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Nakaya Portable Custom Maki-E


mongrelnomad
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I ordered this pen at a very difficult time. My darling best friend, Sufi – a mongrel my wife rescued from a building site at the turn of the millennium – was dying of a long, debilitating illness. On the eve of what would prove to be her last stay in veterinary hospital, I decided that, already wounded and seething, I would need something to remember her by when the inevitable happened.

 

I’ve previously ordered both from Nakaya directly and from Classic Fountain Pens (CFP) and considering past experience, decided once more to approach John and his troupe in California. Dealing with Nakaya is not necessarily an unpleasant experience, but the culture and language barrier, combined with the inevitable google translate, can cause ambiguity in communication where – for this project especially – I required absolute clarity.

 

CFP did not disappoint: a few days of email to-and-fro-ing led to a series of pictures being sent, and the conclusion of a design aesthetic: “Sufi and Chloe chasing away a crow”, both a poignant (to me) symbol of the immutability of memory, and a literal representation of one of their favorite pass-times. A maximum budget was also proposed (be clear: in the world of custom works, the maximum budget is the final cost).

 

15048257547_5caf6ecf4a_b.jpg

 

The brief was passed to Nakaya, and a few weeks later a sketch was delivered. It was perfect bar the order of the dogs (Sufi always took the lead; Chloe followed) – a minute on photoshop and the design was approved.

 

By this point, Sufi was gone; euthanised as I held her (so thin, so broken) in my arms, buried in a shady spot beneath a tree. And so the wait began, and with it the process of acceptance that feels so much like forgetting. Almost a year after the process began, I got an email to say the pen had arrived, and within a week, I was opening the box in Tel-Aviv.

 

15234437132_eed8a194aa_b.jpg

 

There is a moment of recalibration with every custom pen that comes the first time the finished article is unpacked and held, the details taken in. Unlike pens mass-produced on a conveyor belt, the end result is a complete unknown. Things that are usually taken for granted (tactility, finish, texture) are question-marks, and over the course of deciding, of tweaking, of ordering, a platonic ideal builds and grows and exists in the commissioner’s mind – the pen that is expected, the pen that is desired. Then, when the actual real physical object is something different – less, or more; different – the break occurs and the new, real relationship begins.

 

15048045099_f190e11b10_b.jpg

 

With most pens, this reappraisal process is purely physical; here, the primary disappointment was emotional. I unpacked the pen, felt its weight, the perfectly smooth black urushi, the delicately layered maki-e – silver and gold for Sufi, silver for Chloe – the stark simplicity of the design echoing the unadorned curves of the shape . And then I repacked it and put it away. I think I cried a bit too.

 

15231721861_5cc5c507be_b.jpg

Sufi

I had been giddy with excitement, for somehow, foolishly, I must have believed that having a pen in her likeness would bring Sufi back. But a pen is a pen and my best friend is dead; I was a fool to think otherwise.

 

15211784066_e6e0f333f2_b.jpg

Chloe

A few weeks later, I was able to start again. I was able to appreciate the fine detail of the artist, the flawlessness of the work, the eerie perfect luster of the black urushi gloss. I noticed too the shape of the paw-adorned section (slightly more grooved than the one on decapod, and slightly less comfortable for it), and how the usual irritation of the four-thread cap not lining up was not an issue in this design. I felt how the rhodium plating turned the usually soft and supple 14k gold Platinum nib into a Sailor 21k mimicking nail, and decided the the XF nib was too fine and scratchy for me, even after John Mottishaw’s fettling (it would soon be replaced by a similarly rigid rhodium F).

 

15048241067_8672834d66_b.jpg

 

15234437922_0c6671ba74_b.jpg

Slowly but surely, I began to use it. First it found its way into my tertiary Sage Brown case and then into my secondary. Now, finally, after six months I feel it has been sufficiently decontaminated of that initial flush of emotional impotence, to the point where it is what it should always have been (and all it could ever have been): a beautiful momento of a passed time and a missed friend; one that happens to also be an exceptionally good pen.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. Following requests, I have conducted a separate comparative review of Nakaya, Romillo and Hakase in order to provide an overview of the daunting task of commissioning a custom pen. If you are interested, it can be found here.

Edited by mongrelnomad

Too many pens; too little writing.

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I ordered this pen at a very difficult time. My darling best friend, Sufi – a mongrel my wife rescued from a building site at the turn of the millennium – was dying of a long, debilitating illness. On the eve of what would prove to be her last stay in veterinary hospital, I decided that, already wounded and seething, I would need something to remember her by when the inevitable happened.

 

I’ve previously ordered both from Nakaya directly and from Classic Fountain Pens (CFP) and considering past experience, decided once more to approach John and his troupe in California. Dealing with Nakaya is not necessarily an unpleasant experience, but the culture and language barrier, combined with the inevitable google translate, can cause ambiguity in communication where – for this project especially – I required absolute clarity.

 

CFP did not disappoint: a few days of email to-and-fro-ing led to a series of pictures being sent, and the conclusion of a design aesthetic: “Sufi and Chloe chasing away a crow”, both a poignant (to me) symbol of the immutability of memory, and a literal representation of one of their favorite pass-times. A maximum budget was also proposed (be clear: in the world of custom works, the maximum budget is the final cost).

 

15048257547_5caf6ecf4a_b.jpg

 

The brief was passed to Nakaya, and a few weeks later a sketch was delivered. It was perfect bar the order of the dogs (Sufi always took the lead; Chloe followed) – a minute on photoshop and the design was approved.

 

By this point, Sufi was gone; euthanised as I held her (so thin, so broken) in my arms, buried in a shady spot beneath a tree. And so the wait began, and with it the process of acceptance that feels so much like forgetting. Almost a year after the process began, I got an email to say the pen had arrived, and within a week, I was opening the box in Tel-Aviv.

 

15234437132_eed8a194aa_b.jpg

 

There is a moment of recalibration with every custom pen that comes the first time the finished article is unpacked and held, the details taken in. Unlike pens mass-produced on a conveyor belt, the end result is a complete unknown. Things that are usually taken for granted (tactility, finish, texture) are question-marks, and over the course of deciding, of tweaking, of ordering, a platonic ideal builds and grows and exists in the commissioner’s mind – the pen that is expected, the pen that is desired. Then, when the actual real physical object is something different – less, or more; different – the break occurs and the new, real relationship begins.

 

15048045099_f190e11b10_b.jpg

 

With most pens, this reappraisal process is purely physical; here, the primary disappointment was emotional. I unpacked the pen, felt its weight, the perfectly smooth black urushi, the delicately layered maki-e – silver and gold for Sufi, silver for Chloe – the stark simplicity of the design echoing the unadorned curves of the shape . And then I repacked it and put it away. I think I cried a bit too.

 

15231721861_5cc5c507be_b.jpg

Sufi

I had been giddy with excitement, for somehow, foolishly, I must have believed that having a pen in her likeness would bring Sufi back. But a pen is a pen and my best friend is dead; I was a fool to think otherwise.

 

15211784066_e6e0f333f2_b.jpg

Chloe

A few weeks later, I was able to start again. I was able to appreciate the fine detail of the artist, the flawlessness of the work, the eerie perfect luster of the black urushi gloss. I noticed too the shape of the paw-adorned section (slightly more grooved than the one on decapod, and slightly less comfortable for it), and how the usual irritation of the four-thread cap not lining up was not an issue in this design. I felt how the rhodium plating turned the usually soft and supple 14k gold Platinum nib into a Sailor 21k mimicking nail, and decided the the XF nib was too fine and scratchy for me, even after John Mottishaw’s fettling (it would soon be replaced by a similarly rigid rhodium F).

