The one thing about the Arkansas Pen Show that makes it different than almost any other pen show that I attend is that I set up my own table. Last year, Bob and I did what they call in the industry a soft-launch of the Col-o-ring. This year, we decided to continue the tradition and we soft-launched our newest product in Little Rock too (more about that a little further down).
We drove down on Thursday which, for us, is about a six-hour drive depending on how many times we stop. We rolled into Little Rock, specifically the Vanness Pen Shop at about 4:30pm.
Since last year, Vanness Pen Shop has undergone some interior renovation so that even more of its shop space is dedicated to pens, ink and stationery product so its even more of a mecca to pen enthusiasts than ever. I was tickled to see the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books on the counter by the cash register.
I pretty much started shopping like a maniac. Luckily, Vanness has shopping baskets. I needed one. We waited for Brad and Matt to arrive and then we all helped (or distracted, depending on your point of view) the Vanness crew load up the van and head over to the hotel to start setting up for Friday morning. In our frenzy, ink was sacrificed to the pavement gods and Brad baptized his Nikes in DeAtramentis Magenta. Later in the weekend, it rained and the parking lot looked like the scene of a grizzly event.
I was also able to share the 2018 edition of the Lamy Safari vs. AL-Star pins that Brad and I made last year… much to Brad’s chagrin. I also got my Lamy AL-Star engraved for the occasion by the fine folks at Vanness Pens to read “Pink hair don’t care”. I think that was the right choice, don’t you?
We stopped at Whole Hog Cafe on the way to power up on some BBQ before heading to the hotel. We ate a whole pile of BBQ and it was GOOD.
Between 7-10pm, vendors could set-up and unfortunately, it took Bob and me about that long to sort ourselves out. Everyone else was much more organized.The Vanness crew is a well-oiled machine and had their displays set up in about an hour and all hung around chatting.
Finally, we all trundled out and crashed in our respective beds.
Friday was the Opening day of the show and I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Unveiling a new product always makes me nervous but, this time, was worse. With the Col-o-rings, we made something that I already knew people wanted and liked, I just hoped that people liked the revisions we made. This time, we were making something wholly different. It was making me queasy.
So… with my fingers crossed, I hoped it would go well. Of course, I’d let Brad and Cary see it the night before and the two of them had grabbed samples and posted them on social media so fast it made my head spin so I was equally nervous to open Instagram.
So, here it is world, the Col-o-dex!
Everything has happened so fast, I haven’t had a chance to take any photos of my own yet. We literally packed them up and took them to Little Rock as soon as the ink had dried.
The idea is that we took the same paper we use for the Col-o-ring and die cut it to fit into a rotary file (AKA Rolodex) to make it easier to sort and thumb through larger ink inventories. We introduced tabs to help organize your collection which we left blank so you can choose how you want to organize (alphabetically, by brand, by color, by region, its up to you!). And we are packaging the Col-o-dex paper separately from the tabs so you can decide how many of each you’ll need. And finally, since we know a lot of people will already have one or more Col-o-rings, we made sure that the Col-o-ring pages fit inside the plastic sleeves that Rolodex sells so you don’t have to re-swatch all your inks. We recommend the large 400-card capacity Rolodex with 200 plastic sleeves from Amazon to get you started. Or you can hunt through your office supply closet, local thrift shops, or antique malls for a vintage gem.
We also took a bunch of typewriters with us to Little Rock this year, plus notepads, prints, cards, vintage office supplies, vintage colored pencils, rubber stamps and more. We probably had more than could legitimately fit on one table.
Fountain Pen Day brought great St. Patrick’s Day themed buttons for the show.
Luckily, Shipley Donuts kept all of us sugared up for the show which helped me calm down and enjoy the show.
Our table neighbor was the amazing Papier lume from New Orleans. They make the best wax for wax seals. And Patrick was charming and fun.
Just like any pen show in the US, we all come for the Franklin-Christoph protoypes and to admire Audrey’s manicure.
Cary shared the new Montegrappa Monte Grappa in the purple color. I was seriously tempted.
And we all love to see what Shawn Newton brings besides his awesome wife Elizabeth and her pen cases.
