We held our first Pen and Ink Swap this past Sunday afternoon, and it was fabulous. It was terrific to see a lot of familiar faces, and also quite a few new faces.
It was a busy afternoon!
We never know how these sort of events are going to go – I remember when at our first Letter Writing Club, anxiously waiting as the minutes clicked closer to our opening time, wondering whether anyone was going to come at all or whether it was just going to be me, writing letters all by my lonesome. But of course the wonderful folks in our community have rewarded my little faith by showing up month after month.
And this, our first Pen and Ink Swap, was no exception. As our community grows, it’s nice to hear from people in the weeks leading up to the event, letting us know they’re coming and what they’re bringing. It’s also great to see these events bringing in people we don’t normally see too often, giving us a chance to say hello and catch up on everything going on.
For the most part, everyone followed the rules, which was nice – it’s always hard to have to police these events, which we worry about having to do. Even when you say “no exceptions,” and then put it in writing, there always seem to be a few people asking for them. It’s tough because you really don’t want to spend your time enforcing rules – you want everyone to have fun! – but it’s a bit harder to be flexible when you’re trying to keep things fair for everyone, rather than being flexible on a refund policy for your shop, where your shop is the one that is losing out.
We had mostly used pens, and a surprising number of vintage ones, along with a whole assortment of bottled ink. I didn’t have too much time to browse myself, although I made my way around the circuit a few times. I think I mostly got distracted by the talking and saying hello.
I do sometimes wonder what people who have no idea fountain pens still exist might think overhearing snatches of conversations – it must almost sound like another language, discussing nib sizes and countries of origin and ink qualities.
Our brand new AC seemed to be doing well – we’ve actually had our staff comment on how it was getting too cold in our shop – until the shop got really packed, and then it started to struggle a little. I could only stand near it, whispering encouraging thoughts of icebergs and igloos.
I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I did, or at least as I should have (as always), but here are a few from the day. One day we’re going to have a real photographer, and not just me walking around with my phone in between wrangling the cat and putting Caleb down for his nap.
We ran out of cups for iced tea, despite washing them frantically throughout the afternoon. I’m trying this “new” thing where we use re-usable cups instead of paper cups with strange waxiness on the inside for all of our events, which proved to be slightly more difficult during our high traffic ones like this one.
We ended up using our glass jars from the apartment which sort of matched the real glasses, and if I recall correctly, the person in this photo above, holding one such jar, was exceptionally gracious about its ‘utility.’ Perhaps I’m just imagining the whole thing based on this picture.
Even Chicken and Caleb managed to behave themselves for the most part.
To my surprise, Chicken handled the crowds admirably. You’d almost think he was a real shop cat.
I guess he likes the shop either very quiet and empty, or completely packed with people everywhere. I think he’s also mellowed out a bit with age – he’s a year old now, and he’s mostly past the stage of attacking everyone’s hands and feet, and trying to claw his way up people’s pants and skirts.
I suppose I’m actually enabling his shamelessness by allowing him to lounge in people’s way like this, but it’s because I’m terribly curious as to what exactly he’s going to do: he’s nothing if not possibly the cattiest shop cat in existence.
All in all, we were thrilled to be able to offer our space up for an event like this, and to have so many people come by. Handwriting is not dead, friends! (You know how much I love preaching to the choir.)
We had a few people picking up their first fountain pen, and a few people attempting a net zero pen collection – selling as many as they’re picking up. I can only wish them much success, as I sail off into the sunset with all of my luggage filled to the brim with pens and ink bottles and stationery and empty notebooks waiting to be used.
But mostly we had a lot of people visiting with old friends and making new ones. It’s sort of a weird thing, that us pen folks who are such passionate advocates of analogue tools, and such deep believers in the power of writing by hand, should be meeting each other first on Instagram, and then greeting each other like old friends in the shop.
But I suppose it’s really just a sign of how timeless something like the written word can be, that it brings all sorts of people together, allowing us to create friendships and deeper connections than we would otherwise have.
In this age of technology and phones in bed and instant answers to every question you could think of, what an honour it is to be here, doing what we do.