Breathing Space/NYC Vacation

Even though it was barely March, I knew I needed a break, a chance to breathe. So over the course of about two days I booked a trip to NYC. The primary motivation was seeing one of my closest friends in the world, it’d been way too long. But I knew two of the highest things on my list beyond that were CW Pencil Enterprises and Fountain Pen Hospital.

So while there were a ton of highlights of NYC: food, cocktails, friends, my favorite gallery in the world, etc. Here I’ll focus on the stationery related pieces of my itinerary! My friend came along and played the part of field trip chaperone very well, dutifully taking pictures of me trying pens and ogling pencils. Thanks to Devon for the photos in-store.

Fountain Pen Hospital

I knew I’d walk away with a pen. I just knew it. And of course I did. I loved being in the store. I wanted to stay under $200 for a pen purchase so ended up eyeing the Visconti Van Gogh Collection Pollard Willow  and the Sailor Professional Gear Slim Sky Blue . Both are lovely, and both would have been a first purchase for each brand.

After writing with them I was torn. The Sailor was such a great writer, better than the Visconti definitely, but as I was holding it I kept leaning towards the Visconti. It took a bit of thinking, but I settled on the Visconti. The nib felt slightly off, but I couldn’t pass up the acrylic. The final decision really came down to the fact that I’m now pretty sure a Sailor Professional Gear Slim is just too small for me. I loved the look of the Sky Blue, and loved the nib, but to really have been happy I needed to jump up one size and that would have blown the budget.

There’s so much positive to be said about the retail experience. I got to talk with someone about the pens, understand what he thought the trade-offs were, and got to ink them and feel like when I did buy something I’d have a good sense of what I was getting myself into. (My friend demanded I take the traditional middle school field trip photo under their sign. I love how silly it is.)

I got the Visconti home and have confirmed the nib feels… off. When it’s flowing well it is a really nice writer, shockingly springy for steel, and even has some light flex, but I think the tines are too close together. I’ll plan to take it to the SF Pen Show this year and it can be one of the first pens I get nib work done. Even with the nib issues, no regrets. This pen is a STUNNER. The acrylic is beyond gorgeous, and using it out in the sun it glows, and the layers of color are easy to see. Once the nib is tuned this will easily be a favorite.

CW Pencil Enterprise

What can you say about a store devoted entirely to the wonderful world of woodcased pencils?

First things first, Caroline is such a great great presence in the store. It’s a small space, and she’s done quite a bit to make it welcoming and to make it easy to have a few people in, all shopping and testing and oohing and ahhing. But small stores can be intimidating too. She makes what could be a weird experience so warm and friendly though. Her enthusiasm for the store and the items inside is contagious. While I walked in knowing I like pencils (it’s only been a few months of serious pencil use for me), my friend was new to the world entirely, and ended up completely entranced and wanted to borrow pencils and split the cost of a book on the history of them. I think that is in very large part due to Caroline herself.

It’s definitely due to the store itself in part too! It’s full of so many beautiful things. I walked in knowing I wanted to get a carpenter pencil sharpener because I was so intrigued by the idea of it. And had a couple of pencil brands I thought I wanted to try. But mostly I just let myself go with what spoke to me. I ended up with a nice haul of individual pencils, an eraser, the carpenter pencil sharpener and the David Rees book.

The Spontaneous Flea Market

One of the best surprises about the whole trip was spending an afternoon with one of my oldest friends' best friend. It was one of those "We know we adore the same person so we are bound to get along" sort of plans. What was going to be a lunch turned into 5-ish hours of brunch and cocktails and then a spontaneous trip to a flea market in Midtown Manhattan.

I brought up pens, because of course I brought up pens. And Ellena was fascinated. We started talking about vintage pens, flea market finds, the valuation of pens vs the valuation of vintage fashion, and as we were getting ready to leave she said "wait, there's a flea market near here, we should just go and see what we can see!".

I didn't take any pictures, but it was my first real experience going to a flea market to try and find pens and pen related ephemera. We marveled over rings, lots and lots of rings, some clothes, some power tools, an incredibly weird and wonderful board with examples of various types of wire, and we both were eagle-eyed looking for pens.

I saw a gorgeous gold overlay waterman but the asking was $150 and I don't know enough yet to tell if it's restorable. I saw a couple Esterbrooks that looked beat up all to hell, and what appeared to my untrained eye to be some fake/knock-off pens of various sorts. It was insanely fun, and even though I didn't buy anything, it made me want to go to some flea markets in the bay area. It's always fun to share the love.


Coming back was hard. I love the East Coast, and love the friends I have out there. I returned to a day of recovery and easing back in, and then an onslaught at the day job for the next few weeks. It’s been quiet around here, but also quiet for pens, paper and bread in real life. This weekend I decided to force in some time for getting back to pens and paper and to finally tackling a bread project I’ve been putting off, a sourdough loaf with all natural levain, no commercial yeast.

The bread gets its own post later this week, for now a few shots from NYC, plus a couple of shots of recent purchases, my May load out, a recent whole wheat with raisins and walnuts bread, etc. It feels great to be baking regularly and back to a nice consolidated set of inked pens and sharpened pencils.