May 16, 2011
Saturday morning started like so many other days – alarms, zoo maintenance, showers, and daily arsenal selection. But instead of embarking on an average day, Matt and I set off on a most excellent adventure. We ventured down to Chicago, Illinois to attend the 2011 Chicago Pen Show.
Despite being a pen fanatic since grade school, I didn’t start getting hooked on fountain pens until about 5 years ago. I had read blogs and heard about pen shows through others but never experienced one first hand. When Matt said we could go, I was ecstatic. An entire event centered around writing instruments? A room full of like-minded pen-loving compatriots? This was going to be fun.
When we arrived, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of pens on some of the tables. I was also happy to see many people exploring the aisles. The majority of pens were vintage fountain pens. It is one thing to see 2D photos on a computer screen and quite another to hold and appreciate vintage pens in person. The number of Parker pens was mind-boggling – both fountain pens and the Jotter design. One table had Jotters in every color of the rainbow. There was a little bit of something for everyone. I had hoped to find more modern “inexpensive” fountain pens, fountain pen inks and fountain pen friendly paper but I figure it varies show to show.
Everyone I talked to was extremely nice and answered all my newbie questions without hesitation. Several people made great impressions on me with their willingness to answer my questions and kindness in assisting me make my final purchases. I thought this might make a nice blog post so I snapped quick photos and tucked each business card safely in my Midori Passport notebook.
Mr. Carl Seidl of Pens of Dist-INK-tion had a very impressive display of “RetroFit” pens. His website sums up it best “Because of lack of original components to repair the vintage pen, Carl’s creative mind designed the RetroFit Pen essentially converting a classic nonworking vintage fountain pen into a ballpoint pen with the vintage appeal.” His creations boggled my mind and really caught my eye. It was lovely to meet Mr. Carl Seidl.
Mr. Frank Tedesco had an impressive array of vintage pens, including several eye-catching Esterbrooks. He is a man that knows his pens. I was grateful as he shared valuable fountain pen filling knowledge with me. I hope to put that to use soon and I also hope to see Mr. Frank Tedesco at a future pen show.
This gentleman had an amazing accent and a marvelous array of fountain pens, but I failed to jot his name down on the card from his table. I believe his name is Paul and is with Pen Estates Limited out of East Sussex. (My sincerest apologies if I’ve mucked this one up.) He was knowledgeable and enlightened me on several of his displayed pens. It was a real pleasure to meet Paul.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. James Partridge of The Pear Tree Pen Company on Twitter but it was a real treat to meet him in person. He was one of the few to have modern pens (even some that I could afford) on display along with ink and fountain pen friendly paper. It was an impressive display of all the things I had hoped to find at the show. He endured my slow and arduous decision making process without any screaming or hiding. I was very impressed. He pointed out some new products like the redesigned Pelikano and an exquisite limited edition Sailor. I hope to see Mr. James Partridge at future pen shows but until then, I’ll continue to visit his online shop.
Brian and Lisa Anderson of Anderson Pens.net and Esterbrook.net allowed me to handle and compare several Esterbrooks. They had a huge display of pens and were extremely helpful. Look at those colors! I hadn’t seen several of these and was just mesmerized by the rainbow.
Mr. Brad Lee of American Wood Pens is a real artist. His creations using various woods and acrylics blew me away. I fell absolutely in love with the Rage Red, Violet and the Tuscan Sun acrylic. The colors are captivating and have a real depth to them. I encourage you to drop by his online store and browse. He does take custom orders so don’t hesitate to contact him. Our discussion wandered from pens to customer service and he made quite the impression on me. It’s refreshing to meet people who really care about their customers. Some day I hope to own one of these gorgeous pens but this time I walked away from his table with a bottle of fountain pen ink and a real respect for his craft.
The Chicago Pen Show 2011 was quite the adventure. I learned a great deal and am looking forward to attending more shows in the future. Thank you to everyone who shared their passion for pens with me, I hope we can chat again some day soon.
Take care and be well.