It's rare these days that anything lives up to, much less exceeds, the hype, but the 2015 DC Pen Show did for me.
Thursday started off smoothly for Jeff and I, meeting at the Atlanta airport around 7:30 for our 9:45 flight. Things couldn't have gone any better on the flight, with the only hiccup being us not knowing what level the hotel shuttle was on when we arrived in Dulles. Luckily the driver was late, so by the time we sorted it out he had just arrived and got us to the hotel shortly after 1:00.
The hotel atrium was already buzzing with activity but we were starving, so after check-in and several hellos and hugs with people who beat us to the show (I'm looking at you Thomas and Leigh!) we were off to find lunch. One of the nice things about the show hotel - the Sheraton at Tyson's Corner - is the convenience to everything you need for your stay within a few hundred yards of the hotel. Restaurants especially, with a slew of great ethnic dining choices. Over the long weekend we ate Indian, Thai, Japanese, Greek, various noodle bowls, and burgers, all never more than a few steps away.
Once properly nourished, we headed back over to the hotel to jump into the fray. Thursday is a scheduled trading day, with vendors staking claims to any open tables they could find. There were more than enough set up to keep us occupied for several hours. I even spied an Ernest Shin Bokashi Ishime no Tamenuri, who's work I had never seen in person, displayed nicely alongside several Danitrios at Sarj Minhas' table.
"Yeah," I thought, "this is going to be a good show."
I didn't even bother asking the price of the pen from Sarj. I had a ballpark idea, but it was Thursday afternoon and I had an entire weekend left to shop. Pace yourself! The rest of the afternoon was spent mingling and meeting, catching up with friends old and new, and grabbing dinner and drinks. The bar would become the epicenter of activity for the evening time, with several of us closing it down the first three nights around 1:00 am. Short sleep hours were definitely in play on this trip.
When Friday rolled around I wanted to get the lay of the land of the full show setup. And what a setup it was. I had only attended the Atlanta Pen Show in the past, and DC was several times larger than Atlanta. Five to six times larger maybe? And that may be selling it short still. It's as huge as people say it is.
The highlight of my day was seeing Kaoru from Bung Box set her table up. And only 30 feet or so behind Vanness Pens, which is where Jeff and I were slinging Nock Co. gear between walking around the show. The Bung Box table was packed immediately, so when I saw a break in the action I headed over for what I knew would be my first purchases of the show.
I had been eyeballing their exclusive Pliot Custom Heritage 91 Sapphire since it was launched, and I was excited to see it displayed on the table. I bought it with a Fine-Medium nib (the only option), and also picked up a bottle of Bung Box Tangerine ink and a beautiful Mt. Fuji themed pen wrap. Success right out the gate!
If my show had ended there I would have been a happy camper. Luckily, it did not.
Friday night was the Pen Addict Meetup at the hotel, or what would turn into the World Sauna Championships. The scheduled room for the event wasn't set up properly, so we moved to a smaller room next door with a better table and chair layout. Unfortunately, the air conditioning did not move with us. The 50 or so people who attended were troopers, and we all mingled, ate pizza, and I handed out some sweet door prizes as quickly as I could so people could go catch their breaths. Despite the heat I was excited with the turnout and my mind is racing with what I could do with more time to plan.
That night at the bar (recurring theme alert) was a who's who of vendors from the show, retailers, bloggers, friends, family - you name it. Pens and inks were being tried all over the place, Brian Goulet was giving a master class in using Periscope, and many beverages were consumed. I'd tell you more specifics, but what happens in the pen show bar stays in the pen show bar.
Saturday is Game Day at the DC Pen Show. All of the dealers are there and set up, and the first day of public entry spawned a line as far as the eye could see, and further. Jeff and I were property of Vanness Pens all weekend, working the table for the always amazing and hilarious Lisa Vanness. We sold a metric ton of ink that day, primarily Akkerman, KWZ, and as many of the mini Pilot Iroshizuku bottles as I could find. It was fun being able to interact with all of the customers, many who were taken aback by that voice they hear on that pen podcast and the guy with the beard who sews things.
I hadn't planned on any shopping at all on Saturday - it was so busy - but I happened by the Chatterly Luxuries table on one of my many trips to the water cooler when I saw it. What is this striking orange beauty I see before my eyes? I quizzed Bryant about it and it turned out to be an Edison Pearl Prototype made from a material known as G10. I had never heard of the material, but a few quick conversations later I realized how crazy it was to see a pen made from it. Since the maker of the pen - Brian Gray from Edison Pen Co. - was also in attendance, I went over and quizzed him about the pen and the challenges of making it. I learned a lot in the 30 minutes or so since I first saw the pen and knew it was coming home with me. This was my purchasing highlight of the show without question, and I topped it off with a cursive italic nib grind by Deb Kinney to make the fine gold nib sing my tune. This may be the most Brad pen I own.
A relaxing sushi dinner was in the cards Saturday night, and then yes, back to the bar. As I was sitting with friends the waitress came by for my order. My request to open a tab on Room 305 was met with an “Oh, I know which room” response from the waitress, and a huge laugh from the table. Pen show bar mission accomplished!
Sunday was the only unexpected day for me this trip. I anticipated a steady stream of business through the early afternoon, but the slow start in the morning never really picked up. That was fine by me as I finally got to check out the entire show space and made time to meet with people I had been promising to talk with for days. It also led to one final big purchase: An orange Omas Ogiva from Anderson Pens. I hemmed and hawed over this one, but I made those pen show justifications we all make, plus Jeff was in my ear and went and got it for me. The fine extra flessible nib on this thing is something else.
Despite the fact that Sunday was the least tiring day, the rest of the trip had definitely caught up with me. After Lisa Vanness took us out to dinner, Jeff and I had one beer by the indoor pool and called it an early night. This was the first time I had seen my bed in a PM hour this weekend. That was nice because the 6am wake up call to get back to the airport would come soon enough.
It was hard to leave such amazing people behind, but real life was calling us all. Pen shows are amazing events, and not at all because of the products.
For more 2015 DC Pen Show goodness (honestly, this post barely scratches the surface) check out these links: