Surely you’ve heard of car shows, antiques shows, trade shows – but have you ever heard of a pen show? Yes, you read that right. A show entirely dedicated to ink writing instruments.
For those who don’t know much about the pen industry, it goes far beyond the dollar ballpoints at your local office supply store. For luxury pen makers, their products are works of art, each with their own intricacies that resemble unique pieces of jewelry – some carrying price tags reading hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Worth a visit is the first-annual St. Louis Pen Show, held June 28-July 1 at the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel.
Anne Morgan and her husband, Dave, are the directors of the St. Louis Pen Show, which they plan to make an annual tradition. The Morgans say it’s something unique that’s currently missing from our region.
“There are 16 pen shows around the country [each year], but they are mostly on the East and West Coast,” Anne explained. “There is one in Chicago and there is a very small one in Little Rock. We decided that, since St. Louis is right in the middle of the country, this would be a good place to have it.”
It’s designed to be an event that appeals to both newcomers and pen connoisseurs alike.
Nearly 100 vendors from across the United States will be in attendance at the three-day show, as well as traders from Europe and Asia. Pens at every price point [even as low as one dollar] will be on display.
A host of seminars and workshops will be held over the course of the weekend and will cover topics such as calligraphy styles, journaling, stationery, pen repair, pen appraisal and more. There is even something for the kids, who will enjoy their own seminar and scavenger hunt.
One local vendor that visitors should keep an eye out for at the pen show is a man who has made an impressive name for himself in the luxury pen industry – West St. Louis County resident and Parkway West alumnus David Oscarson.
West Newsmagazine asked Oscarson the same question you are probably thinking, “How does one get into the pen business?”
Oscarson said he was originally headed for a career in retail before he got the idea to create his own brand.
“I had spent some time in the pen industry, and also in the jewelry industry, and that’s when I thought, ‘Well, here’s an opportunity for a perfect marriage,’” Oscarson explained. “That’s why these pieces have a jewelry flare.”
The David Oscarson brand was born in 2000 and is now a well-known name in the industry.
Oscarson’s pens are characterized by extremely elaborate, ornate designs that each tell their own story – whether it be a place in the world, a historical figure, a moment in time, etc. – but perhaps the truest trademark of a David Oscarson pen is each one’s beautiful composition of guilloché and hot enamel, which gives them their vivid coloring and translucent look.
“What makes me exclusive is our use of guilloché work. It’s a technique that’s been used for centuries,” Oscarson said. “It’s a diamond engraving technique that engraves the silver, or sometimes gold. We crush glass and metal oxides, put the pieces in the kiln and melt the glass over the guilloché silver, and that’s what’s called a hot enamel. Some folks do it in an epoxy or a resin, but we kiln-fire it … what we do will last for centuries.”
Oscarson said designing a pen from start to finish often is a one- or two-year process.
“I’ll go to the drawing board, I do everything freehand,” he said.
The theme, or story, for each pen is intended to form a connection – perhaps to family heritage, a period in history, one’s profession, etc. For example, Oscarson has a pen dedicated to Alexander Fleming [who discovered penicillin] that is popular with medical professionals, and a Magna Carta themed pen that resonates with legal professionals.
Oscarson said his pens, which are sold locally at Clarkson Jewelers, can serve as an alternative form of “jewelry” for men. “Guys, you know, they’ve got a watch. They may have a wedding ring. That’s kind of it, in a jewelry store.”
“For a guy, he usually likes to talk about things to his friends. If somebody says, ‘Oh, is that a new watch?’ he won’t just say ‘Uh huh,’ he’ll say ‘Oh, let me tell you about this.’ Guys like to school each other on things and feel smart,” Oscarson laughed.
They’re a conversation piece, all with a story unique to each individual person.
What’s more, each of Oscarson’s pens is considered a limited edition. So, with so few of each model made, they’re a true prized possession for years and years to come.
At the St. Louis Pen Show, guests will be able to view David Oscarson’s collection and so many more talented artists of the like.
The best part about the show? All proceeds go to charity – a pen-related charity, of course.
“We are a 501[c] nonprofit with all of the proceeds going to teach children and adults how to read and write in cursive,” Anne said.
The St. Louis Pen Show costs $5 per day or $10 for a weekend pass; children under 12 are free.