This year we tried to tune our Gift Guide towards pen and stationery enthusiasts at various levels of the hobby: new-to-the-hobby, in-it-for-awhile and hardcore collectors. Each group may be hard to shop for and we hoped that our guide might make it easier for friends and family of enthusiasts a bit easier to shop for this holiday season.
We have recommendations for each group as well as some gifts suitable for anyone.
The “New-to-the-hobby” Fan
This is the pen and stationery fan that has just started, but can’t stop talking about it.
- Ink Samples ($0.50 – $3.75 each) When a pen enthusiast gets started, the first thing they will discover is that ink is something they will want to seek out. Help them on their way by picking a few samples from the 100s available. Try picking a rainbow (ROYGBIV) or several colors from the same brand. Then grab a 2-pack of blunt tip syringes ($4.50) to make it easier to fill pens.
- Col-o-Ring ($10) Once a newbie has some ink samples, they are going to need a way to catalog them and we, of course, recommend a Col-o-ring for cataloging inks.
- Nanami Paper, The Crossfield ($26) or Endless Recorder Tomoe River Notebook ($18)
- Girologio 12-Pen Zippered Case in Brown ($45) Give your favorite, new pen collector a case to store their growing collection in. This case from Girologio is not particularly expensive and designed to hold smaller pens comfortably. Its good quality and looks great.
The “In-it-for-awhile” Fan
This fan has been collecting pens, pencils or stationery for awhile but may not have gotten into “high ticket” items quite yet.
- Ink Sample Sets (prices vary, $12-$229) Even for an avid ink collector, an assortment of ink samples like the Random 5-ink Sampler Kit, will show the pen lover in your life that you know the best way to stuff a stocking.
- Blackwing pencil pins (set of 3/$15) Are these adorable, or what? Anyone with even the tiniest interest in analog would be charmed by these.
- Kokuyo Shellbro Pen Case ($16) I’m impressed by how much this case can contain. It’s practically a mini desk drawer. Fill it with a fistful of pens and pencils for a lucky recipient.
- Field Notes Signature edition (2/$14.95) While most Field Notes Brand notebooks are for quick thoughts that need to be “remembered now,” the Signature edition with its slightly larger form factor encourages both sketching and writing at a more leisurely pace. The 70-pound paper is meaty enough for both. Perhaps a friend has mentioned the desire to start journaling or drawing but feels intimidated by a hardbound Rhodia or Stillman & Birn sketchbook? A Signature enables dabbling without pressure.
The Hardcore Collectors
This fans have it all, maybe they even buy-and-sell pens, pencils or make their own products. You know if your favorite person falls in this category. They are particularly challenging to shop for.
- Col-o-Dex ($15) and scour Amazon, Goodwill, vintage stores or eBay for a Rolodex! This is the deluxe, desktop version of the Col-o-ring and just the thing for the pen collector ready to take their ink archive to the next level. Don’t forget a set of tabs ($5 per pack) for maximum organization.
- Pineider Snorkel Filler ($15) This little gadget might not look like much to you but its newly on the market and is just the sort of gift for the person who has everything. It makes filling fountain pen converters easier and won’t break the bank.
- Caran d’Ache Supracolor 30th anniversary ($87) and 100th anniversary Prismalo ($72) watercolor pencil sets. Surely you have an artist or coloring book enthusiast on your gift list who would absolutely swoon when they open one of these beauties?
- Musubi Journal (shown in Ebi, SGD 135, approx. $99USD) The handmade journals from Musubi are some of the most luxurious, beautiful notebooks I’ve ever seen. They are made with Tomoe River paper and include a protective slipcase. But best of all, the notebooks are made by craftspeople who would not be able to work otherwise due to prejudice, abuse and physical limitations but Musubi employs them, trains them and provides a safe environment for them — qualities that embody the spirit of the holidays.
When all else fails, many of our favorite shops offer gift cards or gift certificates and stock a variety of brands of pens, papers and inks. If you wait until the last minute, this may be your best option.
A subscription to ArtSnacks or SketchBox. (Cost varies depending on duration and shipping location) If a sketcher, artist, art journaler, Hobonichi/Midori planner keeper or other user of a wide variety of art supplies is on your list, one of these subscription services will delight him or her with new products to try each month.
The quarterly Pencil Box subscription ($30, US shipping only, waiting list status) from CW Pencils is a great gift for pencil enthusiasts.
Birmingham Pen Company offers a monthly subscription called The Pen Parcel available in three tiers and can be purchased for one month, 3-months or 6-months pre-paid. Each tier includes five new inks as a sample or full bottle each month and would make a lovely gift.
Many of these books have been reviewed in past Books for the Desk Set posts but I thought I’d collect my favorite stationery-related recommendations here, just in time for the holidays.
The Secret Life of the Pencil: Great Creatives and Their Pencils by Alex Hammond. The Secret Life of the Pencil is a lovely picture book that accompanied an exhibition of photos of pencils owned by creative professionals. Accompanying each photograph is a caption from the owner about why this pencil means something to them. It’s a lovely homage to creative analog tools.
The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon by Caroline Weaver. Owner of the singular CW Pencil Enterprise, Caroline is uniquely qualified to publish a book about the history of pencils. This book is both entertaining and educational. It’s filled with pencil illustrations, of course to punctuate the text making it a pleasure to read.
Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case by James Ward. This book was originally titled The Perfection of the Paperclip when released in the UK but was retitled and given a new cover for the US release. This book is full of historical accounts of all sorts of office supply staples like staplers, highlighters, the ballpoint pen and more. Trivial Pursuit for the stationery aficionado.
The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll. Ryder is responsible for introducing the world to Bullet Journaling and has just released a book with detailed information about the methodology and techniques behind this massive, worldwide phenomena. Reviews recommend the dead tree edition of this book over the ebook since the book is heavily illustrated and it makes sense — a book about analog note-taking is probably best read on paper.
Stationery Fever: From Paper Clips to Pencils and Everything In Between by John Z. Komurki, Angela Nicoletti, and Luca Bendandi. While Adventures in Stationery is a deep dive into the history of many office products, Stationery Fever offers a more pictorial, world-view of the current stationery products on offer and shops that sell them. While not every shop in the world is represented, a nice selection of shops are featured from across the globe.
The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax. Revenge of Analog covers a wide variety of analog interests from vinyl records and film cameras to Moleskine notebooks and Shinola watches but its one of the most interesting books I this year and it keeps percolating in my mind. If you have a loved one engrossed with fountain pens or any sort of analog interest, they may enjoy reading this book whether they agree or disagree with the writer. Sometimes disagreeing with a book can be as much fun as agreeing with it.
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