BENU-Talisman-Firefly-Stone-A-Pen-Boutique-20th-Anniversary-Exclusive Pen Boutique Ltd

BENU Talisman Firefly Stone - A Pen Boutique 20th Anniversary Exclusive!

Trying Pilot Demonstrator Pens - Custom 74 and Custom 823 (and new Signature Nib!) Reading BENU Talisman Firefly Stone - A Pen Boutique 20th Anniversary Exclusive! 18 minutes

This week, I have the honor of sharing a very special story with you. It's the story of our newest store exclusive pen, which is part of Pen Boutique's 20th anniversary celebration, but it's also the story of my friend and colleague Leila's dream coming true.

Our new exclusive pen, Firefly Stone, will be available on Wednesday, May 29th for pre-order, and release date is Friday, May 31st.


Leila's Passion for BENU

If you don't already know Leila, she has been with us at Pen Boutique as manager since April last year, and she also assists customers in the store, collaborates with me on social media endeavors, and is co-host and editor of our YouTube show, For Your Penjoyment.  For Your Penjoyment is a labor of love for both of us, and is a place where we share the joys fountain pens bring us.  We each have different styles that excite us most, so we complement each other well, and together we encourage one another and the fountain pen community as a whole to get inspired by the beauty, creativity, and small pleasures that fountain pens add to our lives.

One thing that's very clear on our show is that Leila loves BENU pens. Just watching her talk about them, I can tell they excite her in a way no other pen brand does.  I knew this right from the start, when we began to get to know each other and become friends.  Leila and I have very different taste and personalities, but we both live and breathe fountain pens, and are extremely supportive of each other and appreciative of one another's passions.  When Leila talks about BENU and shows me her collection, I can see her lighting up with a glow and excitement that is really something special.  Her eyes gleam and she becomes very animated.  I can almost feel her vibrating.

As she explained to me, "They tick all of my boxes.  Colorful, sparkly, whimsical.... I just [feel like] BENU pens are very representative of my personality. Some of them are brooding, some of them are bright and dreamy... and I love that about them." She added, "They use Schmidt nibs.  They're consistent out of the box, every time. I don't have to worry about them. I just have to get to writing."  In addition to her Pen Boutique roles, Leila writes a lot.  She uses her pens constantly at work, but also for journaling and creative writing every day, so when she tells me that a pen is a great writer, I know it really means something. Like me, Leila is a creative person who, when fired by inspiration, brings visionary ideas into focus and makes them happen.


Creating a Store Exclusive Pen

Last May, not too long after Leila was hired, Pen Boutique owner Leena told her that BENU had approached us about doing a store exclusive.  Knowing Leila's love for BENU pens, she asked her to create a proposal for the pen, depicting what we wanted it to look like and represent. What an opportunity!  Can you imagine being able to design a pen for one of your very favorite brands and really make it happen? To go from loving a pen brand and salivating over new releases developed by other people to actually creating one yourself and seeing it actualized?  It's literally a dream come true!

I remember Leila telling me, eyes wide, "This is so freaking cool!  I can't believe it!"  I was so happy for her, and couldn't wait to see what she'd come up with.  When I asked her how many other BENU pens she owns, she whispered, almost a sigh, "Oh God, eight or nine..." then added, passionately, "they are so different. They're whimsical!  And that's what I love."  Watching her talk about the happiness her pens' glitter and sparkle brings her, I started to understand just why BENU is so dear to her heart. Discussing BENU's style with Leila on our show, I remarked, "The cool thing about these pens is how excited people get about them, and the joy they bring people.  Watching a customer get one, they'll light up and you can see how happy they are." She agreed:  that was it, exactly.

BENU's website itself conveys very clearly what Leila felt so instinctually, as they describe the "original instantly recognizable style and design that has a pronounced character and strong emotional context," then elaborate further:

You won’t mistake a BENU product for any other the first moment you look at one. Distinctive and sometimes provocative design almost instantly induces strong polarized emotions­­—you either love a BENU product or hate it, but you rarely feel indifferent. Bold, sometimes whimsical or even kitschy, but never ordinary or dull, the look of any BENU product wields an amazing power to unleash the child within.

