Pens, Passion and Entrepreneurship

Reflections on the Atlanta Pen Show


My wife and I made the trek from Columbia to Atlanta last weekend to catch the Atlanta Pen Show and the live recording of the Pen Addict Podcast. We went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I wrote a post about last year’s experience, too.) Some quick thoughts on our new annual tradition:

Preshow. #atlantapenshow

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The Pen Addict Live. We wanted to go to the Atlanta Pen Show, but the live recording was the main reason we made the trip. The Pen Addict is a great show and I listen to it every week.*

The episode they recorded was excellent, as usual. Once again this year, Myke and Brad were joined by the equally awesome Ana Reinert. But they also had a couple of interviews on the show, too. Vito from Story Supply and Brooks from Carolina Pen Company both talked about their businesses. It’s always great to see and hear from people who are so incredibly passionate about their craft.

Seeing Vito and Brooks on the live show crystalized something that I’d been thinking about for a while. Yes, the Pen Addict is about pens (and ancillary stationery products), but it’s also a celebration of entrepreneurship. Myke and Stephen took their mutual love of podcasts and started their own podcast network. Brad and Jeff started NockCo and are building an amazing case business. Ana has a new product for sale, the Col-o-ring. Vito talked about what drove him to start the Story Supply Co. And I honestly have no idea how Brooks combines polymers and makeup to make the beautiful pens that he sells through Carolina Pen Company. 

Myke and Brad routinely bring in creators to talk about their products and creations. They support, encourage and build up the creative community.** I really do think that support is a big part of what makes the Pen Addict — and the larger pen community — amazing.

NockCo Sinclair. I enjoyed the show, but I didn’t buy much. (I’m still working my way through all the ink I bought at last year's show.) I checked out some vintage pens, but didn't see anything I had to have. 

One of my favorite purchases was the NockCo Sinclair. I was in the market for a smaller case… I love my NockCo Brasstown, but I wanted a smaller case for carrying with me to meetings. NockCo had some exclusive colors for the pen show circuit. I was eyeing the olive/lime Lookout. I seriously love the olive/lime colorway and you know how I love my bright greens… But once I saw the Sinclair with a black waxed canvas exterior and a garnet*** interior, I was sold. I’m a lifelong Gamecock fan and the creative director at the University of South Carolina. For a case to carry around campus, the garnet and black case is perfect. I’ve really enjoyed using it this week and I’m thrilled with my purchase. Hopefully, they’ll make some more pieces in this colorway, because I will buy them all.

Coffee #atlantapenshow

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Waffle House. There is a Waffle House in the parking lot of the hotel and we decided to grab a bite Saturday morning before we left Atlanta. (Myke and Brad have mentioned on past shows that they tend to frequent this Waffle House during the pen show.) It was packed. We found our way to a couple of open stools at the counter. The waitress told me that the weekend had been one of their busiest ones of the year. I guess we can blame the Atlanta Pen Show for the crowd. Next year, they should completely hook Myke and Brad up with some free coffee or something.

* I listen to a bunch of other Relay FM podcasts, too. I'm a Pen Addict, but I'm also a fan of the whole network.

** Unless your product is a bogus Kickstarter rip off. Then Brad will tear you limb-from-limb.

*** Officially, the color is burgundy, but I'm sticking with garnet.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he is trying to figure out how to use all the ink he has purchased. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.

The Pen Addict returns to the Atlanta Pen Show

Catch the Pen Addict Live!


I’ve been talking about Kickstarter projects lately and here’s another one: The Pen Addict is doing a live show at the Atlanta Pen Show again this year.*

My wife and I went last spring and I posted a recap of the experience. I instantly backed this year’s project and can’t wait to go again. Backing the project includes an opportunity to see the show recorded live. It's fun to see a live recording of one of my favorite podcasts. I’m also excited to get a special Nock Co. Sapelo that holds a couple of pens and small notebooks. Looks sharp, even if the inside color is orange.**

It’s already funded, but if you are near Atlanta, want to see a Relay FM live recording and meet a bunch of podcasters that you routinely listen to, back the project today. I’ll see you there.

* This year's Kickstarter includes sending Myke to the Washington D.C. Pen Show, too. No live recording, though.

