This week's blog is going to be a little different because our holiday season is so intense at Pen Boutique that I don't have time for my usual at-home photo shoots and long, in-depth writing sessions. It will be "all hands on deck" during December and I won't be able to work from home one day a week like I usually do. But, I didn't want to leave you hanging until January, so I texted Leena and asked if I could write a quick article this Monday with holiday gift recommendations. She loved the idea, and replied "Haha, we are thinking the same thing! You read my mind." Hooray!
(Pictured above: Montblanc Moctezuma Limited Edition 888, new Kaweco Al Sport Collector's Edition in Ruby, Pen Boutique Crab Pen Holder in Red, Colorverse Mini ink in Andromeda, Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen in red, and Platinum Preppy 2nd limited edition fountain pen in Khimatsu.)
We actually started off the busy season a few weeks ago with whirlwind visits from some of our favorite suppliers--John from Lamy, Mark and Mark from Coles of London (S.T. Dupont and Visconti distributor), Mathieu from Montblanc, Bill from Pilot, and Cary from Kenro Industries (Aurora, Esterbrook, Montegrappa, Otto Hutt, Pininfarina, and ystudio). I only got to speak with most of them briefly, but it was exciting meeting the ones I didn't already know, seeing familiar faces again, hearing about what's ahead in the coming months, and sharing some of my insights and observations. I got to spend the most time talking with Bill from Pilot, which was very fun and interesting, especially because I'm such a big fan of Pilot pens and am in love with the Custom 912 with Falcon nib!
The next week was Thanksgiving on Thursday, followed by Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, so we had a day off followed by two high-energy days in the store with lots of big sales and a raffle for a Diamine Inkvent Calendar! Naturally, that didn't leave much time to plan this article, but the store slowed down a few times on Friday afternoon, and I took advantage of the lulls to quickly get creative with Leena's daughter Shirya. We brainstormed a lot of fun ideas for stocking stuffers, intro fountain pens, gifts for people who have everything, and more! I scribbled down our ideas in my Mnemosyne notebook with my trusty Hexo, and even interviewed one of our favorite new customers, Erik, for his insights from the point of view of a newly obsessed fountain pen lover.
After the store closed at 5:00, I showed Aurora and Joy my initial list and they both loved it and brainstormed to help me think of even more ideas. I had to quickly finish making a sign for the door about our upcoming store visit from nibmeister Kirk Speer from penrealm.com, so Aurora wrote down our additional ideas for me while I colored in the letters on the sign. So, this week's blog was truly a team effort and I especially want to thank Aurora, Joy, and Shriya for their help!
I knew I wouldn't have time at home to both write and take photos, so on Saturday I brought some props into the store, and Aurora and Fana stayed late with me while I finished a few photos after the store closed Saturday evening. The lighting in the store isn't the greatest, and these compositions are stream-of-consciousness because I couldn't plan ahead which pens and accessories to include, but I think they are fun and at least we have some illustrations, even if they aren't necessarily directly what I'm writing about. Hopefully they will inspire you and get you in the mood for holiday giving.
(Pictured: Pilot Falcon in Metal Burgundy, Pilot Custom 74 in Grenadine, Pilot Vanishing Point SE in Ruby Red Marble, and Pilot Pen Sheath in Cypris Red. These are all amazing pens that I highly recommend, and they come in a gorgeous range of other colors if you don't like red. The pen case is stunning and is a true luxury gift. Any of Pilot's beautiful pen cases would make a wonderful gift for the Pilot/Namiki lover in your life.)
We had so much fun thinking of Pen Boutique stocking stuffers! These small gifts would also be great as little presents for friends at work or school.
- Pen Boutique Crab pen holders in red, green, or blue. These cute little crabs are very popular online, and, from what I've been told, we actually originated the trend at Pen Boutique! Here in Maryland, we are famous for our blue crabs (which turn red when cooked), so Pen Boutique started offering the pen holders many years ago, and now you see pens posing on crabs all over the Internet! Both kids and adults love the crab pen holders, and they really do work well for holding your pen. The crab is strong and stable enough to support anything from a Pilot Varsity to the Montblanc Moctezuma! This gift is sure to be a hit. The only question is, which color?
