Saturday, May 11, 2019

5 Questions with Jillian Joyce Tan, The Visionary Behind Everything Calligraphy and Vinta Inks

I have been using fountain pens for more than 10 years now, having done the shift to full fountain pen use in early 2008. Back then, most of us Pinoy fountain pen users had very limited local sellers of pen products to choose from. We considered ourselves lucky if we find fountain pen inks other than Quink, fountain pen friendly paper, or if we come across student pens in Recto.

Luckily for us, Jillian Joyce Tan, a fellow fountain pen user and member of our local group Fountain Pen Network Philippines started Everything Calligraphy, an online one-stop shop "happy place" for our local fountain pen community. Everything Calligraphy created their own products and brought in international brands such as Colorverse Inks, Field Notes, Franklin-Christoph, IWI Pens, Jinhao, Nemosine, Opus 88, and Robert Oster, among others. Today, EC, as we fondly call it, carries more than 50 local and international brands offering fountain pens, ink, paper, and accessories. Fountain pen enthusiasts await their annual anniversary sale where they offer products at discounted prices, and free demo lessons and ink buffet.

Last March, Jillian launched Vinta Inks, a brand of ink proudly produced in the Philippines using locally sourced pigments meant for fountain pens and calligraphy. Though I did not make it to the launch party, I chatted with Jillian a few weeks later and asked her a few questions, five of which are published here.

Jillian at the successful launch of Vinta Inks in March.

How did Everything Calligraphy start?

Jillian: Actually, the first brand I started was Elias Notebooks. Sometime around 2015, I was frustrated by the lack of good quality paper that would be compatible with fountain pens. So I searched for a good local source for fountain pen-friendly paper and that’s how Elias was created. Four years later, the brand expanded to carry notebooks, leather pen cases, pad papers, and so much more.

It was when I was working on Elias Notebooks that I decided to come up with an online store that would become a one-stop shop for all pen aficionados like myself, where they can purchase everything they would need from pen, paper, ink, to cleaning materials. I wanted to curate the products to feature quality materials from all over the world to be accessible to Filipinos whatever his or her budget is. And they don’t need to leave the house to find these items.

Elias pad papers are locally manufactured. Each pad has 80 sheets of acid-free 90 GSM paper and well-loved for the paper's tolerance to bleeding and feathering and ability to show the shading properties of fountain pen inks. These pad papers are available as blank, dot grid, or lined in small and large sizes at EverythingCalligraphy.Com

EC also offers Elias Notebook Inserts for Traveler's Notebook. Available in two sizes (regular and passport), the inserts have 40 pages of 90gsm acid-free paper that is suitable for fountain pens, calligraphy, and sketching. These inserts can be bought as one or as a set of three at EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

How big is Everything Calligraphy?

Jillian: Contrary to what some might think, the EC team is very small and we’re hoping to expand. In fact, we are looking for an operations manager, marketing manager, and custom relations officer. If anyone is interested in applying, they can email their CV to Currently, our team of six is very shorthanded and we’d love for more people to join us.

Everything Calligraphy joins craft festivals and shows. This was the EC table during the Craft Mania at Shangri-La Plaza in 2016.
Everything Calligraphy's Ink Buffet during their Anniversary Sale in September 2018. The famous Ink Buffet is on a long table covered with Elias Paper with sample vials of around 50 ink brands that EC offers from J. Herbin to Robert Oster. EC offers uninked Pilot Parallel pens so attendees can try the different inks on the table. They are also allowed to dip their uninked pens in the sample vials.

How do you select brands/products to include in Everything Calligraphy’s product line up?

Jillian: This is a great question! The primary selection of products stems mostly from the customers. Sometimes they introduce us to different brands as requests or specific ink colors they want to see more of. I also always read posts on social media and listen to what people look for. And personally, I love trying various products when I travel and if it passes quality control, then we decide to carry them.

Opus 88 Demonstrator pens were first offered in the Philippines by Everything Calligraphy. Get them from EverythingCalligraphy.Com.
IWI Pens Essential (top) and Handscript (bottom). Another brand that was introduced by EC to local fountain pen enthusiasts is IWI Pens from Taiwan. Get them from EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

You've been selling fountain pen inks from various brands at Everything Calligraphy for a while now. Why did you come up with the idea of creating your own fountain pen inks?

Jillian: Because people see the same team behind both Everything Calligraphy and Vinta, they tend to assume that they’re one and the same. I cannot emphasize enough how the two are separate brands. On one hand, EC’s goal is to curate the world’s best selection of writing materials into one store where Filipinos can purchase them. On the other hand, Vinta’s goal is to reach an international audience. Simply put, their trajectories are completely opposite each other. With Vinta Inks, I want to show the world that we can make world-class quality inks right here in the Philippines. And at the same time, I want to share a little bit of our history to the world and tell them more about this great, if sometimes, vexing country.

