This past weekend, while checking out a new-to-me art store (Colours Art and Framing), I discovered the Pilot Parallel pen. At first I thought, “How the heck have I never noticed these before?” But, the truth is that I haven’t played with calligraphy in a long time (high school? Or, maybe during my under grad years?). I had a calligraphy set (cheap pen, cartridges, and booklet), but I never made any attempts to learn anything beyond the very basics.
I’m not sure I could ever be really dedicated to calligraphy. It seems like a lot of work for someone who’s too lazy and impatient to make their day-to-day writing legible. But, I enjoy trying to do pretty lettering or embellishing people’s names in letters or on envelopes. Usually, I just wing it and hope that the result is pretty, but after a chat with my sister-in-law in October, I decided that maybe it was time to try and learn the basics again.
I’ve been keeping my eyes open for calligraphy pens or markers that were nice, but not expensive. Unfortunately, I have two problems:
- While I can afford nice art tools, I’m not willing to spend good money on supplies until I’m sure I’m really going to use them a lot. I learned my lesson with lomography. I have several film cameras. Some of them are great, some of them are nothing special (despite what other people claimed) and most of them are just gathering dust. I also have a tonne of film, but I’ll use that up eventually.
- My brother has turned me into a bit of a snob. A year ago (2 years ago?) he gave me a fountain pen. Not one of those la-dee-da hoity-toity expensive ones – just a nice basic every-day-use pen (a Lamy Safari). I’ve gotten used to a mess free well constructed pen with a refillable cartridge (very important, because the environmentalist in me hates the idea of disposable plastic tubes).
Because of these two problems, when I look at calligraphy supplies at most art stores, I wince. Everything is expensive, cheap, involves disposable cartridges, or involves buying multiple or specialized tools.
For example, I happen to have a small set that I bought years ago. It’s a nib holder and a set of 5 nibs (ranging from pointed to small sized calligraphy). It’s very nice, but not the best quality so sometimes it can be very hard to work with, especially as I have a habit of pressing too hard (my fountain pen, by contrast, is always smooth regardless of whether I’m being careful or just scrawling something on a scrap piece of paper). It also requires dipping the nib into ink. Fine. That’s fun sometimes. It’s also messy if you’re a bit of a klutz like me. If I want to use it for calligraphy, I need a cleanable surface, ink, rags, and something to blot off extra ink. You also need patience because you have to refill the nib regularly. This is not conducive to learning a skill when you want to relax and enjoy it. You really have to be in the mood or in the right frame of mind (sometimes I am, most of t the time I’m not).
So, I was hoping to find something that was well made, inexpensive, and easy to use. The Parallel pen seemed almost perfect (the biggest problem being that it didn’t seem to have a refillable cartridge option). I decided to try it and hope to find a eco option later. And, I do not regret my purchase at all. It’s a lovely pen. It’s easy to use, easy to hold, versatile (you can write broad lines or thin lines), and a decent price ($15). I was still concerned about the disposable cartridge issue, but then I found out that you can use the barrel of the pen as a cartridge and fill it with your own ink. Hooray!
Now I just need a few more ink options … and I might eventually buy a few different sizes.