The Graf von Faber-Castell Guilloché

They say that even objects have a soul. A piece of wood bears the traces of its previous life, embarking on a new one, reincarnating as a utility and leaving behind its peers and sailing into a new life. Be it a match, or a scepter, or a pen; it will continue being.

But does it have a gender?

God created man, says the Bible, and the woman is part of a man, substance of its substance. Biology says that gender is determined by chromosomes, selfish genes, randomness, or these days, human intervention. Gender identities are socially constructed, they say, and there is nothing “natural” about it. Everything is the work of man, a product of his hand as well as his mind.

So is this fountain pen.

An Elegant Fountain Pen

If a Montblanc is a symbol of status, the Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pens lay at the intersection of multiple symbolic meanings. Each one of these ideas relates to a different aspect of the brand, and it will be impossible to enumerate and say something about each one of them in here. Suffices to say that this particular pen is a rather overlooked part of the entire “Graf” collection, that includes some of the finest fountain pens out there with strong quality characteristics.

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The guilloché, we learn, is a decorative technique that uses repetitive patterns. It is sometimes produced by turning the item into an intruding instrument, revolving in circles, and producing the patterns with different kinds of lines. This particular one is a checkered pattern on a rather slim gray body, producing a two-tone straight line pattern. On the face of it, it may appear to be something common and not particularly noteworthy. But this would be wrong, in my opinion. You have to hold it in your hands and look at the patterns closely to see what I mean. The gray two-tone chiseled body is protected by a chromium base and a matching cap. It is presented in a gift box, wrapped in a piece of dust-cloth, a small sac à poussiere. As is the case with the entire Faber-Castell pens, this one accepts international standard cartridges and comes with a converter.

What Makes Faber-Castell Shine: The Nib

On the substantive side, the nib is rhodium-plated. This particular pen has an OM (oblique medium) nib, which is an absolute pleasure to write with. It leaves an interesting line on the paper, with sufficient line variation and an oblique slant that will give your Sutterlin, for instance, a tremendously charming character. I used Pilot’s Iroshizuku Syo-Ro turquoise ink for the first time, and I can say that the shades that are coming out are pronounced and elegant.

A beautiful writing instrument, it lays an interesting line on the paper with every ink that I have used it with. It is light, and the nib is yet another manifestation of the signature quality of Faber-Castell nibs with their renowned smoothness.

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Iroshizuku Syo-Ro on sketch paper

A Pen With a Gender?

I think it is sexist to designate genders to objects. What does a “female” car really mean? Preposterous a claim as it is, it is also rather ridiculous to say that a fountain pen or a car is destined to be bought and used exclusively by women. One may argue that a purse is a fashion accessory that indeed has a gender. Fashion itself is gender specific, they say, and this is something that I suppose it is difficult to contradict.

Difficult, but not impossible. Just sit in a Parisian cafe and observe the army of stagiaires on their way to their workplace. If you contextualize the appearance of a young male adult wearing his mother’s scarf with the Haussmannian environment of rive droite, you will end up with an image that is in unison. Young professional women wearing a skinny tie, often with a twist, will adhere to an office dressing code as much as a bow-tie. It all depends on the industry, of course, but you may end up seeing the same thing on the metro cars in their way to the Défense, the finance district.

It may sound cliché, but no matter what the high-priests of doom say, this is an era of multiple identities, an era that does not hold on to the boundaries designated by the past. It uses all the material to construct something new, precisely like contemporary art uses anything to attack the viewer from different angles.

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To those that assign meaning to designing objects, and to those that this meaning may include a gender gradient, this pen may indeed feel somehow “female.” The truth is, I enjoy this fountain pen very much, and I bear the chromosomes of both my parents. Imagine then my surprise when a friend of mine held it in her hands. This pen simply shines in the hands of a woman, elevating it to a fashion accessory. In the hands of a writer, however, it is the beautiful, charming pen, which can prolong the remembrance of a flame of a romantic encounter a little bit longer.

Is a beautiful fountain pen then a gender-specific accessory, or simply a beautiful fountain pen? It is both and neither. It is an irrelevant question to ask. It is what you make it.

Recommended For

  • People who appreciate light writing instruments, slim barrels, and a performant smooth nib.
  • Gift-givers, who will offer it as an accessory to their friends. Can’t think of a more impressive, modern gift, and one that comes in a beautiful Faber-Castell gift box.
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