** As a Gamecock fan, I try to avoid all things orange.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he wonders why everyone in the pen world is obsessed with the color orange. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

The Atlanta Pen Show and Pen Addict Episode #200

A little over a year ago, I started listening to the Upgrade podcast with Jason Snell and Myke Hurley on the Relay FM network. I knew all about Jason from listening to the Incomparable and reading his work on Macworld. I loved the show and the banter between Myke and Jason. But best of all, it introduced me to selection of other podcasts on Relay FM and the Incomparable. 

One of these shows was the Pen Addict, hosted by Myke and Brad Dowdy. I tuned in for episode #152, just after the 2015 Atlanta Pen Show. Ironically, the topic was mechanical pencils. I was hooked and I've been listening weekly ever since. (I’ve also been buying pens and pencils ever since…)

When the 2016 Atlanta Pen Show rolled around, I knew I had to go. Brad lives near Atlanta and Myke flies in from London for the show. This year, they recorded the 200th episode of the Pen Addict live in front of an audience.

My wife joined me on the (reasonably easy) trek down I-20 from Columbia. I always make Liz listen to podcasts on long trips and she wanted to put faces with the voices she'd heard.*

We spent Saturday at the show and attended the episode recording that evening. It was a wonderful experience and we may have to make the Atlanta Pen Show an annual tradition. I figured I share some thoughts on the experience of attending the Atlanta Pen Show and Pen Addict live broadcast:

The Atlanta Pen Show

It's a little bit overwhelming for a first time visitor. All the vendors were exceptionally nice and willing to answer questions.** But there are just so many pens. Three large rooms with tables and vendors everywhere. New and vintage. Inexpensive and very, very expensive. Stock and custom. Inks, nib grinders, cases, paper and more. (Several vendors noted that the D.C. Pen Show is much bigger and crazier.) I enjoyed it, but it was a lot to take in and absorb. I've only been buying pens for about a year and I've got a lot to learn. 

I got to check out pens I've never seen. There isn't a pen store in Columbia so I rarely have a chance to check out nice fountain pens in person. But there is a great selection at the Atlanta Pen Show. I fell in love with the Pilot Vanishing Point. I got to check out some Lamys that I haven't had a chance to hold... a Lamy 2000, a Studio and even an Imporium. The Karas Kustoms clipless Ink is also a beauty. I definitely prefer the cleaner, more minimalist designs.

I didn't buy a pen. I almost bought a Pilot Vanishing Point — green, of course — but decided to wait. And I was tempted by a Lamy Studio. I must have circled the Anderson Pens table a dozen times. I'm looking at more expensive pens and these pens aren't an impulse buy. Instead I bought some ink from Vanness Pens, a Nock Fodderstack XL and some notepads to try.

I'm terrified of vintage pens. I love the idea of vintage pens, but I was overwhelmed by the selection. I had no idea what I was looking at. I'll need to do a fair amount of research before I feel comfortable investing in a classic design.

The Pen Addict's 200th Episode

Friendly folks. Myke and Brad were joined on the episode by Ana Reinert from the Well-Appointed Desk. Stephen Hackett from Liftoff and Connected came down to run the technical side of the broadcast. They were all very approachable and made an effort to talk to everyone. (I even got an impromptu review of Myke's new nylon Apple Watch band.) It's nice to find out that the people that you listen to every week are really as awesome as they seem on the podcast.

Watching the Pen Addict live was amazing. Being able to see how Myke, Brad and Ana interact on the show was wonderful. It was like a couple of friends just talking about pens... with a bunch of spectators and a whole lot of technology.

Thanks for all the hard work. It's got to be hard to record a podcast every week and not really know what people think. This show ended with a standing ovation and tears from Brad and Ana. I didn't really think about it until that moment, but I'm glad we as an audience got to let Brad and Myke know — in person — how much we appreciate the show. I really do look forward to it each week.

I won a door prize. Which probably doesn't come as a surprise to those who know me well.*** Ana donated an awesome prize pack with a bottle of green Pilot Iroshizuku ink, a notepad for work****, a stamp, a magic pencil, some limited edition XOXO Field Notes and some wicked chocolate that was not melted. Thanks, Ana! I'll put it all to good use.

Liz and I had a great time. If our schedule permits, we'll absolutely head down to Atlanta for the 2017 edition. (April is always a busy time of year for us, though.) If you are interested in pens and writing utensils, attending a pen show is a great way to check out your options if you don't have a pen store near you. 

* She was disappointed that Jason Snell and Serenity Caldwell weren't there. I told her Jason would never attend a pen show.