- Pilot Varsity and/or Platinum Preppy. I remember many customers coming in last December and buying handfuls of these inexpensive fountain pens for stocking stuffers or to give out to their friends. And this year, the Varsity and Preppy gift buying has already started! Pilot Varsity is a disposable fountain pen that only costs $3.37 and comes in seven fun colors. The ink color matches the pen. The Platinum Preppy is also very inexpensive at $4.50, but can be refilled with Platinum ink cartridges, or used with a Platinum converter and bottled ink. It comes in a variety of colors and nib sizes, each with a matching ink cartridge, and also has a Limited Edition version in six different cool colors/patterns for a few dollars more. (All the limited edition pens come with black ink and a fine nib, regardless of color.) The Preppy features a "Slip & Seal" mechanism that prevents the pen from drying out even if it's not used for a long period of time, and I've had many customers tell me it truly works and that they rely on their Preppy even though they own more expensive fountain pens, too. Both the Varsity and Preppy write surprisingly smoothly, and are an excellent way to introduce your friends and family to fountain pens, especially when you aren't sure if they'd like or be willing to take care of a "real" fountain pen. These pens are good for both young people and adults. A lot of our customers buy a Pilot Varsity in each color and give them to their kids or grandkids, and our new customer Erik came in last week and got all the colors to hand out to his team mates at work! Share the love!
- Definitely consider Kaweco for fun, small, and inexpensive pens that make great stocking stuffers. These include the pocket-sized Kaweco Sport (Skyline, Classic, or Ice) and the Kaweco Perkeo (a full-sized but lightweight pen). These pens come in small packages and lots of colors, so they make great surprises! The Kaweco Sport is available in fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint, and even as a mechanical pencil, and the Perkeo is a fountain or rollerball. I love my Kaweco Skyline Sport in Iridescent Pearl. The fountain pens use standard international short cartridges or a mini converter for bottled ink. I really like the two newest Kaweco Sport Collector's Edition fountain pens that just came out: Sage (which reminds me of a 1960s kitchen!) and Ruby (an aluminum AL Sport, so it's more expensive but is a beautiful rich Christmas-y shade). I think I want to get the Sage one for myself...
- Speaking of Kaweco, the new Limited Edition Kaweco Glass Fountain Pen ornament is the perfect Christmas tree decoration for a fountain pen lover! It looks just like a Kaweco Sport. Aw!
- The Pelikan Twist is another fun, colorful stocking stuffer fountain pen that comes with minimal packaging. Both kids and adults go for them. Their ergonomic grip makes them easy to hold, and the chunky shape is sturdy and different. We display these on our counter near the register and people are always picking them up to try, then having trouble choosing between all the great colors. Like Kaweco, they use standard international cartridges or a standard international converter. One thing to note about the Twist: despite the misleading name, it does not have a twist cap! "Twist" refers to the shape of the pen. Nine times out of ten, customers who pick them up attempt to take off the cap by twisting, and I have to tell them it's a pull cap when they are unable to open the pen. We always end up laughing over the confusion. This pen is a very smooth writer.
- The Lamy Pico and compact Fisher Space Bullet Pen ballpoints are both cool and so useful. I was showing some customers the Pico this Saturday in the store and they all went nuts when they saw how the pen starts out as a tiny capsule when closed, then springs open to full sized when you click the back. When they asked in amazement, "How does it do that???" I just said, "Magic." The Fisher Space Pens are also incredibly compact when closed, and feature a pressurized ink refill that works in all kinds of adverse conditions, like on greasy surfaces, underwater, upside down, and in extreme weather. Plus, if you happen to go to outer space, you definitely need one for writing there.
