Nearly two years ago I drew a line: No more than 20 pens in my collection. Only last January I re-drew the line to 12. This evolving commitment to keep the collection small has helped me to focus on the pens I want. Not the pens I think I should want, or he/she/whoever thinks I should want, or the pen that just might “do” since I cannot afford the one I do want, or the pen that might displace the discomfort I’m feeling over this problem over here, or… well, you know, you understand. Or not. What is “enough?”
Surely one pen is enough. Perhaps two, really, in case one conks out. Or is three the magic number? I don’t have to decide. Yet I re-draw the line to nine pens. How’d I get to nine? My smallest cigar pen storage box holds nine pens. I really like that storage box and would like to use it as my sole box. All other pen boxes have been re-homed and this one cigar box remains. Limitations, I believe, can be golden opportunities to find more in what is “there.”
Getting to nine proved difficult. The pens in the hoard each fulfill the required criteria: they make me smile and make my heart sing a bit when I write with them. I try on different ideas and come back to: which pens do I use the least? The much loved Bexley and Pelikan pens have not made it into rotation.
Is it hard to release beloved pens? Yes. The act is also freeing. New pen slots become open. If you’re counting the pens in my collection the release of the Bexley and the Pelikan leaves me with eight. Eventually a urushi Edison will become the ninth.
Custom or bespoke pens make sense to me. They remove these obstacles: “Love the style but not the material.” Or the reverse, “Love the material but not the pen.” These observations push me to look at specific qualities of a pen I enjoy. Is it the whimsicality of the design? The color combination? The clean line? Merely the nib?
As an example, in the Ebony Pearl Sheaffer Balance it is the abalone flakes against the black barrel that I love. The clip is okay. The nib is sweet. The torpedo shape not so much. The cap ring could be larger. The lever filler aspect, well, it could be a piston style instead.
Looking at the Bedrock Flake Acrylic in the Edison Mina I like the lovely shape with flush cap and barrel. No lever. The flakes remind me of the Ebony Pearl yet do not shine as the Ebony Pearl shines. These are my aesthetic preferences, remember, not a criticism of two very beautiful pens.
A custom pen could provide a literal translation of an Ebony Pearl or (more exciting perhaps?) evoke the feeling of the Ebony Pearl in a pen to my liking. Custom pens cost a bit more. They are not unattainable.
All I want is a few pens that are great usable tools. These I have. What I like is that my small nine pen cigar box takes up a modest space on my bookshelf. It doesn’t require or demand a lot of attention.
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
—from Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning