Posts tagged calligraphy
Experiment 21: Beginner's Calligraphy with the Desiderata Icarus
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A few weeks before the Chicago pen show this year, I stumbled on the Instagram for The Desiderata Pen Company. The examples of calligraphy intrigued me, and as I read more closely, I realized the pens were dip nibs housed in a fountain pen type body. I had not previously heard of this possibility, but seeing that Pierre was from Chicago, I was hoping he would be at the show. 

It turns out, Pierre was at the show, and I got a chance to see his pens up close and chat with him Saturday morning of the show. It only took about five minutes of consideration after that conversation to decide to take a Desiderata pen home with me. I admittedly didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into. I did know that 1) I had an interest in learning more about calligraphy, 2) the Icarus pen was a beautiful hand crafted ebonite pen, and 3) I enjoyed writing with flex nibs, but was a little scared to do any serious calligraphy practice or to learn with vintage nibs.

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After taking Pierre's recommendation to read the User Manual carefully, I inked the Icarus up immediately in the hotel that night. At first, I was a little intimidated by the manual and the filling mechanism of the pen. However, after I got used to the pen, I can honestly say there was nothing to be intimidated by. The filling mechanism worked great and was easy to use once I watched Pierre's videos and tried it myself a few times.

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The replaceable G nib utilized in this pen is one of the biggest selling points for me. I never have to be concerned about breaking or ruining the nib in my practice, since the nib can be easily and cheaply replaced.   

What I didn't realize when I purchased the pen was that the replaceable nib meant that it was more susceptible to ink; meaning that it was recommended that you clean it after each use if you wanted to maximize the lifespan of the nib. I've tried several different cleaning regimens for the pen. At first, I cleaned it after every couple of uses (keeping in mind I was using it every day), and I did accidentally leave the pen inked for about two-three weeks once. The pen was fine, but the nib and feed were stuck pretty tightly with the dried ink, and of course, the nib needed to be replaced at that point. In general, I now prefer to clean the pen after each session. It's not difficult to clean, and I usually end up going through most of the ink capacity in a long practice session anyway. I like starting fresh, and I get the longest lifespan from my nibs using this method.

In that way, this pen is very different than my other fountain pens. I don't usually carry this pen to work or in my daily carry. This pen stays in my office, where I pull it out at least a few times a week to ink it up, practice my calligraphy, and then clean it and put it away. In-between sessions, it is a good looking addition to my desk. Even if this pen had a regular nib instead of the Zebra G nib, I would love it- although for different reasons. The ebonite body is both beautiful and a real joy to use in hand.

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For me, this pen is the perfect tool to use as I learn calligraphy. It allows me to get the real pointed pen experience in a more comfortable and portable method than a dip pen. I sometimes practice calligraphy at the kitchen table, or even on the couch in front of a movie. This just wouldn't be feasible with a dip pen set up. I also love that I can use the regular fountain pen inks I already have instead of buying specialized ink for my calligraphy practice. This gives me another great way to utilize my vast collection of ink, and it gives me a huge variety of colors and inks to use in my calligraphy.

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Regarding performance, I personally also find this set up easier to use and learn than dip pens. The feed keeps up with the ink flow nearly flawlessly, and I rarely have problems with skipping or railroading once I get the pen started. The Zebra G nib is particularly fun to use with sheening (Robert Oster Fire and Ice) and shading (Sailor Apricot) inks.

Writing sample with Sailor Sky High Ink.

Writing sample with Sailor Sky High Ink.

I enjoy using my Icarus pen, and if you are just getting started in calligraphy or if you are interested in trying a flex pen for writing or drawing I would recommend a Desiderata pen. Even more so, if you ever get a chance to meet Pierre in person, you should do it. He is kind, entertaining, and passionate about his work. I have also been testing out one of his new prototypes over the last few weeks, and if that prototype is any indication of where Desiderata is heading- I would keep an eye out on his website.

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