Category Archives: Topical

The World In Pens

● Gizmodo reports that Star Wars fever has reached the pen world with a lightsaber fountain pen from S.T. Dupont that floats on a magnetic platform and retails for more than £16,000. Dupont also offers an X-Wing fountain pen, while Cross has its own line of Star Wars-themed writing instruments.

● The accumulation of discarded pens concerns some students in India, so they’ve collected nearly 10,000 of them to display and hopefully convince fellow students to cut back, according to The Hindu. (They’re trying to promote the use of pens made from paper, instead.)

● The Trail-Gazette profiles the owner of an unusual – and brilliant – business in a small mountain town in Colorado. It’s a combination coffee shop/stationer that sells Moleskine notebooks and Retro 51 pens, among others, along with its cups of coffee. Continue reading

Ready For A Month Of Letter Writing?

If you’ve been trying to get yourself motivated to write more letters, then February is the perfect month for you.

Two different events running this month challenge people to spend February reviving the habit of communicating the old-fashioned way, with ink and paper. One is International Correspondence Writing Month, started by fountain pen collector Eric Schneider. The other is author Mary Robinette Kowal’s Month of Letters.

Both make the same simple request: During February, write and send at least one letter, postcard, or note every day. These can be letters and postcards sent to distant pen pals, or just notes written and passed to family, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers.

There’s no right way or wrong way to do it, as long as you write them by hand (no typing at all) and send something every single day.

On the InCoWriMo site, you can add yourself to the participant map and find people who are looking for pen pals, including George Lucas and Richard Branson. Month of Letters (LetterMo) offers a forum where participants can connect with each other.

If it’s been a while and you’re a little fuzzy on the mechanics of writing a letter, Scheider and Stephen Brown have put together a helpful instructional video on how to write a letter.

Canadian pen store Wonder Pens also has put together a great list of places to find pen pals, in case you need someone to correspond with.

Of course, you don’t have to write letters to faraway people. Consider spending the month leaving notes for people you know…and people you don’t.

Write a note to your spouse and leave it in a favorite coffee cup. Write one to a co-worker you admire and leave it on their desk. Write another to that neighbor you never speak to, but should, and tape it to the front door.

You can even write notes to people who annoy you.

This is your chance to say those things that always seem to slip by the wayside. All you have to do is pick up your pen.

The World In Pens

● Lamy’s introduced a new high-end pen range – imporium – and the Naples Daily News highlights a Florida stationer that is one of only 12 in the US to carry the pens.

● BlogHer joins the adult coloring craze with a few useful tips on getting into the habit, including one common-sense bit of advice that works: Keep your coloring book where you can see it and be reminded to use it.

● ITV reports on a London artist who is collecting articles of clothing and stories about the owners for an installation project that mixes handwriting and hand-stitching. When finished, the Stitch Lives of London will feature 215 garments with the owners’ handwritten stories stitched into them. Continue reading

Interview: Writer Femi Martin

Femi Martin is a storyteller.

She’s created fiction inspired by Charles Dickens novels, shared her struggles with illness in the Achalasia Diaries on BBC 4, and captivated UK festival audiences with performances of her short stories about love, relationships, and stolen chocolate bars.

Her stories always start at the point of a pen, and Femi was kind enough recently to share with us how writing by hand guides her creative process.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I write fiction but am an avid reader of non-fiction. I am particularly interested in the body, especially the brain. As I am prone to over-thinking I have to carve time out of my day for switching off. I do this by either going to the gym, meditating, or watching reality TV. My favourite reality show is Project Runway but I mostly watch anything to do with love and relationships. Oh, and Judge Judy, of course. Continue reading

Interview: Amanda Miller, the Chalkboard Lady

Art comes in all forms.

It can be a pen-and-ink drawing. Or a watercolor painting. Or a delicate pencil sketch.

Or sometimes, it can be a simple chalkboard menu written in a flowing hand.

Meet Amanda Miller, known as the Chalkboard Lady to her clients.

Please tell me a little about you.

I live in the East Yorkshire village of Cottingham with my husband and two Labradors.

Please tell me a little about your work.

I produce chalkboard art and wall-art for businesses and homes across Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. My clients range from major pub chains to small independent shops and cafes. I trained as a ticket writer in the artroom of a supermarket chain producing all point-of-sale by hand. This eventually lead to me writing chalkboards. I’ve been doing so for 18 years now! Wall-art is very popular at the moment and I do quite a lot of that from family trees to favourite quotes, all written freehand.

chalkboardlady1 Continue reading

5 Green Pens We Recommend

A couple of months ago, I wrote about teachers and students using green ink as part of a feedback system that focuses on improving work, instead of just highlighting mistakes.

green1

That made me a little curious about green pens, since I didn’t really have much experience with them. The few I’d used were pretty unimpressive, mostly because the ink was so pallid. So I decided to take a run through a bunch of green pens to find the ones that worked the best.

green3

 

The Pen Warrior sent me a package full of disposables from most of the major brands we carry: Pilot, Pentel, Uniball, Bic, Paper Mate, Staedtler, and Stabilo. There were 18 all together, in a variety of hues. Most were stick pens. Continue reading

Engineers Fascinated By How Pens Work

This was a bit surprising: A YouTube video in which an engineering professor explains how a retractable pen works became a bit of a viral hit.

