Pen World v32.5


Pen World v32.5

The Journal of Writing Culture

AP Limited Editions:

seeing Double-Dragon

Luxury Brands gets it:

Colorverse Inks

and Benu Pens

inspiration from Kanilea:

Aolani Sunset

big winners:

results of the 25th annual

PW Readers’ Choice Awards


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Volume 32, Number 5

ON OUR COVER: AP Limited Editions

Legendary Double Dragon fountain pen.








lacquered luxury

Whether maki-e or Russian lacquer,

bespoke or limited edition, all AP

Limited Editions writing instruments

are infused with passion.

and the “Penny” goes to…

The 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards were

more competitive than ever. Meet the

winning pens.

the Platinum experience

John Mottishaw reminisces on his

experiences at the Platinum Pen Co.

100th anniversary celebrations.

Luxury Brands’ Growing Family

Learn about the U.S. distributor’s

newest acquisitions: South Korea’s

Colorverse Inks and Russia’s Benu Pens.

yes we Kanilea!

The U.S. pen company finds inspiration

in the Hawaiian Islands and wants to

share it with you.

Pilot’s long/short pens

Richard Binder’s history of Japanese

pocket pens continues.

in full Plume

Point Plume of Paris is more than a

shop: it’s also an accessories brand and

a multi-generational passion project.























rainbow, rainbow, rainbow


mark your calendars


new pens and accessories


St. Louis and Colorado


cursive, Intellectus, Ex Libris, roosters


collectible pens of the ’80s and ’90s


Kaweco long pens


classified advertising


brand contact information

how to…

…make an ink swab




Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow*


Driving on I-10 with my family, we raced along the outer edge of a heavy monsoon. To the west, a scorching bright sun;

to our right, charcoal gray clouds pendulous with rain. As the highway curved around mountainous terrain, we drove in

and out of downpours.

We entered an open valley, verdant greenery and umber soil all around us. To our right, truly suddenly, was a rainbow, and

then another one—two full prismatic arches. They say you can’t get to the end of the rainbow, which is true. You’ll never actually

get that stupid leprechaun’s Lucky Charms®. But I could see where the rainbows ended, just to our east, bleeding into the

grassy field. They stayed with us, those rainbows, until we headed into the next mountainous pass and another deluge.

Creating ink is an attempt at bottling the purity of color.

Perhaps that’s why the names of ink colors are so fanciful. Perhaps you would have called the gray of the clouds I saw “charcoal”

or “smoke.” I call that color “ominous gray dappled with sun-speckled yellow that portends a rainbow,” which works well

enough for my artistic purposes, I suppose. What you call the color isn’t as important as what the color inspires.

If this issue has a thesis, it is that inspiration comes in Technicolor.

AP Limited Editions, Colorverse Inks, Benu Pens, Kanilea Pen Co., Graf von Faber-Castell, Point Plume—nearly every brand

shown in this issue has remarked on the inspiration they find in the colors of the natural world.

In addition, each one of these brands admits just how difficult a task it is to capture a landscape, a scene, a color. The look

of effortless creativity requires years of practice and exceptional discipline. You’re going to get drenched in the rain before you

capture that rainbow.

So as you look through the vibrant accessories on the following pages, consider the amount of effort it took to create those

objects. As you note that Pelikan has won “Pen of the Year” honors in the PW Readers’ Choice Awards for the second year in a

row, consider all the R&D that went into such a feat. As you note that Kanilea just won back-to-back “Best Artisan Pen” awards,

consider that Hugh and Karol Scher work on Kanilea on evenings and weekends, after their day jobs. As you note that, once

again, Retro 51 took top honors in “Best Non-Fountain Pen” and Sailor won in “Best Writing Experience,” consider the decades of

work it took for those companies to get to this pinnacle.

And as you look at the pens of other winners like Laban, Armando Simoni Club, Pilot, Ryan Krusac Studios, Franklin-

Christoph, Graf von Faber-Castell, and Point Plume, remember and appreciate the work that goes into creating such masterpieces.

It’s easy enough to be inspired; it’s a lot harder to do something about it.

*Title inspird by Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, “The Fish.” Send your letters to



Appropriate Here

Writing instruments from AP Limited Editions are a blend of influences and

techniques, reflecting our multicultural world.

