For those of us who appreciate pens, there is a distinctive response to the tactility of the object itself. To hold a pen in one’s hand is to understand its beauty wholly – something that a photo online, sadly, cannot replicate. But it’s this experiential quality to pens that also means that a consumer may get bored with the same cookie-cutter, factory-made pens. The discerning eye of a user is looking for nuance, as with any art form. Pens are no different.
While artisans have always played a role in the approach to pens and stationery, it seems as though more and more, they are driving the development of innovation and product growth within the industry. In fact, it is this considered approach to craftsmanship that has added significant value to pens on the market today.
For example, urushi and maki-e are a lacquering process that is best left to the experts and not easily replicated by a machine or factory-made pen. This ancient Japanese tradition involves a lot of the human element in its design and, ultimately, the artists’ involvement makes the pen that much more special (and the price is commensurate with this as well). To mass-produce an urushi pen is to lose sight of the measured and thoughtful technique that has its roots in developing a therapeutic flow of work that creates something beautiful.
Further, we recently discussed the Montblanc Patron of the Arts Victoria and Albert series of pens that has been released. These pens feature hand engraved portraits of the monarchs, which adds a subtle amount of flair and distinction to the pen itself. It is these small details that ultimately make the pen something worth holding onto, knowing the consideration in design that went into every detail.
Finally, it is the nibmeisters who are moving the American market forward by pairing existing pens with their own proprietary grinds. Esterbrook has done a good job at inviting nibmeisters to design custom grinds for their Estie line. Josh Lax, Kirk Speer, and Gena Salorino have all contributed to the Custom Nib Program, customizing the Jowo nibs that Esterbrook uses. By relying on experts to craft artisan-quality nibs, Esterbrook is tailoring the writing experience to a new level – and it’s been a very popular program in the U.S.
Ultimately, it is the minds of creatives who continue to move the industry forward and often it is the small details that enhance the pen and writing experience. Artisans and craftspeople lend their talent to some of our favorite pens – and we are grateful for that!