Recap: LA Pen Show

Recap by Laura Cameron

This past weekend, I went to my very first pen show, the Los Angeles International Pen Show.  I was born and raised in Los Angeles and my dad, who is a fountain pen enthusiast, still lives there.  Ana and I decided to make the trip and I got to spend time with her and my parents. Overall, it was a fabulous trip.


We headed out to Los Angeles on Thursday night.  All day we heard stories about how the hotel was under construction and really wasn’t ready to host the show.  By the time we arrived at 10 pm, all hotel elevators were in service and the ballroom was ready for the vendors.  We stayed up way too late in the bar meeting friends and sharing pens.


Friday morning dawned bright and early.  Ana went down to the ballroom super early to help Vanness Pen Shop set up its booth and to work the booth until reinforcements arrived.  I enjoyed our room’s balcony and knit for an hour or so in the warm sunshine (a novelty for Kansans in February).  Then I went downstairs and wandered the show.

My first stop was the Franklin Christoph booth. I’d been advised to hit it early if I wanted to pick out a beautiful prototype; at shows Franklin Christoph brings leftover production one-offs for sale.  I ended up picking up a beautiful Pocket 45 that was left over from the Philly Pen Show. It’s black and purple and moody and swirly and I dig it.  I got to wait while Jim Rouse tuned the nib for me!

LA Pen Show

After buying my Franklin Christoph, I wandered over to the Vanness Pens booth and picked up a special show notebook. Joey Feldman is a fountain pen enthusiast. He designed the notebook cover, and was even on hand to sign it for me.

LA Pen Show

LA Pen Show

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around and finding all sorts of things to look at. I ended up not buying anything else that day.

Instead, I spent most of the day keeping my new friend Jessica, owner of Vintage Pen Shop, company at her booth. Jessica sells vintage Esterbook pens. She’s got a great set up where she restores the pen bodies and ink sacs, and then sets up a nib testing station where you can try all the potential nibs and match the nib of your choice to the pen body you select. Just listening to Jessica talk I learned a lot about Esterbrooks and had a fantastic time hanging out with her.

LA Pen Show

LA Pen Show

LA Pen Show

Friday night I had dinner with my parents, and returned to the hotel bar (ok it was a tent, but there was alcohol) to hang out with all the pen people and test pens.


Saturday was the day that a lot of money left my wallet! I had intended to spend Saturday walking around the show and making purchases, as Sunday was going to be the only day open to the public and was forecasted to be a zoo. So I spent the day wandering with Ana, asking questions and learning a lot about pens. We were also able to take a few classes. The first was a class about nibs with John Mottishaw. The second was a class on handwriting flourishes taught by Michael Sull, who happens to live about 20 minutes from me. Just before the class with Michael Sull, Ana took me through a pen show newbie rite, getting my name done in Spencerian Script by Mr. Sull.

LA Pen Show

With a bit more show wandering in the afternoon, I saw a beautiful Pilot pen from the 1980s that I couldn’t get out of my head. It is probably my favorite purchase from the show, for how delicate the art is and how well the fine nib writes.

LA Pen Show

In the afternoon I spent more time hanging out with Jessica and ended up taking home an Esterbrook of my very own. I selected a red LJ body, and a 9556 fine writing nib.

LA Pen Show

Sometime during the day, I also managed to pick up a Unicorn Snot (Spa Blue/Lime Green) NockCo Sinclair pen case.

LA Pen Show

Saturday night was a great dinner with pen folks and more time in the bar. Saturday night I got to try some amazing pens, mostly Nakayas. Many were way out of my price range, but it was so wonderful to get a chance to write with them. We also ended up bringing all of our purchased inks downstairs so we could sample them together.

LA Pen Show
Photo Credit: Jessica Coles


Sunday was a slow day for me. Ana was busy working the Vanness Pens booth and I slept in and took it easy. In the afternoon my parents came up to the show. My dad really enjoyed wandering the show and even found a pen to take home, and I enjoyed sharing some of what I had learned with my mom who isn’t a pen enthusiast, but is definitely a good sport. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening hanging out.

Sunday night everyone was exhausted and many were heading for home, so there wasn’t a bar night. Ana and I turned in early.


Ana and I mostly bummed around Los Angeles in the morning and then headed to the airport in the afternoon. Our flight was delayed so there was much airport knitting and cookie eating. Late that evening, many miles behind us, the light side and the dark side arrived home to the freezing temperatures, missing LA and pen show buddies already.

LA Pen Show

I had a great time and I can’t wait for the next show! (My wallet, on the other hand, is probably due for a reprieve.)

LA Pen Show

Laura is a tech editor, podcaster, knitter, spinner and recent pen addict. You can learn more about her knitting and tea adventures on her website, The Corner of Knit & Tea and can find her on Instagram as Fluffykira.

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks so much for telling us about the LA Show, and especially the Vintage Pen Shop. I’m going to write and encourage Jessica to come to the Dallas Pen Show.

  2. It was loads of fun, wasn’t it? I only live five miles up the beach from there and had a full-blown fangirl crush on Ana, Michael Sull and the Vannesses where I bought a beautiful pen before packing up my leather pen cases. I want one of those Franklin Coke bottle looking glass ones one day. I love everything I’ve picked in the year that I’ve been re-acquainting with fountains. I don’t care so much about the pens as I do the lines they create. Great post. Thanks! JanetWiseArts

  3. Thank you! This was a nice read. There’s only one pen show per year in Canada, and I don’t see me travelling elsewhere, or even getting to that one, so I live out my pen show fantasies through reports like these. I love it, and I’m jealous at the same time 🙂

    1. Well, Paul, it looks like I’ll be coming to Toronto (this is Ana!) with The Pen Addict so we can regale you with tales of all our journeys this year in person.

  4. Oh my gosh, that Pilot is gorgeous! L.A. was my first and only pen show a few years ago! I spent most of a day sitting at John Mottishaw’s booth, testing Sailor specialty nibs (making a sketch with each one!). I was thrilled that they were all so patient and indulgent with me (and I did eventually buy a pen from them). Glad you had a fun time!

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