ARE ORANGE PENS THE NEW BLACK?

In Banter by Augusto ToledoLeave a Comment

Orange – 1) c 1300, of the fruit, from Old French orange, orenge, from Medieval Latin pomum de orange, from Italian arancia, originally narancia (Venetian naranza), alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s; not used as a color word until the 1540s.  2) one of the few words for which there is no perfect rhyme

The Oxford English Dictionary

When the “Parker Duofold” first came out in 1921 with its disruptive and energetic color (the Big Red looked more like Orange), it put to rest the long-held notion that the pen-writing public preferred their instruments in black. Two different-sized newly issued “Duofolds” rest easy on an emerald green vintage glass desk set, with two ink pots and a reservoir for an ink blotter. Beside it, an Orange “Faber Castell Ondoro” with its chunky high-gloss hexagonal barrel and an “Edison Collier” in Antique Marble take a respite on a 1930s two-toned milk glass desk set with inkwells in brass brackets.

Since ink in its earliest form – the Chinese produced it from soot – was colored black, it was perhaps inevitable that the first fountain pens would be made in black as well. Indeed, there are few pen manufacturers around the world who do not have a black pen in their stable of writing instruments.

As well, black ink seems to be the default choice for official records and business documents – visas, cheques, ballots, credit applications and annulment papers. Debrett’s New Guide To Etiquette and Modern Manners in fact suggests that in matters of writing, “black is the most correct and distinguished choice,” adding further, and somewhat disdainfully, “colored inks are considered very suspect in traditional circles.” But that is, of course, like comparing apples and oranges.

Filling up immigration documents and declaration forms at airports is easiest with a Burnt Orange “Pelikan Souveran M800 Special Edition,” with its characteristic beak clip. Like the pen named after it, the pelican likes to travel, and has been known to soar up to 10,000 feet and glide in V formation with its flock in search of feeding areas.

Of the many historical events in 2015, perhaps none cast more luminosity on the world of consumer products than the declaration by the purveyors of haute couture (not to mention paint manufacturers) of Copper Orange as the color of the year. Rhapsodized as the natural palette of the earth and the sepia hue of the past, the color Orange was hailed as “combining wonderfully with the everyday.”

Was it any marvel, then, that in 2015, Honda released its new CR-V model in Orange Copper Sunset? Or that American cosmetics manufacturer O.P.I. unveiled its Orange Nail Lacquer? Or that Chrysler added a Sunset Orange edition to its already iconic Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon series? And does it surprise you that German writing instrument maker Lamy launched its “AL Star Limited Edition” fountain pen in Copper Orange?

A Brushed Metal Orange “Parker IM,” a Copper Orange “Lamy AL Star” and an Orange “Sailor Pro Gear” lean on a 1960s decorative coffee jar that has been repurposed as a drinking glass, astride the orange-tinted drinks of that decade – La Tondena’s “Vino Kulafu,” California Distillery’s “Orange Wine” and San Miguel Brewery’s “Royal Tru-Orange.”

An Orange Red “Visconti Rembrandt,” its variegated resin barrel and cap finished in the so-called “Chiaroscuro” technique, and with a characteristic clip depicting the historic Ponte Vecchio Bridge, seemingly leaps out of the 2017 Fountain Pen Hospital catalogue. Sadly, the once-complimentary annual magazine is no longer mailed free to pen enthusiasts, and has gone the unfortunate way of digital publishing.

Today, it would no longer be unusual for Orange and variegated Orange fountain pens to be seen in stationers, pen shops, shirt pockets, and, why not, even behind one’s ear! Whether it’s the “Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir,” in Coral, or the “Montegrappa Fortuna Mule” in Copper, or the “Aurora Satin Ipsilon” in Orange, or the “Delta Dolcevita” in classic Orange & Black, there is no shortage of that bold, brash and bright implement for creating poems, music, love letters to a beloved, and, etiquette forbid, the occasional business correspondence. Of this color of molten lava and burning wood, the Russian abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky once wrote, “It is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.”

Only a Bengal Tiger model of “Noodler’s Ink Neponset” or an “Edison Collier” in Persimmon Swirl, both shaped like the dirigibles of a bygone era, will do for taking down notes on a contemporary French Orange Rhodia notebook while taking a call from a retro funky and bright Orange Siemens rotary telephone from the 1970s.

Espresso coffee and period music from a classic TDK cassette tape combine to make sketching a breeze with the commanding profile of a Rainbow Orange “Stipula Etruria Limited Edition” over-sized demonstrator pen.

It makes perfect sense to pair Orange-hued pens with similarly tinted inks, and thankfully, manufacturers have not fallen behind. Diamine has its Blood Orange, Caran d’Ache its Electric Orange, J. Herbin its Orange Indien, Montblanc its Lucky Orange, Edelstein its Mandarin Orange, Nemosine its Solar Storm, Noodler’s its Apache Sunset, and numerous other iterations of what Frank Sinatra called “the happiest color” are easily available. Orange you glad?

Past meets present – an ensemble of vintage ink jars commingle with their orange-hued contemporaries. Orange inks of the world, unite!

The “Montblanc Johann Sebastian Bach Limited Edition 2001” with a Coral-colored cap containing the engraved signature of the German baroque composer, and a Sepia barrel with a clip in the shape of a clef symbol, is a “Donation Pen.” Proceeds from its sales are used to sponsor the restoration of his original manuscripts. Fittingly, a facsimile of notes from the freakishly prolific musician’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 embellishes the cap ring.

But why use Orange in fountain pens, a shade that one writer, waxing lyrical, christened “the color of fall, marigold flowers, beautiful sunsets, and a warm fireplace in dreary winters”? Because it is visible, a color most easily seen in dim light, like life jackets, the black box, prisoners’ uniforms and the Golden Gate Bridge. Because it is also distinct and sets one apart from the mass of pen wielders all brandishing their tedious, dreary and melancholic black instruments. But above all, because it represents creativity, enthusiasm, fascination and the unconventional, perhaps a joie de vivre that is oh so lacking in the humdrum spectrum of everyday pens. To whip out a Terracotta Orange “Delta Dolcevita” or an over-sized Cardinal Orange “Bexley 58” out of the blue, as it were, radiates a certain warmth and energy, and identifies its holder as fun, frivolous, and maybe even a bit flamboyant, someone who can look at our less than perfect world through orange-tinted glasses. A day without orange is, as they say, like a day without sunshine.

An Emeralds in the Sun model of “Noodler’s Ink Neponset” and a modernistic “TWISBI 580 AL” demonstrator in anodized Lava unwind in a 1920s glass desk organizer made by German writing instrument company Staedtler Mars GMBH & Co. Nearby, a solitary “THINK Jimi Hendrix Limited Edition” with psychedelic ribbons of Orange, Violet and Lime Green recharges on a 1940s Art Deco desk set produced in Bakelite material by pen manufacturer Esterbrook. Groovy, man.

A Copper “Ystudio” in its Classic Desk and Portable Fountain Pen variants have both a minimalist design and a heavy hexagonal barrel, the better to remind its wielders of the weight and substance that even their simplest words carry. Y not, indeed?

“The sky takes on a shade of orange during sunrise and sunset, the color that gives you hope that the sun will set, only to rise again.”

Ram Charan, author, speaker and business consultant

The author’s daughter leans on her Sunset Orange Jeep Wrangler, moments before she crosses her Rubicon.

 

 

 

 

 

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