Top two rows—examples of AP Limited Editions urushi and maki-e writing instruments. Bottom two rows—the company’s work in Russian lacquer art.



We must reserve the use of adjectives for

them to have any meaning or substance.

We hear “amazing” countless times—so

often, in fact, that it has entirely lost its original

meaning of “being overwhelmed by sudden surprise.”

Today, the word merely signifies “very good.”

I hesitate to make the claim that follows, but from

a long lifetime of usage, I have encountered a fair

number of fountain pens. So here goes: the pens offered

for the eyes of all and the hands of a fortunate few by

AP Limited Editions are among the most beautiful and

functional pens in the world. Period.

Approaching an AP Limited Editions pen is entirely

different from grabbing a favorite daily writer; but these

gallery-quality art pens are meant to be used. Anuj and

Smita Poddar, founders and owners of AP, are serious

pen users and collectors and want to share both those

aspects of writing culture. Why should a luxury model

intended for writing sit unused on a shelf?

The fountain pens and rollerballs produced by AP

Limited Editions are among the greatest in their

category, a realm that merges fine art and utility.

These pens are exquisite but are also meant for writing.

The fountain pens are eyedropper or cartridge/converter

fillers (with new bulk fillers recently released) fitted

with 18 karat gold nibs in a wide range of grades from

Bock, the famed German nib maker.

Left—The Benevolent Chenrezig is a bespoke piece that honors the Avalokitesvara Buddha, the patron Buddha of Tibet.

Top—AP Limited Editions CEO Anuj Poddar.

Right—our cover pen, The Legendary Double Dragon, is a new Connoisseur-series writing instrument with a greenish-gold backdrop

representing the majesty of the cosmos, crafted in the specialized bokashi nuri technique of mixing different urushi pigments with gold.

An elderly golden dragon on the cap and a young blue dragon on the barrel gaze at each other, both composed in taka maki-e. Smita

Poddar says, “This creation speaks to the cycle of life” and echoes circular cultural legends in which the end leads back to the beginning.


AP pens are created not only as objects of beauty but as fully-functional

writing instruments. There are not only images designed for all tastes but

also pen shapes suitable for each hand. Some recent design shapes include a

tapered bulb, a traditional balance with tapered ends, or straight and flush.

Presently, the most popular body style is cylindrical with pedestals or

finials. Separating the barrel from the cap seems to form the twin handles

of a scroll, revealing truths each time the pen is opened and put to use.

Floral, faunal, and geometric designs characterize some models, including

hand-carved shell inlays and gold-dust sprinkles. Others contain extremely

intricate paintings from the history and culture of many nations. As one

interprets art and then fashions a personal view, the AP pen becomes a

canvas—a source for inspiration and understanding for the viewer.

AP’s professional philosophy is different from most pen manufacturers,

even from those also producing art pens. Anuj Poddar began his passion for

writing instruments at age eight, using fountain pens at home and school.

Anuj retains his desire to find the “near perfect” pen. He qualifies “near perfect”

by saying he continuously aspires to do better.

“We believe in listening to our customers’ ideas and desires. This helps

us approach perfection in the eyes of our customers and for ourselves as well,”

Anuj says.

Now in its second decade, AP presents two art forms from vastly different

cultures—Japanese maki-e and Russian lacquer art—and several specific

techniques within each category, an example of AP’s willingness to experiment,

to merge different designs and art forms in the constant search for elusive

perfection. Some of AP’s pens incorporate unique techniques of urushi and

maki-e that are closely guarded by artists whose expertise and skills have

been handed down from one generation to another.

Over the years, Anuj and Smita have received letters from writers who

appreciate AP pens but are unable to afford them. Anuj comments, “Given our

inherent desire to create an awareness for the importance of handwriting, our

effort in recent years is to bring forth collections of affordable yet beautiful

writing instruments carefully crafted using heritage art forms. At AP, we

believe that emotion can be more fully expressed through a handwritten note.”

An important feature of AP’s service allows customers to realize a personal

vision through the company’s customized bespoke service.

There are custom pen makers who have a conversation at a pen show or

online, discussing features the customer would like on an individualized,

bespoke pen. With AP, the process is different and considerably more personal.

