Most of the pens I own are from mainstream manufacturers, but there are a few small independent makers that I follow on Instagram whose work I really enjoy looking at. That said, I relegated myself to lurking their feeds and never actually commissioned a custom pen from any of them until I saw the work that Megan Blackburn of Black Robin Pens was doing.
The first thing about her work that pulled me in (aside from the pens selves ) was that all of her pen styles/models are named after Shakespeare characters. Titus, Oberon, Banquo, Prospero, Ophelia, and many more. So it instantly appealed to the bookworm in me. Secondly, she was incredibly enthusiastic and accessible, happy to entertain all of my questions and curiosities about her work without ever trying to hard-sell me on anything.
When I finally inquired about getting a pen, Meg was incredibly upfront and transparent about her working process. She walked me through the steps of what to expect and was particularly receptive to listening to me ramble about the pens I owned and why I liked or did or did not like them for whatever reason. She took all of this info and helped guide me to her Romeo model with the suggestion that we make it slightly larger than her standard version to better suit my preferences and writing style.
Then came the fun part, picking a material. This is another part of the process of working with Megan that I really loved and appreciated. She happily showed me several blanks that she had in their raw form. She went above in beyond in heading outside more than once to take pictures of them in a different light so that I could see the various qualities of color and chatoyancy better. She even sourced images of finished pens in similar materials so that I had a better sense of what my finished piece would look like in pen form instead of a raw blank (the contrast between the two was often surprising).
Ultimately I decided on a material called Sunset Tide by Canadian company Blanks by BBC. I definitely got a kick because the Blanks by BBC is based in London, Ontario, just a few hours away from where I live in Buffalo, NY. So this blank went from Canada over to the UK, got turned into a gorgeous pen, and then made another trip across the Atlantic back to me. It was a well-traveled writing instrument before it ever got into my hands (even more so if you consider the German-made Jowo nib). Sunset Tide is an achingly gorgeous mix of sky blue and a warm orange/brown that reminds me of a blend of brown and orange agate. It reminded me a bit of the sunset over Lake Erie and was just what I needed to help me get through the end of the endless grey of this past winter. This material is incredibly complex in how its distinct tones catch the light in such a fantastic way.
In terms of performance, I’m thrilled with the balance, size, and how it writes. I’m a fan of clip-less pens (since I never carry them in my pocket) and appreciate the streamlined look of a pen without an overabundance of hardware and ornamentation. That said, the craftsmanship of this pen is immediately apparent. Everything fits flush and perfectly. The nib arrived well-tuned, and I can write with the utmost comfort with it. This pen is beautiful, stylish, and a great performer.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I put off working with a bespoke pen maker for so long. I think there was always some apprehension on my part caused by thinking that focusing on mainstream pen manufacturers would somehow guarantee more consistent and reliable quality. Yet, I was far more impressed and happy with this handmade pen than many of my recent purchases from mainstream brands over the past few months.
I think I’ll order another.
I think I’ll order another.