On Sunday was the Melbourne Pen Show. It’s a small show but it has a 20 year history and this year there was quite a few interstate visitors (and even at least one international). The Melbourne Pen Show isn’t the DC Pen Show; it isn’t the London Pen Show; it’s a small regional pen show. But because it’s small and regional it’s very people focused and I expect offers a different experience to that of the bigger show.
I packed small(ish). An eclectic selection of 13 pens, no inks (I could buy that if I needed), one notepad of Tomoe River and one of Rhodia. Then there were some miscellany such as a small bulb syringe, a loupe, and some mylar paper (plus the usual clothing and electronics). I was happy that I kept it so small!
1am on Saturday morning I left Perth in Western Australia by plane to Melbourne on the east coast. I left a dry heat and arrived in a humid heat (Australia has two seasons: somewhat hot or somewhat mild). I didn't sleep well, but the coffee was OK for an aeroplane coffee!
The main reason I was at the show is to meet people that I have become friends with online for the past two years after starting Fountain Pens Australia with Jonathon Deans (or more accurately he started it with me). The social aspect was the main draw card for me and that isn’t to take away from the show at all; that gave the foundation for a national pen meet to happen and offered a bunch of opportunities for Australian retailers and personalities to show their works which isn’t to diminished. The show had a decent attendance with people from Western Australia (I was accompanied by 3 other Perth people), Adelaide, New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand (and those are just those I met). The Melbourne Pen Show had some decent build up in FPA throughout the year so I’m hoping that we were somewhat responsible for the show’s bigger attendance this year. This is something I, personally, want to achieve from FPA: a greater Fountain Pen community in Australia, and a pen show is certainly that!
Having slept maybe for an hour on the red-eye over, the Saturday was a bit of a struggle. Still, I managed to meander around the various cafés that were open and walk around the city and the Yarra River foreshore. Didn’t (couldn’t?) do much that day but I enjoyed it. I found Milligram (formerly Notemaker) in the city where nearby was a giant advert for the Lamy LX (whoa! A huge advert for a fountain pen in a main shopping centre of a major city!) and finally got to meet my co-owner of Fountain Pens Australia, Cassie. Thanks Ed as well, he joined us, for the hospitality! That night I organised a dinner for some Fountain Pens Australia members at 400 Gradi (thanks to who got me a table; well worth it and I’ll be back someday!). The dinner was great and the food delicious; had two Perth people accompany me, Mark and Maria; met Grant; met Shahan (who helped organise the pen show!), and caught up with Nicholas Gold again. Lots of fun! And I got to play with one of Nicholas’s famed OMASes. The Extra Flessibile is amazing. One day!
After a long sleep I arrived at the pen show on Sunday at 10am (an hour late!). I must have still snuck into the top 100 because my show bag had a bonus 30ml Diamine ink (and one that I don’t have!) thanks to, I believe James at Pensive Pens. The show bag did have a couple of samples (of inks that I do have so I donated them to people who didn’t), I think James and Robert Oster are to thank for the samples as well as the hardworking organisers who moved the ink from the bottle to the samples; I don’t envy your hard work!
The floor was arranged with tabled on the walls and then a circle of tables in the centre. There were 21 stalls including the calligraphy on the stage (with some stalls taking up a few tables). I made my way around the place trying to keep an eye out for people - keep in mind that I know these people from Display Pictures on Facebook most of the time! The stalls are dominated by vintage pens (which I was expecting). I don’t have a problem with this because vintage pens are the pens I more want to handle in person before ever committing to them. James Finniss had his Pensive Pens store were he sells his own pens (as well as various inks), and My Hearty Tinderbox, Milligram, and Fiorenza Luxuries were selling modern pens (so they were still represented!). Fiorenza Luxuries’ OMASes, Viscontis and Auroras were very tempting. Some less than impressive prices but also some decent prices. Ultimately the extra flessible was still out of my price range, unfortunately! Had some great discussions with Rene from Pen Classics, Andrew from Pen Smith, and Guido from Fiorenza Luxuries,
Much of my time was spent at Pen Smith’s extensive (at least for this show) vintage pens for sale. I’ve started getting more into vintage and older pens; I love vintage nibs (I’m somewhat disappointed by many modern nibs), I love many of the designs (modern pens are more adventurous, probably), and they have stood the test of time. In the end I came away with what I believe is a first generation Parker Vacumatic Standard size. I’m still trying the narrow down what this pen is specifically! Writes very nicely with a very bouncy nib and I simply love the stacked celluloid of these pens (thank you Constance for helping out on this purchase!) Stacked celluloid, be it like this pen, like some vintage Sheaffer, or like the OMAS Arco celluloid is by far my favourite pen material and I’m delighted with my purchase!
After making an uncountable amount of trips around all the stalls, listing to some talks up stairs, some of us made our way to a nearby burger place and then after that we were joined by Aileen at a milkshake bar. And that marked the end of the day’s activities.
When writing the bulk of this, on Monday, I was sitting in yet another café that Melbourne is deservedly famous for: the coffee is seriously and consistently good, the coffee culture is ingrained (and is not treated as a caffeine hit; Coffee is a delicious beverage and a social beverage), the café hospitality is great, the baristas are well trained and there is pretty much a café after 2 or 3 shops (and they are often decently full). If you like coffee (black, white, cold, hot, filter, espresso) you will enjoy this place.
I want the Melbourne Pen Show to expand but it’s a chicken and egg scenario: you’ll need more attendance to attract international names, and you’ll need international names to attract a bigger attendance. People in Sydney are trying to organise a Pen show there for next year so I’m hoping that is successful (I question the timing of the show, however: the show has been put more than 3 months before the Melbourne Pen Show. Had the show been put close to the Melbourne Pen Show both shows might benefit from an international audience and be able to attract bigger names to the tables but with this three month time between the two shows it wouldn’t be viable for an international retailer to go to both or only one. Hopefully I’m wrong though.
At the end of the trip I made out with 4 bottles of ink (one a generous gift, and the other for scraping through as one of the first 100 attendees), a Parker Vacumatic, some Midori notepaper, and another generous gift of a Daiso notepad and a Lanbitou fountain pen. Not that much but I’m happy with it. As I said, the main reason I was there was the people. And when I got back home there was two bottles of Parker Penman Ruby waiting for me!
Thanks for the great weekend (in no order):
Cassie, Michael, Sophia and Mark, James, Ed, Tingo, Rene, Nicholas, Ronald, Tom, Grant, Silvana, Shahan, all the stalls (sorry I didn’t buy from all of you!)
(Apologies if I met someone and didn’t list you! It was a busy day!)