Apparently, it’s been another year. Another year of these unprecedented times. And we’re probably all about ready for some more precedented times. But around here, at least, we seem to have been getting the hang of all this remote working stuff, and working with the necessary precautions to keep people as safe as we can. So we’ve got a lot done, despite everything, and we’ve kept all your orders going out well, through some big changes.
Any list of new products tends to get a bit overwhelmed with limited and special editions, which can be very exciting at the time, but maybe not so interesting to talk about, especially when many of them will have sold out by time you’re doing the talking. But some do deserve a special mention. This year, the special edition Safari was an interesting little jump back to the roots of Lamy’s special editions. They brought back the very first special edition colours, which we were pleased to see. The old Savannah and Terra colours were beautiful, and not many people got those first editions. With a slight change to the design to keep the originals unique, these gave a lot more people chance to have those colours.
The Montblanc StarWalker UltraBlack was another we rather liked, giving a darker twist to the beautifully modern StarWalker design. Stars may be quite bright, but the space between them is known for being pretty dark. At the other end of the spectrum, the Platinum Preppy Wa is a lovely collection of special edition versions of the Platinum Preppy, and at under £5 for a special edition Japanese fountain pen, it’s one a lot more people can enjoy.
We launched quite a few new brands this year, too - too many to list them all, really, if we don’t want this to become a dull list. Some highlights:
TRAVELER’S COMPANY may look a bit shouty with their all upper case name, but their products are simple classics. Now decoupled from their parent company Midori, they popularised the idea of the Traveler’s Notebook, a simple leather cover for holding multiple little notebooks so they can go everywhere with you. The covers themselves are lovely, but the accessories really make them. Lots of different and unusual notebooks to put in them, little brass and leather clips to hold your pens, clips and charms to decorate, and some rather nice brass pens and pencil holders.
We also added Midori, with their wonderful range of stickers, clips and assorted other accessories. They make paper clips in the shape of penguins (and dogs and cats and many others) so how could we resist? Midori and TRAVELER’S COMPANY have been near the top of our list of brands we’ve wanted to stock for many years now, so we’re very happy to finally have them.
Another brand we’ve known and wanted to stock for a long time is Retro 51, and that finally came together with a chance encounter at the London Pen Show (more on that soon…), so now we have these popular pens too. They’re a fairly straightforward design, but nicely done, and available in a huge choice of patterns and finishes, so there’s one to suit pretty much anyone. Probably more than one, really, which can make them a bit tempting to collect.
Benu had been in consideration for a while, but we started selling them this year. We hesitated for a while, thinking they were just too weird for people to want, even though we loved them. But we finally realised that you lot are just as weird as we are, so at least some of you would love them as much as we did.
Narwhal not only have a great name, they make great pens too. Beautiful materials, crafted into rather nice fountain pens, mainly with piston filling systems, all at surprisingly low prices.
A rather less well-known, but very interesting brand, BIGiDESIGN make pens that take lots of different refills. Just the sort of thing we love, they’re pens made very much for pen geeks like us. It’s rare, if not unique, for one pen to be able to use a tiny D1 ‘multipen’ refill, or a big ‘euro’ rollerball refill, and most things in between. Their pens extend to take different lengths of refill, and the little capped Arto pen has a tiny clutch in the tip, so it grips refills right near the point. That not only lets it hold very small refills, it also removes the bit of rattling or clicking that some pens have at the tip - something many people don’t even notice, but some find quite annoying.
There were a lot of notable new pens, too, including the new Parker 51. The original was one of the most innovative and successful pens ever made, and its influence lives on not only in fountain pens, but in many liquid-ink rollerballs too. It introduced the ‘collector’, a series of closely-spaced fins that held ink near the tip, ready to go, giving a super-reliable ink feed. It’s the same set of fins you can see inside many of the best rollerball pens now. It was also a design introduced in 1941 that still looks beautifully modern today. The hooded nib keeps the ink safer from drying out when you pause without capping the pen, whether you’re lost in deep thoughts or just daydreaming. The new version is different on the inside, with a cartridge/converter system, but retains many of the original features, including that iconic hooded nib.
We’ve long wanted to extend our range of art supplies too, as we have a lot of artists buying from us, and many requests for things we just didn’t have. So we added Strathmore, Canson, Arches, Daler-Rowney and Lyra. Hopefully that gives the artists among you a bit more to use, while those of us without such talent can just enjoy knowing we helped a little with the tools you needed. Not to say there’s no artistic talent at Cult Pens, it’s just very unevenly distributed!
Oh, and we added a new range of fruity inks, exclusive to us, from Diamine. Our Diamine Deep Dark inks are very practical for daily use, but we wanted something a bit brighter, more cheerful. And Diamine, of course, delivered.
Moving on from new products, we also celebrated our sweet 16th birthday. Admittedly we did that with the help of quite a lot of new products! A number of brands joined the party with special editions just for us, and we may have eaten too much pizza.
This year was also our first time attending a pen show, in the form of the London Pen Show in Hammersmith. After a long time of hiding away, it was quite a shock to the senses, but it was a wonderful chance to actually meet customers face-to-face, as well as meeting other sellers. We didn’t really know what we were expecting, but we were surprised to find that almost everyone there already knew us, and seemed to like us. There are pen shows all over the world, so it’s well worth checking one out if you have the chance - we wish we’d had more time to browse, but we were a bit too busy to really take it all in!
Oh, and there was the little matter of moving too. We’d been rather cramped in our old office and warehouse for quite some time, but finding somewhere else had been a challenge. We needed more space for all the new products we wanted to get, but we were very much out of space. Plenty of bigger buildings were available, but we were based in the fairly small Devon town of Tiverton, where options were more limited. Moving to somewhere with more options was always an option, but not one we wanted to take. Not everyone drives, and transport can be tricky around here, so we knew some staff wouldn’t want to commute to, say, Exeter, every day. And most of the bigger places available weren’t central, which would make travel impossible for some. And we didn’t want to lose people when we had such a great team. But finally, just the right place came up, and it was just over the road from us!
It was perfect, with more space, separate warehouse and office facilities, and much better access for deliveries coming in and out. But that meant working out how to move not only all our desks, computers, and people, but our stock. And with around 30,000 product lines, moving them all without losing track of where anything was, was never going to be easy. And somehow we had to do all that while keeping orders going out. It was a mammoth task to move everything over a weekend, with all hands on deck. But somehow, due to some very extensive planning and preparing, we did it. Now we’re working on filling up the new, bigger warehouse, with even more pens!
And finally. There has to be an ‘and finally’, doesn’t there? In this case, it’s our own advent calendar. Something that seemed impossible when it was first brought up in one of our meetings actually turned into reality. We managed to put together (or have put together for us, we did’t actually make it ourselves) a whole advent calendar, with a selection of Japanese stationery products, all rather beautifully packaged up in a big fold-out display. The product itself is beautiful, as many of you have seen, but the planning and work that went into it was even more so. Just the right selection of items had to be chosen. They all had to be delivered to us in the right quantities, at the right time, in many cases being imported directly from Japan. The casing had to be designed, descriptions and a blog post put together. Things had to be photographed, social media posts written. Packaging had to be worked out so we could get them to you safely. Pretty much everyone at Cult Pens had to be involved in some way to make this one special product work, so you could find out about it, order it, and be opening those little surprise boxes each day.
A big team effort like that seems like a very fitting way to sum up the year. It may be a cliche to say that team work makes the dream work, but it’s also very true. If you happen to dream about pens.