Sunday, December 29, 2013

Of Pens and Ink and Birthday Cards

I'll give you the cards first today because I have lots to blather about them that has nothing to do with stamping. You come here for the cards. The blathering is optional.

I rarely do collage-style stamping, but these two birthday cards are special. They are going to our adult nephews, whose birthdays are in the first few months of the year.

And yes, those are real, honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned pen nibs attached to the cards. The bulk doesn't matter because these cards will be mailed in boxes that include a fountain pen. And a check. Because young 20-somethings might have a bit of sentiment, but they can always use money.

Most of you know I was a writer long before I became a crafter. And from a very young age, I had a pen fetish. In college, as poor as I was, I treated myself to new pens whenever I felt blue...roller balls, felt-tips, even the cheapest ball point pens were an uplifting treat!

You can say it. "She's a geek."

Yeah, like you didn't already know that.

When my mom invited me to take a calligraphy class with her one summer during college, I jumped at the chance, and started enjoying old-fashioned dip pens in addition to the regular kind.

My fountain pen addiction began after my grandfather died. Papa wasn't a writer. He was a barnstorming pilot in the early days of aviation and then a captain in the United States Army Air Forces, flying a variety of bombers and heavy cargo aircraft during World War II and the Berlin Airlift. After all that flying, he settled down and worked as an auto body mechanic at a Ford dealership until he retired.

At some point during or after 1948, he purchased or was given a Parker 51 fountain pen. The Parker 51 began production in 1941, but Papa's pen has the aerometric ink bladder design, which wasn't produced until 1948. He kept the pen on his desk--a drop-top desk that he built himself--for paying bills.

After Papa died while I was still in college, my mother gave me his Parker 51, which gave me the bug to collect fountain pens. The 51 leaked a bit, and it was far too precious to take out of my house, so I bought a similarly designed (and inexpensive) Parker 45 to carry in my purse, where it still resides today.

Soon, after saving my pennies, Waterman fountain pens expanded my collection...the Laureat and Carene and Tuxedo. A few Shaeffers joined the fun. I returned several pens I ordered because they didn't write well, including a Montblanc (it leaked) and some Italian pen that was gorgeous but not smooth at all. For me, the collection was about using the pens, not merely displaying them or hoarding them as works of art.

When I left my job at Micron Technology, my friends collected money to buy me the mother of all Parkers...the Parker Duo Fold. I still smile when I hold it.

Since I had children, however, the time needed to care for fine fountain pens, to clean them and refill them, rub them with diapers, has diminished. Other than the Parker 45, I rarely use them anymore, although they are displayed on my bookshelf.

But as I said, display isn't a good reason for owning a pen for me. The Duo Fold and Carene and Laureat will be mine forever, as will Papa's 51. But the others are not so precious, and I've decided to gift them to the next sons, our nephews, our niece.

Fountain pens require care and now that Matt and Eli are adults, its time to send them theirs. I'm particularly excited about sending Matt a pen because he, like my grandfather, is a mechanic. I will tell him the story of my first fountain pen, and maybe it will mean something to him that I'm passing on one of mine to him.

I hope so.

If you made it this far, perhaps you'll share your story of your favorite pen in the comments. I do love a good pen story!

stamps: SU Letters from Home, Papertrey Ink Birthday Basics
ink: various
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dip nibs, dimensionals


  1. Thank you for sharing your pen story. I have a Parker Jotter Ballpoint pen that my father gave me when I graduated from high school. I just really liked the way it wrote because I'm left handed and it doesn't smear the way some do despite being smooth to write with. I used that particular pen to write every university exam I ever took. I still keep that pen with my Copics for writing all my notes and letters since I prefer handwritten letters to computer typed ones, even if they are a bit shorter. It's not a very expensive pen, but my personal favourite and I don't want to admit how old it is now.

    1. What a great story! Thanks Christine, and Happy New Year!

  2. I forgot to add that I love both your cards. The collage is beautiful and the nib just adds that wonderful touch of the unexpected.

  3. What beautiful cards! Your pen memories brought back memories of my own. I remember using pens that had to be dipped in the inkwell. My favorite ink color was Peacock. Later on I had pens that used ink cartridges...and yes, leaking was also a problem. It took a bit longer to write with fountain pens than ball points because you had to use a blotter as you went along and, if you wrote enough, the pen had to be refilled. Though I do appreciate the convenience of ball points, I miss the romance of a handwritten letter done with pen and ink. Oh, and do you remember writing invisible letters with lemon juice that you had to iron in order to read them?

  4. Wow Susan, what a great story! I love it! :)

  5. I love your two cards. the pen nibs add that special touch. You story about your pen collection is wonderful and it brought back memories of my own experience with pens. I went to a school where there was the hole in the top of the desk for the ink bottle. I had forgotten all about that.
    My father, who is still alive, gave my sister and myself plus all the grandchildren a Parker pen and pencil set with our names engraved on them when we graduated from high school. The excitement of getting a pen had died down a bit with the grandchildren but my sister and I knew we had moved into the next part of our lives when we received these. My set is stored away in a drawer but you have given me the push to find it and pull it out again. Thank you.

  6. Oh dear --- sending this off to an english major without proof reading. I missed a few mistakes. Do I get a C- ?

  7. Great story Susan. I love fountain pens. Parker pens were my favorite. I loved using pink or aqua ink. They were old fashioned buy I love how writing looked when a fountain/dip pen was used. I currently use a Cross with a medium nib width. It isn't the smoothest but I still enjoy the look...

  8. Susan,
    Lovely card! One of my Stampin' Up! customers is interested in purchasing the Letters from Home set. Any idea what year Stampin' Up! made the set or whether anyone you know might be selling that set? Kelley

    1. Hey! The set is copyrighted 2000. I'm not parting with my set, and I don't know anyone else who has it. Wish I could be more help!

  9. Beautiful card - love the nib. I have always loved pens. I have a very old fountain pen that was my father's. I used to have Parker fountain pens which required cartridges. Now I have a silver Cross pen and pencil set that I never take outside my house. I have a black and gold Cross pen that was a gift. I treasure my Cross pens. I also have a Monte Blanc fountain pen that I haven't used in about 10 years. I should buy some ink and use it.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!