Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Functional Jewelry

"Diamonds or Pearls?" a recent Getting-to-Know-You survey asked. I answered garnets, but my honest alternative would have been: Skip the jewels and give me a beautiful fountain pen any day of the week.

I have, my entire life, had heart palpitations over a good pen with good ink in it. While you're at the jewelers, I will be browsing at Crane Paper, or Staples. Heck, I can't even walk by the school supplies in Target without detouring down the office supplies aisle.

My love of pens runs deep. My Grandfather collected pens. He wove elastic thread through pegboard and covered his garage with pens. One wall of his office area was also adorned with pens, shelves, erasers; I can remember running my fingers across them, pulling them out, returning them, playing at his desk for hours on end.

A few years ago, the cousin that ended up with all of those pens, upon hearing of my love for them, gifted me one of the 8-foot pieces of pegboard. One board containing 600 pens.

I removed them from the board, separated those valuable or restorable from those novel. Some are displayed in my curio cabinets. The rest, pictured above, are put away, I'm not sure what will come of them. There's a warehouse somewhere with thousands more.

So, through my Grandfather's influence, I came to love writing. Drawing. Pens. Ink. I love filling my own pens with any serious or whimsical color of ink I choose. Private Reserve's Hot Bubble Gum Pink, and Aquamarine are my favorites.

A good pen doesn't necessarily equate to an expensive pen. I have a few costly pens that write very well: A Mont Blanc, a Pelikan, and the pen pictured above, a Platinum pen colored as a koi fish, are some of my favorites.

However, my all-time dependable, never-dries-out, never-leaks, old faithful, is a $27 Waterman (found in any Office Depot or Staples). It's a real workhorse of a pen, I actually have several, and have given several away as starter pens.

I've picked up a few over the years that have history, and though I don't use them, I love them also. Some have been gifts, one called a Packard, given to me by a friend and auto collector. Another was recently found about 2 years ago, along with about 2000 others, in a wall in Germany, believed to have been hidden from the SS during The Holocaust.

One more was among my Grandfather's, I sent it to Vintage Pens & Sales in Columbus, Ohio, to have it restored. Filling it involves blowing a few puffs of air into one end, while the tip sits in the bottle. I tried it with trepidation and didn't do a great job of filling it....so it sits in in a pretty little velvet case.

My pens adorn my hand, and beautify my handwriting. I get more compliments on my pens, in a public venue, than ever I did any ring around my finger or bracelet 'round wrist.

I really do consider them "Functional Jewelry."


  1. OMG. I thought I was alone. I can spend Hours and Huge amounts of money in ANY office supply section. And fountain pens... I love them so much I have now rewritten this comment several times because each other previous times made me sound like a freak with a fetish. Let's leave it at I understand and am glad to meet someone else who gets it, too. My goal is to never have to buy another plastic pen ever!

  2. That's great, GNG! I always notice the great pen in a meeting - it's usually someone interesting! I love that your cousin shared them with you, too. Neat to learn this about you!

  3. It is amazing ..

  4. i like pens, too.
    also, i was born in champaign. well, urbana technically, but my parents lived in champaign at the time.
    now that we're friends, can i borrow five bucks?

  5. PENS!!! A girl after my own heart....well, you know, I have to admit that what gets me even more than pens is PAPER. Journals and notepads and such. My heart just pitter-patters, and I know just what you mean....But the paper needs just the right pen.
    What an excellent passion to have...

  6. Wow! I am so relieved that so many people seem to love pens! I thought it was just a freaky family thing - my sister and I raid my parents house every now and then for decent pens and my aunt is just the same!!

    Sadly, it's not just pens for me - I am obsessed with the whole range of office supplies. I have a trunk full of paper and post-its and correspondence cards (you name it, I own it) and more envelopes than you can shake a stick at! The prides of my range though, are the gadgets: the crowning glory is an electric hole-punch.

    I'm going back to my cellar now to laugh maniacally and rock back and forth slowly...

  7. BP: I'm with ya, girl. Have you ever gone to Kate's Paperie in NYC? Gotta love it!

    Wendy: Ya, decent of the cuz to hand over some pens; (I'd sure like to dig thru the rest of them!)

    Ilaiy: Stop stealing pens and buy one!

    Brian: Parents in Champaign, born in Carle hospital, likes pens...I guess I can float you a fiver. Pay me back by Friday.

    Jay are & Sveny: I'm there with both of you: Paper! Good cotton paper and handmade paper both send me into a frenzy.

    And Gadgets! Who can live without a paper cutter? I don't know how people get by.

  8. I love your collection of pens!! How come you've never shown me these?? Were you afraid I'd nab them??

    I was a collector when I was younger - they are packed away somewhere in a box. Nothing very fancy - just from different places I visited and such. And I looooooove to look at office supplies, too! We should go looking sometime!

  9. Well whaddaya know! Every time I talk to you or read your blog new and amazing things come to light. You are a jewel! Thanks for the lovely birthday wish, but I'm not neither a whippah-snappah. I'm only three years younger than you! That's right, TWENTY-EIGHT! Yes, you heard me, TWENTY-EIGHT! AGAIN!
    That is all...

  10. Gosh golly galoshes (it's snowing here.) I love these pens. I used to have a fointain pen worth oodles ( i lost it) and I feel just the same way. In fact I must pull myself together re the pens. It all goes on computers now!

  11. Momo: Too bad Staples doesn't serve Framboise, wouldn't we have fun then!

    Andy: I'm still older than you. I get to boss you around.

    Felicity: Pens and sunglasses: loss factor in direct ratio to overall expense. Cheap ones are lost in days, the good ones last decades!

  12. My favorite pen came from my brother. He bought 2 and gave me one. You can write upside down without running out of ink.

  13. What a lovely interesting post!

    I love writing, but I never did give that much thought to the implements I used.

    I will now!

  14. You can tell my class. My favourite is a Parker lookalike,comes in a very attractive box all for $4.50!

  15. Awe: A space pen! Is it a space pen? I think they write under water too, which comes in handy when you're scuba diving and worrying about your grocery list.

    Tai: ohmigod, you need me to overhaul your pens! If you have to draw swirly-dirlies to start the thing, pitch it. If it skips, pitch it. If there are chew marks, it's outta there.

    Dogbait: If ink flows smoothly out of it, then I love your pen too! I'm an equal opportunity pen lover.

  16. I'm gonna go right out and BUY ME SOME PENS!!

  17. Oh, people!


    I like shopping with these folks, they've thrown a free goodie into my bag every time I've shopped with them!

  18. Lori,

    I learned about beautiful pens working for the French in Houston & NYC.

    Up until then, I just grabbed whatever writing instument was nearby. But even the youngest French man/woman who came to our US office to visit used his/own personal, beautiful pen. And that changed me.

    Recently, I realized that I've fallen in the habit of using the ballpoint pens provided by my employer when I'm running a training course. And just last week, I was thinking that I should start carrying my lovely pens with me when I train. Doing that would make me feel more confident and "classy", if you know what I mean...and obviously you do!

    As Wendy wrote, I too always notice a great pen in a meeting. Perhaps one of my students will notice MINE in the future, too!

    GREAT post...



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