Dying To Know Day, or DK2D as it is fondly known in some communities, is an initiative that was first celebrated in 2013 and hosted by The Groundswell Project. It was inspired by the work of Andrew Anastasios entitled “Dying to Know: Bringing Death to Life”. From this unconventional self-help book sprouted a movement aimed to promote death literacy, or the awareness of and pragmatic approach to end-of-life situations.
Since then, this campaign has become a welcome occasion to talk about death and its natural place in our lives. Removing the stigma from death and discussing end-of-life plans with our loved ones helps us to prepare with them in ways consistent with our values and wishes. This space dedicated to planning for a future without us or our loved ones provides comfort and security for all involved. In addition, grief, bereavement, and coping with loss are met with openness and compassion.
The current pandemic has put death and dying in the forefront of our daily lives. We have witnessed these countless and ongoing stories of isolation and loss. Even though we might not be personally nor deeply affected, there still has been so much to cope with day to day. To alleviate the crushing, ripple effects of Covid-19, we have been compelled to look for our own ways within the now normal. Alex, one of our feature writers, has found her safe space in creative journaling. Her primary tools are fountain pens, inks, and paper. She shares with us through EndlessPens some facets of the passion that keeps her afloat yet anchored in this time of shared pain and sadness.
EndlessPens (EP): What’s your favourite fountain pen ink?
Alex (A): If I had to choose just one, it would be Platinum Carbon Black. It is a well-behaved, waterproof fountain pen ink. It works well during sketching, as a water-resistant medium for underdrawing, before layering with ink washes or watercolours. It is low-maintenance as well, and washes off cleanly from the fountain pen with just water.
EP: What’s your biggest fountain pen pet peeve?
A: I would have to say scratchy nibs. I like some feedback when using my pens, because that tactile sensation of the nib moving on the surface of the paper is a reminder for me to be mindful of my handwriting. However, a nib snagging on the paper is a different matter entirely. A scratchy nib’s effect on the paper is more evident when you use an ink wash or watercolour layering. The ink settles in the tiny tears made by that nib. The grating impression is quite distracting when I’m trying to draw the smooth, flowing lines that calm me.
EP: What grail pen are you chasing?
A: I think this pandemic has forced us to reassess our lives. From the small and mundane everyday elements that we used to take for granted to life-changing plans for a future that now seems to be more unstable, we have all been affected. Before Covid-19, I had a long list of “grail” pens, those fountain pens I would like to have just for the thrill of discovery. And then the pandemic happened, and for a time, I lost this enthusiasm in the midst of more pressing and vital concerns. Eventually, I began to see possibilities once again, but with a necessary shift in perspective. Now, this grail pen serves as an anchor to why I fell in love with fountain pens in the first place. From the time that I first saw it researching options and online reviews as a beginner to where I am now in my little corner of this upturned world, it has remained on my mind. Mine is the Pilot Custom Heritage 823, with FA nib and ebonite feed, in Smoke.
EP: What got you into the hobby?
A: It was my love for drawing that made me look into fountain pens as alternatives to disposable technical drawing pens, and fountain pen ink as another medium besides watercolours. This was further encouraged by a local newspaper article I had read about the joys of using and collecting fountain pens. I’m a bit sad to say that ever since I’ve discovered fountain pens and inks; my technical pens, gel pens, ballpoints, and watercolours have been rarely used.
EP: What is your favourite fountain pen brand, and why?
A: It’s Pilot. Aside from the reliable level of craftsmanship that goes into their pens, they have a diverse range of designs and price points that appeal to both beginners and connoisseurs alike. Their vintage pens are valued collectibles as well. The Pilot Iroshizuku series is among my favourites, both for the nuances of colours and the quality and behaviour of the inks. One of my beginner pens, the Pilot Metropolitan, is a dependable everyday-carry that is still with me.
EP: What is your preferred fountain pen nib size?
A: My preference is driven primarily by two things: what I love to sketch and how I write. Since my happy place is drawing fine lines in intricate, organic patterns and my usual handwriting is relatively small, an F nib fits me to a T. And by this I mean a Japanese F.
EP: How did you get so good at doodles?
A: Why thank you (haha)! I loved drawing as a child, mostly inspired by cartoons I had regularly watched or picture books I had read. But I only seriously took up sketching once again when I discovered Zentangle and Inktober several years back. Since then, I’ve been practising, working up from simple mark-making to organised patterns to figurative drawings. Doodling for me puts me in a place of focus that relaxes me, and takes me away for a while. Aiming for a regular creative practice helped me hone my style as well.
EP: Does the excitement of pen collecting ever stop?
A: Honestly, no. Aside from the fact that there are just so many well-made and beautiful pens out there to have and to hold, I think our tastes and preferences can change. Furthermore, an experience or event in our lives that holds a personal significance can be a valid reason for us to celebrate with a new pen.
EP: Can you give some sound advice you wish someone shared with you at the start of your fountain pen journey?
A: That would be three things. To start, curb your enthusiasm. As a beginner, each new pen on the market seems so attractive since your initial mindset might be to try and try until you discover what you really want. Aside from the financial aspect of this, you will be saddled with a lot of pens you don’t really want to use anymore. Try to get to know your pen’s capabilities before becoming distracted by the next latest one. This then segues to the next, use that pen. Unless you are a collector with a different perspective; for me, it’s a sad thing when an instrument for writing does not fulfill its basic purpose. Although, it’s a different issue altogether when the experience is unsatisfactory. Lastly, trust yourself. Whatever pens you have, use them with confidence. In the end, the brand or price tag doesn’t matter; it is your personal enjoyment of them that counts.
EP: What is your next purchase going to be?
A: I think I’m going to get some new kind of paper to try out with my pens and inks. I find that in addition to creative journaling, making things has also helped me deal with what we all have been going through in varying degrees.
Hopefully, this glimpse into Alex’s perspectives has helped you consider creative journaling with fountain pens and inks as one way to help process your own thoughts and experiences. DK2D has never been more relevant as it is nowadays; and one important aspect of it is discovering a particular method that encourages self-awareness.
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Written by Lekz Umali
Check out her art on Instagram!