Urushi lacquer pens are deeply desirable objects amongst some members of the pen community. Perhaps urushi lacquered pens attract collectors because of its history.
Ancient Asian cultures dating back to the Stone Age used the sap of the urushi tree to create a shiny surface on various objects including pottery and woven baskets through multiple applications of urushi sap. After several weeks and sometimes months of applications, the urushi substance hardens into a smooth and glossy finish.
The entire process of fountain pens decorated with urushi lacquer is a labor of love and viewed by many as an art form, especially when the urushi is combined with applications of raden (cut mother of pearl material), eggshell, and image application. Some pens take a great deal of time to complete. Understandably, these processes are painstakingly tedious and has a hefty price tag to reflect these detailed processes. Many urushi pens are priced $800 US and into the thousands of dollars.
My personal quest was to find a competitively priced urushi fountain pen as an alternative option to pens offered by popular brands including as Taccia, Nakaya, and Sailor. During my search, I discovered Cypress (previously known as Mr. Cypress) on Instagram, which led me to their website. Located in Taiwan, Cypress specializes in pens created from various materials including wood, ebonite, metal, and especially urushi lacquer.
Cypress’s urushi pen options have an ebonite base that is decorated with exotic materials including cut and strategically placed raden and duck eggshell. Each pen in the Cypress urushi pen collection possesses distinctive character and artistry. The best part regarding Cypress’s pen options is not just the beautiful and vast pen options to choose from, but the reasonable prices that range as low as $219 for simplistic raden designs to $860 for more complicated raden designs, $1,199 for maki-e designs, and $822 for raden and eggshell designs.
Let us look at and discuss the pens I have purchased from Cypress, beginning with my first pen purchase, Modern Raden Milky Way ($528 US). Against a pure black background on an ebonite base are long geometrically cut pieces raden. The raden pieces are different lengths from each other and are arranged in a line around the bottom of the cap and the bottom of the barrel near the grip section. When the pen cap is threaded onto the barrel, the result is an attractive arrangement of raden material that covers about 75% of the pen’s surface and resembles a starburst shape. Also worth noting is the accuracy that the raden pieces were applied—each piece of raden on the cap lines up with the raden pieces on the barrel.
The next pen purchase from Cypress is Urushi pen that utilizes a Kawari-nuri technique that gives the pen surface a visually pleasing texture ($633 US). The Kawari-nuri technique applied to this pen utilizes several applications of colored lacquer in an experimental manner. Peachy pink and light green lacquer spirals around the pen’s cap and barrel. Additionally, raden is added to the visually spiraled surface and adds a lux element to the overall pen design, which becomes especially prominent in sunlight. Because of its experimental nature, this pen is reminiscent of a French Impressionist painting. Again, the patterning of the cap perfectly matches the patterning on the barrel.
My third pen purchase from Cypress is am flat top oversized pen embedded with eggshell. This pen is simply listed on the website as Eggshell-E09 ($558) but is anything but simplistic. Tiny pieces of fragile duck eggshell cover the entire cap surface and continues onto the barrel after the grip section until the shell diffuses into particles on a black lacquered surface.
Like the Milky Way pen, little raden fragments are distributed across the section surface, which is also sealed with shiny lacquer. Visually, this pen is a beautiful graphic contrast between black and receives the most compliments compared to my other Cypress pens.
Finally, my fourth and most recent Cypress pen purchase is the Kawari-nuri Deep Light ($633 US). My first sighting of this pen was on the Cypress Instagram account while I was scrolling through their past posts. The Deep Light pen is visually spectacular. On the cap and barrel are three different colored lacquers, ground into dust and expertly applied and distributed across the pen surface.
A sparkling, shimmering gold is on the finial of the cap, muted red is on the lower end of the cap, the grip section, and the barrel, which is followed by a muted blue on the remainder of the barrel. To further elevate the pen’s appearance, raden is inlayed on both the cap and barrel in a perfectly matched up pattern. Once again, the raden pieces on the cap perfectly align with the raden pieces on the barrel.
With Cypress pens, especially the pens that are created using exotic materials, no two pens are alike. Each pen has its own distinctive patterning and appearance thanks to each pen being created by an expert artisan. I find the aspect of owning a pen that is distinctive and one-of-a-kind very appealing, especially in the typical realm of resin fountain pens. It is satisfying to think that in my hand, I hold a special work of art that someone took the time to create.
Cypress pens come standard with either a stock gold plated or rhodium plated Bock or JoWo stainless steel nib in the size of your choosing. With a $180-$206 upcharge, you could upgrade your Cypress urushi pen with an 18k or 14k gold nib. It really depends on how much you would like to spend.
One of the nice aspects I have discovered dealing with Cypress is the excellent communication with customer service. Both the Deep Light and Milky Way pens were out of stock on the website, in fact, they were not on the website at all. I contacted Cypress through their Instagram account to inquire about these pens. The person I was in touch with, Celine, responded to me promptly and agreed to inform me when these two pens would be available again. Without fail, as soon as the pens were available, Celine let me know!
I guarantee that these four pens will not be my last Cypress pen purchases. Whenever I handle one of my Cypress pens, I always pause and appreciate the various elements used on the pen surface. Each time, I am amazed.
References and photographs:
All photos belong to the author with the exception of the Japanese lacquer tree