By Jennifer Houghton
Origin stories fascinate me. How people met, how they found their passions, even hobbies they developed a love for. I always want to know more.
We’ve decided to highlight how different people got into fountain pens with our “My First Fountain Pen Was A….” series.
I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the legendary John Lane, Vice President of Art of Writing with Coles of London. He was showcasing the latest offerings from S.T. Dupont and Visconti at Atlas Stationers.
As with any conversation with Lane, the topics discussed provided a depth and breadth only available from someone with as many years in the industry as he has.
The following is an excerpt of our conversation:
What was your first fountain pen? My first fountain pen was my grandfather’s Sheaffer. It was very old, obviously, didn’t write very well. I had it all tuned up and it never really leaves my office now. I wrote with a Pilot Vanishing Point for a while, too.
What is your favorite aspect of fountain pens? I’ve always had an affinity for Dupont products. I’ve had lighters forever and I’ve got a bunch of pens. And it’s just a very, very high quality line. My favorite Visconti is the Crystal Dreams fountain. I just love the weight to it. These might inch their way into it now, the new Dual Touch.
What keeps you coming back to fountain pens? If you’re a collector or a pen enthusiast, you’re set on a particular brand. So even during the pandemic, our business did not slack off at all. The stores were closed, but everybody who has a brick and mortar store has an online presence. And Atlas is amazing. The boys [Brendan and Brian] redid it [the website] just as the pandemic hit, so they never lost a step. People who were sitting at home, still getting paid/working, but they’re bored. And so online sales went through the roof. And now that stores are opening up, things are picking back up. It’s just a fun business. It’s not the cutthroat rivalries in other businesses. Selling something like that [gestures towards the S.T. Dupont Space Odyssey Prestige Collector Set] , what’s not to like about it?
What are people experiencing as stores reopen that maybe they lost during the height of the pandemic? There’s only so much you can do online. We have a very good photographer who does all the Visconti and Dupont images for us. But, a lot of pens don’t photograph well. You want to have the in-store experience, so you can see them. People want to come in and look at it, in normal times. Now, these aren’t normal times, so you’re forced to buy online and you’re going to rely on the dependability of the brand itself.