Friday, 22 July 2011

They DO make them like they used to!

We found The Pen Corner at 12 College Green, next to Dame Street.  I love how Irish businesses have such classy looking store fronts.  Shops in America have glossy signage made from laser-cut plexiglass, fancy logos backlit with fluorescent tube lights.  Marketing executives get all tingly when they see their corporate logos in lights, yet fail to understand that it has zero aesthetic for the rest of us.  Thank you Pen Corner for using gold foil on glass and for being tasteful.  God how I miss tasteful.

Having worked in a fountain pen store, I am perhaps a little biased about what a great store this is.  One look at the antique Waterman logo behind the counter brings me right back to working in my shop.  I loved selling fountain pens.  Waterman was my favorite brand because the pens are made so sturdy.  They have brass barrels and beautiful lacquer paint.  You can just feel the quality in your hand.  I can't tell you how many customers came in to my shop with a broken Mont Blanc, and I sent them home with a shiny new Waterman.

Typical scenario:
Them:  "The plastic barrel of my Mont Blanc just cracked in my purse!"
Me: "Yes, the plastic is not very strong and cracks easily.  Bummer."
Them:  "But I paid so much for it!"
Me:  "That's called perceived luxury.  You bought a prestige pen, not a good pen"
Them:  "help me Obi Wan, you're my only hope..."

So I would show them how sturdy the brass barrel of a Waterman is, usually by making them hold a plastic Mont Blanc in one hand and a metal Waterman in the other.  They could feel the difference in their hand.  By this time, another customer would have come in and whipped out his sterling silver Parker 75 that he bought in the 60s and say, "My Parker has lasted for years!"  I would begin to drool and the other customer would take over the sales pitch, this time for Parker.

Ah, working at the pen shop... those were good days.

The Pen Corner in Dublin does more than bring back memories; this pen shop has everything you need!  They sell Crane paper Thank You cards and they make custom stationery by order.  They also sell greeting cards and blank journals.

I discovered a new brand of journal called Rhodia.  They are made in France and they look like a good replacement for Moleskine.  I was extremely disappointed when Moleskine journals stopped being made in Italy.  Moleskine moved their production to China and the journals were just not as good; they suffer from cheap paper and overall lack of finish.  Writing in a journal is an aesthetic endeavour, and writing on cheap paper just feels wrong.  So it looks like I'll be buying French journals from now on.

Have you ever tried writing with a fountain pen?  You might really surprise yourself by how much you like it.  The nib flows over the paper on a cushion of ink like an ice skate glides across the ice.  Fountain pen ink is water-based, ball-point ink is oil based.  Writing with a ball point is like pushing a fry pan around on a greasy stove.  Again, its all about aesthetics.


  1. NOTE: Please don't ask me, "Why doesn't everyone write with a fountain pen, if they're so good?" Let me ask you: Why does everyone use Windows and not Linux? Why don't men wear hats like they used to? Why don't people polish their shoes any more? Why do people go to the grocery store wearing pajama bottoms?

    My answer is: Perhaps they just don't know any better.

  2. My mom has a Waterman, and I would so gladly take possession of that thing, should she decide to part with it. People buy me pens and quills all the time, but to have a real, good pen would be... amazing.

  3. I love pens and journals. I'm a writer and have mine going back to the age of 13. Truly enjoyed this post. That said, I'm a writer that will write with anything, anywhere. Just depends on the mood. This makes my writings rather disorganized, no longer sorted by year but I guess that comes with age. I let loose and let go. I even write in pencil - for shame!

    Personally, I think I'd love to try a fountain pen. A Waterman. I would. It's just that it competes with fabric. …and you know what wins out there!

  4. Great post Ahren. Makes me want to dig out my Waterman pen and renew my love for it! I am very familiar with Rhodia products, and love them. Another French paper company that I have enjoyed for years is Clairefontaine. I have purchased their graph paper notebooks for years. I especially love the ones that have different colored sections.

  5. Mom: Oh yes, Clairfontaine is very nice; the paper quality is excellent. If you want any Clairfontaine products, let me know. They sell them at Eason on O'Connell Street.

    Karendianne: That's cool you love pens & journals. Don't be hard on yourself for using pencils. I love Sakura Sumo Grip mechanical pencils. They have FAT barrels and are very comfy. Basically, it comes down to whatever makes you happy. If you enjoy your 1/B Ticonderoga yellow pencil, you go girl!

    Jessica: For your first fountain pen I recommend a Medium size nib. The Waterman Hemisphere is a good fountain pen for about $90. For less money, I can recommend a Sheaffer Prelude for $42. They come in loads of colors and have a brass lacquered barrel like the Waterman. Try for some good deals.