- The Faber-Castell Grip comes in both fountain pen and ballpoint, and is another nice inexpensive but high quality and colorful option that is delivered in a small package. I own two Grip ballpoints and love them! The fountain pen has an excellent nib, and, again uses standard international cartridges or a standard international converter. The sparkly Glam Edition pens and new seasonal Mistletoe and Berry colors are especially festive. The Grip pens are also packaged in several nice colors as a gift set, and I'll talk more about that in my Gift Set section!
- The Sparkle Pencil is another one of my favorites from Faber-Castell. I love these and have a bunch myself. They are only $1.50 each and are so pretty, they are hard to resist for both kids and adults. These high-quality pencils have an ergonomic triangular grip to write comfortably, and feature contrasting recessed dots that feel nice to hold and aid in traction. The dots and ends are sparkly, but they write with normal black/grey lead, so you can use them at school, work, or wherever. If you buy them in the store, you can choose your pencil colors, but when you order online you will receive random colors.
More fun small things:
2) Punilabo pen stands, available in the shapes of six different cute animals.
3) Fun Rickshaw or simple and classy Pen Boutique pen sleeves to protect your pen. The "No! You cannot borrow my pen" and "Down the rabbit hole!" sleeves are especially perfect for the pen fanatic in your life.
6) Last but not least, Shriya's favorite: the Sailor Compass Shikiori Markers, available in 20 beautiful colors modeled after the famous Sailor Shikiori fountain pen inks. Each dye-based marker is double-sided with both a fine tip and a brush tip, and you can layer them or blend the colors with a wet paintbrush. They are so enjoyable to experiment with, and sure to bring out your creative side. These markers are also available packaged in a set, the perfect gift for the artist in your life.
(Pictured: Sailor Compass Shikiori Markers, new Sailor Professional Gear pens in Christmas Pudding and Christmas Spice, Sailor Shikiori ink cartridges, and Punilabo Chick pen stand. The Pro Gears are much prettier in better lightning!)
Many of the "stocking stuffer" ideas I already mentioned are great for kids and teens, but here are a couple more ideas that are a little larger: the Punilabo Pen Cases in the shape of cute animals are super popular (also excellent for pencils or other small supplies!), and the new Colorverse Coloring Sheets are a wonderful way to relax and get creative. They are fountain pen ink friendly, so you can use your pens or watercolor paintbrushes with ink to color them! I really enjoyed trying these last month on a day off.
Speaking of young people and new fountain pen users, if you want to buy someone their first fountain pen this holiday season, I got some excellent input from my customer Erik, who first got into pens by using a Pilot Varsity in 8th grade, and then fell down the rabbit hole this summer at the age of 20 and has bought seven pens in the past few months. He told me, "My handwriting was chicken scratch all through school, but it's improved noticeably from using a fountain pen regularly." His recommendations for starter fountain pens are the Pilot Metropolitan (this was also my first fountain pen), Lamy Safari (also available in a nice gift set with a bottle of ink and converter), the previously-mentioned Kaweco Sport, and the very popular TWSBI Eco. And don't forget the cute Pilot Kakuno, a great beginner fountain pen that writes just like a Metropolitan but has a lightweight body and a smiley face on the nib!
Meanwhile, the Pilot Parallel isn't really for kids, but it's very fun to experiment with. This inexpensive writing instrument comes in six wide flat nib widths and can be used for calligraphy and to create spectacular lettering or art effects. (Prices are going up in January, so get some now!)
In the same vein of experimentation, I wouldn't say the Diamine Inkvent Calendar is geared toward children, but it's incredibly fun if you're a fountain pen ink lover, and is joyous to open during December either as a family or alone. This advent calendar -style set comes with 25 small bottles of ink and 25 windows to open, so you can be surprised each day. All the colors are new releases and consist of Standard, Shimmer, Scent, Scent & Sheen, Chameleon and Chameleon & Sheen style inks. (Chameleon is a very cool type of shimmer ink, where the color changes depending on the angle of the light.) I got to swatch all 25 inks from the calendar, and they are awesome! I will be sharing one every day on Instagram in December. I highly recommend buying the calendar for a little treat each day. At 12 ml, the bottles are small, but large enough to fill your pens many times in the year ahead. (There is also one special 30 ml bottle for the 25th day.)
