It’s Sunday morning and I’m noodling on where this hobby of ours is heading. In hindsight it’s always easy to see surges in popularity or big trends moving: the Gentleman Stationer just pointed out the growth in ‘oversize’ pens (pun intended), and anyone with an eye on the world of inks has spotted the explosion in first sheening then complex shaders in the past couple of years.
So what might be ahead?
I have a few ideas, based on the sentiment I can see on Instagram and some of the movements in what brands and makers are doing.
1. Crazy resins and collabs
Led by named makers like Jonathon Brooks and Bob Dupras, it seems the world has gone mad for diamondcast, swirly, hyper-saturated and patterned resins. I even saw a resin made of chopped up money the other day. I think we’re just getting started, for a couple of reasons.
First, the wider world has gone mad for resin pours too: I’m sure you’ve seen the craft videos on Facebook of wood-and-resin sculptures and coffee tables, phone cases from brands like Carved, etc. This means the materials and equipment will become more widely available (just as, in another market space, the popularity of vaping made exotic batteries more available for flashlight geeks like me).
Second, interest in arco pens remains high, and the world is running out of vintage rods, whether celluloid or otherwise. Look at Leonardo’s new Cuspide colours, which many have compared to arco. I think everyone is looking for the next arco.
Custom makers have been using crazy resins for a while, but now the mainstream is getting involved. Estie has its sparkly oversize; and Leonardo has even done a collaboration with Brooks. We’ll see more like this, I think as the next wave of the ‘limited edition’ gravy train that has burned itself out.
And I think we’ll see more collaborations, too, as big and small get together, or even as small and small join forces. Fontoplumo with Schon, Scribo with Write Here, Kaweco with Galen Leather, Corsani’s Visconti exclusives… just the first wave.
2. Machined fountain pens
Well, machined fountain pens never went away, but I’ve noticed a lot more interest and activity recently. There’s Schon’s Pocket Six, of course, but also promising new projects from the likes of Ben Walsh, Karas’s new Ink v2, Michael Martin, and non-FP pens from Tactile Turn, Ti2, etc. Fuelled by precision, exotic metals, and ever more sophisticated mechanisms for capping and retracting points, we’re seeing a bit of an arm’s race that I personally find exciting.
3. Heritage plays
A lot of pen companies have hit major anniversaries or centenaries (or notable design centenaries) in the past couple of years, including Platinum, Lamy 1919 Bauhaus, Otto Hutt, Cleo Skribent, Pilot, Aurora, and Pelikan’s Herzstuck 1929. In a market that is utterly saturated and highly competitive, having genuine heritage is a hugely defensible advantage and barrier to entry.
I commented in my Otto Hutt review that the company seems emboldened; I think Cleo probably feels the same. I reckon we’ll see a focus in the market on heritage — Parker’s just-announced 51 reboot, following on from the relaunched Estie and Sheaffer Legacy, is just the start.
And I’m not sure this will even be limited to heritage reboots. Look at Taccia’s Yukio-e inks, Pilot’s 7 gods inks, and even TWSBI’s first ink range, all harking back to a cultural heritage of old literature and mythology. In times of uncertainty as we’re living in now, the old ways become more appealing!
4. Nib variety
We went through a couple of decades of mostly F, M, B from a lot of major Western brands. But Aurora has always offered a wide range of nibs, now expanded with the Gocchia. Scribo has pushed into the 52-degree nib, the triple-broad, and the 14k flex. Estie has collaborated with a nibmeister on the Journaler nib out of the box, Franklin-Christoph offers its increasingly popular SIGs and Masuyama grinds, Appelboom now has Annabel as in-house nibmeister… oh yeah, and we have a new option here in the UK for stacked nibs, did I mention? I think the average pen enthusiast now has more awareness of the range of creative and practical options, and that will feed into increased availability of choice.
5. Pocket pens
Kaweco’s Sport is not the only game in town any more, and I’m excited. Schon’s Pocket Six is, of course, the big disrupter, but smaller makers are getting in on the trend, too: I’ve covered John Garnham’s effort, and Leonard Slattery is building one too (as are some other makers I have seen on Instagram). I can’t name the brand, but another major player is bringing out a pocket pen soon too. As people realise that ‘pocket’ doesn’t have to mean ‘uncomfortable’, I think we’ll see a spike in creative and fun options come to market.
So what do you think? Is your view of the market very different? Do you think I need to drink more coffee on a Sunday morning before I start shooting my mouth off about market trends? Share your ideas in the comments below.