Extensive conversations occur, including discussions of budgetary concerns;

designs and sketches are exchanged; images are refined, and a final decision is

made. Not only the principals and customer are involved; the artists who

will create the actual art on the pen are a part of the exchange. This highly

customized service is one appreciated by all who have participated.

Left—the bespoke Immortal Dragon is a Writer-bodied fountain pen with a bamboo-style

clip in bright red lacquer. The traditional golden Chinese fire dragon on the barrel is

composed in taka maki-e and features flames on the cap, abalone inlay on the cap and

barrel crowns, and gold flaking at the barrel and cap ends.

Right—the Writer series Majestic Mount Fuji and Dragon, limited to nine editions, features

a maki-e golden dragon on the barrel looking up at Mount Fuji on the cap.


Upon receiving the ideas, the design team, headed by Smita,

prepares initial drawings and information on suggested techniques,

as well as recommending a certain form of art or craft to be

applied on the pen.

Smita explains, “It is after a series of discussions that a final

concept is approved, and we then start working on the pen with a

50-percent deposit from the collector. The bespoke pen may take

anywhere from two to four months, sometimes much longer,

depending of the complexity of the artwork and design.”

The bespoke pen is a unique, one-of-a-kind pen that is not

repeated. Anuj reveals his personal delight: “We take immense

pleasure in the entire process and the sheer glee and wonder we

see in the eyes of the collector when receiving a bespoke pen. This

is truly gratifying and satisfying for us. The more involved a client

gets and the more open they are with what they want, the more

beautiful the resultant pen becomes.”

Smita clearly conveys her devotion to her pens and those who

own them: “Our products honor and celebrate the traditional

stories, figures, places, and customs of a multicultural world

through different periods of history. Our products also explore

real and imagined personal stories and experiences. We hope our

fine writing instruments build bridges among cultures and uplift,

question, reflect, educate, and spread a greater concept of respect

and understanding. We also seek to strengthen the spiritual

connection with nature, its fascinating flora and fauna, and the

spatial forms that comprise our cosmos.”

Below—AP Limited Editions logo and the brand’s

standard 18 karat gold nib with engraved logo.

Right—Writer series Mount Fuji and Crane maki-e

fountain pen, limited to nine editions; Great

Generals of the Desert, limited to nine writing

instruments, is a seamless composition of varied

maki-e techniques.


Above—Writer series Giant Pacific Octopus and Goldfish writing

instruments (limited to nine editions each) both use taka, togidashi,

and raden maki-e techniques to capture visions of the deep.

Left to right—examples of abstract maki-e compositions: Writer series

No. 7 shows an abstract display of the number “7” in various

languages; The Pearl is a Writer series pen with a meticulous display of

abalone and mother of pearl; The Skull, part of the Writer series, uses

traditional maki-e for a modernist abstraction of human skulls. All

limited to nine editions.

The emphasis in the coming months is to create a seamless online

experience for customers who will be able to purchase pens online as

well as place bespoke orders. There are several types of urushi lacquer

art (produced from sap of the urushi tree) that AP Limited Editions

makes available through its Urushi and Sakura Lacquer Art collections.

The Sakura pen series is dedicated to first-time AP collectors—rollerballs

or fountain pens with 18 karat gold nibs that are meant for everyday

use and simpler design schemes that allow for lower price points. The

Urushi lacquer art series is similarly priced and features urushi lacquer

bodies with different textures and finishes.

A visit to the AP website is an education not just in this company’s

products but also in urushi, maki-e, and Russian miniature art techniques.

Because AP pens are each unique and contain such beautiful art, some

customers want to see and handle the pens prior to purchase, so Anuj

and Smita attend major U.S. pen shows. Because of the new emphasis

on online purchases, the company incorporates special considerations

regarding customer satisfaction and the free flow and exchange of ideas.

The convenience of online shopping and online conversation allows a

new generation of AP customers and collectors to see and order pens

from the website. Feedback has been positive regarding this renewed

online attention.

The opportunity to acquire fine writing instruments online

through the AP website has already logged legions of devoted writers

and collectors. The Writer fountain and rollerball pens belonging to the

Urushi lacquer art and Sakura lacquer art series are available online at

affordable prices (starting around $650). The Writer series includes

fountain pens and rollerballs with or without a clip; these pens come

with either a converter or piston filler designed and produced by Conid.