As I touched on briefly above, gift sets are wonderful because they are packaged nicely and come with everything you need to give an impressive and useful gift to your recipient. Most fountain pen gift sets come with a pen, ink, and converter, and some also include a matching pen case. Some sets package a fountain pen and ballpoint pen together, or combine pens with other types of writing instruments like a mechanical pencil. There are also sets that pair a pen and notebook, calligraphy sets with different nib options for your pen, and sets of inks. Sets are a bargain because the items included would be much more expensive if you purchased them each separately. These are some of our favorites!
- Monteverde Ritma Annual Collectible 2022 Carbon Fiber special edition set with fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint, ink bottle, and refill.
- We have lots of wonderful Retro 51 sets with different combinations of rollerballs, fountain pens, and mechanical pencils, including the beautiful Frederick Douglass set, our store exclusive Apollo-Soyuz Project collectors' set, the A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh set, and more! The sets that are a collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art are especially beautiful. I love the new Iznik Garden, the Geometric, and Kandinsky. Dr. Gray is also very cool for skeleton lovers or those in the medical profession. Single (non-set) Retro 51 pens or pencils also make perfect gifts because you can really get creative matching the subject to your recipient's favorite interest. These high-quality writing instruments write wonderfully and are very popular with our staff. For inspiration, check out my blog article where I talked about the Buzz and others.
- For Sailor lovers, the Sailor Seasonal Festival fountain pen and ink sets or Sailor Manyo fountain pen and ink sets would be an absolutely lovely gift. Each set comes with a delicately colored Sailor Professional Gear Slim fountain pen paired with a matching bottle of ink presented in an elegant gift box.
- The cool "magic" Lamy Pico ballpoint I mentioned earlier is also available in a beautiful rose gold color as a fancy Rose gold Lamy Pico LX ballpoint with leather pen pouch set.
- For traditionalists, the Cross Classic Century 175th Anniversary Edition matte black ballpoint pen & pencil gift set is probably just what you're looking for!
- The Visconti Van Gogh Collection is available as a fountain pen, rollerball, or ballpoint. The fountain pens are paired with a matching bottle of ink, and, while the others aren't exactly sets, all three styles are beautifully packaged in a box to match the Van Gogh painting they pay tribute to. Each one also comes with a matching bookmark. These handsome pens are very popular gifts for art lovers, and, because the color mixes are natural resin, each one is unique.
- The Pilot Custom 823 in Smoke or Amber also comes beautifully boxed on a satin bed with a bottle of ink. Read my blog recommending these pens! They are one of the best serious fountain pens you can get for the money and are phenomenally smooth writers.
Calligraphy Pen Sets:
Calligraphy pen sets are very popular gifts for people who have learned how to write calligraphy and for those you think would like to learn. We carry them in a number of different brands, in a variety of price points. These include: 1) Kaweco fountain pen calligraphy sets, 2) Lamy Joy fountain pen calligraphy sets (regular or aluminum version), 3) J. Herbin La Perle Des Encres Wooden Box Set (calligraphy dip pen with nibs and ink), and 4) the beautiful Graf Von Faber-Castell Tamitio black fountain pen calligraphy set.
Ink Sets and other Cool Stuff:
The boxed ink gift sets from Monteverde, Colorverse, and J. Herbin are all very nice and I like all three brands. Other interesting sets include: 1) the J. Herbin Medieval Writing Set with a quill pen, 2) Rotring Isograph sets, and 3) our store exclusive lokta paper stationery sets. I wrote a blog article about this special artisanal paper back in March.
These high-end sets are sure to delight and impress your recipient:
- Any of the Sailor Bespoke Pens feature exquisite materials, craftsmanship, and magnificent presentation.
