Greg Clark is the author/editor/father of the now famous Fountain Pen Ink Sampler. This ink bible references almost every ink currently available in the United States (and beyond). Each sample is actually hand-painted on each volume, not simply digitally reproduced. But Greg did not stop at simply providing a useful accurate color chart. It's not even how everything started. He started by trying to fill the void of data on the physico-chemical characteristics of the numerous inks available on the market, to dissipate the rumors and myths about their safety for fountain pen use. Practically, this means that color samples are accompanied by tables giving their water resistance, acidity, as well as sun-fading resistance. All tests and color sampling are done by Greg himself. The latest version of the Sampler (just released) includes more colors than there are days in a year. For the price of a few ink bottles, it is a must-have for fountain pen lovers and color addicts. As usual, this short interview aims at learning a little more about a name known to most members of the fountain pen community.
When and how did you discover fountain pens (FP) ?
I first started using a fountain pen about 25 years ago. My wife to be, Kati Behrens, signed both of us up for a calligraphy class and we had to buy Sheaffer Calligraphy sets for the class. I so enjoyed using the inexpensive Sheaffer with the italic nib that I started using it for everything. Not too long after that I started Chiropractic College in Glendale, CA and used that pen for note taking all through the course.
Are you a daily user of FP ?
Yes. That and a pencil is all I use 90% of the time.
Would you define yourself as a collector ?
I think an accumulator is a better term. A collection implies some rhyme or reason to what one does. If I love a pen, It goes into the pile. I love my Conklin Crescent #20, my Aurora Optima and enjoy using my late father's Parker Vac a lot. If it writes well, I like it!
How many relations or friends around you are FP users ?
Well, my wife and daughter have used fountain pens off and on and have received several from me. Both have gotten a bit lazy and have reverted back to ball points and pencils.
What is your favorite FP ?
Today? Well let's see. Actually I think my favorite is my Waterman red ripple #56 with a flex #5 stub nib. Most of my pen friends who have purchased the Fountain Pen Ink Sampler have seen its product. I use it to address all of my large envelopes that I mail the Sampler in. What a writer!! I tell people that God used it for years to do his/her personal correspondence.
Do you have a preference for vintage or modern FP ? Why ?
No. I tend to use modern pens more as I feel that they are more replaceable if damaged or lost.? I feel a strong need to protect the nice vintage pens. It's like I am only borrowing them and have an obligation to protect them.
Do you ink all your pens ?
Most of them. I don't keep all of them inked but do want to see how they write. It's sort of like a tiny window into the personal life of someone long ago.
If you have one, what is your "rotation strategy" ?
Grab what turns me on today.
What is your favorite ink ?
Well, it would seem that it must be the "Ink From Hell". I did a PWI article some years ago on mixing inks. I mixed some 25 or 30 bottles of ink together and got an ink that looks just like Private Reserve Midnight Blues. It's a good thing I like Blue-Black ink!
How many ink colors do you regularly use ?
Mostly just the one - and will for years I think! I actually also use PR Fiesta red (on the Sampler again) and even black on occasion.
How many ink bottles do you have ?
All told - pushing 600 bottles I guess.
Do you try to match pen and ink for the best or do you stick with your favorite ink for all pens ?
No - that's way too organized for me. I just use what I have close by most of the time.
Do you try to promote the use of FP with the people around you ?
What is your nib preference ?
I love flex and stub nibs and the flexible stub is pure heaven to me.
What is for you the ideal pen size for comfort and balance ?
As I am knocking on the door of 60 years old, I am finding the larger sizes more comfortable to use. I like the size of the Delta 365 I have.
What do you look for when hunting for a fountain pen ?
A beautiful big nib (I don't like Parker 51s et al) , a striking pen and great feel and flow when writing. I prefer wet nibs that don't skip.
How did you come up with the idea of the Ink Sampler ?
The Sampler grew out of another article that I wrote for PWI. Actually, it was the first one that I did called 'Slaying The Ink Myths'. It had to do with the wealth of folk tales then circulating about the acidity and corrosiveness of the current fountain pen inks. Until I started that article, there was no public data on the acidity of fountain pen inks. The makers didn't want the buyers to know this data in most cases. What I did was to buy a pH meter and measure around 75 inks that I could get my hands on. As I measured each ink, I made a streak of the ink on the paper I was keeping the pH data on. Presto, a mini Sampler. A friend, Scott Summerfield saw it and wanted a copy too. And the idea was born.
Are you in contact with some of the Ink manufacturers you list ?
Yes, I am mostly in contact with the US distributors for the foreign inks but I do deal direct with the US brands. I talk with Terry Johnson of Private Reserve every few months and have been talking with Nathan Tardif of Noodler's inks a lot recently.
How many inks are referenced and displayed in the Sampler ?
I am just now finishing an edition that has over 375 inks! Who in the world would have ever guessed that we would have 375 inks to choose from? I get people all of the time saying to me, "Can you still buy ink for those old pens?" Oh Boy! And new ones come out each week!
Do you aim at being exhaustive, or do you focus on inks that are available on the market ?
I try to stay with inks that someone has a chance of finding in North America. A few like Doctor and BOSS are pretty exclusive to China but are such good inks that I put them in the Sampler.
How much time do you spend on ink hunting and on the production of the sampler ?
It goes in cycles. Right now I have been as busy as heck for 2 weeks cataloging and testing 37 new Noodler's inks and integrating them into the Sampler. Fairly soon I'll Be getting 3 new Private Reserve inks to add to the batch. It will slack off for a while once I get this batch finished, but not for very long as they sell oft fast!
How many copies do you typically ship every year ?
This also varies. It probably ranges between 300 and 500.
Are you astonished by the popularity of the Sampler ?
At first I was. Now I am more astonished at the number of available inks. The Sampler makes so much sense though, for the cost of 4 or 5 bottles of ink you can see 375. It just takes a lot of time and is all hand done. I think what makes the Fountain Pen Ink Sampler so popular is that the buyer knows that they are getting real samples of the actual inks. They know that the color samples are not just color photocopies of samples.
For more information and to order The Ink sampler, you can visit inksampler.com .