Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten note?
Well, you are not alone in that regard. The future of handwriting seems uncertain in today’s world of rapid technological advancements, where people prefer typing than writing by hand.
Enter, Mr Lai Kim Hoong of Pen Gallery and a group of ardent fountain pen lovers (in Canada, young university students or graduates dubbed the “fountain pen movement” have been known to bring back the writing renaissance of the fountain pen) who strive to keep classic fountain pen writing alive.
Check out some of the highlights from the interview below.
1. Tell us a bit about your background in writing instruments and love for the fountain pen.
Back in 1992, I used to work for Pelikan as a regional marketing executive in the stationery department and gained in-depth knowledge about the industry particularly in fountain pens. Subsequently, I decided to go into business selling writing instruments as an online business. For the past 20 years, I’ve served the community at large in Malaysia when it comes to providing high quality writing instruments at an affordable rate.
The fountain pen has a long history as a writing tool. In fact, it came before rollerball pens and ball point pens. I was fascinated with the engineering and mechanism used in fountain pens. My interest grew further when I discovered the various types of fountain pens. In addition, my participation in forums relating to fountain pens further sparked my interest and love for them.
2. What do you enjoy most about using fountain pens?
I enjoy the flexibility of beautiful strokes produced by fountain pens. Each fountain pen has different type of nibs. Like extra fine, fine, medium and broad. Each type of nib creates different strokes and writing outputs. Ink colour is equally important, too. At Pen Gallery, we have a selection of over 600 unique ink colours. The opportunity to use different types of ink colours and taking good care of the fountain pen is just one of the joys to be derived from the classic fountain pen.
3. Fountain pen vs Rollerball pen. What is your take on it?
Well, a rollerball pen writes smoothly and the only other plus point is instant refills! It is a great writing instrument for those who are looking for a hassle-free writing instrument. A fountain pen is totally different – it embodies a unique mechanism. Each type of fountain pen represents a ‘personality’ of its own. Comparatively, a rollerball pen is quite monotonous and all are more or less the same. Basically, comparing a fountain pen and a rollerball pen is like comparing handmade noodles and instant noodles!
4. Has there been an increase among Malaysians interested in fountain pens in the past 20 years?
When I started this business, most buyers were collectors of limited editions. They do so for the sake of collecting and not writing. Also, the customers were mostly middle-aged men. Rarely can you find students or teenagers using fountain pens as they did not know much about its existence.
Fast forward 10 years later, there are more young people developing an interest in fountain pens. They seem to be fascinated with various colours and ink used in fountain pens. The younger generation nowadays tend to regard writing instruments such as fountain pens as a lifestyle choice or fashionable item to own. Generally, the community at large in Malaysia seem to be more interested to explore the art of writing with fountain pens and are curious to know more about its unique features and use. Through our social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram, we not only promote quality writing instruments but also take the opportunity to educate our followers on fountain pens.
5. You have created two Malaysian-themed ink colours – Jalur Gemilang and Manggis. What are the reasons for doing so?
Every year, I aspire to create beautiful ink in line with a Malaysian theme. The Jalur Gemilang ink was created because I wanted people to know about the name and colours of our flag. This year, I decided to highlight a tropical fruit that is special in this part of the world, which is none other than the mangosteen. The ink created was purple with a green sheen, aptly named ‘Manggis’ (translated in English as ‘mangosteen’). It is important that the names of different types of ink are maintained in the Malay language. The purpose is to strengthen the identity of the particular brand of ink as Malaysian-made products. Through the creation of such inks, I hope to promote Malaysia and its specialty to other collectors around the globe.
6. What is your advice for those interested in the art of fountain pen?
It is a journey of discovery for many young people. The internet is a good place to start. Join the community be it here (Pen Gallery) or anywhere else. This will help you gain knowledge on the fountain pen. Learn to appreciate it as a unique writing instrument.
Finally, I would encourage people to visit the Pen Gallery as it is more than just a place to shop for writing instruments and ink. It is a community hub for people who share a common interest to come together or a place to network and socialise. Don’t hesitate to visit our store in SS2, Petaling Jaya, especially youngsters! You could just learn a thing or two about fountain pens from others passionate about this classic writing instrument!
* Featured image sourced from Chark Jen Wei
Edited by Archana Patrick