If you were to slice Christine Joynson open, she'd probably bleed Dragon Blood Shimmer ink. Bit of a macabre start to a blog post, I fear, so I should apologise - sorry. There. Now that’s out of the way, I'll explain…
Christine is one half of a dynamic duo. Not Batman and Robin, but the Diamine Duo who gave us sparkly, glittery Shimmer Ink and which includes her good self and her nephew, Phil. They don't fight crime and they don’t wear Lycra or have a butler called Albert; at least, not to my knowledge, but they have succeeded in revitalising the UK's ink industry, and that in itself is worth a few cartoony exclamations of 'Ka-pow'!
So just how did Diamine go from being little-known to widely-known? Amanda and Anna got together with Christine to find out.
In 1997 Christine was running her own company - Speciality Inks International. But that's not why ink runs through her veins. She had worked for Diamine - a rubber stamp maker and ink manufacturer based in Liverpool - since the tender age of 16 and risen through the ranks from being a clerk/typist to working in sales and shipping. During her time there, Diamine was battered by a number of takeovers but managed - due to its involvement in ink - to keep its head above water. However, in the early 2000s Trodat, the most recent owner, closed it down and took only the stamp pad division. The Diamine name was no more.
So Christine bought the name; as she puts it, she 'had to have it.' Well, you would, wouldn't you? She had all the experience in administration, sales and marketing that she needed to put Diamine back on the map, but was a bit lacking in the technical department. Unlike Phil, her nephew. He had worked for Diamine since the age of 18 but had been made redundant when Diamine was closed down. So Christine picked up the Batphone and called him. 'Want a job?' she asked him. 'Yes, please!' he said.
And that was the start of the Diamine we know and love today. In 2005 the ink range consisted of only 12 colours. Christine remembers going to the Stationery Show in Frankfurt armed with just a single bottle, which she probably just popped into her handbag. Now, she and Phil need the sort of organisation normally reserved for a Rolling Stones tour. However, having only one bottle of ink to hand made Christine realise that lots of colours are what people want, but that in itself presents Diamine's biggest challenge - finding space!
So she put Phil to work. He has a designated research and development room where, Christine assures us, he is 'as happy as a pig in muck'. There are now over 200 colours of Diamine ink, from Aqua Lagoon to Yellow, including the Flower collection, the Music collection and the pie-shaped bottles of 150th Anniversary ink.
In the summer of 2012 Phil presented Christine with some gold. Gold ink, that is; gold ink that shimmered and glittered, and ('holy bottles of ink!' as Robin would say) she was quite overwhelmed. The pair of them realised that sparkly ink could open up whole new avenues of applications, but - to ensure their success - Phil insisted on putting the inks through their paces, to ensure that they'd be safe in fountain pens. Three years later he was satisfied, and the Diamine Duo launched ten stunning Shimmer Inks onto the market. Christine thinks Phil had almost as much fun thinking up names for the inks as he did creating them in the first place. Among the initial eight bottles were the likes of Blue Pearl, Night Sky and Golden Sands.
Art by Nick Stewart, created using Diamine inks.
But they're not ones to rest on their laurels. They're always dreaming up new shades for the standard range, and Phil just can't help himself where the glorious Shimmer Inks are concerned. Another eight colours have just been launched, and their names really reflect Phil's eccentric side! The aforementioned Dragon Blood is dark red with a gold shimmer, while Rockin' Rio is more of an orangey red. Razzmatazz is a gold-flecked olive green and Neon Lime is a rather juicy-looking bright green set off by silver sparkles. Peacock Flare reflects the teals and turquoises you see in a peacock's feather. The deep violet Mystique is what you'd expect (if you're an X-Men fan), as is Pink Champagne, and Starlit Sea is exactly what it suggests: a beautiful blue with a silver night sky shimmer.
'Looking back,' says Christine, 'we had an impact on changing people's perspective on ink'. They certainly did, as inks have become something more than a substance to put in a fountain pen and write with. They're used for artwork, and modern calligraphy, too. 'I've been using Diamine inks now for over 20 years,' says Josh Bowe. 'Nothing I've used in comparison has the variation of colour, and lucidity. Some of my most lasting painting developments have frequently started off using Diamine inks, for their sheer colour complexity.'
Art by Josh Bowe, created using Diamine inks.
Diamine had an influence on us as well, with the development of Cult Pens' very own Deep Dark Inks. The follow up to these are the stunning Iridescinks! Yes, that's a made-up word that's now a real word. They're called Robert and Maureen (yes, really). Robert is sort of a pinky purple, and also green; and Maureen is blue-ish, and red as well. Really, they are - they're sheen inks, so they're pretty much anything you want them to be! We love them!
And now, a big, burning question from Amanda… how do you get ink off your hands? Well that was a show stopper, because Christine went silent. And then she said (rather quietly), 'er… soap and water? And if that doesn't work then maybe a scouring pad.' Ouch. So no magic formula in the utility belt, then Christine?
So what's on the cards for the future? Well, we know, but we can't say, sorry. Or Christine will no doubt fling on her superhero cape and throw us across the room: bam! Suffice it to say that Diamine's new path will have a slightly different shine to it, and involves unique properties found only in certain dyes. Watch this space…
2 October 2018