Monday, 9 November 2015

Palimpsest Stone in Box

Palimpsest Stone 2015
stone, antique paper, dictionary fragments, collage, ink, graphite, 

words from Conrad Aiken's House of Cards poem, cardboard case

"The pages of our lives are blurred palimpsest:New lines are wreathed on old lines half-erased,And those on older still; and so forever.The old shines through the new, and colors it.What's new? What's old? All things have double meanings,- All things return."

Conrad Aiken, The House of Dust, III. Palimpsest: A Deceitful Portrait.


Mixed media object in the Assemblage collection of Inklinks.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Friday, 23 October 2015

Cannon pencil

I've never heard of T.K. Pencil Company of Osaka Japan, though Pencil Pages lists the name under existing pen and pencil manufacturers. This pencil was discovered in an old box and got Palimpsest puzzled about its origins. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Ink a Day: Shaws Inks Are the Best!

Swaw's Ink bottle. Private Collection.

Little known Shaws Ink is one of the oldest manufacturers doing business in London as far back as 1750. This octagonal ink bottle is not only embossed with the name of the firm but advertises it too: "Shaws Inks Are the Best." The bottle has the characteristic burst lip top - a result of 19th-century methods of glass making.

Henry Shaw set up business in the City of London in 1750 specialising in printing and book binding. The company is still in business today as Shaw & Sons producing stationery, professional forms, bespoke ceremonial items, election supplies and funeral products.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Ink a Day: P & J Arnold

Arnold's ink glass bottle. Private collection.

The scant online sources refer to P & J Arnold as a business established in 1724 in Aldersgate Street, London. Arnold, who were Henry Stephens' (of famous Stephens' Ink) competitors, produced "Arnold's blue-black Chemical Writing Fluid." Arnold's ink came in large stoneware made by J. Bourne & Son in Derby, such as the one shown here, and later on also in glass bottles. Arnold's merged with Stephens in 1942 after their works in Aldersgate were bombed. In 1967 both P & J Arnold and Henry C. Stephens Ltd were acquired by the Royal Sovereign Company.

The bottled pictured above would have come with a cork. The name Arnold's is embossed within an embossed scroll. Nice touch. Underneath the bottle the embossed number 3 denotes the number of fluid ounces contained within.

Arnold's ink glass bottle. Private collection.
Arnold's ink glass bottle. Private collection.
Arnold's ink patented bottle c. 1910. Source: eBay.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Samuel Beckett's doodles

Samuel Beckett by Edmund Valtman

"When inspiration ran low he had a tendency to do his little vignettes. He had a certain artistic talent. He did rather good little character sketches. They are there, I think, to keep the pen moving, and to stimulate the mind into more movement."

Samuel Beckett manuscript and doodles go on display by Tim Masters, BBC Entertainment & Arts, 9 June 1914.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Pen of Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin (1850-1904) author of The Awakening 
is considered a forerunner of feminism.

O what a lovely pen - how I adore this quality. Can anyone explain to me how hairs and such rubbish get at the point of a pen and make one's writing - not already perfect - look like the trail of a spider with his legs dipped in ink. I see no hairs in the ink bottle none on the paper or pen - and still here are visible proofs of them. They are like Topsey they "growed."

Kate Chopin (born Kate O' Flaberty), Saturday May 8th 1869, Private Papers, ed. by Emily Toth, Per Seyersted, p. 84.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Selling Pens

Like many sun-baked deep-wrinkled migrants seen in the streets of big cities the man in the streets of Beirut with the sleeping girl in his arms holds BIC pens in his hands. He has been called the pen seller of Beirut. These cheap, ubiquitous ballpoint pens with the all-familiar blue sweaty, plastic caps become a symbol of desperation. They are writing instruments only in name. In reality they are the thin line that separate this man from the humiliation of begging. The response to his plea is astounding:

The Pen Seller of Beirut

Syrian pen seller sparks fundraising campaign

Monday, 31 August 2015

Stationery Store Series: Dymocks of Sydney

To land in a new land and not seek out the stationery shops is unheard of for a certain category of people. And thus, sightseeing in Sydney had to include a visit to Dymocks which not only is the country's oldest Australian-owned bookstore but also a purveyor of stationery and office supplies. 

Dymocks' Stationery is on the ground floor adjacent to the bookstore on George Street and offers a variety of notebook and writing equipment brands in a traditional layout.  There is a fountain pen section, a comprehensive array of inks and notebooks and pens for every pocket.  There are Monte Verde, Pilot, J. Herbin, De Atramentis and Kaweco inks; all the colour range of Lamy; Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm 1917, Note Book by Apica (Japan), Life Noble notebooks (Japan) calligraphy pads as well as Chinese-made coloured loose paper. Pencils in stock included Palomino Blackwings and Goldfaber. 

If there wasn't any sightseeing to be done I would have spent more time in Dymocks. As it were one hour would have to do. 

Dymocks' fountain pen section
Glass cabinet full of fountain pens at Dymocks Sydney
The full Lamy - at Dymocks Sydney
Also: inks. J Herbin, De Atramentis, Pilot, Kaweco, Monte Verde...
Notebooks at Dymocks Sydney
The Leuchtturm1917 collection

The Note Book by Apica Japan collection
Calligraphy pads at Dymocks

Notebook by Clairefontaine collection at Dymocks
The pencil collection of Dymocks Sydney

Life Noble notebooks, Rhodias, loose ruled paper of colour!
Browsing never ends at Dymocks
Good bye Dymocks Stationery.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Past and the automaton in Scorsese's Hugo

I have always regarded the automaton in Scorsese's Hugo as a metaphor of the historian's quest for recovering and deciphering the past. The quest to piece the past together is perhaps not so much about a longing to possess some forgotten truth: it has to do with refusing to accept deletion, mortality - it is about installing order to an unknown and for this reason chaotic world. 

