California Pen Show Recap

The California Pen Show, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, was a great first show for the new group of organizers. I thought we’d share some photos and a more in-depth recap for our first show of the year. I know the California Pen Show was not the first show of the calendar year but it was the first one that Jesi an I attended this year and I think it was a great way to jump start a new year.

The best part of any pen show is getting to spend time with people who love pens and ink as much as I do and Jesi and I revel in the time we get to spend together at shows.

The hotel where the show was located featured a picturesque pool, garden and hot tub and our room had a patio that looked out over it. Thursday, when we arrived, the weather was pretty mild but the rest of the weekend was not particularly conducive to dips in the pool sadly. But it made for a scenic view nontheless.

We ran into old friends like Joel Hamilton (pictured above with Jesi). He’s a charmer and always has a smile for us. Below, we will just photobomb you with all the folks we love to see at shows.

Jesi with "Matthew's Mom" of Matthew's Nibworks fame.
Jesi with “Matthew’s Mom” of Matthew’s Nibworks fame.
Dinner on Friday with the Dromgoole’s team, Gena of Custom Nib Studio, a couple guys from Flax Art and the gang from Rickshaw Bagworks.
Marty giving the side eye to Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks and his dinner choice.
Kirk Speer from Pen Realm rocking a stylin’ jacket.
John from Flexinibpens
Me and Myk of the Mad Mercantile
Give us his most stern look, John from Lemur Ink. 

Jesi and I were working at the Dromgoole’s tables for this show. We were stationed at the “ink station” but we also helped with paper, pencils (100% me) and several of the pen tables. Marty and his wife Kimberly were there as well with their tables of NOS Retro51s right next to the new team at Retro51 who are great guys. Rickshaw was also in the Dromgoole’s table island with special pen cases and sleeves for the show.

Like all pens shows, set-up for the vendors starts early with a quick breakfast and then unpacking and setting up before the first customers barrel through the door ready to spend theoir had-earned cash on pens, ink and accessories.

Early morning breakfast with the Dromgooles in the Club Lounge.

Vendors were allowed in at 8am to start setting up which was not nearly enough time for us since the show opened at 9am for three-day pass holders and 10am for one-day pass holders.

Jesi and I stopped for a photo during set-up on Friday.
Early on Friday, Cary from Kenro can be spotted wandering the show with a shopping bag.

By the end of the day on Friday, we were shredded. We ate dinner and Jesi crashed early. I stayed up,, hanging in the bar for a little while and then conked out around midnight. We knew we had a big day on Saturday.

And on Saturday, we wear stripes. Trust us when we say this was a total accident but we liked it!
On Saturday, it was a sea of hands hovering over the delectable colors of Benu, Leondaro and Sailor pens on this side of the tables at Dromgoole’s.
A quick bird’s eye view from our spot in the ballroom on Saturday.

As expected, Saturday was very busy. It was a delight to see lots of old friends from shows past and to meet new collectors and pen enthusiasts. I was only to capture a few photos, including the one above until we were seated at the bar in the evening.

And the Saturday stripes continue! Our favorite Montblanc-toting auctioneer, Stephen, got into the spirit of things with his own striped shirt.

Sunday was a bit slower overall which is the antithesis of the previous LA International Pen Show. The “LA” show only allows the public to attend on Sunday where the new “CA” show allows the public to attend any day throughout the weekend which made the whole show a good deal more shoppable and not nearly as harrowing for vendors and attendees.

Gena from Custom Nib Studio was still hard at work grinding nibs on Sunday.

Since we hada little time to shop and walk around, Jesi and I both got some nibs adjusted. Gena from Custom Nib Studio adjusted a janky nib for me and ground my Pilot Cavalier down to a needlepoint to be the perfect office pen (snap cap and a nib tiny enough not to bleed on copy paper). Jesi also had a nib adjusted by Gena who was stationed next to the Schon Design table. I got a chance to try the new Monoc nib that they have created. That nib is hella impressive.

Our Takeaways

Of the enhancements I’d like to see to the California Pen Show, I’d like to see the addition of workshops, classes and/or scheduled meet-up events. Maybe add an auction? The younger crowd, often made up of newer pen enthusiasts would be willing and would benefit from all sorts of classes and workshops. Everything from “how to fill a pen” or “how to clean a pen” to journaling workshops, calligraphy or nib tuning. What other kinds of classes and workshops would you want to see at a pen show?

And maybe, just maybe, reduce the entry fee on Sunday to entice people who may have missed Friday or Saturday? If Sundays are slower, its a good day for pen newbies to come and get some advice from vendors. However, if they’ve not invested in a fountain pen before having to pay a $15 entry fee plus parking might be too steep to get them in the door.

For vendors, it would be nice for the show to add some volunteers to act as table sitters. Other shows have offered this service and its really helpful for anyone who may be manning a table by themselves and need to step out for a minute or two. Providing coffee service near the ballroom in the afternoons would also be most appreciated. Its not always convenient to run all the way up to the hotel lobby and wait in line at the Starbucks kiosk for that late-afternoon pick-me-up.

Overall, the new California Pen Show is a vast improvement over the previous LA International Pen Show. I don’t know if the organizers of the LA show will try to change or improve it but I think they will definitely have stiff competition with the rise of the much better organized California Pen Show.

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for your article and pictures from the California Pen Show. I hope to attend one day, but for now I’m just an East Coast fella near Toronto. Wonderful to see so many smiling faces with fountain pens!

  2. Thanks for the great post. So sorry that I could not attend. It is so nice to see the faces that belong to well known names!

  3. i came by to say hi, but you were absolutely mobbed and i got too shy! i thought the LA pen show was amazing and agree with every single bit of your assessment!

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