Friday Night Open House:
After the Pen Show, Vanness Pen Shop hosts an Open House which is one of the best things about the Arkansas Pen Show. Folks get to go over to the store and shop, eat and mingle in the store for some late night shopping. Brad, Matt and I became de facto employees for the night and I pitied the poor customers who got stuck with us. We know our inks and pens but we didn’t know where in the store anything was! So there was a lot of time spent trying to locate stuff. Pretty much by the end of the night, we had all finally figured out where stuff was. At least we knew what everything looked like if we knew which direction to look in. The store is just so big!
We all gorged on homemade chili and beer and shopped some more. We got to check out all the nooks and crannies in the shop and find treasures from the long history of Vanness Pen Shop. Eighty years of business means there were lots of cool things to discover.
Cary was able to reach the goodies squirreled away on the upper shelves like vintage bottles and signage and get all the best photos.
Bob and I goofed off when he wasn’t getting great stories from Michael Sull and I wasn’t participating in the ink sniffing party. Vanness stocked almost all the DeAtramentis scented inks and we took it upon ourselves to smell almost all of it. I now know what Horse, Unicorn, Boarding School and Witch smell like, just to name a few.
Our friend Travis is notorious for finding all the best places to eat, no matter where he is and Little Rock was no exception. He managed to find the pie place as evidenced from the photo above. Yes, that’s a mini peach pie in March. It was so good he insisted on bringing us a whole peach pie to share which we ate covetously all weekend. I’m hard pressed to remember when I’ve had a better peach pie. It was more peach than sweet with a delicious buttery crust. If Travis ever recommends a place to eat, go!
Lisa and I got a brief moment to ham it up before the morning crowds arrived. It was weird to not work side-by-side at a show but we still got to hang out and cause trouble.
Jim Rouse, nib grinder extraordinaire of Franklin-Christoph dressed up for St. Patrick’s Day and looked especially dapper. He’s always such fun at any show and guaranteed to make me laugh.
One of the most-talked about newcomers to the show was Hinze Pens. They have recently started making acrylic pens and they went home empty-handed this weekend. Folks couldn’t snap them up fast enough.
Dan Smith of Nibsmith was booked all weekend and there was lots of excitement that he is now a Sailor dealer. As if he wasn’t already a popular vendor and nib grinder, now there’s one more reason to go see him at a show!
Michael Sull is always a treat and Arkansas was no exception. This is proof positive that calligraphers have fans!
Jeff Powers was hard at work all weekend repairing pens. Unless you went to see him or get a pen repaired, it was unlikely you caught sight of him. He was a busy man.
Pierre Miller of Desiderata Pen Company brought many beautiful new pens to show and sell.
And Jimmie and Suzanne Dolive with Cary Yeager are a pen show staple.
After the show wrapped up, Brad hosted a Pen Show After Dark party in the hotel bar. It was a very casual affair with tables group into small clusters allowing folks to mingle, share their purchases, their favorite pens and get to know one another. I met the Wests from Oklahoma, and shared my Jinhao Shark pens along with my Sheaffer Skripserts, Haro glass pen and other gems.
And, of course, there were giveaways. There were lots of great giveaways like Colorverse inks, Hinze fountain pens, a set of Col-o-dex cards and tabs, a Pilot Vanishing Point and much more but then things got silly. Following Friday night’s ink sniffing shenanigan’s the three most stinky inks were chosen to be given away at the party. The giveaway prize of the night was the jokingly customized bottle of SBRE Brown Akkerman ink engraved with the message “Find out more at penhabit.com”
Sunday was much slower day but it gave us all a chance to mingle and do a little shopping.
Photos like this one prove we can have fun, even on a slow Sunday.
Mike Vanness was always entertaining on Sunday in his gumball suit when he decided to hand out blue towels to each vendor. You could tell where he was in the ballrooms because you could hear the laughter.
After we packed up, we went out for a celebratory Mexican dinner.
We loaded our tired selves into the car and said bleary,teary good-byes and headed back to Kansas City to our lonely cats and reality. We have Col-o-dex orders to fill and jobs that need attending.
We hope to have more detailed information about the Col-o-dex up by this weekend and actual product available to order in the next week or so. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and patient. We’ll send out emails to everyone on the Col-o-ring waiting list.