BENU produces the material for its products in-house, creating it from scratch, and neither sells their material nor buys it from third parties. That means their materials are truly unique.  Each handmade pen is also one of a kind, with unique patterns and color combinations that can never be repeated.  As BENU explains, "Such unique characteristics are usually attributes of luxury high-end products often made in limited editions, while with BENU, even with the models that retail for $80, you can be absolutely sure they are truly distinctive."

BENU is also a remarkable brand because its founders, Kate Dmitrieva and Alex Semanin, are Russians from Moscow, but they immediately showed their support for Ukraine after war broke out, first by posting a picture of a peace symbol made out of pens to their Instagram account, with the caption "Peace, not war," then by stating on their website, "We are truly shocked and saddened by the situation with Ukraine and pray for the restoration of peace as soon as possible. To all our friends in Ukraine–please stay safe, our thoughts are with you. Thank you all for your love and support, The BENU Team."  It wasn't long before BENU broke all ties to their homeland and relocated operations to Yerevan, Armenia.  When Russia's war with Ukraine began, our warehouse manager at the time, Danyil, was Ukrainian, so we were keenly aware of BENU's position and gratified by their stance and the risks they took in opposing Putin's regime.  I love that BENU's mission, as stated on their website, has always been one of positivity and warmth, to "surprise and delight" and "to create something different... something that was playful, stylish and fun!"

Leila eagerly rose to Leena's challenge and created a presentation depicting four different concept proposals for a Talisman, BENU's most popular model.  Although she briefly considered the option of BENU's larger Euphoria model, Leila knew that Talisman store exclusives most often sell out, and she also loves that the Talisman line of pens has lore attached to it, which appeals to her passion for creative storytelling.

As Leila explained to me, the Talisman pens are inspired by the natural world and international folklore. They each depict a plant, stone, or other natural substance that is believed to bring luck or protection.  Not only do the pens creatively represent their object of inspiration, the chosen element or plant itself is infused into the resin, so the pens actually contain a small amount of the special substance. Whether or not the pens really provide any good fortune or special protection, that's very cool!

Leila had a favorite proposal right from the start, but she wanted everyone at Pen Boutique to have some level of input on the pen.  She wanted it to mean something to Pen Boutique collectively--for it to be a reflection of us as a team and a family.  So, she didn't push any one choice over another. However, as soon as she showed me her slideshow, I knew which one I liked best:  "Concept Four: Enhanced Positivity with Fluorite."  It depicted a beautiful purple and green crystal and text describing her conception of what that stone meant and her concept of how it could be translated into pen form. The fluorite-inspired pen was Leila's favorite, too.

Leila had a feeling that her favorite would also be a staff favorite, and her instinct turned out to be right.  When she polled everyone on the staff, we all voted for the positivity-themed pen that would eventually become the Firefly Stone Talisman and include the fluorite mineral itself in its resin!


Becoming Positive:  From Idea to Reality

In September, Leila sent her slideshow to Bryce, our rep from Luxury Brands of America, BENU's US distributor, and told him that the fourth option was our favorite.  Luxury Brands is a very friendly family-owned and operated distribution company that also handles Colorverse ink, Platinum Pens, Waldmann writing instruments, Endless, Girologio, and many other favorites, and the entire Gillett family is always a pleasure to work with.  Bryce got back to her almost immediately, saying he thought our choice was the most marketable and, in essence, "I think we could have so much fun with it.  Let's do it!"  Bryce sent Leila's idea to BENU, and they came up with two prototype pens and sent her images of the prototypes.  One option was predominantly green, and one was predominantly purple.  Natural fluorite can come in many different forms, but the type of fluorite that attracts Leila most is predominantly purple with an accent of green, so she knew which option she preferred, but, again, she polled our staff to see what we thought.  Everyone agreed:  we loved the version of the pen with more purple.

I asked Leila why she had been inspired by fluorite in the first place, and she explained to me that people who like crystals love to go on deep dives into what that crystal represents and what energy it gives off.  They believe that the crystals have metaphysical healing powers and like to wear them as a pendant, carry them in a pocket, or otherwise keep them close by as a talisman.

Fluorite is thought to help with concentration, organization, and focus, and to reduce anxiety and stress.  But, ultimately, as she emphasized in her original slideshow proposal, it evokes happiness and positivity. Leila's "Enhanced Positivity with Fluorite" concept described it like this: 

Fluorite has the uncanny ability to wave farewell to any ruminating negative energy. This stone allows you to feel all your feelings, but rather than drowning in thick emotion, it helps you to hold perspective, be objective, and not become a slave to catastrophic thinking. It can be a great aura cleanser.

Whether or not crystals have any real effects on people, everyone at Pen Boutique loves the idea of focusing on positivity.  It's such an essential part of who we are and what we want to communicate as a business and project into the world.  If you've ever read any of Pen Boutique owner Leena's journal affirmations that she writes every day and often shares on social media, you know how strongly she believes in the importance of having a positive outlook.  That belief is expressed in everything we do, from our interactions with customers in the store and over the phone, to our charitable efforts, to the style of my blog and our social media endeavors such as For Your Penjoyment.

Once the design of the pen was finalized, Bryce came back to Leila with BENU's four name options.  "Fluorite" seemed a little too simple and straightforward to be a compelling pen name, so the options they proposed were ones that inspired the imagination and evoked images related to the stone's lore in different cultures.  Fluorite is known as "Firefly Stone," or "Hotaru Ishi" in Japanese, and we all loved the sound of that name, which suits the sense of positivity we want to convey and calls to mind the beauty of the pen's glittering highlights that catch the light and sparkle with joy through the darkness.  The idea of a Firefly Stone really resonated with Leila, and she was very pleased that our staff voted almost unanimously for that name.

Leena negotiated with Luxury Brands to do a very special gold-embossed 20th Anniversary sleeve for our box, and the packaging also includes a beautiful accordion-folded leaflet explaining the lore behind the Firefly Stone pen's inspiration. 

On April 29th, Leila texted me, "Our BENU exclusive shipped Friday! 😍 They’re arriving tomorrow!!!!! Just tracked them. I'm going to fall over."  April 30th was a very busy one for us, and we focused hard on trying to get everything done that we needed to accomplish that morning and afternoon.  During a brief reprieve, I took a few minutes to talk to Leila about how it would feel to finally see the pen with her own eyes.  As we talked, I could see she was overwhelmed by the prospect of finally being able to hold the design she had envisioned in her hands, after approximately a year of development. "It's just a really pretty pen," she said wistfully, "and it's cool to see an idea that I had come to fruition, with one of my favorite brands."  She struggled for words, overcome by emotion.  "I respect what they do [so much]... and now... we're going to have one of our own. That's wild to me!"  She added that the attention to detail she put into the pen's concept was "a labor of love" and that she loves seeing Pen Boutique's style focus shift over time as we have begun to include more and more pens that appeal to a younger and more diverse audience.

Finally, near the very end of a long day, Joy and I watched as Leila held one of the long and narrow BENU boxes in her hand and slowly raised the cover.  "The anticipation is killing me," she breathed, removing the inner BENU envelope.  As she pulled the end of the pen out of its casing, her mouth dropped open and time seemed to stand still for a moment. 

She stared at the pen, speechless, then displayed it to us, eyes wide with awe. "It's beautiful!"  Her voice was a whisper as she marveled over the details and felt what was happening sink in, "Wowwwwww." As she took off the cap to look at the nib, she added, "We did this."

"You designed it, Leila," I gently corrected.

