Author Topic: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?  (Read 6899 times)

Offline albscribe

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The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« on: August 22, 2016, 06:56:10 PM »
I've been doing some research on what oblique and straight penholders to buy and have come accross The Curious Artisan. I like their Bolo range very much but was taken aback by the price. I am new to calligraphy so not quite sure what prices I should expect to pay. Before buying one of these penholders (or not) I wanted to check if anyone had any experience with them they might be able to share?

Offline AndyT

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2016, 07:48:42 PM »
Hmm.  Well, without passing comment on the company you mention, perhaps it would be an idea to take a step back and consider what you get when you buy an oblique pen holder.  It's a stick with a piece of brass attached.  Anything in addition to that is unnecessary for the purposes of writing.  Now, a perfectly serviceable wooden holder can be had for $15 from Paper and Ink Arts which would get you up and running.  If you really want to spend ten times as much on your first holder, by all means do so, but you don't have to.

Regarding "ergonomic" holders: they're popular at the moment.  However, what's ergonomic for one person may very well be anything but for another.  Buying one sight unseen therefore is something of a shot in the dark.  Furthermore, if you have any intention of trying your hand at Ornamental Penmanship, just forget about them: they are designed to prevent the holder from moving in your hand, but it's essential to be able to apply a twist for Ornamental shades.  Far better in my opinion to stick with an ordinary shape and learn with that.

Coming back to prices, I have pens by two of the best known American makers, and neither cost anywhere near as much as the one you mention: it's the sort of money I'd associate with a fully custom service, exotic materials and immaculate workmanship from a big name.

Offline prasad

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2016, 05:38:46 AM »
HI,
The comments I make are from my beginners perspective.  I started with Copperplate and now for the last 4 to 5 weeks have been trying a little Spencerian.

I totally mirror Andy's comments about an oblique.  Plus he is a guru in Spencerian stuff and Walnut crystals, so heed the advice :)

I live in India, so in addition to the basic cost of any holder I have to add at least a $20-$40 mark up for shipping.  So I decided to make my own holders. 

consider what you get when you buy an oblique pen holder.  It's a stick with a piece of brass attached.  Anything in addition to that is unnecessary for the purposes of writing.  Now, a perfectly serviceable wooden holder can be had for $15 from Paper and Ink Arts which would get you up and running.

My first holders were exactly this.  They worked just perfectly.  I carved myself a few ergo holders too.  I had given a friend one of my ergo holders and having different shaped hands, it was not so comfortable for her to use it. 

And like Andy said, for Ornamental script, it is better, in the beginning at least, to use a standard design holder.  Once you are comfortable with a script and have the good arm movement mastered you could go in for a custom designed holder. 

You can take a look at my Instagram feed (there isn't much on it, so won't take you too long :)  ) and see the holders I have made and use.  I find the standard design more comfortable to use, than my Ergo types.

Hope this helps
-Prasad
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Offline TeganL

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2016, 06:36:06 AM »
@albscribe like you, I'm pretty new to calligraphy. I started out a few months ago with a straight holder that I found at my local art store. I just received my first oblique holder in the mail this week after ordering from the UK, and on the first use I am so amazingly glad I got an oblique holder! I got one very much the same as the one AndyT linked above.

As a beginner, there are so many other things that we could spend our money on to enrich the learning experience. So, for what it is worth, I suggest sticking with the cheaper options in terms of buying holders.

Offline JanisTX

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2016, 07:04:09 AM »
@albscribe - I have a lot of oblique holders.  My children have purchased some beautiful Christopher Yoke oblique holders for me as gifts & they are wonderful.  Whenever I want to "show off", I use those holders.  However, on a day-to-day basis, I love my good old Speedball oblique, or these obliques from John Neal:  http://www.johnnealbooks.com/fullsize/2960/s  They are very user-friendly & don't break the bank.  I've heard people say that they can't get the Speedball to work with their particular nib of choice, but I've never had a problem with any nib that I have wanted to use.  Beautiful nib holders don't improve the quality of your writing &, for the most part, are simply a luxury item.  They're great to have if you have the extra money, but they certainly are not necessary!

Happy lettering!

Janis

Offline AndyT

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2016, 09:11:29 AM »
@albscribe  Just a quick follow up, now that I realise you're in the UK.

Just recently @Karen Gray tipped me off that Scribblers have added some affordable wooden holders to their range.  In view of the current exchange rates it seems like a good time to stick to British suppliers if possible, so it's well worth a look.  I'd also echo what Janis says about the Speedball (first item on that page), which is a lot better than it's often made out to be, so long as you're happy to stick to fairly small nibs.

If you really want an ergonomic type, you could drop @melanie jane (another Briton) a line.  It's been a while since she visited here I think, but from the pictures I've seen she does a good job.  Her holders are pricey, but once you've factored in postage, customs, hassle and what have you it's a competitive option.  Here's her Etsy store - in my experience she's friendly and approachable.

Finally, making your own is perfectly feasible, as Prasad says.  It's perfectly possible with no more than a penknife, some sandpaper, Araldite and a razor saw (available at model shops for about a fiver).  The only real fly in the ointment is that for some bizarre reason brass sheet of the most convenient thickness (0.2mm) is very difficult to obtain here.  You can get by with 0.4mm, but it's not ideal ... on the other hand it's easily available in handy " strips from model shops again.  I got some 0.2mm from a stockist in Finland with no bother at all, and a remarkably speedy delivery time.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2016, 10:01:03 AM »
I am new to calligraphy so not quite sure what prices I should expect to pay.