This new partnership with Conid Pens of Belgium is a

major area of excitement for AP. In recent years, the buzz

among fountain pen cognoscenti is that Conid makes the

most high-tech, patented filling mechanism now on the

market. As the manufacturers of their own pens (the famed

Conid Bulk Filler), Conid is pleased to partner with AP in

creating a unique filling system that will complement the

AP aesthetic.

The new filling system for AP Connoisseur and Writer

series fountain pens will house more ink than any converter

and is based upon the bulk filling system invented by

Conid’s industrial engineers for Conid-brand pens. This

partnership’s creation of a brand-new filling system will

allow for the maximum amount of ink to be housed in an

AP fountain pen, insuring a constant flow of ink to enhance

the writing experience. In this partnership, traditional

artistry merges with exceptional technical expertise.

So what does the future hold for this remarkable

company? AP is developing more geometric and abstract

designs for the Middle East, where non-representational

art is preferred. The stunning images of Russian miniature

art and maki-e will continue on many models. The company

recently added Itoya in Tokyo, Japan’s largest fine pen

retailer, to its portfolio of dealers. Other fine pen shops

carrying AP models are found in Singapore, Hong Kong,

Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In the

United States, Airline International

(, Dromgoole’s Fine Writing Instruments

and Stationery (, and Fountain Pen

Hospital ( represent AP. There

are plans for more dealers in new markets.

AP Limited Editions marries traditional art techniques

from several cultures and explores their application,

experimenting with new themes and creating a unique

form of varied images and blended techniques. Some

remarkable pens, for example, incorporate both maki-e

and Russian lacquer art.

These visual expressions are hand crafted onto writing

instruments by skilled artists devoted to keeping heritage art

forms alive. The pens celebrate multi-culturalism and

reflect a philosophy of unity through both harmony and

contrast. In essence, the writing instruments of AP Limited

Editions celebrate life, capturing moments of timelessness in

a transient world.


Barry Gabay is a PW contributing editor.

Left to right—Liberty Enlightening the World

combines maki-e on the cap and Russian

lacquer art on the barrel; Serendipity

captures a lion and his reflection mid-roar

in the Palekh school of Russian lacquer art;

The Mystic Owls shows a “parliament” of

owls on the cap and barrel in Palekh-style

Russian miniature art; Shakyamuni Buddha

uses Russian lacquer art to display the

Buddha and his aura. All limited to nine




Tsuru Kame

Maki-e Lacquer Art

The Connoisseur

A Limited Edition of Nine Pens

Souverän® 805

Blue Dunes



Life on Mars


Mariner 4

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Dust Storm

Valles Marineris

Map of Mars

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The Journal of Writing Culture

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how to

...make an ink swab.

Anderson Pens has a reputation for extensive ink sales and for its collection of organized, standardized ink swabs

(sometimes called “ink swatches”) for every color in the shop’s inventory. Here, Lisa Anderson explains how she and

her team create the perfect ink swab collection.

1 2

3 4

5 6

1. Get your swab cards ready! For the ink books you've seen at pen shows and in our stores, we use specialty cardstock. For social media and

promotional use, we also use Skylab Letterpress Col-o-Ring and Col-o-Dex cards. For a professional-looking ink catalog, we like to create several

copies of each swab and choose the one that turns out best.

2. Gather any additional supplies, including a dip pen or glass-nibbed pen for the writing sample, Q-tips for the ink swab itself, scrap paper to keep

your desk or table clean, a glass of water, and a towel.

3. Dip the Q-tip into the bottle or sample of ink. Be sure to fully saturate the cotton tip!

4. Swab the ink onto the cardstock or Col-o-Ring. Go slowly to make sure that the ink flow is consistent. If you swab too quickly, the color will be

patchy and lighter than it will be in real life usage.

5. Use the dip pen for a writing sample, such as our preferred zig-zags and loops. For our ink books and online ink tool, we prefer to print out the

brand and color name for ease of reading.

6. For your own ink swabs, writing the ink’s information out by hand will give you both a writing sample and a label for your swab. Some people also

prefer to write the same phrase on every swab for comparison. For consistency, use the same nib and stock paper for all your swatches. Be creative,

and make it your own!

Sailor Jentle Kin-Mokusei ink shown on this page. Visit to shop its line of inks and to try its online “Ink Comparison Tool” of virtual

ink swabs.


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