Chicago Pen Show 2018 Recap

By Laura Cameron

The Chicago Pen Show is only the second pen show I have attended, and I upped the ante for my second show by working in the Vanness Pen Shop booth for the weekend.  This left me with very little time to shop and wander the show, but I got to meet and talk to so many wonderful people at the booth and in the evenings at the bar.  Apparently, spending most of my time in the booth meant I took very few photos, so I apologize in advance.

Ana and I drove up to Chicago on Wednesday night, to prepare for Thursday’s booth setup.  On Thursday morning we had some time to kill so we had a leisurely breakfast, extended knitting and inking time, and then Ana took me to Portillo’s (home of the Italian Beef) to treat me to “a piece of chocolate cake bigger than [my] head,” as she had been promising me for weeks. Then it was back to the hotel to spend the rest of the evening setting up the booth.

Chicago Pen Show 2018

I should interject here that I celebrated my 40th birthday on Saturday, May 5 while at the show.

Technically, the first pen I got at the show was an amazing gift from Ana, a Parker Vacumatic that came to her through the late Susan Wirth.  I was really taken with Vacs at the LA show and spent a little time learning about them there, but my concern was how to purchase a vintage pen in good condition.  I was so touched at the significance of receiving a pen that had been touched by Susan, even though I never had the opportunity to meet her.  Later on in the show I went and saw Ron Zorn (Main Street Pens) and he got the pen in working order for me.

Chicago Pen Show 2018

Friday morning dawned bright and early and we were in the booth and ready to go. I later learned that the morning was only open to traders and weekend pass holders, and the public didn’t get to purchase admission until the afternoon. So the morning was a bit slow, but we got to meet and chat with lots of people. I made one big purchase on Friday, my first Jonathan Brooks (Carolina Pen Company) pen. I couldn’t resist the glitter!

Chicago Pen Show 2018

This photo really doesn’t do the pen justice. It is a cross between grey, periwinkle and lavender body with lovely sparkle and glitter. My ink whisperer suggested I pick up a bottle of Akkerman #7 Queen’s Night Blue and that it would match perfectly. I couldn’t find it at the show, but it’s on its way to me now!

Saturday was a crazy busy day. I didn’t even have time to consider that it was my birthday, or to really even take a break, but it was a wonderful day. I met so many people I know from online, and many that I didn’t, but all were lovely. Sales were brisk and I managed to keep super busy all day. By the evening it was time for the Pen Mixer. Vanness Pen Shop hosted a Pen Mixer after dark, a way for people to get to know each other and meeting with some big names in the industry to talk pens, nibs, ink, calligraphy, photography and paper. It was a super fun evening (if you go to a pen show with a pen mixer don’t miss it!) and the only slightly disturbing thing was the presence of an 8-foot, 26.9lb gummy snake. Don’t ask because I don’t even know what to tell you.

Chicago Pen Show 2018

Chicago Pen Show 2018

Sunday we worked the booth until about noon, and then packed it up. Sunday afternoon and evening were spent finishing out the show, and chilling in the bar with people just enjoying the last bits of the weekend. I got to sit and chat with Ralph (Regalia Writing Labs) and watch the BYOB podcast do an interview with Ana and also Paul Erano (check out their feed for those episodes to air soon).

Chicago Pen Show 2018
Photo credit: Yvgenii of BYOB Pen Club

And then, too soon, it was over. We came home and I spent a few days with what I call pen show hangover. I’m ready to do it again!

The haul for the weekend is below. In addition to the pens, I was able to get my hands on a Musubi notebook from Atelier Musubi, Coloverse Ink in Photon and Gluon, and the special show ink from Papier Plume, Bootleggers Sacrament. Not pictured – some amazing work on pens/nibs I already owned from Dan Smith, The Nibsmith.

Chicago Pen Show 2018

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14 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I hope this isn’t weird or offensive in any way, but I… I need that Carolina Pen Company pen. Or at least one in the same material. It’s the kind of color/finish I’ve been looking for my whole (pen-collecting) life.

    Do you happen to know what the material is called? Did he mention it was a over-off, or if they might have more in stock? I don’t want to be a copycat, but it really is beautiful.

    1. I wish I could give you more details, but I have no idea other than sparkly. I would recommend that you contact Jonathan Brooks via his website – feel free to link to my photo and tell him that’s what you’re looking for. They are all one of a kind, but he can probably approximate another one. I don’t know how long his custom request list is right now though – it could be a bit. Good luck!

  2. Belated happy Birthday. Certainly sounds like you had fun! Look at the bright side, working a booth leaves more $’s in the wallet:-)

  3. That birthday gift (and happy birthday to you!) is amazing! I’m envious. Ana hit it out of the ballpark.

  4. Hi — I enjoyed your report on the show. I do have a question about that vintage Vacumatic — I think it’s actually a striped Duofold because of the striped barrel and the pocket clip design. Vacumatics had a “split arrow” clip, while the striped Duos had the style yours shows.

    See: http://www.richardspens.com/?page=ref/profiles/strduo.htm which shows the various striped Duofolds and (at the bottom of the page) a striped Vacumatic.

    But I’m going only by the two photos it appears in and your may well be a Vac. Whichever it is, I hope it’s a good writer — I use a 1946 blue striped Duofold most days and love it.

    1. Robert, you may be right that its a Duofold rather than a Vac. I’ll let Laura know so she refers to it correctly. I may have called it the wrong thing as I know more about Sheaffers than Parkers.

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