Pen Show Recap: California Pen Show 2024

Spectacular view of the mountains as I flew into California on Thursday morning.

On Sunday night over dinner, we were talking about how, prior to actually attending pen shows, we’d heard people say, “I go to pen shows for the people.” As an introvert, I never quite believed it until I started attending shows. The California Pen Show is definitely a pen show all about the people.

As the second pen show on the annual US pen show circuit, it is often the first opportunity for regular pen show attendees and vendors to see each other since last year. As a result, there is lots of catching up that occurs. And lots of opportunity to see new acquisitions and products.

The new location: The Marriott in Torrance

As this is only the second year for the California Pen Show, its also interesting to note the changes and improvements in how the show was run. First, the event moved to a new hotel in Torrance, across the street from a shopping center that included lots of food and drink options for attendees and vendors. For locals, I think the location was easier to access than last year’s hotel which was adjacent to the airport.

Overall, the space to navigate through the main ballroom seemed good. The aisles for both attendees and vendors were wide enough to provide easy passing for multiple people at once making Saturday, often the busiest day of the show, to feel busy but not claustrophobic.

There were new classes and workshops offered this year. Regarding the classes, I think there were some issues with the classes being overbooked so I hope that in 2025 there will be a way for people to sign up for classes in advance so that they don’t exceed capacity. Also, I think, for the instructors, a sign up would allow them to provide additional information prior to the class so students know what they need to bring ahead of time. I also believe that most classes should have a fee. Instructors should be paid something for the time and preparation it takes to organize a good class. San Francisco has one of the best pen show systems for their classes and workshops so I hope that the California Pen Show will adopt a similar system in the future.

A sneak peek of the space on Thursday night.
The entry hall on Thursday night before set up was completed.

This year, Jesi and I worked with the Dromgoole’s for the show. We had six tables and two large ink displays. We were allowed to bring in our ink racks on Thursday night but couldn’t set up until Friday morning. Due to the early admission of VIP pass holders, we were not completely set up when people were allowed in. I think they were a bit lax about the rules about when the VIPs were allowed in which was frustrating for vendors, particularly on Friday morning since many of us were knee deep in boxes when people started to swarm. In the future, on Friday particularly, if vendors cannot set up on Thursday night, we need the full three hours to set up.

A view of one side of the Dromgoole’s tables on Friday morning
The view from the other side of the Dromgoole’s table after set-up was complete.

Other than stressing out over the set up time, Friday was a really good day. Like many pen shows, Fridays tend to be the die hard pen enthusiasts. They are the people who travelled some distance to attend the show or folks who took the day off from work specifically to attend the show. As a result, many people on Friday know exactly what they are looking for and what they want. Often times, its just to see or touch something they have seen online. For others, its their chance to get an early appointment with a nib grinder or first dibs on a small maker’s one-of-a-kind pens. For Jesi and I, it’s the ink lovers who want to make sure they have first dibs on a coveted ink and extra time to peruse the giant ink swatch tome that we bring with us.

By the time the show closed at 6pm on Friday, Jesi and I were exhausted and could barely drag ourselves across the street for a bite to eat before collapsing back into bed so we were rested and ready for Saturday.

photo by Jon Szanto

Jesi and I have jokingly embraced “Stripey Saturday” after we coincidentally wore matching dresses at one show last year. So now, we just plan for it.

A photo of Francisco Durán and me without shoes. It was a long day but we still had fun!

Saturday was an absolute blur. Sooooo many people! We worked hard to sell lots of ink, paper, and pens. There were many happy faces leaving the Dromgoole’s table with smiles. I think we were pretty successful.

Busy view of Saturday from our corner of the pen show
SOOOO many people!

By Sunday, particularly first thing in the morning, there is time for us to wonder around and even make a few purchases. I get to see other folks’ tables and get a better sense of the show as a whole.

Jose Munuera, Nib Scientist. Check out his work at nib.lab on Instagram.
Kirk Speer from Pen Realm working hard to make nib magic!
More pens and goodies on the Pen Realm tables. 
Kanilea Pen Co — another family business! 
John Corwin of Flexxies — always known for his silver balloon!
Our good friend Stephen and his chock-full pockets of pens.
Plotter came all the way from Japan to custom build binders for folks.
Stamping fun at the Traveler’s Company table.
My favorite new vendor: Rubato Pens. There will be a review coming soon.

Once everything was packed up Sunday evening, we were taken to dinner by our very favorite LA hostesses, Kim and Diane. We went to Din Tai Fung, an amazing Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant that just happens to be in the mall across from the hotel. We were too busy eating to get photos of the epic amounts of food we ate but I highly recommend making a reservation if you plan on being at the show next year.

Diane, Kim, Jesi and I pre-food coma.

Overall, the California Pen Show is quickly moving up in my favorite pen show list. If you have been considering attending this show, it’s worth the trip.

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. TIL you consider yourself an introvert. Who knew?

    Lovely seeing both you and Jesi at the show, and (as always), nice summation report.

  2. You were so busy Friday and there was so much going on that I didn’t get to say hi. Passed by a few times and you were hard at work!

    Thank you for sharing the vendor perspective on set up.

    Friday morning was very frustrating for attendees. A lot of us lined up for the 10 am regular admission time, as noted in our tickets. We were told that because of set up issues, our tickets would not be honored until NOON!

    I had a lunch commitment, so I paid the extra fee for “VIP” admission. I know how hard it is to organize and pull off these big events. Also, I’m pretty flexible and understanding and could afford the extra $10. But I feel bad for anyone for whom it was a big problem. I got a very nice free pin for the trouble, but still…

    It was otherwise great, especially the Plotter customization! I loved that. And some new vendors were a welcome addition.

    I’m glad you went to Din Tai Fung – my favorite place for soup dumplings!

    1. There is a survey form in the California Pen Show web site to provide feedback. I recommend that you let them know the issues you had so hopefully they can improve for next year.

  3. Sounds like a great show this year!

    I taught two very full classes last year at the SFPENSHOW and people paid. We need to get paid to work! I have NOT taught at the CA pen show because they don’t have fees for classes, it is not fair to the teachers…
    Thanks for bringing this up!

  4. It looks like it was so fun!!! I’ve been missing the US pen show circuit. Also just curious, how do you guys come to work with Dromgoole’s to help out?

  5. Heyo!

    I’m the woman in the crochet shawl who took ages to decide on what ink to buy. Thanks a lot for helping me decide and tolerating my noob questions!

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