Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Art Of Writing - An Interview With KJ, Barbara And Company From Pen Ultimate In Sydney's QVB

I was in North Sydney the other week waiting for my other half as she attempted to merge our Medicare cards together when, more than a little frustrated and agitated whilst waiting, I raced out of Medicare saying that I was going to get some cold water and come back. All the stores were closing and I wasn't having much luck with the water when I stumbled upon a very earnest and kind faced man who was working behind the counter of a pen shop. I walked inside and there was an explosion of visual exquisiteness as I scanned the room and noticed elegant papers, paper weights, diaries, pens, lighters and cabinets filled with limited edition writing instruments. I have been loyally following the Mont Blanc writers edition for many years and I own a few now. I had thought that pens began and ended with Mont Blanc until I discovered this store, Pen Ultimate.

I talked with the man a while and I couldn't help myself and I began to tell him that I made bow ties. He liked my business card and suggested I call the owner of the business. I called the owner of the business the following day. She liked the sound of what it was I said I do. 'Can you make me a vest in silk?' she enquired. "Well, it's funny you should say that, we have just started working on our vest collection". "Well you must speak to my other manager KJ at the QVB". "Well, I will go and see him".

It turned out that KJ is not just any man in pens. He is the the supreme master of pen salesmanship. I felt the pull of his sales gravitas the moment I walked into the eloquent and elegant Pen Ultimate store in the QVB. What draws you to him is the natural authority you hear when he speaks. Not for one moment do you think he doesn't know the answer to your next question. I actually felt I had to withdraw before I spent any money.

There was a rather large revelation to me that Mont Blanc, whilst still being close to my heart, is not after all the only pen company in the world. I was introduced for the first time to Sailor pens, Online, Montegrappa, Graf Von Faber Castell, S.T. Dupont, Cartier and Caran D'Ache to name but a few. And in the end, as it seems I often do the moment someone fascinates me these days, I set about drafting an interview. So here is a composite of answers from the team at Pen Ultimate.

Our company Pen-Ultimate began in1980 in Brisbane, where we are still operating to this day.  Like our Sydney flagship store in the Queen Victoria Building, Brisbane Arcade is an historically significant building, and we are pleased to represent our most important brands from these cultural hubs.  Everyone who writes is our customer, regardless of any age.  Our team are highly educated, enjoy writing and love pens and penmanship.  We consult with our customers to find them the right writing instrument - and they then write with the pen of their dreams.

KJ, for years I have been obsessed with Mont Blanc’s limited edition writer’s series and I have never even thought of writing with another brand of pen. When I walked into Pen-Ultimate’s store I was quite shocked that there were as many other brands of pens as you offer. Why do you think Mont Blanc has dominated the market of writing instruments for so long and what other brands would you suggest an existing Mont Blanc user to explore?

Our company introduced Montblanc to the Australian market in 1980.  We mostly sold the Montblanc 149 fountain pen, often to members of the legal profession.  This was a time when the Montblanc pen was not advertised widely, however its reputation grew by word of mouth as it was chosen by the legal profession as their standard in writings instruments - the 149 was commonly known as the "Judge's Pen".  The Montblanc pen was not made solely by marketing - it was judged to be the best.  At that time the only other major competitors in Australia were Parker or Sheaffer.  Since then a number of pens of remarkable quality, such as S. T. Dupont, Caran d'Ache, Faber-Castell and Sailor have had their reputations grow in a similar manner, with enthusiastic pen collectors recommending them to each other.  Each brand has a creative team specialising in a particular material and aesthetic - for instance, S. T. Dupont is one of very few companies still offering a wide range of Lacque de Chine products, a notoriously difficult material to work with.  Lacque de Chine barrels take over a year to finish.  Highly specialised, artisan fabrication is what fascinates the connoisseur - and we love introducing these things to the appreciative customer.  Today we sold the Montegrappa Chaos by Sylvester Stallone - the watch, fountain pen and cufflinks - a collection which showcases Montegrappa's expertise across sterling silver, enamel, and natural celluloid.

The stylus has overtaken my life in the sense that I can’t get away from my phone or tablet and accordingly I find myself writing less and less with writing pens these days. Do you see the stylus as eventually playing a much bigger role in the world of writing instruments and can you recommend a decent stylus for our readers who don’t want to use any old $15.00 stylus from your local computer store?

