered about the place, all mesmerised by the huge selection of writing instruments. Business is brisk and deals are very much on offer with haggling positively welcomed.
The show is a mix of dealers and retailers with the dealers mainly in the big hall offering antique, vintage and new pens for sale. There must be at least 50 tables weighed down by pens, pen parts and accessories and all staffed by enthusiasts and experts. I have to confess to having only a limited interest in pens, so I wandered mostly in the retail area in the hope of seeing something new, or new to me at any rate.
The first thing that caught my eye was some ‘fake Lamy’ pens from Jinhao. These £5 knockoff Safari and Al Star pens look very similar to the German originals but come in all different finishes and show what Lamy could achieve if they really got creative with their limited editions. There are metallic shades plus some super shiny half tone silver/colour versions, and if you ever felt sad about not having an orange Safari, the plain colour range includes a nice bright substitute. There are clear differences between these and the originals, not least the big silver clip and the name branded on the barrel. They also have a more plasticky feel than the genuine article, but they come with a converter and for a fiver? A bit of good fun. They were being sold by Pure Pens, likely as a result of Lamy’s policy of discarding many of their online sellers a couple of years ago.
We also snagged a Jinhao Shark Pen, a ludicrous-looking fountain pen for £3, again with converter included, which has a shark-shaped lid and comes in lots of colours. See more on this here.
They also had some inks from an Indian company, Krishna. We looked at stocking these for Bureau but for reasons that escape me now, we never ended up stocking them. Nice to see that they are available in the UK. Made by Dr Sreekumar (a real medical doctor) in his spare time they are said to be super-sheeny and come in little 20ml bottles. Click here to see more.
Another purchase was some interesting new ink called Van Diemans (I know, but that is how they spell it) from Tasmania and stocked by Scrittura Elegante, a Dutch website. Lots of beautiful colours including shimmer inks (Blonde Bombshell was a standout), a series of colours inspired by the dark shades of the evening light (The Midnight Series) a series inspired by the seasons and another by the wilderness: all inspired by the beautiful Tasmanian landscape. They come with brilliant names like Black Tongue Spider Orchid, Bay of Fires and Howl at the Moon. They’ve had some good reviews as well. Click here to see more.
Other notable ink included the Gazing Far series from Taiwan which came in very sweet little bottles with colours including Red Bean, Mung Bean and Pineapple (really nice). At the show they had lovely sets of all four colours wrapped up beautifully but they must have been a show special as they don’t seem to be available on their website. Click here to see more.
There really was a lot of fantastic ink available including a new small bottle range of Sailor Shikiori ink from Write Here. Click here to see more.
Another thing that caught my eye was this early example of corporate branding (our real day jobs being exactly that with our branding company Ferrotype) – a fountain and ballpen set made for Johnny Walker.
Also I came across a lovely company selling pen cases made from eel skin! Possibly this is a common use for eels, but I have never heard of eel skin being used for anything. It was a shiny black and not what I was expecting at all. They also had a lots of cases made from crocodile and iguana, not sure I was so keen on that. Not that I am keen on eel skin either really.
Other than that there were a lot of very expensive pens (the Delta Imperial Pompeii – £750!), some vintage Mont Blancs with snake clips, Russian brand Benu, some new fountain pens from Kentucky and so much more. There is another show in London in the autumn plus lots of others all around the country so if you want to see more pens that you have ever seen together plus a sneak preview of all things new, it might be worth a trip.