The simple 4:43 video from Bill Hammack – “engineerguy” on YouTube – had been viewed more than 370K times when I last checked, about a month after it was posted.

In the video, Hammack uses a Parker Jotter and some 3D modeling graphics to describe the interplay between plunger, cam, and spring that extends and retracts the ink cartridge and produces that distinctive clicking noise. Continue reading

Interview: Novelist Zoe Sumra

Pens are one of the most basic tools that writers can use, so when whole worlds of imagination flow out of them, it seems magical.

And maybe it is – the story inside a writer’s head comes to life when the words hit the page.

That’s why, even with all the technology available to writers today, some still prefer to start their work with nothing but a pen and paper to hand.

Novelist Zoe Sumra is one of them. The London-based writer recently some time out to answer some questions from the Tiger Pens Blog.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I decided to become a novelist when I was three – I’d just learnt that the youngest published author was four and a half, and realised I had eighteen months to beat that. I didn’t quite manage it: I actually started writing novels when I was twelve. Since then I have written an epic fantasy trilogy – firmly in the trunk – and quite a lot of space opera in what is now a fully developed story universe. When not writing or reading, whether for pleasure or research, I spend most of my spare time fencing, in the gym as an adjunct to fencing, or rehabilitating ankle injuries. My day job is as a print controller in the advertising industry. Continue reading

The World In Pens

Business 2 Community makes the case that doodling is an effective tool to improve communication, increase productivity and spur creativity in the workplace.

A Flavorwire article from a couple years ago making its way around social media again shows the hand-drawn/hand-written plot outlines of several famous authors, including J.K. Rowling and Joseph Heller.

The Providence Journal profiles a doodler who developed his craft into a regular business selling pen-and-ink sketches on the US festival circuit.

All4Women explains why journaling is good for your mental health in a succinct 12-point list that covers everything from stress management to panic attacks.

The Sprachen blog explains in depth how to start and organize a language notebook for tracking your progress as you learn multiple languages.

Seinfeld’s “All I said was I liked the pen” holds the No. 1 spot on the Pentel blog’s top 10 pop culture references to pens. (On a related note, a few years ago, we rounded up some of the best movie/TV fight scenes that involved a pen.)

This interview with Swedish poet Emina Gaspar-Vrana on the Memopipwrites blog contains one of the best lines ever about pens and writing: “Who needs a shrink when you have a pen?”

Kinja asked readers to vote for their five favorite pens and the Pilot G-2 made the top of the list. Maybe their readers just don’t know pens.

9 Stationery-Inspired Halloween Costumes

Halloween’s always a load of fun and a great excuse to play dress-up, especially if you’re going to a costume party.

So why not take the opportunity to flaunt your stationery geekery?

There are any number of costumes you can buy or make that will show off your favorite pens, pencils, and paper. We’ll show what a few people have done in years past, then we’ll toss out a couple of ideas of our own.

Now fire up your imaginations and let these costumes inspire you.

Courtesy: Jade Brady, www.jadebradymakeup.blogspot.com

Courtesy: Jade Brady

UK make-up artist Jade Brady put together this simple, but terrifying costumer of the old pencil-up-the-nose joke gone wrong. See more of her SFX work at her blog.

 

crayola costume

 

Kid’s felt Crayola costume going for £10 on eBay. There are other colors, too, including blue and green. Continue reading

Pens-Only Classrooms At University

laptops in the classroomWith everyone back in school, I thought it might be a good time to revisit a topic that pops up in university classrooms every year: the banning of laptops.

The Globe and Mail reported in August that it’s becoming standard practice in Canadian universities to prohibit laptops from lecture halls. American universities are also getting on board with no-laptop policies, as the campus newspaper of the University of North Carolina explained earlier this year. In the UK and Europe, while banning laptops seems to be less widespread, it isn’t entirely uncommon.

Typically, it’s not the universities, but specific professors who tell students at the beginning of the year that laptops are verboten and that classrooms are pens-only. Some even include it in the syllabi.

Why? Continue reading

Pen and Ink Sketches From 17th Century Georgia

de castelli sketch 2If you keep a sketchbook, this might interest you.

Georgia Today had an article recently about some pen-and-ink sketches by a 17th-century Italian missionary named Christophoro de Castelli.

Apparently, he spent 22 years travelling in the country of Georgia, and kept a series of books in which he sketched landscapes and scenes of life in the Eurasian region.

De Castelli’s pen and ink sketches and notes fill seven volumes and those available online are worth perusing. (UC Berkeley has many of the same and a few additional sketches by De Castelli.) Continue reading

Artist Turns Rocks Into Doodlestones

(Update: Bryan Payne’s mother Barb just let us know that there is a DoodlestonesUK community on Facebook.)

doodlestoneOK, this is a project that should go global. We’re going to say right up front, we’d love to see this happening in the UK.

