The Atlanta Pen Show was just this past weekend, and I'm already looking forward to the next one. This was my second pen show, but a totally different experience from the first. Through the incredible community we're lucky to call home, the year's show was an incredible example of how utterly fantastic the pen community is. Yes, there were numerous pens and stationery products, but the real treat and highlight was the people.
One quote comes to mind that perfectly sums the weekend up for me:
If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.
— Kurt Vonnegut, In These Times
It all started for me on Friday afternoon with a 4-hour drive through the backcountry of the Alabama/Georgia hills. After driving right by the Nock shop on the first try, I eventually parked and made it inside out of the rain. As many probably felt, it was surreal to be in the shop and see the people that resembled their avatars.
After about 10 minutes, I shook off the "I know you but it's super weird to actually see/hear you in person" feeling and started talking to people. I've met people from the internet 3 times now, and it's only gotten a little easier to comprehend in those first minutes. But, after a short while everyone is best friends and having a grand time.
There were several friends from last year that I already knew, but there were so many new faces this time. I was really excited to meet Myke and Ana since they're practically our cult leaders, and all the people I knew would be making the trip. I had the pleasure of meeting both Brad and Jeff at last year's show, but I was pleased to also meet Jeff's beard this year, as it wasn't able to attend last year. You can get lost staring into that thing...
The Nock party was fantastic. It was a bit rainy, but that didn't stop us from having a great time. There was pizza, beer, and so many great people. It was awesome to look around the room of people who only just met and see that everyone was lost in conversations about pens and other random topics. Don't know about everyone else, but it was extremely easy to find common ground outside of our shared fascination for writing instruments.
To be honest, I'm terrible at taking pictures at social gatherings. I get lost in a conversation and don't think to pull my camera or phone out for a quick snap. I didn't take any photos at the party, but luckily some other attendees had that covered. My Instagram is full of photos from the night, and Ana's Flickr page is full of awesome goodies.
Now, on to the pen show. Saturday was about the same size as I remember from last year, but there was a Nock booth in the first room to mix things up. I started off at the Franklin Christoph table to check out a Model 19, only to discover that it was a lot bigger than I had anticipated. After trying one out, I decided against it — which is a huge advantage of shopping at the show. Sometimes you have no idea that a pen is huge, tiny, or just awkward from the pictures you see online. This is a great opportunity to try things out and form opinions for later.
I stopped by the Karas Kustoms booth to check out the Ink (I hadn't bought one through Kickstarter or their store yet). It didn't take me long to pick out an Ink model — Joe Lebo commented on a red pen that I had picked up to try out. He said it was the Ironman, which confused me until I uncapped it and saw the copper section. It was an instant sale. Oh, and it was awesome to meet Dan in person. Super nice and funny guy.
After the Ink purchase, I headed over to the Nock table to say hello and pick up a few items. One of my favorite items was the Nock tri-camo TechLiner (short model). I never really saw the appeal of this pen until I handled one in person. It's such a cool pen because of the magnets and feel, and it actually is really comfortable to write with.
To speed things up a bit, just imagine walking between two large banquet halls several times and looking at hundreds of pens, inks, papers, and accessories while also talking to a couple dozen people along the way. It was exhausting. Once it was time for lunch, I had also acquired a nice Akkerman No. 8 ink - Deep Water Blue (gorgeous).
At some point, I had the pleasure of going to lunch with Dave, Sarah, and Doug. Everyone was super interesting and a pleasure to hang out with. In my mind, most conference-type events you attend are solitary. You go to the events and participate in any of the event-led discussions and then retreat back into your own world. This isn't the case at the pen show — you're always surrounded by friends.
Saturday afternoon/evening was all about showing, borrowing, trying, and talking about pens. We had a 15-foot table full of stuff. Like Brad explained on the podcast, it didn't matter what kind of pen it was, everyone was free (encouraged) to try it out and pass it along. Ana had her collection of Esterbrooks and Esterbrook nibs, there were $3 disposable fountain pens, dozens of inks, and even several Nakayas at some point. The full gamut of fountain pens was represented at this table. We love our pens, and we also completely trust each other with our treasures. It was a fantastic time, and we spent hours at that table talking and playing with pens.
For me, that was the highlight of the show. Hanging out with a dozen or so people at a time and talking about pens and life. The pens brought us together, but there was a deeper connection than that, and that was amazing and completely enjoyable.
I stuck around for a couple hours on Sunday morning before heading back. Like I told several people, I had mentally cut myself off from any more purchases on Saturday, but I somehow walked away Sunday morning with a new Franklin Christoph Model 40 Pocket (with a Masuyama fine cursive italic) and a Masuyama-tuned Ink nib. Not really sure how that happened (that's more story, and I'm standing by it).
The 2015 pen show was phenomenal, and easily one of best things so far about my 2015. It will take a lot to top this. I had so much fun meeting everyone and talking about the different things that came up outside of pens and paper. So many great memories, and I look forward to next year with happy anticipation.
In case you're wondering, here's what I walked away with after the show: