First, I believe most people buy a fountain pen for many "reasons", but one reason takes precedence and it has precious little to do with Reason: we are enamored with it; infatuated with it; besotted, smitten, captivated, enchanted. It seems to me that we buy a fountain pen the same way we buy a car or an expensive dress: we just can't get it out of our minds. We feel we have to have it, even when we think we shouldn't. And this, I believe, tells us a lot about the real reason we pursue our favorite pens and also tells us something about the "ideal" pen we are all looking for.
Old Classics student that I am, I believe that perfection in any object requires an ideal blend of form and function. This is why so many of our acquisitions—fountain pens being a good example—in time, lose their appeal. Just like the "perfect" house or the "perfect" car (and, I suppose for some of us, the perfect spouse) if its function in our lives isn't equal to its beauty, if it doesn't meet our practical needs as well as satisfy our aesthetic sensibility, it loses its value to us. What good is a beautiful two bedroom house if we have six children? How long will we be satisfied with our sporty convertible if we need to transport two Great Danes to the park? At the same time, if the apple of our eye depends upon fashion or fad, it will only be a matter of time before our eye begins to wander.
It is fine to dally with the latest vogue or to think of an inexpensive pen as disposable, but what we have come to refer to as a "Grail" fountain pen must satisfy our aesthetic standards and fulfill our utilitarian requirements if it is to stand the test of time. Of course one can argue that over time our aesthetic sensibilities and our practical needs may change (particularly regarding housing, transportation and—again—even domestic bliss), but when itcomes to fountain pens, there are two basic, universal characteristics that must continue to satisfy us, viz., Form and Function. We will continually, if only unconsciously, be asking ourselves, "Do I like to look at it?" and "Does it write the way I think a fountain pen should write?" Barring breakage or disfigurement or a change in our personalities, these two qualities should last forever in a pen of the highest distinction.
Every year when my birthday rolls around, I give myself a very special gift—a fountain pen. Specifically, an Edison fountain pen, or what I affectionately call an "Eddy." This year Brian Gray (the founder and creative force behind Edison Pen Company) and I had been talking for months about a design he was working on (with Aslan) for a new "production" pen. When his design was fine-tuned and the Collier came into being, I was enamored with its appearance, especially because it seemed to be a streamlined version of my then favorite Eddy, the #76. But what medium to make it from: that was the question.
For several weeks Brian showed me old standards as well as new materials he was acquiring. Then, about a week before my birthday, he called to say he had a new acrylic that looked like celluloid, was semi-opaque, and was his current favorite of all his media. The question he called to ask me was did I trust him enough to take it formy birthday pen without seeing it and therefore have a birthday "surprise", or did I want to see it first, in case I didn't like the material?
My first impulse was to see it, since once in a while Brian and I don't like the same materials. But as we were talking I suddenly, for no discernible reason, just decided to be brave. I just "knew" I wanted to trust Brian's opinion and, like the child inside me that loves birthdays and thrills to surprises, I blurted out, "Just make it. Use your favorite material and surprise me."
But then came the catch. Brian said that he would not be able to have it by my birthday, July 2, since he was trying to finish his new deck before having family over for a Fourth of July cookout. Of course I was disappointed, but since I celebrate my birthday "season" for a full month, I thought so much the better. It will really make this year's birthday season special by having my best gift arrive after the day itself.
Then, two days before my birthday, I turned on my computer to find an email from Brian saying he woke up really early that morning thinking of me and he just knew (the way I just knew to trust his judgment?) that he wanted to make my birthday pen. So he got out of bed, went to his studio and ground out my Collier. Even better, he had already sent it to me 2nd Day Air and it would arrive on my birthday. I ask you, just how special can a birthday get? Or the better question might be, "Just how special can a pen maker get?"
That Saturday, every time I heard a truck go by I ran to the front window. Sure enough, just when I had to be in the back yard for a few minutes, the doorbell rang and there was a mail carrier holding the tell-tale white Edison box inside of which I would find my Grail Edison pen made from Brian'snew favorite material, Antique Marble acrylic.
Those of you who remember my first review here of my first Eddy, the Huron, know that I have a really hard time using "the rating formula" for pen reviews. I imagine people either like what I write or really hate it, but I find it impossible to assign a numerical value to a work of art, which is what I consider my Eddies to be. Each one is made individually by hand to Brian's specifications and demanding standards of quality, with the client's individual preferences and idiosyncrasies taken into consideration. It would be like assigning a numerical rating to a Van Gogh painting or comparing the novels of Joyce to those of Chekov. I'm sure numerical ratings are helpful to people; I know they have been to me. But my mind just doesn't seem to work that way and since all "ratings" are subjective, I will try to be helpful in my own way. If I felt comfortable using numbers, I would, but I just don't seem to know how to do that.
So rather than act like an Olympic judge, let me just say a few words about the pen itself; but beware: I am besotted by this Collier. Also I feel obligated to make this disclaimer: I have never met an Edison Pen I didn't like, and a few that I absolutely love.
The craftsmanship of this pen is impeccable and unassailable, and no matter which medium you choose to have the Collier made from, the design and proportion will result in a perfectly pleasing pen. Because of its classic simplicity, timeless design, and rigorous craftsmanship, even the most demanding critic will find it difficult to fault the allure of the Collier. In black Ebonite it would easily be at home in the window of Cartier or under glass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for in Form it is undoubtedly a true work of art.
The Collier is the Platonic Ideal, the very archetype of Fountain Pen. If you choose the translucent Antique Marble acrylic, when you open thebox you will find yourself nearly breathless at the sight of it. (For a detailed look at the Collier in all available production media, see the photos below. These were taken from the Edison website.) My Collier, made from the Antique Marble acrylic, absolutely shimmers and radiates light, but it would appear from these photos that all three materials are strikingly beautiful.
Antique Marble Acrylic
Silver Marble Acrylic
There are two real surprises to the Collier. The first is how it feels in your hand, similar perhaps to the Pelikan M800 in heft and substance, not what one expects in an acrylic. The second surprise is that it appears at first inspection to be a celluloid pen. When you look closely, you can see the converter inside and when you hold it to the light you can see through it. I had to call Brian to ask what material my pen was made from. I was really shocked when he said it was, indeed, acrylic.
The feel of the pen in the hand is not something I can convey in words: substantial without feeling heavy; maneuverable without seeming lightweight or inexpensive. The only "problem" I had with my Collier in the beginning was that I had trouble keeping my eyes on what I was writing, rather than on what I was writing with.
The nib is my "Grail Nib" that Brian always puts on my Eddies now, a Jowo stainless steel duotone (my preference after Brian, yet again, asked me to trust him before choosing gold for my Huron) ground to a super smooth 1.1mm. Nibs on the production pen come in stainless steel, and all nibs are engraved with the Edison logo. If ordered through Brian you can order a custom ground or 18k gold nib. I prefer a highly smooth nib, as a rule, and to obtain feedback through my choice of writing papers.
Perhaps there is a third surprise (it was for me), which for the consumer may be the most fortunate aspect of the Collier, and that is that Brian chose to offer it as a production pen available through various retailers for only $150, rather than as a custom made pen available only through Edison Pen Company. The available materials in production mode are Antique Marble, Silver Marble, and Persimmon Swirl with stainless steel nibs in Fine, Medium or Broad. (See photos from Edison web site below.) Additional nibs may be purchased on Brian's web site and customization is always available.
Antique Marble Acrylic
Silver Marble Acrylic
I think no matter what material you choose for your Collier you will find it will quickly become your favorite pen to look at, as well as your favorite pen to write with—if you can stop holding it up to the light to see its gorgeous translucent qualities.
Almost every review of an Eddy mentions that the best thing about them is getting to work with Brian Gray. I know that is true, as I have worked with him now nine times. I would be embarrassed to admit I own nine Eddies, except for the fact that they are totally worth the price and every time I take mine with me someplace, at least one person comments on the beauty of my pen and asks to see it close up. The Collier is definitely worth its bargain price of $150, especially when you realize that for the life of the pen Brian is available to help keep it maintained and to repair them for you should anything go wrong.
Edited by krandallkraus, 04 September 2011 - 18:16.