Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Girls getaway to the Portland Pen show

In July, Isis the wonder dog, my mom, and I took off to Oregon for a whirlwind 36 hours at the Portland Pen Show. I love writing with fountain pens and wanted to look for one with an extra fine nib to add to my cache.

Most American stores that carry fountain pens only carry them in fine, medium and bold, but there are many more sizes and styles available, particularly in Europe and Japan, where fountain pens are still used by a greater percentage of the population.

Here’s Portland Pen Show organizer Carla Mortenson, who again did a fabulous job pulling this together. I missed the seafood buffet Friday night, but the Saturday post-show spread was just as tasty.
This is a small, regional show, but it’s also more intimate and not as potentially overwhelming as the big city shows. So I felt comfortable taking my mom without fear that she’d be bored or might be put off by the pen-focused conversations. I needn’t have worried. First of all, she can strike up a conversation with anyone. Second, pen show participants are about the nicest, most open folks around.

There were many familiar and new faces who welcomed us both warmly. Among them, Sherrell Tyree and her brother Joel Hamilton, seen here helping a fellow pen aficionado find just the right one.
They have a cool online shop called Inkpen Vintage Fountain Pen where they sell pens, books, and more, and also do repairs.

Upon hearing that mom is a lefty (considered by some to be poorly suited to fountain pen writing because some lefties drag their hand through freshly-written and instantly smeared lines), Joel proffered a pen perfectly suited for her and let her give it a whirl. Nicer?! And she could instantly feel how much better it glided across the page than a standard ballpoint or rollerball. She liked it, but she’s not ready to dive into the fountain pen niche just yet.

I also chatted with John Mottishaw again, pen repair and adjustment guru extraordinaire who I met at my first pen show.
He did my first fountain pen modification last year through his http://www.nibs.com/ site and I'm hooked. Here's John getting an up close view of a pen in need of adjustment.Using a fountain pen that's been modified to fit your hand and handwriting style is like the difference between buying clothes off the rack and getting them tailored to fit you.

The weather in Portland that weekend was near 90, which is not the best for a dark dog like Isis, as we found out when she overheated and lost her recently ingested lunch and water under my seat while we sat at an outdoor restaurant in the Pearl District. Oops.

I simply chalked it up as good practice for the inevitable baby stomach and diaper explosions to come and snagged a couple plastic baggies from the car, cleaned up the mess, washed my hands, and continued with our day. But we were glad to be able to take her to our dog-friendly hotel (The La Quinta Inn by the Convention Center) afterwards where she could chill out with some AC (literally) while we hit the show.
The next day, my mom walked the trails at the Grotto while I returned to the show to retrieve a pen that caught my eye the day before. It's a Sheaffer from the 1980s or so that has an ultra fine nib that's been modified to be both sharp and smooth: no small feat. It writes like a dream and has become my new favorite. See below for what my husband calls fountain pen porn shots. Pen aficionados: try not to drool on the keyboard. Everyone else: try not to nod off.


  1. No posts for the longest time, then I check back and there are three!

    I went through a small fountain pen phase too, so I'm not a complete pen-Muggle. (Great term, by the way, to describe anyone who isn't a fan about X topic.)

    Glad to know that pen-people are nice. Some people get so wrapped up in their passions that they can get snobby towards Muggles.

  2. Yes, I took the long weekend and inability to travel far as perfect excuses to lay on the couch blogging. :-) Totally agree on the Muggle term and niche snobs. You want to say, "Hey! If you like it great. But to each their own. Let it go." Thanks for checking back in. I've been feeling guilty about not posting but was hung up on whether people cared to read the preggo-related post du jour or other stuff. Then I remembered they can take it or leave it as they see fit. :-) Aaah. Relief. Let the random musings begin.