On a Thursday evening walking through the beautifully aged Queen Victoria Building in Sydney it’s easy to miss the architecture while staring at your phone. Tweeting, Snap Chatting, Facebooking and replying to emails. Communication is largely carried out on an electronic device and we’re almost at the point where talking on the phone even seems too much of a hassle.
The art of writing has been reduced to times when we are forced to literally sign something on paper, the times when we need to pick up a pen you’d feel a sense of nostalgia, something you once did, before the arrival of technology.
This Thursday evening I’m walking and texting my way to an event to celebrate the humble pen. A store on Level 2 of the QVB called Pen Ultimate is hosting a special event in conjunction with Pilot. On my way in I think back to primary school, the first time I was allowed to use a pen. We had to earn a license to upgrade from pencil to pen. Hand writing was a trained skill, one you practised, showed off to your parents and after some time just seemed to fade away after school. Was this event going to be a mourning of the humble pen?
I couldn’t be more wrong.
Walking into Pen Ultimate felt like walking into a high-end watch or jewellery store. Cabinets full of pens and their accessories. Not ordinary pens either, with a glass of champagne I take a peek into the cabinets, not a single biro in sight! The pens I received my pen license with are no where to be seen. These are all premium pens, fountain pens and it suddenly all makes sense.
TAG Heuer, IWC, Rolex… Mont Blanc, Pilot, Waterman – Simple. The room was full of collectors, enthusiasts and people with an appreciation for the art of writing. Going hands-on with a fountain Pilot pen felt stunning, like a jockey getting back in the saddle after many years. What was unfortunate however was that my hand writing was reduced to chicken scratches after all these years. If I went back to primary school today I’d be stripped of my pen license.
During the event I learn a few things that changed my view on the current state of the pen market. In the last twelve months Pilot have seen a 200 percent increase in sales of their prestige range of fountain pens and inks in Australia. In the UK Pilot records a five percent growth across the business year on year and in the US pen sales have grown 11 percent.
When we talk about premium fountain pens from Pilot that could mean a $500 pen all the way up to a $1.7 million pen. Collectors in the room were passing around and sharing stories about their collection, I gazed upon $10,000 pens carefully protected in wraps. Just like a premium watch, there are premium pens. When you’ve “made it” and you have the nice watch, why not own a nice pen?
Others in the room were passionate about calligraphy and the art behind turning ink into beautiful words on paper, I watch one gentleman scribe onto a piece of paper, random words but more beautiful than any email, tweet or SMS I’ve seen in my life. A message can be sent in many forms, an SMS can be the bottom on the barrel in sincerity and a hand written note is definitely the most elegant, classy and genuine way to convey a message. Write the words “Thank you” on a note for someone or send “Thx” in an SMS and the recipient will feel differently about them.
While we love the convenience of our mobile phones, laptops and tablets, there is always a place for the art of a hand written message. It was great to see Barbara Nichol of Pen Ultimate mention that while they sell amazing pens, they also host classes to bring your hand writing back to standard or onto exceptional. Something I should certainly consider.