InCoWriMo has a lot to answer for. For starters, it found me a new penpal, the inestimable Laura of potty-mouthed pen blog, Nib & Muck. She’s “volunteered” as my first
victim interviewee in a new series about pens and writing. Here goes.
PART 1: You and writing
1. Let’s do the twitter/speed-dating introduction. Tell us about yourself and what makes you tick in 140(ish) characters.
Ey up! I’m Laura AKA Nib & Muck, I’m 28, and my vital statistics are…oh, not that kind of intro. Well, I’m a pen-aholic of nearly two years, from Sheffield, and when I grow up I want to be Elvis Presley. Acrylic fountain pens, a good brew, and fantasy novels make me tick :)!
2. Now back to the beginning. What got you started with the stationery bug?
Oooh, probably my first Parker fountain pen when I was 11. I loved the way it made my handwriting look! But more seriously, it was about two years ago when I picked up my first (of many!) Lamy Safaris. It looked uber cool, wrote like a dream and became my gateway drug into this wonderful community!
3. Do you keep a journal, or a paper to-do list system like BuJo?
I do indeed keep a journal! I have used Hobonichis in the past but found the day per page format a bit limiting. I’m now using my William Hannah disc bound notebook which has more paper options and the beauty of being refillable and customisable. I use my journal to express gratitude for all the awesome things that happen in my day, and to work through those thorny things known as ’emotions’.
BuJo systems have never really worked for me; obsessive setting of goals and beating yourself up over not achieving them is something I do, so a BuJo would just add fuel to this stress fire if I were to use one! A simple To-Do list hits the spot for me :).
4. What does writing mean to you?
Whoah, this is deep! Writing is my release: it helps me to be more mindful; to connect with people all over the world via letters; and to spread a few sniggers through an unorthodox stationery blog. I’m also a guitarist, so songwriting is close to my heart too. Basically, I ❤️️ the writing.
5. Now that you’ve waxed lyrical about poetry and meditation, let’s get real: what was literally the last thing that you wrote on paper? Be honest!
Hahaha oh dear! I used a Field Notes ballpoint (don’t judge!) to write a note on a post-it to my other half. It read, ‘Babe, we need to pay this ground rent bill. Do it tomorrow?’ I’m such a go-getter ;).
6. Some people are talking about a resurgence in old-school, non-digital experiences like film photography, vinyl, and paper books. Would you say you live an “analogue life”?
I hate to admit it, but I’m really a techie by nature. I’m obsessed by the cult of Apple: I have an iWatch, a Mac, a mammoth iPhone 7 plus, an Apple TV…the list goes on. That said, I love my analogue tools and don’t think any technology could ever replace my trusty notebook and fountain pen.
7. Do you have a special place or time for writing… an old desk or comfy armchair? How does writing fit into your life?
I have a ‘girl cave’ (like a man cave, but smells nicer), with a leather chair in it. Every evening before dinner I give myself an hour or so in there to play with my pens, journal, and generally get ink all over myself!
8. Are you happy with your handwriting? What do you think about it?
Not to sound big-headed, but I think my handwriting is pretty good!
I’ve always written in cursive so I’ve had lots of practice. I’m looking forward to taking it up a notch this year though by using dip pens and being diligent with handwriting drills. I still want to improve my cursive craft, mainly so I can gloat on Instagram ;).
PART 2: Gear
1. Cards on the table. How many fountain pens, and how many bottles of ink, do you have in your house at the moment?
I’ve recently culled my collection, so I’m not embarrassed to admit numbers haha! I have about 12 fountain pens, and probably 15-20 inks (most are small Diamine or 30ml bottles). I think I’ve moved through my ‘must buy ALL THE THINGS’ stage and am now focusing on what I truly like. Although that in itself is an ongoing process!
2. From your current collection, what’s your “desert island” pen and ink combination? No cheating! What is it you like about them?
Jeez this is hard. I’d probably say my Lamy 2000 with a M nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Kon Peki. The Lamy is an absolute boss when it comes to reliability and nib smoothness. And Kon Peki is the perfect blue that pops off the page without being ostentatious. An understatedly cool combo…just like me ;).