** There was one pushy dude who was kind of obnoxious.

*** I win a lot of door prizes. It all started when I won a jet ski in 7th grade...

**** My wife was disappointed that she can't take it to her work, but a notepad with the "s-word" on it won't fly in kindergarten. I, however, love it.

My favorite podcasts

I started walking at lunch most days last January. And while I walk through downtown Columbia, I listen to podcasts. Now I listen to podcasts in the car, too. I have a few favorites and figured I’d share the podcasts that I love.

Before I start working my way though my list, I highly recommend Overcast on iOS. It’s a great way to listen to podcasts on your iPhone and it’s free. Much more capable than the stock Apple Podcast app.

So most weeks, I listen to:

Incomparable (Incomparable Network). The Incomparable was the first podcast I ever listened to, back when I actually had an iPod and the term podcast made sense. Jason Snell and friends cover virtually every sci-fi and pop culture topic imaginable — movies, books, comics, television. Always entertaining. The Incomparable is a gateway for me to lots of other podcasts.

Upgrade (Relay FM). I started to listen to Upgrade near the beginning of its run. It’s mostly Apple tech talk, but the real reason to listen is the great rapport between Jason Snell and Myke Hurley. A great podcast.

Clockwise (Relay FM). Love the format. Jason Snell, Dan Moren and two guests discuss four tech topics in only 30 minutes. With so many podcasts are getting longer and longer, the 30 minute format is refreshing. The format and great guests make this one of my favorites. 

Pen Addict (Relay FM). I was intrigued by the concept of a podcast about pens. But I really liked Myke Hurley on Upgrade and tuned in to see what it was all about. A few months later I had my first fountain pen. And I’m hooked… on pens and the Pen Addict. 

Random Trek (Incomparable Network). A not-so-random guest watches a random episode of Star Trek with Scott McNulty. It’s always random, and always a delight. The show is almost better when the episode is a bad one. I’d love to someday be a guest on Random Trek, but would be terrified that I would draw an episode of first season Voyager. 

Analog(ue) (Relay FM). Another Myke Hurley show, this one with Casey Liss. The whole point of the show is talking about feelings. The topics bounce around from personal goals to technology to relationships. This show feels like Upgrade, only less tech centric.

Flash Flashcast and Speedy Arrowcast (Incomparable Network). Remember the days of watching shows in the evening and then discussing them at work the next day? I watch Flash and Arrow, but I don’t have many people to discuss it with at my office. So I can listen to these podcasts and I feel much more connected to the show. 

St. Michael’s Lutheran Church (Blacksburg, Virginia) Sermon. My brother is a pastor in Virginia and his sermon is posted each week. It’s an awesome opportunity to get to hear him even though I can’t be there in person. (And particularly awesome when he references events from our childhood…)

I have a bunch of other shows that I listen to if I have time. Liftoff airs every other week and covers space related topics. ATP and the Talk Show are great, but really long. It typically takes me a couple of days to get through them, so while I like them, I rarely complete an episode. During the baseball season, I was listening to Ivy Envy, a Cubs podcast. And Unjustly Maligned is great if I’m familiar with the topic of pop culture scorn. (The episode on Monopoly is awesome.)

What I find interesting is that I haven’t found a design podcast that I love. Or one on creative process. They just haven’t clicked as quickly with me as the pop culture and technology podcast have. I also would love an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. podcast, but I haven't found one I like as much as the Flash and Arrow podcasts.

Got any recommendations for a podcast I should be listening to? Let me know on Twitter at @sketchbookb.

Happy Anniversary, Relay FM!

Last fall, I started walking at lunch. Most days, I wander past the South Carolina Statehouse grounds and up Main Street in Columbia, SC. My walk typically takes 30-45 minutes.

I quickly tired of the music on my phone and started to listen to podcasts. One that I found quickly was Upgrade with Jason Snell and Myke Hurley. I was familiar with Jason from Macworld and The Incomparable and I started to listen to Upgrade every week.

It didn’t take long for me to get to know the entire Relay FM family. Clockwise was next, followed by The Pen Addict. I try to listen to Analog(ue) and Connected if I have time. About half of my podcast playlist is from Relay FM. (The other half is pretty much from The Incomparable.)

Today marks the one year anniversary of Relay FM. Congrats on the great accomplishment. I look forward to many more years of inspiring and engaging content.