Just starting out? Buy a standard shaped (not ergonomic) pen of modest price (say $50 or less) from John Neal or any of the pen makers to see if that particular shape is comfortable and you reach the point that you believe you will continue with calligraphy. It's convenient to have more than one holder--you don't have to change a different nib out of the same pen repeatedly, but certainly one pen is all you need to write. An adjustable flange is nice, to accommodate a wider variety of nibs, but again, if you're just starting out, a standard flange is fine.

Like Janis, I have a wide variety of obliques, some vintage, some basic standard, and some made by well known pen makers. I write equally well (or poorly) with all of them. Most were purchased as works of art, which they are, and I get great enjoyment out of using them. Don't be taken aback at a price of $150 or $250, if it pleases you to use it and admire it for its own sake. Years of experience and skill are behind the best crafted pens. If you would like to see some beautiful pens, take a look at Chris Yoke's site:
http://www.yokepencompany.com/.
He makes not only spectacular custom pens, but has as well a standard, basic pen; and as he himself says, a prettier pen won't make you write better.

Offline melanie jane

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2016, 10:21:18 AM »
Andy - thanks very much for the mention!  It is true that I don't visit the forum as much as I used to....I seem to have a lot less spare time since I started making penholders!!   ;)

With regard to the holders, ergonomic holders tend to be more expensive, due to the fact that they have to be hand made.  I do use some power tools to help me out, but the bottom line is that the majority of the shaping, sanding and varnishing is done by hand (the amboyna burl penholder on my site at the moment took a whole day just to varnish...well actually, it's CA glue, and about 40-50 coats of it, sanded and buffed between coats).  I used to also make the more traditionally shaped lathe turned pens, and they were much faster to make! 

Obviously the problem with an ergonomic is that, if you can't try it out before you buy, you're never really sure whether it will suit you until you've bought one.  I tend to find that, once people have bought one, they'll come back for more; getting people to buy the first one is the most difficult part! 

If anyone is interested in a cheaper ergo penholder, I can do a basic wood one, with a wax oil finish for between 40 and 50 (either pine (40) or walnut (50)) plus postage .  They'll still have the same standard of workmanship, but using a cheaper and softer wood and a faster finish allows me to keep the prices lower.  If anyone is interested, or would like more information on any of my penholders, they can contact me on here or via my Etsy shop.  Actually, I may see about making some to go on my site once I've finished my current orders  ;)

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Offline schin

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2016, 02:05:36 PM »
I have quite a few penholders and use the cheaper and plainer ones as workhorses. These tend to be lighter in hand and not as distracting. Fancy holders can have different materials and become heavy in hand and may discourage fluid movement for beginners who are not used to it.
I certainly love and also collect fancy holders, in fact Curious Artisan's pens has been in my wishlist for quite a while. Beautiful pens are lovely to own and use to impress at events. But attached is a pic of Madarasz's own pen... a stained old thing, nothing more than a piece of wood, string and flange.
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Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2016, 04:26:40 PM »
... a stained old thing, nothing more . . .
That's what my wife says of some of my old t-shirts, which are nearly as old as that pen.

Offline albscribe

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2016, 05:24:52 PM »
Thank you very much everyone for the superb advice offered here. I'm very grateful. Initially I wasn't sure how much price was linked to quality and how much to looks/materials of the pen. By the sounds of it there is a correlation although not at the percentages I initially thought. I am glad to hear that even cheaper pen holders are worthy of buying.

AndyT thank you very much for taking the time to post the thorough advice. I might start by buying one of the cheaper wooden pens that Scribblers are offering. Just to start with :)

Melanie, your pens are absolutely stunning. I shall definitely purchase one (or more). The tulipwood and burrwood especially are sublime. It so happens that one of my other love affairs is working with wood and in my research I have seen some truly beautiful woods which when turned produce some stunning patterns. Have you thought about expanding the choice of woods you offer(snakewood, olive burr and cocobolo come to mind)?

Offline melanie jane

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2016, 06:55:14 PM »
@albscribe Thanks very much for the compliment on the penholders!  Yes, I do plan to offer more woods in time, but at the moment everyone seems to want the acrylic ones, so I have lots of orders for those.  I love working with wood though, seeing the grain and colours come to life as it's varnished and polished up makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

But I must agree with all of the other advice you've been given here - you don't have to spend a fortune to get a decent holder.  A basic ergonomic holder is always going to cost more than a basic turned holder, due to the fact that it has to be hand made, rather than turned out in vast quantities in China (or wherever), but other than that, as I explained in my post, most of the 'extra' cost of my pens are due to the material and the finish, neither of which will improve your calligraphy.   ;)
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Offline silvereye

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2016, 09:56:57 PM »
Just curious so who here has purchased a penholder from the curious artisan and how do you find it?

Offline mintedpurl

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2016, 06:19:02 AM »
I own a Curious Artisan pen holder. It's not my daily driver by any means (I use the hourglass oblique or the carrot oblique from PIA) but it looks really nice in pictures. I own one of the the gold leaf versions. I really only got it because I completed my first caligraphy gig and wanted to reward myself with a pretty holder....I couldn't resist the gold leaf. A Yoke pen is next on my list.

Offline dancingfish

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Re: The Curious Artisan - Oblique holders worth the price?
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2016, 05:16:26 PM »
I have a carrot gold leaf and resin holder from Curious Artisan, and I love it.  I do have other holders (including several Yokes and Unique Obliques), which I also like quite a lot, but I've been using this one tons lately.  I'm very happy with it.  One caution is that the resin holders tend to be a bit fragile, and I had it arrive broken.  But Lenny was great about sending out a replacement immediately.  I would be very careful not to drop it, but I would imagine this goes for other maker's resin holders too.