 

15048241067_8672834d66_b.jpg

 

15234437922_0c6671ba74_b.jpg

Slowly but surely, I began to use it. First it found its way into my tertiary Sage Brown case and then into my secondary. Now, finally, after six months I feel it has been sufficiently decontaminated of that initial flush of emotional impotence, to the point where it is what it should always have been (and all it could ever have been): a beautiful momento of a passed time and a missed friend; one that happens to also be an exceptionally good pen.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. Following requests, I have conducted a separate comparative review of Nakaya, Romillo and Hakase in order to provide an overview of the daunting task of commissioning a custom pen. If you are interested, it can be found here.

 

 

 

thank you for sharing with more details over your initial account of this wonderful pen.

In case you wish to write to me, pls use ONLY email by clicking here. I do not check PMs. Thank you.

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Dear Mongrelnomad,

What a touching story, thanks for shearing it with us!

My little dog , named Dientje, a female schipperke of 10 years was unfortunately diagnosed with Cushing early this year.

Despite an operation we see the illness is gradually taking over again, so we feel her time with us is shortening.

So I feel perfectly what a difficult time you went trough.

Your remembrance idea with a dedicated personalized Maki-E fountain pen is simply awesome, congratulations !

Beautiful pen which surely will remind you of the pleasant times you spend with your beloved dog.

Take care

Francis

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Dear Mongrelnomad,

What a touching story, thanks for shearing it with us!

My little dog , named Dientje, a female schipperke of 10 years was unfortunately diagnosed with Cushing early this year.

Despite an operation we see the illness is gradually taking over again, so we feel her time with us is shortening.

So I feel perfectly what a difficult time you went trough.

Your remembrance idea with a dedicated personalized Maki-E fountain pen is simply awesome, congratulations !

Beautiful pen which surely will remind you of the pleasant times you spend with your beloved dog.

Take care

Francis

 

Francis - I am so sorry to hear about your beloved Dientje. It is so difficult to lose them, but they never truly leave us.

Too many pens; too little writing.

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Very sad to hear of your loss, but what a great way to remember your dog !

That is a true work of art, with a story to tell; a background to the image !

 

Thanks for sharing

 

Kind Regards.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but then again I wasn’t on that particular job.” - Brian Clough

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A most touching story and such a wonderful way to remember your special friend. I lost my best friend over 10 years ago now and it still hurts and warms my heart to remember our limited time together. He still sits by my bedside in a Remembrance Case so I can talk to him when I really need a close friend.

The pen is a glorious statement of your relationship and love for your Sufi.

 

Warmest regards.

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The most touching story and a beautiful pen.

I feel your warm heart about your beloved dog.

 

I have little maltese and she is my sweetheart.

 

Warmest regards.

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mongrelnomad - your story made me cry, especially the comment about how acceptance can feel like forgetting. I held my love of 14 years as she faded away a few months ago -the sweetest dog I had ever meet.

 

I think you gave her a great honor having her memorialized on a pen. Thank you for sharing your journey.

If you want less blah, blah, blah and more pictures, follow me on Instagram!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Dear mongrelnomad

I highly respect and understand the loss of a dear friend.

I recently lost a 13 year old border collie ,which was a true and honest friend as well.

It is hard to bear and will take quite some time to overcome

Hopefully your writing with this exquisite pen can help you alleviating this pain and loss

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That's just... beautiful. I am trying to figure out a way to express just how *right* this idea is but failing.

True bliss: knowing that the guy next to you is suffering more than you are.

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  • 1 year later...

What a wonderful review, and an even more wonderful story (albeit tinged with potent sadness). I am sorry to revive and old thread, but I was struck by the meaning behind this pen and had to comment. I hope you are doing well now. In the end, memories are all we have of one another, and sometimes, just sometimes, that is enough.

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  • 5 years later...

Reviving this long ago thread, this inspired me to get a pen in memory of my dear Mayo who passed after being with me for 16 years. I went with Aesthetic Bay for my order and I just did gold pawprints and not much customization. Also ordered another one with the turtle stopper dedicated to my tortoise Waves who is alive and well. Having a pen in memory of lost loves won’t bring them back but somehow the idea of having a memento brings me comfort. Anyway, all I wanted to say was thank you for this thread and for sharing your story. 

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