Certain fountain pens, such as my Mont Blanc 149, are filled by placing the nib in a bottle of ink and then using the mechanism (with some pens it’s a plunger, with others like my Mont Blanc you twist the end) the ink is drawn up into the barrel of the pen. With other pens you can use cartridges which is neater but not as much fun. Filling the pen from an ink well leaves excess ink on the nib of the pen which needs to be wiped off.
You can use a tissue or a paper towel for this, but I have this special cloth intended solely for this purpose. It is 10” square made of very soft white fabric, zig zag cut on all sides. An abstract pattern on the cloth develops as you use it, growing each time you fill your pen. Because there are so many different colours of ink, the palette for this piece of found art is limitless. It becomes a kind of historical road map – you can see all the different colours you have used over the years.
I can look at the traces of green ink on this cloth, for example, and be taken back to the time when my girlfriend Katie passed away. I wrote a tribute/eulogy as a form of therapy, I guess, that sprawled to about 40,000 words. That particular colour of green is Mont Blanc’s British Racing Green. I used the entire bottle writing that document. I will never use it again.
There are many colours and they bleed and blend into a myriad of shapes, making a found abstract art object of my pen cloth.
Selecting the cloth as my 9th object in this exercise allows me the opportunity to talk about a few of my pens. I should begin by mentioning that I have always preferred fountain pens to ball points or roller balls. I began buying pens back when I was in high school. That was in Regina in the 1970’s and there wasn’t much selection to be found, anywhere.
It really wasn’t until I moved to Calgary in 1994 that I found the sanctum sanctorum of fountain pens at Reid’s Stationers on 17th Avenue. In my mind, this is one of the best, if not the best, repositories of fountain pens in the world. The other notable place is the Fountain Pen Hospital on Warren Street, near the World Trade Centre site, in New York. But I prefer Reid’s and almost all of my pens were bought there.
To name but a few . . . one of the first pens I bought and probably the cornerstone of my collection is a Mont Blanc Meisterstück 149. This is a big fat classic fountain pen with a huge gold nib. It is probably the most beautiful object that I have in my possession.
I had wanted one since the 1970’s. I used to go into the old Birk’s Store in Regina when I was a boy and look longingly at this pen. Back then I think it sold for $300.00 or so, which was way beyond my means. Nowadays I think the 149 retails for about $800.00, making it still way beyond my means, but there’s a nice story as to how I came to acquire the one I have.
Around the year 2000, Alberta Theatre Projects where I was playwright in residence almost crashed and burned financially. But for some very generous support from a number of Calgary companies, mostly in the oil patch, the company would have gone under.
I did a number of writing jobs for some of these companies and certainly went above and beyond what was expected of me as ATP’s resident playwright. As a result, when the dust settled and the company was actually left with a bit of a surplus, Gie Roberts, the general manager, said to me one day, “Why don’t you go down to Reid’s and buy that pen you’re always yakking about and send me the bill?”
What a day that was! And what a generous gesture that was! It was easily the most significant purchase of my entire life. And I was left with a classic fountain pen as well as a beautiful reminder of the wonderful ten year stint I had with that theatre company.
I have two pens, a Graff by Faber Castell and a Lamy 2000, that have a direct association with a friend of mine who was an operative for the CIA based in Calgary. He introduced me to the beauty of the Graff and to this day it is one of my favourite pens. I inherited the Lamy when he passed away a few years ago. It’s the pen I tend to use on an everyday basis.
And my friend really did work for the CIA. Honest. I don’t make these things up.
I could go on and on all day about my pens but I’ll leave it at that. If you’re interested in getting a decent pen for yourself and you’re in Calgary, I recommend a visit to Reid’s Stationers on 17th Avenue across from Western High School. They have pens ranging from $10.00 to $3,000.00 and the staff will help you find the pen that’s right for you. Mention this blog and who knows, they might even throw in a free bottle of ink. After all, I am known there.
In looking for a musical selection for this post, it was a bit of a creative leap, but I found the perfect song for a series of blog posts about the importance of objects, or things, in our lives.
Thanks for reading!