(Kimberly (she/her) took the express train down the fountain pen/stationery rabbit hole and doesn't want to be rescued. She can be found on Instagram @allthehobbies because there really are many, many hobbies!.)
Happy 5 year penversary to me! Yup! That’s right, 5 years ago on May 31, 2017, I got my first fountain pens and holy cow, what a ride it’s been! Last month, I talked about looking for a penversary/celebratory pen and while I still haven’t found that special pen yet, I still wanted to share what the last 5 years has meant to me.
I discovered fountain pens in the spring of 2017 by way of Bullet Journaling, which lead me to improving my handwriting via Rock Your Handwriting (on both Facebook and Instagram), which instantly made Google “beginner fountain pens”. Like many folks out there, I watched a bunch of beginner fountain pen videos and started shopping for my first one. But oh my goodness, these things are expensive!!! People spend more than $20 on a pen?!?!? Who does that?!
My indecision between the Pilot Metropolitan, Platinum Preppy and Lamy Safari led me to take the plunge and splurge on all 3. And because I couldn’t pick which color of Preppy to get, why not get the 7-pack?
The journey has been insane so far (in a good way!) and filled with so much spending, lol. But I’ve also discovered and learned some things about myself along the way:
I love rainbows - If you look in my closet, you will not see a ton of colors. You will likely find a lot of black, blue and purple items and maybe some teal here and there. You will most definitely not see lots of swirly patterns, bright colors, and definitely not a lot of red (Go Bears!). But when it comes to pens and inks, I’ve discovered that I don’t have to be bound by the colors I prefer in my clothes (silly discovery, huh?). While I still have a bias for my favorite colors, I love pens and inks in lots of different colors, yes, even red! It is liberating for me to have more than just blue and purple pens, inks and notebooks!
I really LOVE a good pen/ink matchy match - If you’ve seen any of my Instagram posts, you may have noticed that I really enjoy matching my inks to my pens. It is so satisfying for me to have a good color match. Sometimes a pen is too light to use a perfectly matched ink, but finding the right shade in the same color family is just as fun. I don’t match my inks to all the pens, like clear pens (I am not using invisible ink), for example. But I enjoy the challenge of picking an ink for a gold pen or a white pen just the same. And while I don’t usually try to go beyond pen and ink matching, when they occasionally match my clothes or my coffee cup, it makes me especially happy.
Lots of currently inked pens please! - I absolutely love having a bunch of pens inked up at a time! And I keep them inked up until they are written dry! I often write with several pens on any given day, more if I’m in a letter writing mood (one pen per page) and love using all the different pens and seeing all the different colors! My current max is 48 because I have a 48-pen binder and it’s easy to see if any pens are missing when I’m at a pen meetup or pen show (not that people steal the pens, I just need to make sure they get put in the right place before I go). People often assume I ink up 48 pens at a time or clean all of them at once, neither of which I do. As pens get written dry, they get put into a “to be cleaned” pile and they eventually get cleaned in batches. I ink up a few pens at a time whenever the mood strikes or if I’ve written a lot of pens dry. Right now I’m down to 37 pens inked and I’m really curious to see how low I can get before I can’t stand it anymore and have to get back up to 48.
I am pretty agnostic - What the heck does that even mean? In this context, I mean that I don’t have strong feelings about many aspects of this hobby. Example: I am “trim-agnostic”, meaning I’m not on #teamgold or #teamsilver when it comes to a pen’s hardware. It really depends on whether I think gold or silver (or rose gold or ruthenium) looks better with that particular pen material or shape. I am also pretty flexible when it comes to paper. As long as it’s decently fountain pen-friendly, I will use it. I may prefer certain papers depending on what I am doing, but I don’t exclusively use one type or brand. Same with blank vs grid vs dot vs lined. Ditto gold vs steel, filling mechanism, capping mechanism (though I do love a good snap cap like the ones from S T Dupont, mmm, chef’s kiss). This has also made it difficult to narrow my focus as many pens, inks and papers can catch my eye.
But not agnostic about posting pens - With very few exceptions, I do not post my pens. Maybe it’s the paranoia that I might scratch the pen barrel with the cap, or maybe it’s because some pens get unwieldy when posted or maybe my hands aren’t big enough to require posting. Whatever the reason, I don’t post my pens and love to kid with the monsters, I mean, people who do post their pens, lol.