What “this” do we mean?

Doodlestones, a project created by a man in St. Louis, Missouri named Bryan Payne. He uses markers to draw faces and other features on small, flat stones, then hides them in places around town. Sometimes, he lays them flat in an unobtrusive spot, other times he uses Scotch mounting putty to attach them to surfaces.

(Payne told us he uses Faber Castell India ink art pens: “I love them, but wear the nibs down pretty fast.”)

Upworthy.com has done an excellent profile of Payne and Doodlestones. From the article:

Each stone comes from a river in his home state of Missouri. On each stone, he writes “#doodlestone,” the date, and “finders keepers.”

He posts photos of the doodlestones on the project’s Facebook page with small clues and geotags. People can use those clues to help hunt down the doodlestones. (You can see more photos of his doodlestones at Payne’s Instagram account.) They can also create and leave their own.

The Facebook page seems to have been started in early August and already has more than 3,000 likes. People are starting to post photos of their doodlestones, with hints about where they are hidden.

Payne told Upworthy he started it to connect people in the St. Louis area, which has been troubled since the shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson last year. He seems to be accomplishing that.

It would be such a cool thing if a project like this would start in the UK. With so many wonderful and talented artists here, surely it would not be difficult.

If anyone were to do it, you can be sure that you’d get as much notice from Tiger Pens Blog as we could give. Projects like this should be celebrated. If anyone makes an attempt, please let us know.

Pilot G2 + Potato Message = Money

I thought this was a joke when I first heard it. Actually, I’m still not convinced that it isn’t some big hoax.

But it was on TV, so it has to be true, right?

A man in Texas – it would have to be Texas, wouldn’t it – has created a business out of writing on potatoes with a Pilot G2 and sending them to people.

Alex Craig calls it “Potato Parcel” and he told a local news crew that his potato message business started out as a challenge from his girlfriend. Continue reading

Teachers Making Good Use Of Red Pens

red inkThe color of ink that teachers use to mark papers occasionally stirs up a fuss in the UK as some schools move away from red pens.

The idea is that red ink leaves a negative impression on students and alienates them from their teachers. There’s some research to support that idea.

But with school starting up again, I’ve been doing some more reading about ink colors and marking. And it seems that maybe red pens have a place in the classroom, after all. Continue reading

ARC Pen To Help Parkinson’s Patients Write

If you’re someone who loves the feel and experience of writing by hand, could you imagine losing that ability?

It happens to Parkinson’s patients who develop bradykinesia, a symptom which slows movement and affects fine motor control. Writing becomes painful, leading to small, cramped handwriting, called micrographia.

That’s why a group of UK university students have developed a pen specially designed to ease the writing experience for those with Parkinson’s disease. (About 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s and about two-thirds develop micrographia.)

Continue reading

Bic Pen Ads Take Another Misstep

bic adI feel bad for the people who have to make Bic pen ads.

They just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to women.

Remember the “Bic For Her” campaign a few years ago? The French pen brand launched a version of the classic Cristal with pastel colors and a thinner barrel it said was supposed to fit a woman’s hand.

That did not go over well. Reviewers on Amazon savaged the Bic For Her with snarky comments and questions like, “Do you have any special pens for ‘that time of the month?’” And the reaction to Bic’s pen made news around the world, especially when the company was slow to respond.

Now Bic pen ads have stepped in it again with a campaign in South Africa. Continue reading

Recommended: Lifehacker’s Notebook Guide

Here’s a bit of pen-and-paper reading that deserves special mention.

Trent Hamm has written a piece at Lifehacker on using a pocket notebook to simplify your life and increase your productivity, both personally and professionally.

It’s a couple of months old, but still an excellent guide, very thorough and methodical in its approach to making a notebook part of your everyday carry.

He lists the benefits of carrying a notebook – never losing a name or phone number, keeping track of tasks, capturing ideas as you have them – as well as recommendations for how to organize your notes.

I love some of the techniques he describes, such as using a dot or dash in front of a thought or piece of information to separate it from the ones before and after. Also, using double lines to mark where he finished “processing” his notebook the last time.

Hamm also gets into the gear itself, recommending Field Notes notebooks and the Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro.

That’s where I go a different way.

I’ve written before about my fondness for reporter’s notebooks, and I haven’t changed my mind.

These notebooks are made specifically for people who take a lot of notes while on the move. They flip open, fit right into the palm of your hand, and have stiff cardboard backs to serve as a writing surface. And they’re just the right size to fit into a pocket.

They also tend to be cheaper than Field Notes notebooks and have more pages.

Pens are just a matter of preference. But I’d recommended against carrying a micro point retractable pen in your pocket. They really sting when they poke you, and they will inevitably poke.

But please, do go over and give Hamm’s article a look. It’s one of my favorite pen-and-paper reads so far this year.