Little Rock Pen Show

This was my 2nd time at the Little Rock Pen Show, and it was bigger than last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Papier Plume from New Orleans had a booth this year–I saw their ink bottles first and I was like oh, someone brought some of PP’s inks. Then I looked up and saw Patrick Rideau and was like oh, no PP actually came to the show! He had an even longer drive than I did.

Ironically, I had just made a purchase off their website the day before; they started carrying Flow Magazine and they have it much sooner than Barnes & Noble (who’s still trying to unload copies of the previous issue) does. They charge a couple dollars less than B&N, but then you add that back in with shipping and it’s virtually the same price. Plus, you’re giving your money to a small local business instead of a chain, and that’s always good. Flow is a Dutch magazine (there’s an English language version) that I discovered through my Hobonichi Facebook group, it reminds me of Real Simple but fancier and with really nice paper. There’s a yearly supplement called the Flow Book for Paper Lovers that has lots of stationery, paper crafts, and goodies you can use in journals/planners; neither PP for B&N seems to carry it and I ordered it off the Flow website. That was going on 3 weeks ago and I’m still waiting. *sigh*

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Anyway, the show! The first table I made a beeline for was the Vanness one, because I wanted to see if they had brought any of the KWZ Inks with them. They did, although they’re out of the two colors I’m really interested in, Brown Pink and Honey. KWZ is handmade in small batches by a chemist in Poland and at the moment Vanness is the only place in the US that carries their standard inks, although Massdrop offered a 3-pack of their iron gall inks a while back. They’re surprisingly affordable for such “boutique” inks, $12/60 mL for the standard ink and $2 more for the iron gall. I settled on Brown #2, which has a reddish tone and shades beautifully, and I swallowed my nervousness and also bought a bottle of the Turquoise IG. Iron gall inks are infamously caustic to pens, but they bond with the paper and are pretty much bulletproof. I want something I can address envelopes with and not worry about rain washing away the address, but most iron gall inks come in horribly boring colors. I figure I’ll limit exposure to either dip nibs, which can be quickly washed off after every use, or one of my Pilot Petit eyedroppers, which cost less than $5.

After that I found Shawn Newton and picked up the pen I sent him for grinding, the vintage UK Parker button fill I bought at last fall’s Dallas show. It had a 14k oblique nib that I just COULD. NOT. get to work for me. I tried holding that thing at every conceivable angle and no matter what I did, it would catch on the paper on the upsweeps and spray ink. He ground it to a stub and did a lovely job; right now I have the Brown #2 in it, but I recently bought a small bottle of Iroshizuku Momiji and may swap it for that and put Brown #2 in something else.

And then I just wandered around and looked at pens! I had some dumb idea that my goal pen for the show was going to be a Sailor Sapporo Mini, which of course I did not find, so I decided to just scoop up some vintage pens and not be a name brand snob about it. With old pens, while it’s cool to find something like the Parker, I mostly just buy pens that are pretty. I found a lady’s ringtop pen/pencil set from the 1920s that I really liked that was priced $80-$100; the dealer had a lot of pens so I was like hey, give me the $80 price and I’ll buy another pen from you. After much agonizing I decided on the green/bronze pen because I thought it was an interesting color combo. The nibs on both are a little chewed up, but nothing a quick rub with a micro mesh cloth won’t solve.

After I’d checked into my Airbnb (a very cute bed/bath suite with its own entrance and separated from the main house with a pocket door), I went to Big Orange for dinner, a burger place that had a ton of great online reviews. I sat at the bar and was waited on by a skinny hipster with an honest-to-dog waxed mustache, but he was a good server so I won’t hold it against him. I told him to give me whatever was the staff favorite and I wound up with a turkey burger dressed with havarti cheese, red onion, butter lettuce, bacon, and a (fresh, local) fried egg. It was uhhh-mazing.

I’m probably not going to Little Rock next year, because I’ve decided to attend the Chicago show and that’s in April. I’m going to take Amtrak–specifically, The City of New Orleans, the train in the Arlo Guthrie song. It leaves NOLA every afternoon at 1:45 and arrives at Chicago at 9:00 the next morning. A round-trip ticket is just over $100, which is probably what I’d spend on gas if I drove; not to mention I’d have to spend the night somewhere midway because it’s a 14 hour drive. Chicago has Uber, so I’m just going to use that to get around. I haven’t been to Chicago since I was a little girl, so I’m going to spend an extra day and sightsee. Top of the list: visiting Field Notes HQ!

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