Size does matter - I’m not talking about pen size, but nib size, and by that I mean the length of the nib/tines. I have a steep writing angle and not gigantic hands, and I like to grip my pens close to the nib, which means that I cannot use pens that have long nibs/tines. Using a pen with a Bock 8, or a KOP nib or anything much longer than a Jowo 6 means that I have to prop up my hand in order to write with it. Thankfully, it means that there are a bunch of (often pricy) pens that I just can’t use and that saves me money!
Potential non-stationery purchases are now viewed in stationery units - If I’m looking at a purse’s price tag, my mind will instantly translate that into “I could get a new Leonardo for that”. Recently filling up the gas tank had me wondering what pen I could have bought instead (I could’ve bought a Lamy Studio or Rose Gold TWSBI 580). In the past, I couldn’t tell you how much 50ml of skincare is, but now I have some idea based on Robert Oster inks bottles, lol.
I am a cheap bastard - Ok, maybe not a bastard but I am cheap. I like a good deal. I like coupons, discount codes and rewards programs. I often have multiple browser tabs open to my favorite vendors and often have items in my cart for months before pulling the trigger. Ditto for eBay saved searches. It is one of the few times I have patience because it helps me see if my wishlist items are coming up and what I might expect to pay for something, so when the price is right, I can pounce. Of course, sometimes, there are instabuys and nothing is going to stop me from getting it as soon as possible (cough cough, Pen Addict x Opus 88, cough cough). But yeah, chances are high that I’m always up on the latest sales, even if I’m not buying anything.
I believe in karma - As it relates to pens and things, I feel that if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. A hard to find pen may pop up, but it may be more expensive than I’m comfortable paying. I have learned to be comfortable walking away with it because if it’s meant to be, someday it will show up at a price that I am willing to pay. And if that doesn’t happen, then I tell myself I wasn’t meant to have it. And because I’ve experienced several occasions where some special pens popped up at good prices, it’s been easier for me to walk away and trust that the pen universe will decide whether that pen will cross my path again.
I have the attention span of a….SQUIRREL! - I have a hard time concentrating on any one thing for very long. There is a reason my IG name is allthehobbies because I don’t just stick with any one hobby and usually not for 5 years! But even within this hobby, I am constantly working on a variety of projects like making currently inked spreads, letter writing, calligraphy, transcribing two books and Hamilton lyrics, using my pens to take notes as I learn Italian, attempting doodles, and as of last August, doing reviews for TPA. Having all these projects to choose from, and constantly stopping myself from starting more, means I get to use lots of different stationery products in lots of different ways depending on my mood. Good thing too because I’d get bored if I only could use them for one thing and I’d hate to have to look for another hobby.
I love the diversity - It’s not just that there are so many pens, inks, papers and stationery to choose from, but I love the diversity of the people and personalities that it attracts. It’s fun when other folks share your love for a specific pen or ink but I also love that we don’t all love the same things and we don’t all use our stationery in the same ways. Sometimes those differences inspire me to try something new to me and sometimes it reminds me that yup, that’s not my jam but I can still appreciate that you love it. Having all these choices and all these different people that enjoy those different choices - that’s one of the many things I love about this hobby.
Pen shows are awesome but it’s the people that matter - My first show was the 2017 SF Pen Show and wow, what an eye opener! So many things to try and buy! I was so intimidated, especially since I was a 2 month pen newbie! But my favorite memories aren’t of the pens and inks, but of watching Ana Reinart and Joey Feldman play with inks and then later having dinner with Lisa Vanness (“Hey y’all!”) and later introduced me to Paul Erano, the late Jim Rouse, Michael Sull and others. Since then, my favorite thing to do at pen shows isn’t the shopping, but the hanging out with my pen friends, many of whom I consider as family. Whether it’s at a pen show, pen meetups, online zooms or on Slack/Discord/Facebook/Instagram, pen people are what really make this such a wonderful hobby for me.
Thank you for being a part of the first five years of my pen journey; I look forward to many more years down in this rabbit hole!