Wow. That's about all I can say to summarize the 2016 Atlanta Pen Show. A big thank you to everyone who made the experience what it was. Seriously, so many people were there that I'm sure I'm going to leave people out of my recap, so I'll apologize in advance. The Atlanta Pen Show demonstrates how the pen community in general is growing rapidly: the small one-and-a-half room show that I first visited in 2014 bears no resemblance to what transpired this past weekend. Last year I had time in the mornings to write my show recaps on the fly and to provide you all with a real-time sense of the show. This year I was so busy visiting with people and keeping up with all the goings-on that it was all I could do to remember to take pictures. Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Instagram photos. You can find my photos and more via the hashtag #ATLPenShow2016.
I arrived at around 2:00pm on Thursday, in time for the scheduled "informal" pre-show gathering that night. Brad of the Pen Addict had reserved a room off the bar for early-arriving attendees to meet and socialize. After a group dinner at the Mexican Restaurant down the street (which was visited frequently over the course of the next few days due to the lack of walkable options), everyone gathered back at the hotel to talk and discuss their "acquisition targets" for the weekend. I made it an early night to ensure that I was rested for the first day of the show.
After an early morning breakfast at the Waffle House (where Mike Masuyama and I shared neighboring barstools), the show kicked into high gear. The lines for nib work formed quickly. Mike Masuyama did not get through his entire list on Friday, and in a departure from his usual practice, allowed the list to "roll over" to the next day. As a result, Mike was running behind throughout the weekend. Fortunately, because the pen community is awesome, many people self-limited to having Mike work on only one pen, to make sure everyone got a chance to have a nib ground or tuned. I chose to have Mike tune my Platinum Chartres Blue 3776 with the Ultra Extra Fine nib, which of course now writes perfectly.
The beneficiary of Mike's delay was Mark Bacas, a relative newcomer who has been taking in paid nib work for a little over a year. Mark ground three pens for me over the weekend: a medium architect's nib on my new Pilot Custom 823 (see below), a smooth medium cursive italic on one of my Deltas, and an ultrafine nib he calls the "Concord Turk", which is essentially a super-fine architect's point that I'm enjoying. More on that later. Mark does quality nib work, and I understand that he also has a quick turnaround time.
Nock Co. was present with a huge slew of stock, including Brasstowns, Hightowers, Sinclairs, and paper goods. Their Limited Run "Blue Label" products sold out so quickly I didn't even get a chance to take a picture, but they offered, for the show only, a navy blue envelope-style case with a snap closure. I'm looking forward to seeing what appears under the Blue Label line in the future.
Next door to Nock Co., Cary set up the Fountain Pen Day booth. Cary had a whole line of FPD swag for sale, including hats, pins, t-shirts, and best of all, pocket notebooks and Midori-style notebook covers. I really enjoyed getting to know Cary and meeting him in person for the second time (previously we had only spoken briefly at last year's D.C. Show).
Brian and Lisa Anderson had the new Montblanc Rouge et Noir pens at the show. I'm not sure whether they sold many, but these pens prompted a hot-or-cold reaction from everyone I talked to: people either loved them or were lukewarm. The pen is too slender for me. It's gorgeous, don't get me wrong, but it's off "The List."
Vanness Pens was present with two or three tables of ink and pens, including their large "wall" of Akkerman and Bung Box. Between Vanness and the Andersons, nearly every ink brand in existence was well represented. Lisa Vanness also had one of the Joey Feldman limited edition Retro 51s at the show, and I'm glad I didn't miss the opportunity to pick one up. The red clip version (which comes with the signed artwork) has already sold out, and the black clip version is well on its way. If you've been sitting the fence on this one, act now because you're not going to get another chance.
Sticking to my goal of limiting pen acquisitions to those I truly want to have in the collection, I only purchased two pens this weekend. The first purchase was a Pilot Custom 823 that I bought from Brian Anderson and took to Mark Bacas for a medium architect's grind. Brian's customer service was, as always, impeccable, and this pen is going to be in my pen case more often than not. It's an ink tank with an excellent nib that makes a perfect daily driver. The second purchase? Stay tuned for the Saturday recap.
I dropped a boatload of cash at the Nock Co. and Fountain Pen Day booths. From Nock, I picked up a Sinclair in the Navy/Steel colorway, some pocket notebooks, a Pelican clip (which I may or may not have purchased because it doubles as a bottle opener), the "Fishing Vest" pin and sticker pack, some dot-dash notecards, and some pocket notebooks. From Cary, I bought a t-shirt, some Tomoe River pocket notebooks, and a Midori-style leather notebook cover that is set up to hold three Field Notes-sized notebooks at once. This might be my single favorite purchase of the show, and I'm going to give it more of an in-depth treatment on the blog later. I really hope Cary keeps making these notebook covers because they're quite nice looking and incredibly useful for those of us who keep multiple notebooks going at once and lack a viable method of organizing them.
Overall Impressions of Day 1
I was impressed at how the show organizers dealt with the heavy traffic, which skewed younger than the typical pen show due to the publicity surrounding the 200th Episode of the Pen Addict, recorded live on Saturday. Jimmy Dolive of Total Fine Writing in Atlanta is the primary organizer, and he was super friendly and inviting to all of the newcomers.
I would also say that this show probably had a 50/50 split between vintage and modern pens, with custom pen makers heavily represented, including: Shawn Newton of Newton Pens, Jonathan Brooks of the Carolina Pen Company, Fisher of Pens, and Ryan Krusac Studios. The boys from Karas Kustoms were also present, showing off their line with some limited edition show-only Inks and EDKs. Shawn Newton's wife, Elizabeth, also showed her handcrafted pen sleeves and wraps, which were a hit. If you haven't visited her site, please check it out. **UPDATE: Franklin-Christoph was also present, but I didn't get a chance to spend any time at their table until Saturday, so look for a detailed discussion of everything they brought in the next post.**
Best of all, everyone got along! The vibe of the show was energetic, enthusiastic, and happy (which tends to be the case when the show is crowded and people are spending money). On Friday night, the show organizers hosted a cookout for all the weekend pass-holders with surprisingly decent hamburgers and hotdogs from the hotel restaurant. Apart from a slight "misunderstanding" relating to whether we were allowed to bring home-brewed beer into the restaurant, the entire event went smoothly and people talked and swapped pens late into the night. I packed it in relatively "early" (11:00pm) to save my energy for the next day.
I could go on forever, but I have to, you know, go work my real job. I'm sure I missed something, so you may also want to check out the following blogs for pictures and recaps: The Well-Appointed Desk, The Pen Addict, Penucopia, Leigh Reyes: My Life as a Verb, My Pen Needs Ink, and the Goulet Pens blog. As I mentioned earlier, check out the hashtag #ATLpenshow2016 on Twitter and Instagram. A TON of people were posting pictures and videos, so be prepared to look for a while and be tempted to attend the show next year.