What are your favorite pens to use in mail art?  I have a few good (sort of) ones for my regular-size collage work -- for applying lines, not for actually writing -- but they aren't turning out to be great for mail-art scale.  New ones for writing, asemic writing, drawing, and outlining are needed.  All suggestions welcome.

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Ahh, yes this touched me. I remember so well that week before school; organizing,fixing up and looking at my stuff. Better than when I organized my candy from Halloween.
Same here. By early August I was sick of the summer floundering and dying to get school supplies for the new unknown year. Didn't love school that much, but the supplies! My pals thought that was nuts -- didn't want to go back to school, didn't give a rat's patooty about pencils and pens and rulers and erasers and pouches. Weren't we lucky.

Thanks everyone, and now new issues: how to keep a simple bamboo dip pen clean and in good working order?  Pen and ink (unbelievably) is one of the few art techniques I've never experimented with, but today I bought a big fat bamboo dip pen (it is 3/4 inch in diameter, I LOVE it) and then a thinner "regular" size one, also wood (and with a brush hidden at the other end, it turns out). Also bought black sumi ink, and tonight had an exciting time trying these new materials out for the first time.  This sample of the very first thing I did (with the fat bamboo pen) will show why I have some questions!:After reading online, I've learned more about holding the pen and how to work it to avoid blotches, for example.  One suggestion that appears everywhere is to use a pulling rather than pushing action. That's a bit strange for a left-hander, but by the second or third line I was pulling the pen -- from right to left!

All suggestions welcome, but my main question is how not to ruin the pens and have to replace them every few weeks, which I can't afford to do.  The helper in the store said to clean them under running water, to avoid letting any ink dry in the split part and make it impossible for ink to run up the nib.  But if I want to work with both pens for an hour or two without rushing to the washroom every five minutes to clean a pen, how is that done?  Can you leave a wood pen sitting in shallow water for that amount of time, to avoid letting the ink dry in it but also avoid leaving the studio to clean it before the time is up?  Or do you just dip it in a bin of water near you in the studio and wipe it off with a towel and it's good till next time?

How long is it ok to leave ink on the pen before cleaning?

I spent a lot of the evening trying to find answers to these questions online and there's an answer for just about every  question except these.  Could find nothing.

Frieder and Catherine, you each showed wood ink pens in your photos, some with metal nibs, some one-piece wood pens like I've now got.  How do you care for yours?

Anyone else with suggestions, I am all ears, thank you kindly ~


Nancy I think you should just rinse the pen in water and wipe with kitchen paper towel. At the end of the session maybe wash with some soap ready for next time. Works for me!

And I LIKE your blotches by the way!

All so helpful, thank you! Frieder, I like how you are "rude" to your pens as I tend to be rude to all my supplies. They seem to enjoy it. Just did more work with the pens this afternoon and am liking them very much, and kept a little water there, Lesley, like you recommended and then would just wipe them. But if Catherine gets away without even cleaning with water, maybe she has a secret we need to know, eh?

Catherine, what kind of ink do you use? I thought sumi ink is basically india ink -- the store guy said that. ?  Yah, I have a milion different things in the studio to use, Guido, but feel the need to go "classical" when I'm first trying ink, then branch out. Besides, I do have a thing for pens, period. There are so many possibilities, though, as you say. I played around with rocks today too. Your etching into plexi is a very interesting idea for printing.

The blotches I fell in love with about 5 minutes into today's work! I'm curious about using your fingers, Alicia -- your work doesn't look like fingers were involved, or maybe it's just the pieces I've seen ...

The ink question: Sometimes I mix different inks smetimes i make myself by the chines way of inkmaking with a stone.If I want really perfect black I mix a little red ink into the black ink. Now I work with a mixture of different old inkrests mixed together, sometimes they are very fat and I hav to mix some water or inkthinner?( Tuscheverdünner) from Kremer Pigmente in it. Try and look what happen...
A little red mixed in with the black sounds perfect, Frieder, I will remember that.
Just wrote a reply to you all and it landed smack in the middle of everyone else's. You may need a GPS to find it.

You must be a genius, Catherine, you found it without the GPS!  "Bister" -- is that stain? Usually different shades of brown, and it soaks into the wood. In the art supply store yesterday there was an ink that was brown-colored. It looked extremely nice, but does it come out onto the paper too light-colored?

Do you mean india ink is lighter colored, or less thick, than sumi? Maybe the store guy steered me wrong.

You and Guido are raising my curiosity in a big way:  when you etch into plexi and then print, what do you brush or pour onto the plexi for the print? Is it ink, maybe watered-down?  It's hard to picture in my mind.

Oh yes, I've seen some of those Rembrandt drawings in museums, I now realize. Isn't that beautiful. Dark browns are very appealing to me, and I'd like to use them, but as you say, if they are "fugitive" (do not last under UV light), then I am afraid to use them. Thank you so much for all this info, Catherine -- the plexi printings sound like great explorations, I will have to try! Thanks again for explaining so well.
Nancy, I never use pens, too classical for me, sometimes I uses brushes for my "asemic signs" but very often "weird" materials because then you really can create surprises. I love to use the branches of trees for instance and also tiny wires or unfold paper clips, sometimes even sharp stones, you name it, you got it. I have pens of course, also bamboo ones but I rarely use them. Same thing with "impressions of images". I carve in styrofoam, ink and print them. I carve in slates of rooftops, ink and print them, I make dry etchings in plexi glass with drills, ink and print them. Some of my teachers thought I was mad but gave me enough freedom to experiment. Anyway, it was that or the high way for me. I had fun during 4 years in academy, went from painting to etching to ceramics which was not allowed, so I have no "degree" but I know a lot and anyway I have a job outside art to support me. So the purpose for me was not to have an art degree.

an international award winning calligraphist, recently met, gave me a pen last week. she said it is her favorite. It creates very delicate lines with no variance. Kind of like the old Rapidograph pens, but these don't clog up. but then the splotches and drips create the magic in my mind.  The name is Pilot G-Tec-C3.  I prefer to use my fingers.





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