"Take a dip and write away." Proudly made in the Philippines, Vinta Inks are available in 10 beautiful and exciting colors. Get yours at VintaInks.Com.
Jillian with Dr. Jose Dalisay, Jr., founder of Fountain Pen Network Phillipines during the launch of 
Vinta Inks in the Philippines in March 2019.

How do you envision Everything Calligraphy in the next 10 years?

Jillian: Within the next ten years, I want Everything Calligraphy to have a bigger team. I hope to include more brands into the store, especially start-up brands both local and international. Hopefully, we can transfer to a bigger office as we’re pretty cramped right now. Our customers might even want to see us open a retail or pop-up store. 
Everything Calligraphy's ink table during their Anniversary Sale in September. 

Through the years, Everything Calligraphy has been true to its promise of building the most comprehensive writing paraphernalia store in the Philippines and continues to add new brands to their offering to make fountain pen use and collecting more interesting to Pinoy aficionados. To see their brand offerings, visit EverythingCalligraphy.Com.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fountain Pen Review: Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber

Have you ever seen a fountain pen so beautiful you can't forget it? Me, I have a list of these hard-to-forget fountain pens, and it includes the beautiful Conklin® Duragraph™ in Amber. I first saw a Duragraph™ Amber fountain pen in one of our local pen meets. I was just beginning to collect orange fountain pens then, and the Amber truly captivated me, but it was a few years later that I received one to review. In a conversation with Pen Chalet, they mentioned that they could send a Conklin® Duragraph™ for a review. I happily chose one in the beautiful Amber finish.

The first Duragraph™ fountain pen — a lever filler — was launched in 1923, and was considered to be 'the definitive' pen. Conklin named the model by combining the words durable and graph, thus, Duragraph™. An old American brand established in Toledo, Ohio in 1898, Conklin™ was revived by Yafa, Inc. in 2009. For the pen's 91st anniversary, Yafa, Inc. introduced a new Duragraph collection that brings a fresh, modern style to the timeless oversize flat top design. Crafted from quality hand made resins, the Duragraph™ is substantial in size, yet not so large to be unwieldy in the hand.

Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber fountain pen in box.

The Duragraph™ comes in a sturdy and classy blue leatherette box lined with soft, rich satin where the Conklin® logo is imprinted. A small elastic band holds the pen in place inside the box. Together with the Duragraph™ fountain pen, the box also contains two short international ink cartridges, an ink converter, ink refill instructions, a business card, and the Yafa Brands Warranty card.

The box also includes ink cartridges, a converter, and cards for ink refill and warranty.

The Duragraph™ collection is offered in seven beautiful finishes: AmberCracked IceForest GreenIce Blue, Orange Nights, Purple Nights, and Red Nights, paying tribute to the design of the first Duragraph™ pens. The Duragraph™ is also offered as a ballpoint accompanied with a refill and accepts the Monteverde USA® P1 and P4 refills.

The Duragraph™ Amber's color is a unique mix of orange and black with silky swirls of gold. This color combination brings warmth to the beautiful Duragraph™ Amber, enhanced by the translucent glossy resin. Under bright light, the nib and section ring are visible through the cap and the converter inside the barrel.

The translucent glossy resin of the Duragraph Amber is just beautiful. In bright light,
it has an exceptional sheen and shimmer.

The Duragraph™ fountain pen measures 5.6 inches long and weighs 28 grams capped and with a full converter. Without the cap, it is 4.9 inches long and weighs 14 grams with a full converter. If the cap is posted on the pen, it becomes uncomfortably long at 6.9 inches. This is the reason why I do not usually post my pens. Posting makes pens uncomfortably long and top heavy, but the Duragraph™ is a regular-sized pen and it can be used comfortably without the need to post the cap.

The Duragraph™ Amber's barrel, section + converter, and cap.
That's Robert Oster Orange Zest in the converter.

It is indeed helpful that the Duragraph™ can be fully taken apart. The threaded Conklin® converter can be easily disassembled, too.

The barrel has a black finial towards the end, separated from the body by a chrome ring. When the fountain pen is uncapped, and the barrel is separated from the section, one is left with the converter and the nib and feed assembly (holder, feed, and nib). Using a rubber grip, I was able to take out the screw-type nib and feed assembly from the metal section. I pulled out the nib and feed from the collar for complete disassembly. Disassembly was easy, but I won't recommend it to newbies to avoid breaking the feed, collar, or nib. 

I love pens that can be fully taken apart, such as the Conklin® Duragraph™. I always disassemble pens for thorough cleaning, even drying, and a complete look at their section, feed, and nib. Cleaning pens before reinking or storage is always a must for me.