Many other limited edition pens also come breathtakingly boxed with a bottle of ink and gorgeous pen case. Some of our favorites in our limited edition display case right now include the Namiki Emperor Chinkin Dragon, Taccia Miyabi Empress Winter's Breath King of Pen, and Sailor Chinkin Owl King of Pen (a Bespoke Dealer Exclusive). We have a large variety of exceptional limited edition pens to choose from; feel free to call our customer service (410-992-3272) for advice if you need help picking one out. Customer service is open Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM.
(Pictured: Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby ink, Pelikan Twist, Pelikan Souverän K600 ballpoint in Tortoiseshell Red, Pelikan Souverän M800 fountain pen in Black & Green Stripe, and Pelikan Pura rollerball in Deep Green.)
There are countless additional options in the world of pens, and it's best to come into the store to browse if you want to pick out a unique pen in another category. A sales associate can help you narrow down the options if you need help, or a customer service representative can assist you if necessary when you order online.
That said, a Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen, rollerball, or ballpoint is a classic and very classy gift, and you can read my blog article on these pens (focusing on fountain pens, but also talking about Montblanc and Meisterstück in general) to learn more about why. My article on Choosing a Graduation Gift Pen also has a lot of useful information on other excellent gift pens.
Here are a few final ideas for that hard-to-shop-for person. (You know, when you aren't sure about their pen taste and you don't know what they already have.)
For a fountain pen lover, fountain pen friendly paper is usually very welcome. I recommend a Rhodia Rhodiarama notebook, Oasis notebook, Tomoe River paper, Write Pads (a local brand from Baltimore), or the extremely cool Yamamoto Paper Japanese Paper Sample Book. A bottle of pen flush is always useful, and splurging on fancy inks like Montblanc, Bungubox, Jacques Herbin, or a Colorverse two-bottle duo is a special treat.
And, for people who have everything, I recommend...
1) Visconti's limited edition Leonardo Da Vinci Machina Vermeil fountain pen (the display box alone must be seen to be believed!), 2) a handcrafted David Oscarson pen, 3) the Namiki Emperor 2022 Elephant limited edition fountain pen, and 4) the Montblanc Patron of Art Limited Edition 888 Moctezuma fountain pen pictured at the top of this article. This pen is probably the coolest and most unbelievable pen in the store, and, when someone buys it, I will faint!
Or, you can't go wrong with a Faber-Castell Hexo, of course. :-)
I ended up not having time to finish proofreading and polishing this article last week because we were so busy in the store, but, thankfully, Leena offered me one more day at home today to complete it!
In the meantime, we finished the first week of December with our store event featuring nibmeister Kirk Speer from Pen Realm in Colorado. It was an honor and a delight having Kirk in the store Friday and Saturday. We had so many happy customers who got to meet him and were able to get custom grinds, have their nibs tuned to perfection, or just talk pens. He also did a truly amazing repair for us on an exquisite Montblanc Meisterstuck Glacier 146 Solitaire fountain pen that we had found with horrific nib damage! Check out the video I posted on Instagram of Kirk working his magic. He is an extremely talented (and also extremely nice!) guy, and I highly recommend seeking him out at pen shows, store events, or his website if you would like repairs, tuning, or a custom grind.
(Pictured: new fountain pen fanatic Erik trying out custom grind options with Kirk. Erik got a Kaweco Sport and a Lamy Safari ground to needlepoint nibs! Thanks for the input on this article, Erik, and for being such a great customer.)
It was a complete pleasure spending time with Kirk, and we loved having him here at Pen Boutique. This was my first time meeting a nibmeister, so I was fascinated. I was able to talk with him quite a bit, both in the store and after hours, and I wish I could have written a whole blog article about him and what he does. Maybe another time!
Happy holidays, everyone! This week's article isn't as cohesive as I would like, but hope you find our gift suggestions helpful and enjoyed hearing about some of what goes on at Pen Boutique during our busiest season. I'll see you in the store, or next year in my blog!
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