Unlocking the archive. The boy finds the key which will put the automaton into operation.
Putting the pieces together lulls us into safety. We cannot have disorder. We need classification, categories, causes and effects, solid interpretations, objectifications of uncertainty. There is such a thing as putting the past together, says the automaton. The automaton is itself the assemblage of its parts, neither male nor female, carrying a screwed-on Frankenstein monster-like face, always on the verge of speaking but mute, about to have an expression but remaining enigmatic with an emerging but never quite there Mona Lisa smile. 

When the key is finally produced and clicks into operation, the automaton proves to be a vessel of yet another cypher. Preserved and revered because it was thought to carry a message from the boy's dead father (what a great metaphor for a historical archive!), the automaton produces something entirely different (oh the joys of historical research and discovery!). The automaton's whole purpose was to preserve and reproduce a fragment of a forgotten film maker's work. It is a vessel of a historical record.

The whole elaborate contraption exists so that it can reproduce this image from the past, this fragment of the past external to itself yet the raison d'etre of its existence. Putting a pen holder to use, the automaton imitates a living organism as if to animate what has been dead and forgotten. The automaton, a monument of the past itself, produces and preserves another monument of the past. The past in which both monuments existed does not exist save within these monuments - within the automaton, the pen holder, the image. The materiality of the automaton - its cogs and wheels, its moves, its pen holder, the ink it uses - and the materiality of the image it produces - the painfully slow production of pen marks on paper makes the finished image even more stunning in its brutality - conceals the fact that the past is in fact dead.

Hugo and Isabelle marvelling at the automaton drawing in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

The past's reproduction, its material traces comforts us that not all is lost, that there is life after death, that there is order, truth, certainties. We can live happily ever after if only we try hard enough.

The automaton starting to draw in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

In the nostalgic and optimistic world of Scorsese's Hugo the relics of the past have a real connection with the present. In fact, they enhance the present by recovering the past even if that recovery is unavoidably incomplete. We are certainly imaginative enough to fill in the gaps and create our own version of the past in the present.

The automaton drawing an image from George Melies' old movie in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

Screenshots from Martin Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Writing instruments in David Hockney's art

Pencils, pen holders and inkpots in David Hockney's art. 

Photos from the exhibition catalogue, Hockeny Printmaker in Dulwich Picture Gallery, February to May 2014.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The virtuous sharpened pencils by Ian McEwan

Often when she was unhappy, she wondered what it was she would most like to be doing. In this instance, she knew immediately. She saw herself on the London-bound platform of Oxford railway station, nine o'clock in the morning, violin case in her hand, a sheaf of music and a bundle of sharpened pencils in the old canvas school satchel on her shoulder, heading towards a rehearsal with the quartet, towards an encounter with beauty and difficulty, with problems that could actually be resolved by friends working together. Whereas here, with Edward, there was no resolution she could imagine.

Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach, 2007.

Watch Ian McEwan talk about the novella on YouTube.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Francis' Underwood pen

Not surprisingly Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards uses an Underwood typewriter. But what pen does he write with? Suggestions welcome.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Secret Pencils

The gleaming photos of pencils that hang on the walls of Paul Smith at 9 Albermarle Street in London's Piccadilly are underlined by the shop's quiet opulence and elegant finery. If nothing else the tailored suits and fine garments exuding an air of hand crafted exclusivity match the lucid detail of the oversized writing instruments. Secret Pencils is a photographic project by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney which "seeks to savour the use of pencils - documenting them in stunning detail, and thereby showing the secrets of their use and revealing an insight into their users: professionals who have defined themselves and their craft with the help of the modest stylus." Scores of creative minds from Quentin Blake, Louis de Bernieres, Norman Foster and Anish Kappor to Mike Leigh, Stephen Fry and Paul Smith himself have allowed their pencils to be photographed for the project. The result: the revelation of the mundane object as the instrument of creativity but also as thing of beauty in and by itself.

Wood, graphite, and the human imprints of use are magnified to crisp detail so much so that the pencils are transformed from instruments of writing and designing to sculptures, totems, revered objects, tactile but at the same time removed from touch, intimate but also distant, worn from daily use and untouchable larger-than-life objects. The grand name of the pencil's user fades into obscurity as the materiality of the stylus is magnified. At the same time the pencil is made to bear witness to its user's creative process: as such it remains open to interpretation - are the marks of use and "misuse" on the body of the pencil signs of the user's thoughts, do they attest to hers or his personality? 

The pencils appear to have a personality of their own - their leads some sharpened with a knife, others perfectly pointy, their ends immaculate or chewed, their shafts ragged, carved or polished - set against single block colour backgrounds, illuminated, removed from the hand, put on a pedestal, they become talismans. Their markings previously obscured between index and thumb and in the anonymity of the pencil pot are now revealed by the lens as typographic wonders; their imperfections due to extensive use become badges of honour, necessary sacrifices to the altar of the creative process. 

These pencils are sacred in that they are removed from the familiarity of use - the sweat of the palm, the smudginess of graphite - and elevated into the status of icons. 

Pencil of Anish Kapoor - Secret Pencils

Pencil of Mike Leigh - Secret Pencils

Pencils of David Rock - Secret Pencils

Pencils of David Shrigley - detail - Secret Pencils

Pencil of Sir Peter Blake - Secret Pencils

All photos from the exhibition at Paul Smith, Albermarle St., London - Secret Pencils