Conklin® Duragraph™ Amber parts (from top): cap, barrel, section, piston driver, converter, piston rod/shaft, converter ring, collar (nib and feed holder), feed, and nib.

The clip of the Duragraph™ is a bit stiff, but it holds the pen securely in place and allows the pen to sit low in the pocket because it is mounted on the top cap. The cap of this pen bears Conklin®'s branding. The Conklin® logo is neatly engraved on the raised cap ring's clip side, and printed in white on the cap finial. On the other side of the raised cap ring, the pen name, Duragraph™ is engraved in the famous model script font, with six small crescent moons — three on either side — a trademark symbol of the Conklin Pen Company.

The Conklin® logo is neatly engraved on the clip side of the cap ring.
Duragraph™ is engraved on the other side of the cap ring, with three crescent moons on either side.
The original Conklin® logo is embellished on the cap finial.
The beautiful translucent barrel of the Duragraph™ Amber without a converter inside.
The converter inside the pen's barrel is partly visible here. See the ink bubbles?
The threads in the Duragraph™'s barrel and cap. The resin's mix of colors in this pen
is beautiful and truly amazing.

The Duragraph™ can be filled with ink using standard international cartridges or through a converter, both included in the box. The threaded converter screws onto the section for a secure fit, preventing ink spills when the converter is accidentally pulled out. The metal section of the Duragraph™ adds to the durability and stability of this pen.

The Duragraph™ converter has threads so that it screws onto the section for a more secure fit. This converter is from a Monteverde Prima, but it's exactly the same as the one on the Duragraph™.

The Duragraph™ is offered in a choice of fine, medium, or stub nibs. The two-toned Duragraph™ medium nib is engraved with the "Conklin®" brand name and “Toledo USA” mark, while the nib size is engraved on the nib's right shoulder. What makes this nib unique is the crescent-shaped breather hole. The medium nib on this pen is smooth and it writes well, but I was surprised to see that it does not write the same Western medium width that I am used to. It's not a soft one, but it's definitely not a nail. It gave me a couple of hard starts in the beginning, but I remedied that with some tweaks to the nib and feed and by using ink with good lubrication.

The Conklin® Duragraph™ nib has a unique crescent-shaped breather hole.
The Conklin® Duragraph™ is a full-sized pen similar in length and diameter as a Lamy AL-star or TWSBI ECO.
Uncapped, the Duragraph™ is shorter than the Lamy AL-star and TWSBI ECO,
but it's still comfortable to write with.

The Duragraph™ is my first Conklin® fountain pen, but it definitely won't be the only Conklin® in my collection. Designed as a traditional flat top, the Duragraph™ is a full-sized pen that is well built, fits in the hand well, and is comfortable to use. There are seven beautiful finishes to choose from, and a variety of nibs to go with each pen. 

I am happy with the Duragraph™ Amber and will recommend it to those who want to explore and know the brand. This is a great pen, and I will consider getting another one in the future. I'd like to get one in the Orange Nights finish, because, well, it's orange, and I read that the Duragraph™ Orange Nights is Yafa's homage to Delta's Dolcevita line. Get one for your collection.

The medium nib on this Duragraph™ is not soft, but it's definitely not a nail.
It's comfortable to use for long periods of writing.

The Conklin® Duragraph™ in this review is provided by Pen Chalet where it retails for US$65. For more details on purchasing pens from Pen Chalet, visit their website at

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fountain Pen Review: 2018 Special Edition Lamy Safari All Black

Lamy has completed its trio of matte-finish Safari pens with All Black in 2018. After launching Dark Lilac (2016) and Petrol (2017), Lamy added its darkest Safari to the limited/special edition pen series. Lamy's 2018 Safari pen is called All Black, and it has a black clip, nib, finial, and section/grip.

I have a fountain pen, but the All Black Safari collection also includes a rollerball and a ballpoint. In 2014/2015, when the neon Safari pens (Neon, Neon Lime, Neon Coral) were launched, Lamy started calling the year's Safari and AL-star pens as 'special edition' instead of 'limited edition.' The Safari and AL-star pens after that period were then called special edition pens. The Special Edition All Black Safari in this review is from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, Times Trading Company.

All Black Safari fountain pen in its special edition box.
A T10 ink cartridge and a new Z28 converter are included in the box.

Lamy released the All Black Safari fountain pen in a packaging similar to that of the Dark Lilac (2016) and Petrol (2017). Instead of the old, bulky plastic pen box, Lamy now uses laminated cardboard boxes with the year's color theme for their special edition pens. The laminated pen box is enclosed in a plain white sleeve.

