In February 2020, Esterbrook hosted a competition for anyone willing to open their minds and allow their creative juices to flow. The premise was a sticker contest and all participants had to do, regardless of drawing abilities, was to design a sticker. Whichever design won would be honored as an actual sticker and distributed by Esterbrook.
From this contest, the concept for the Esterbrook Candy fountain pen was born. My entry was inspired by my imagined dream Esterbrook Estie pen, which would consist of pink and purple flecked resin that would possess the same visual texture as the Honeycomb and Tortoiseshell Esties. Through this drawing, I was trying to convey that Esterbrook needed to produce a pen with a high amount of character. Something exciting. Something unexpected.
Bryan Hulser of Kenro Industries listened. As a person completely open to new creative ideas, Hulser, and his team at Kenro, would spend the next two years turning my Esterbrook Candy concept into a reality. The key component to making the Candy a reality lay within the pen material creation itself. The play on color was important to communicate a fun and whimsical appearance without looking like a bargain pen.
Tim McKenzie of McKenzie Penworks and inventor of the popular DiamondCast material, created the perfect color fusion that would embody Candy’s distinct appearance. Candy makes a bold statement with its swirling hot pink, blue, and white palette. The purple color of the original concept was swapped out for blue, which would appeal more to a wider variety of pen enthusiasts. This blue contained in the proprietary resin is a very special hue known as YlnMn, a distinctive true blue that is the first new blue discovery in 200 years. YlnMn establishes itself on the color spectrum between Cobalt Deep Blue and Ultramarine Blue.
Hulser remarked that initially, the unturned rods was surprisingly heavy with blue color. But once the rods were turned into pens, the result featured more pink that balanced out the blue. This hot pink would be Esterbrook’s first time to add a luminescent component to their pens. According to McKenzie, the hot pink hue is a neon mica blend that possesses glowing abilities. Get the Candy under a blue or black light and brace yourself for a flood of pink swirls that light up before your eyes. This added property to the pen material truly turns this pen into a writing party!
Then there are the ribbons of shimmering gold DiamondCast that intertwines with the rest of the color palette. Like foil wrapped around a self-indulgent sweet, the gold provides the pen a perfect amount of sparkle without teetering into kitschy territories. A gold pocket clip and gold JoWo nib compliment and add emphasis to the idea of treating oneself to a delightful writing experience. The result is a fun and daring pen that makes a splash into the pen community.
This creative collaboration between Esterbrook and McKenzie debuted April 8, 2021, to a very excited and enthused audience. The Esterbrook Candy is nothing like its Estie predecessors, not even like previous material collaborations with McKenzie Penworks including the Sparkle pens from the summer of 2020 and the Goldrush pen series from Spring 2021. Candy is a sweet and formidable bar set for pens that seek to avoid being filed into boring, monotonous, and dull categories, and plunged into spontaneous and experimental territories.
Needless to say, my sticker design did not win the contest in early 2020. That’s okay though because I got the best consolation prize that any pen enthusiast could image—a pen inspired by my concept and a bold fountain pen that everyone can enjoy.