"Yeah, but we all agreed. It was a group... effort."  I could tell she was at a loss for words and I almost felt bad that I was video recording something that seemed so personal and special.  "Wowwwww," she breathed again, replacing the cap, looking almost like she was about to cry.  "It's perfect." She looked up at me with a grin of disbelief and a breathless laugh that melted my heart. It made me so happy to hear her say that, and to know that the pen was what she had envisioned and her dream had indeed come true.  How often do you have the opportunity to take part in something like that?  I felt privileged to be witnessing such a moment.


Trying the Pen for Myself

Naturally, I had to try Leila's brainchild for myself!  I had never used a BENU pen before, and I was gratified to confirm that the stainless steel #6 size Schmidt Iridium Point nib is indeed extremely smooth!  These nibs are manufactured by JoWo and then hand-assembled at the Schmidt factory in St. Georgen, Germany. The pen is available with a Fine, Medium, or Broad nib, and the nib is easy to swap out or thoroughly clean, as the nib unit screws into the grip section.  Just grip the top of the nib and the feed, and unscrew the nib unit from the grip section. Then, to replace the nib, grip it the same way and screw it into the grip section until it is tight. (Don't remove the nib from the feed, as this would void the pen's warranty.)

The pen also comes equipped with a Schmidt converter and a standard international long cartridge, and has a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.  Since it fits standard international cartridges, that opens you up to lots of different brands, including DiamineGraf von Faber-CastellMonteverdePelikanMontblanc, Kaweco, and more. Of course, with the converter you can use any brand of ink you want.  I paired the pen with Hayabusa ink from Colorverse when I tried it for this article, and it's a great combination!  This ink comes in either standard or glistening.  I used the standard version because I tried the Fine and Medium nibs, but Hayabusa Glistening would be beautiful with a Broad!  Leila told me she plans to pair her Firefly Stone with an Anderillium ink.  Both nibs felt great--smooth, but with enough feedback not to feel slippery. My favorite was the Fine, but Leila's go-to nib on her BENU pens is a Medium. Choose whichever nib makes you happiest!

Firefly Stone is made by hand from high-quality resin, with careful attention to detail.  The clip is silver colored stainless steel, as is the matched nib.  The length of this pen capped is 13.8 cm / 5.43 inches and the weight is 21 grams.  It felt just the right size in my hand and was very comfortable.  It's well-balanced both with the cap posted or set to the side, and if you like to post your cap on the back of the pen, it posts very securely.  The pen felt a little long in my hand with the cap posted, so I usually set it aside.  It's a screw on cap and the threads are nice and smooth!

Speaking of smooth, I liked the texture of the pen's smooth resin, and appreciated that it has facets and indentations that make it easy to grab on to and feel nice in the hand. The pen is very enjoyable to touch and run your fingers over, feeling the various curves and rounded corners. Something about the shape just invites you to play with it, and has a very companionable feel.

Looking at the harmonious shades of purple and green is calming and joyful, and I love how the translucent colors change depending on the light. In bright sun, the greens take on almost a fluorescence.  (The phenomenon of fluorescence is actually named for fluorite!) I love that the purples in this pen are warm-toned, and the shades in the extremely sparkly purple glitter suspended in the material are especially delightful.  They seem to constantly change as you move the pen in your hand and the light catches them, reflecting back glam-looking pinks, lilacs, blues, and violets with a three-dimensional depth and complexity. 

The green glitter particles capture shades of turquoise, olive, and spring green, and parts of the green resin deepen to teal. I especially like the color and luminance of the purple grip section!  No two pens are the same, so each one will have a slightly different glitter pattern and distribution of colors, but the overall color palette is consistent and every pen is beautiful! The way the colors twinkle definitely suggests fireflies, one of my favorite parts of summer since the time I was a little girl.  I always look forward to their return as the days grow longer, and seeing firefly lights on a summer evening makes my heart leap with joy even now.

If you've been curious about trying BENU, this is the time!  Firefly Stone is a very special pen, and who doesn't need more joy?  I love that every time I use Firefly Stone, it makes me think of the spirit of positivity at Pen Boutique, and of Leila's dream coming true.

-Laura P.

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