Last December, fans and fountain pen collectors waited for the 2018 Safari color with wild guesses on which color it would be. The wait seemed endless to some, but when Lamy finally announced that the 2018 Safari will be 'All Black,' mixed comments flooded fountain pen groups all over the world. I, too, was a bit baffled by Lamy's choice of color because there are two black Safari pens already -- Charcoal/Umbra and Shiny/Glossy Black. When I received the pen, I was surprised that the new All Black is unique and totally different from the previous two black pens. But, yes, it's ALL BLACK.

Lamy Safari is a student pen, often called 'starter pen' by fountain pen enthusiasts. The All Black Safari with its matte finish is still made from the sturdy ABS plastic – the same material used in Lego blocks, keyboard keycaps, refrigerator walls, and the filament commonly used in 3D printers. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian, the first Safari was presented during the 1980 Frankfurt exhibition (read more in Lamy's Company History) and has been in Lamy's regular production since then. Despite some fountain pen enthusiasts' low regard for this plastic pen, many fans around the world collect the Safari and its aluminum cousin, Lamy AL-star.

Some people dislike the Safari's triangular grip, saying it is uncomfortable and annoying. This feature, however, is designed to make writing easier — it helps users to get a firm and secure grip on their pen. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents a user’s fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. I do not find the triangular grip uncomfortable at all. I actually do not notice it when I'm using my Lamy fountain pens.

Lamy's interchangeable nibs are very useful. A Safari fountain pen uses the same feed and nib as those on the Vista, Al-Star, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. Due to the color difference, my nib options for the All Black is limited only to a broad nib from an older Safari. Safari fountain pens bought in the Philippines have medium nibs, but other nib sizes are available: extra-fine, fine, broad, and left-handed. The Safari can also be fitted with italic nibs ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm.

The anodized black nib of All Black Safari fountain pen writes smoothly out of the box.
The triangular grip is meant to 
help beginners, but some people find it uncomfortable.
All Black's finial (cap top) is the same as those installed in Dark Lilac and Petrol Safari fountain pens.

The All Black Safari's parts are barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), converter, and cap. The Z28 converter (a newer version of the Z24) was included in the box, together with a T10 ink cartridge. Safari fountain pens measure 5.5 inches when capped, 5 inches without the cap, and 6.5 inches if the cap is posted. It's a lightweight pen and can be used for extended periods of writing. The cap with the oversized clip is 2.5 inches long, the length from the nib to the converter is 4.6 inches, while the barrel measures about 3 inches.

The proprietary piston operated Z28 converters are used to fill Lamy fountain pens with ink from a bottle, but T10 Giant Ink cartridges are also available.
I had fun disassembling the All Black Safari and Z28 converter. I often do disassembly of my fountain pens to thoroughly clean the section, feed, and nib before inking/reinking.

All Black (top) and Charcoal/Umbra (bottom). Notice the difference in shade? All Black has a deeper, darker shade, while Charcoal/Umbra is lighter, looking almost gray in bright light.

Barrels of the All Black (top) and Charcoal/Umbra (bottom).

Even their nibs are different! The nib on All Black is darker than the one on Charcoal/Umbra.

Lamy introduced the Z28 converter in 2015/2016. I got the Petrol with a Z28 converter but did not write about it. The Z28 is an update to Lamy's Z24 converter. A proprietary converter, Z28 still got two nipples on either side for a secure fit inside the pen. See photos and captions below for more details about the Lamy Z28 converter.

The metal ring on Z28 (bottom) has changed to chrome matte finish, compared to the Z24's black finish. The new converter's tube is clear/transparent, while the previous one is frosted.

The Z28's turning knob is more square and matte finished. Also, the Lamy logo is now debossed on the Z28, while the logo on the Z24 is embossed.
The Z28's bottom is also different than the Z24's flat end.

The new trio of Lamy Safari fountain pens in matte finish: Dark Lilac (2016), Petrol (2017), and All Black (2018).

The medium nib on the All Black Safari writes smoothly out of the box. I inked it with Lamy Black ink. Lamy did not release a new ink this year as they already have a black ink in their collection.

Lamy Safari through the years.
Limited and special edition Safari fountain pens from 2008 Lime (topmost) to the 2018 All Black (bottom).

Similar to Dark Lilac and Petrol, the All Black Safari is a unique Safari. The dark color of this pen is eye-catching and a sure standout in any pen case. It's a different Lamy Safari, and another one to add on to my Lamy Safari collection.

The All Black Safari is a special edition pen, so you better get one now. It's almost sold out, and to date, Lamy will not be making this special edition pen anymore. Go get yourself one now!

Lamy Safari pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a global search of Lamy retailers, visit:

In the Philippines, the All Black Safari (and other Lamy products) is exclusively distributed by Times Trading Company, and available in leading bookstores and stationery specialty stores nationwide. 
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