A single pen has been the catalyst to a series of new designs. It all happened a few months ago while walking down Queens Street in Glasgow.
I stopped at a shop window full of paper and carefully stacked pens and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils wafted towards me – irresistible.
I had stumbled across Cass Art , a shop similar in feel to an Apple store, but instead of selling tech, it’s full of art materials. I’m quite sure it could coax anyone into becoming artistically inclined.
At this point I must tell you I am a total sucker for felt pens. I adore coloured pencils too (so long as they are waxy – Caran D’Ashe being my favourite). I could literally spend hours choosing a unison pastel from a drawer (in that choosing a patisserie sort of way) but there is something about felt pens that strikes straight to my core. It’s a childhood thing. I’m sure it will be the same for many of you.
You probably know that felt pens were invented in the 1960’s by Yukio Horie. He worked for the Tokyo Stationary Company at the time but went on to set up his own company Pentel – as in a ‘pen can tell a story’. I feel so indebted to this man and his invention – can you imagine a childhood without felt pens? I would like to go to Tokyo one day and buy a Pentel right there in Pentel HQ.
I had a treasured pack of 5 – blue, green, red, yellow and black. My friend however had a long transparent floppy case with a white popper stud. It contained 24 heart stopping colours. She was good at sharing. Of course we had our favourite well used colours and when they ran dry, we would spit on their tips to squeeze a little more ‘juice’ from them. When that failed, we would pull them apart and squeeze the cuboid felty innards to coax some more fabulous colour out onto our drawings. Inevitably our afternoons ended with us sporting gaudy coloured lips and fingers. Knowing now what chemicals these early pens contained, it’s a miracle we are both still here. Oddly enough the only parental instruction I recall was not to get the pen on my friends white round dining table, felt pen lips apparently no big deal…
I could go on for pages about felt pens and childhood – the joy of putting them away and in which order to slot them on their plastic cradles, the design of the lids (which for no particular reason I suctioned onto the end of my tongue rather a lot) and the ones that came with artificial smells like apple and bubble gum, again, rather a worry with hindsight
Anyway, fast forward 2016.
I bought a Tombow pen and armed with a lot of blank paper, I literally ‘let go’ of any plans and allowed the pen tell a story. That’s harder than you think by the way. I asked a friend to do the same and she said she felt shy and inhibited and the pen bumped and crashed in a stumbly line and stopped. I however found the exercise liberating (I was alone, that helps) and couldn’t stop making lines. It fascinated me watching what shapes were forming in front of my eyes. I was producing nice shapes without any conscious thought. My hand had its own mind and I was the audience. I got through a lot of paper that week.
Have you heard of the stress busting exercise of going to an empty Scottish Glen (or any other vast empty space) and shouting at the top of your voice? Just allowing yourself to make whatever noise you want but as loud as possible? That’s pretty hard too – it really takes courage, believe me. Well, my pen drawings gave me a similar sensation. It’s all about letting go. But lucky for me, I found the shapes rather pleasing and after working on them more cognitively, I have created a new set of designs which will soon appear as silk scarves – no spoilers, I will show you them when they are finished
Do you have felt pen memories?