3. Which fountain pen do you recommend to a first-timer? And, more importantly for anyone who’s reading this, what would you recommend for someone making the next step up to a £50–100 pen?
For the first timer, I’d say a Lamy Safari or Al Star. They are great writers, and you can get so many different (and reasonably priced) nibs to find out what you like. They also look smart and can be found in most high street stationery stores.
The ‘next level pen’ is more difficult. If you are willing to shop around on eBay, you can find Pilot Custom 74s with a gold 14k nib for £70ish. They have super smooth nibs, a classic design and are workhorses for daily writing. However, if you want to pay RRP, I’d say a TWSBI 580 or Vac Mini. TWSBI JoWo nibs are insanely good for this price point, and the range of filling systems is ideal for a newbie looking to ‘level up’ their fountain pen experience.
4. What’s been your most surprising purchase discovery of the past year? An ink, a pen case or something else that has made a difference that you want to shout about?
Probably my Conway Stewart 12 vintage fountain pen. I acquired it via an unexpected trade on the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group, another wonderful discovery! The Conway is simply stunning; the rose acrylic has great depth and the flex of the nib really surprised me. Not a daily writer, but it shines when doing calligraphy as you can get so much line variation. It changed my opinion of vintage pens, and I’m on the hunt for my next one!
5. What’s on your to-buy list at the moment?
Oooosh that’s difficult.
Pen-wise, I’d love a handmade John Twiss pen in marmalade acrylic; I’m saving my pennies for the Midlands and Yorkshire pen shows for one of these. I’m also on the look out for a restored Esterbrook J, and/or a Parker Vacumatic [Ed: I’ve got both. Laura’s just a copycat].
Ink-wise, I’m intrigued by Blackstone inks – the ‘other Australian ink brand’ – as they are very reasonably priced and seem to have some sexy sheen.
I’d like to try a Seven Seas notebook too as I’m a fan girl for Tomoe River paper!
Oh, and I’m keen to try some crazy nib grinds from FPnibs as stock nibs are beginning to get monotonous! A medium or fine cursive italic would be right up my street I think.
6. Some people only use fine nibs, or metal pens, or blue ink. Would you say you’ve got a stationery “type”?
I don’t think I have a ‘type’. I know that I’m not a fan of really fine nibs, nor do I like boring black or solid colour pens particularly. But I’m still at the stage of the hobby where I’m quite open minded and refining my taste.
7. What craze — for instance, glittery inks or flex nibs — leaves you cold?
Hmmmm. I think the fascination with Hobonichi planners has worn thin with me. I used one for a year, but couldn’t justify the extortionate price of the notebook or the covers to go for another year. Yes, Tomoe River paper is great, but there are more options out there for less dollar.
PART 3: The community
1. Who would like to see me interview next?
The Pen God himself: Brad Dowdy! He might be busy though, so how about one of our fellow UK stationery bloggers? Myke Hurley – also of Pen Addict fame – might be a possibility if he can find time around preening his bostin’ beard. Jenny Mason from The Finer Point is a good option, or even Tessa Sowry of All Things Stationery. Love their work, and bloggers from Blighty rarely get the recognition they deserve!
[Ed: I follow all these folks already — small world, ain’t it?]
2. In the spirit of #followfriday, who do you think knocks it out the park on Instagram or blogs that we should give a shout out to?
On Instagram, I’m a fan of fountainpensandink – beautiful photos, a variety of pen porn shots and a really nice person too!
3. Which stores (online or offline) do you think are doing a great job of inspiring the community that we should give an honourable mention to?
For inks, paper and social media wizardry, Mishka and the team at Bureau Direct knock it out of the park. Their blogs and Insta feed are always informative, and their response on Twitter is both quick and helpful.
I have to mention my local pen store here in Sheffield too: F.G Thomas. It’s not big, and it’s not clever, but they always let me play with expensive Mont Blancs and Pelikan Tortoiseshells with no obligation to buy. And they put up with my squeals of joy.
Finally, I recently visited Pen Sense in Nottingham and was impressed with their selection of pens and inks. They had one of those lifesize Lamy Al Stars too; I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get a selfie with it!