Chicago Pen Show 2018 Recap (Part 2)

Laura put together her perspective of the Chicago Pen Show so I guess its my turn. While she can still count how many pen shows she’s been to, I have lost count. While Laura knit on the drive to Chicago, I drove. My beloved Mini needed a goodly amount of service prior to the trip including a new front sub-woofer (someone likes a lot of bass) but at least, this year FC and I made it to Chicago without any incidents (last year was a whole different story). Laura only had to grip on to the dash board a couple times.

We arrived in Chicago with enough time to check into the hotel, unpack and get to dinner with my dad and stepmom in a timely fashion on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, inclement weather delayed our roommate and dear pal, Jessica. She ended up spending the night in various airports while we were saved from sleeping on the foldout couch. Thursday started with Starbucks and a quick jaunt to the nail salon in the strip mall next door. With claws in check and caffeine in the veins, we returned to the hotel to find Jessica bleary-eyed but alive and Lisa Vanness finally arrived.

We sent Jessica to bed and we started to unpack the van. For me to afford to attend multiple pen shows, I help out vendors. Most often, I help Lisa Vanness. This offsets my expenditures and keeps me off the show floor for the better part of the show meaning I don’t spend quite so much money. Folks can usually find me and I like helping folks choose ink, paper and pens. I learn a lot about what is popular at a particular show and how it differs from show to show. Its amazing how, in a matter of a month, the things folks ask about changes.

Anyway… back to the recap!

Mike Matteson and Jim from BYOB helped us unpack the van which was awesome. While Lisa, Laura and I are fast and efficient, we are also three of the shortest, smallest people at any given pen show. So, it’s nice when we can bribe larger, stronger people to help us with the big displays.

Once we were set up as best as we could be on Thursday night, we were able to play a bit.

We went to dinner at Red Robin across the parking lot for convenience and for the giant stack of donuts. Really, we wnet for the donuts. Look how happy they made Lisa.

Then we needed to get some sleep so we were ready for Friday morning. Laura and I made an early run to the Starbucks down the street first thing to be properly caffeinated and got the booth set-up for the early weekend pass holders. The sooner we are set-up, the sooner Laura and I can do a quick run to various vendors for our own nefarious outings: scoping out the Franklin-Christoph prototypes, grabbing bottles of the show special inks from Papier Plume, signing up early for nib grinding and checking out any favorite vendors for their latest wares. The early bird and all…

In my case, it meant getting to feast on a muffin and chatting with a few of my favorite cohorts before we got too busy. Which is a good thing because once the show starts, the rest of my day pretty much goes by in a blur.

Friday night, after the show closes, the organizers host a pizza party and then the Black Pen Society folks host a whiskey tasting party. As you can see, Sarj clearly had a head start when I took this photo. He’s always the life of the party and I’m so glad he and Jas make the trip across the pond for the Chicago show. Many whiskies were tasted and then inks and pens were sloppily tested before I fell head first into bed.

Saturday was a blur of ink and pen shilling, starting with a request to find a pen refill to fit into a an unusual vintage pen set. “I heard you’re the one to ask about pen refills.” Clearly, my reputation precedes me. Luckily, I had a few refills in my bag and was able to find one that worked. I sent the gentleman over to Bert at Bertram’s Inkwell for a refill. Phew. Reputation intact.

Saturday night, Audrey from Franklin-Christoph hosted a pre-party Nibs & Nails event and shared her other love with us. We all had a chance to paint our nails and have a quick drink before the Pen Mixer.

The Pen Mixer is a sort of “speed dating” for pen people that Lisa Vanness hosted at the bar on Saturday night. With the help of Laura, Eleanore and many “table hosts” including myself. Each table host shared knowledge about a particular topic or skill and party goers spent a designated amount of time at each table before they rotated, as a group, to the next table. Table host topics included nibmeisters,vintage pen collectors with specialties like flex nibs or a certain area of knowledge (like Parker, Sheaffer, Pelikan, etc), paper, journaling, calligraphy, etc. Each table seated about eight people so party attendees had a chance to talk, listen or ask questions on a topic that they might not have been able to do in the hub-bub of the show. Did you want to know more about different types of nibs? The difference between celluloid and resin? What’s the big deal with Spencerian script? At the Pen Mixer, attendees had the chance to ask all these questions and more to table hosts all while doodling, drinking and eating appetizers and a very large gummi snake.

Next thing I knew it was Sunday and the final day of the show was upon us. The Vanness tables were packed up a bit earlier due to a family emergency so Laura and I had a few precious hours to shop before the show closed. I was able to make a few last-minute purchases that included things like micro-mesh and hard-to-find converters. Very exciting stuff.

On Sunday, my worlds collided when my pal Lindy turned up at the pen show. Lindy is a knitter, spinner and former letterpress printer so to see her at the pen show was a “well, of course you’d cross over into pens! why not?” I just wish we would have had more time to hang out. I hope as a pen newbie she got a great pen show experience. If you’re a knitter/fiber person in the Chicago area, be sure to check out her event: YarnCon!

We had a feast at Panda Express (don’t ask!) and then recorded an episode of the BYOB Jellybean Mode featuring me! It should be airing soon. The ever-delightful Jesi hosted the interview which was so fun. The BYOB crew recorded several interviews throughout the weekend so its taken some time to get them all processed and released. There is also an episode with Paul Erano with Laura and I where, in our delirium of exhaustion, we are both inducted into the Black Pen Society! It didb’t actually dawn on us that it had occurred, and been documented for posterity until we were driving home on Monday.

I did finally get to try @reachingralph‘s amazing Epilogue nib as well as several other of his new stacked nibs. Of course, by the time I got to try them, they were all sold out! His Regalia Writing Labs is a new creation and worth watching out for. Everyone was blown away by his skill and craftsmanship.

We drove home in a daze, talking about everything that happened and plotting our next pen show adventure… as one does.

And because Laura and I spend so much time together in general, we completely forgot to take a road trip photo. So I’ll just stick the photo we took in LA here to prove that we do actually both exist and promise to take a photo together next time we are both in the same place at the same time… which will be Wednesday.

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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. OMG, it looks like y’all had SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait for my local pen show, the CO Pen Show, in October 2018. Only 4 more months – I’d better start saving up my money!

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