The splendid Caran d'Ache "RNX" (Round and Hexagonal) in the Multi-Function mode, priced at $450, is our recommendation.  It follows Das Style - a modern take on Art Deco.

Caran D'Ache RNX

Is your estimation, can you tell us which brand of writing instruments best fit each of the following categories and explain to us why?
a)      Unique Style
b)      Classicism
c)       Value For Money
d)      Timeless properties
e)      Quality of workmanship
f)       Functionality as a pen
g)      Working lifespan

Our recommendations are as follows:

1. Unique style: Montegrappa, Cartier, Visconti, OMAS
2. Classicism: all our major brands
3. Value for Money: Waterman, Parker, Online Germany
4. Timeless properties: Sailor, Graf von Faber Castell
5. Quality of workmanship: Caran d'Ache, Graf von Faber Castell, S. T. Dupont and Sailor
6. Functionality as a pen: Lamy, Cross
7. Working lifespan: Pelikan, Sheaffer, Diplomat  - and all our pens, because it's all about how you look after them .

Caran D'Ache Caelograph

Caran D'Ache Year Of The Dragon limited edition pen

I was told that you recently sold a pen worth more than $100,000 AUD.  Can you tell us about this side of the market and what drives people to spend that kind of money on a pen? Are they using it to write with or does it merely sit inside a cabinet? Can you tell us about the time it would make to make such a pen and the materials it would incorporate?

Customers in the market for a $100,000 pen are always particularly interesting.  The gentleman who bought the 2012 Faber-Castell Pen  of the Year in Solid Gold and Diamonds is actually a very down to earth person, and someone who has been shopping with us for some time now.  He certainly enjoys all of his writing instruments - he loves using them for his daily writing and for special occasions.  There are few pens that can satisfy this kind of customer - it needs to be something that combines heritage, workmanship and a unique style.  The Pen of the Year series started in 2003 as a way for Faber Castell to pay tribute to its 250-year-old heritage, its expertise working with amber, jade, sting-ray leather, and hand applied gold-leaf, amongst many other remarkable materials.  The 2012 Pen of the Year features a 4000-year-old technique that dates back to the ancient Egyptians - obviously something of great interest to the seasoned collector.

What is the best desk to own if you are someone who enjoys writing? Do you suggest timber? Leather? Do you recommend laying something over the surface of the desk to write?

The most important thing is to sit at a desk that is at the waistline.  The ideal height of the desk will depend on the length of the user's upper arms.  The most comfortable desk has a lift-up writing slope.  Today, the standing desk has the most health benefits, as the human body is not designed for long periods of sitting down.  A cushioned leather desk pad is a great addition to any desk, protecting both the elbows and the desktop.  The appearance of the handwriting will be improved, as a single sheet on a hard desk will pick up the grain or finish of the desk, not to mention the damage done to the desk.

Sanjay writes standing up. He sports a Le Noeud Papillon 'Javier' bow tie and pocket square

Being a left hander, I must ask you this question, is there a fountain pen out there that we can use?

The Sailor pen with multi-directional left-hander nib never misses the mark for left-handers - we would recommend it without reservation.  Sailor is a 103-year-old company, making nibs in 21ct gold.  Their nibs have a proprietary design with conical shaped tips to ensure that the nib never catches the paper.

Can you recommend four different pens (brand and model) for a budget of:
a)      $50.00 b) $200.00 c)$800.00 d) $2000.00

$50: Online Germany; $200: Waterman; $800: Caran d'Ache or Montblanc; $2000: Sailor, especially the King of Pen range (fountain pens only)

Lastly, I have often found that I cannot write more than three pages without getting some cramping in my hands . Is there a way in which I , as an adult, could somehow retrain myself to write so that I don’t get these cramps? Is there a trick to overcoming this cramping?

In order to solve this writing problem you are best to come and see handwriting specialist Barbara Nichol, as this kind of cramping should not occur if you are holding the pen correctly.  Ms. Nichol can suggest specific adjustments and exercises to remedy this.

An example of the refined art deco approach of S.T Dupont

The limited edition Mont Blanc writer's edition this year paying homage to  French writer Balzac

You can contact the friendly team or visit the QVB store with the details below:

QVB  : Shop 15-17, Level 2, QVB
455 George Street Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9264 4991  Fax: (02) 9264 4434

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