Think back to the days when you were in grade school. Can you remember the times you went on trips with your class instead of being in school that day? Usually, it was to a farm or some museum but always exciting. Today you are going to take a trip with us, just as we took a very exciting and informative trip. We are very excited to share and take you along with us, into the mind of a skilled craftsman.
We are going to Basel Switzerland, a city known for its rich history and its celebration of it with world-renowned museums. While recognizing the greats after they pass well and good, new history is made every day. We should recognize those who have the guts to stand up and create it. We are traveling to the historic Markthalle Basel (built in 1929). This dome-shaped wonderland started as a common market for the locals. Today the market is home to restaurants, specialty boutiques, and local vendors. It also hosts a variety of cultural events, cooking classes, concerts and the list goes on. There is something special about the atmosphere, it stays true to its roots but with a modern and fun twist. Continue walking with us, we are going to walk past the cheese stands, walk past the wine, to Fellow Goldschmeide atelier. The smell of food quickly turns into the smell of silver and iron from the tools. We are meeting with Raphael Gsponer. The owner and designer of the boutique. His inviting demeanor greets us at the door before we even walk in. He’s standing there in a button-up shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He’s a local Basel guy, a loving father of three and has an MBA in accounting. Yes, he is the rising star we spoke about in the beginning.
I visited production sites. I felt like it looked like the automotive industry, with fully automatic production lines.
At the beginning of our tour with him, we didn’t know what to expect, and by the end it was simple. His work speaks for itself. In the world of writing instruments typically there are three ways to create.
The more common, industrial way most pens are made. Other detailed ways by hand, such as Maki-e, Urushi styles. (See our posts on Japanese pens)Then this way, 100% hand made. Made with tools and passion. Raphael is the new modern silversmith with all the drive, passion, and skill of those who paved the way before him. We talked to him as he was taking us around his domain.
Tell us about your brand and how did you get started? R: ”My background is in the jewelry business. I`ve been a goldsmith for 15 years. I use to produce high-end jewelry. A few years ago I got my MBA and dug deep into the industry of writing instruments. I visited production sites. I felt like it looked like the automotive industry, with fully automatic production lines. This was the point I had my vision. My goal was to produce high-quality pens with the traditional techniques of goldsmithing.”
So how long have you been doing this? R: I started 5yearsago and finally founded the company in 2016. I’vebeen agoldsmith for 15 years. I started my research intopen-making (there is no education or book for penmaking, I had to learn everything on my own) 5 years ago. Just recently I opened my doors. Raphael Gsponer in his store in Basel
What is one thing that makes your pen special from everyone else?
R: All of my pens are handcrafted using traditional goldsmith techniques from Switzerland. I feel the design should be simple and clear, therefore I keep the design minimal. Nature influences the chasing patterns and designs on my products. At the top of every pen, there is a single dot, which is kind of becoming my trademark.
What/who is your biggest inspiration?
R: I find thatany profession which requires exceptional craftsmanship and passion inspires me. I look at ones like Enrique Olvera a high-end chef, Ben Harper a wonderful composer, or Mo Copoletta a tattoo artist who has worked with Montblanc and Bentley in design. I try to emulate that in my work.
What type of material do you enjoy using the most?
R: I love precious metals. Their characteristics are unmistakable and unique. There are so many ways to handle precious metals. You can saw, drill, shape, bend, chase, solder, polish, etc. I like that there are almost no rules and every job requires unique techniques. The artist gets to choose which one suits them best. I find that gold is the most fascinating material. From the stories of the mining to the durability for the owner, it is just magical. Another passion of mine is gemstones and diamonds. The colors and stories are just astonishing. I’m planning to use more stones in my pens in the near future.
Lastly, give a statement on what quality means to you.
R: Quality starts with production. High-quality components and material should be used throughout. In addition, the product should be designed so that it can be repaired, resulting in a very long life cycle.
After we spent some time talking with him, we continued the rest of the tour. We got to see the man in action. We watched in awe as he hammered and chiseled life into each piece of precious metal. Each hit on the metal carefully and skillfully timed. Raphael also makes bracelets, rings and other jewelry that he puts just as much passion into. Currently, he has 11 pens each just as equally impressive. The pens range in price from the CHF 140 Nad, to the solid gold Oona for CHF 5,800. We were very impressed with our time with Raphael and the hospitality show, but more importantly with his beautiful atelier.
The fact that Raphael takes an interest in the writing instruments world and fused his trade into it is a big win for the industry. This means that the demand is growing for high-quality material. After a full satisfying day with Raphael and checking out the rest of markthalle, we said until next time because we will gladly feature more of his work in the future. We applaud those who put their heart and soul into their work. We stand with those who want to help change the way people perceive the writing instrument industry and Fellow pens are certainly making that statement. If your in Basel, definitely check out the Markthalle and visit FellowPens, Tell them Inkstable sent you. You can see all of his pen designs at www.fellowpens.com