Alastair Adams of Bespoke British Pens reaches out to the fountain pen community on behalf of Conway Stewart urges fountain pen lovers to write more
Alastair Adams is the driving force behind the renaissance of iconic British brands Onoto and seconded to Conway Stewart during 2014 to try and rescue the ailing company. Although Alastair’s focus is primarily on sales, he has a keen design eye too, and was responsible for the creation of the vast majority of Onoto’s new issues from 2007 – 2014.
These are strange times; very worrying and very scary.
The silver lining seems to be that because so many people are locked in doors, everybody seems to be searching the web. This weekend, we have had one of our busiest weekends of people visiting our websites!
Hopefully people want to order a nice fountain pen to start writing letters again to their loved ones. It could be the renaissance of writing letters!
To answer your points:
Inked Happiness: As one of the pillars of the fountain pen community, what is your message to the aficionados in these trying times when they are locked indoors with little more than hope and their fountain pens?
Alastair Adams, Bespoke British Pens Ltd: Start writing! Letters to your loved ones. Or start writing that book that you know is inside you! You now have the time!
Inked Happiness: How can fountain pen lovers better utilise the lockdown to care for their loved pens? Any tip?
Alastair Adams of Bespoke British Pens: Bespoke British Pens Ltd: All pens need a little TLC; so pull out your collection, clean the nibs and ink filling mechanism with warm water and start writing with them. A gentle rub with pen polishing cloth will bring them up looking like new!
Inked Happiness: Three words from you that will help us all keep the spirits high, to meet on the other side of the pandemic?
Alastair Adams, Bespoke British Pens Ltd: Writing Rights All
About Conway Stewart:
In 1905, Frank Jarvis and Tommy Garner formed Conway Stewart & Co. Limited in London.
Since inception Jarvis and Garner had a single aim, to produce elegant and beautiful, yet functional writing instruments – a principle that Conway Stewart holds true to this day.
The 1920s was an excellent decade for the courageous owners. Not only did they trademark the name of the business ‘Conway Stewart’, but also their list of filling mechanisms available expanded to include eyedroppers, lever fillers, pump fillers and safeties. By 1925, Conway Stewart was coming into their own in terms of design. A trademark for the name “Dinkie” was registered in 1924, along with a patent for a new locking lever mechanism. Their reasonable pricing and successful marketing contributed to the success of Conway Stewart for the next decade. They invested in new premises in 1927, which became their headquarters for the next two decades a period when the company continued with its growth run.
It is interesting to note that they did not designate titles for their designs: the names fountain pen lovers around the world recognise today have been adopted by collectors over the years. As an example, Cracked Ice and Reversed Cracked Ice were used for many of their models for over 25 years, together with Tiger Eye, another favourite.
In 1935 they went public, with shares being offered to raise capital. Advertising campaigns managed to keep the name Conway Stewart in the forefront of the public mind, in much the same way as advertising by Sheaffer, Parker and De La Rue, who were the major players in the segment those days. The 1950s proved to be a continuation of the “golden age” for Conway Stewart, with many of their materials from this era being eagerly sought after today by collectors around the world. The Herringbone pattern and many versions of marbled colours are very popular even today. Even more notable is the Number 22 Floral, with its flowered design set on a cream background. Unfortunately, the 1950s also ushered in the era of injection moulding for the manufacture of pens. This led to the use of solid coloured plastics in place of the wonderful patterned celluloids. By 1957, the Conway Stewart line was represented with pens that, while still very well made, and reliable writers, were not in the same league in terms of appearance. It was at this time that the first ballpoint pens were offered by Conway Stewart.
The company persevered in trying to keep up with the market trends with their ball-pen and also by launching the 106, a cartridge pen mounted with a semi-hooded nib. In the 1960’s the company was sold and relocated to Wales, where the last pen rolled of their production floor in 1975.
This was followed by a significant investment in research and development, when a new era began with a focus on making pens for those who appreciate traditional craftsmanship, objects of timeless beauty and utility, and the pleasure of using a fine pen. Not to mention the ever-growing number of pen collectors around the world who treasure the Conway Stewart name and all that it stood for as Britain’s greatest pen maker.
In 1996 the Churchill model was introduced to celebrate the life of Sir Winston Churchill and his prolific interest in writing and literature throughout his lifetime. To celebrate the company’s Centenary in 2005 the new One Hundred Series was launched, produced in various handmade resins. Accompanying the 100, the stunning Silver Duro pens arrived on the market. Made from pure English sterling silver over-laid with resin veneer, the sterling silver Duro echoes the great designs of the Edwardian era. Also launched to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Conway Stewart were several limited editions, British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented Russian President Putin with a Conway Stewart Churchill Burgundy Fountain pen on a state visit to Russia and French President Jacques Chirac was given a Brown Marble Churchill to celebrate his 70th birthday in 2002.
Conway Stewart was the official pen chosen by the British Government for the G8 Summit at which Prime Minister Blair presented a Conway Stewart No 58 set to each of the G8 world leaders. President Bush and President Clinton have both owned Conway Stewart pens. The company also created exclusive pens for many prestigious corporate and government accounts, including the Royal Air Force, the Red Arrows, Rolls Royce, Mensa, as well as numerous other high-profile corporate accounts. Rick Wakeman, rock star and pen enthusiast, has a large collection of Conway Stewart pens of which he is justifiably proud.
Handcrafted by master pen makers, the rich heritage of Conway Stewart rests in the hands of the connoisseurs who treasure these beautiful British pens. Since acquiring the stock of components from the Conway Stewart factory when it closed in 2014, Bespoke British Pens has striven to maintain the heritage and tradition of past practices. It’s a constant goal at Bespoke British Pens to make the most beautiful and elegant British pens and give pleasure to those who appreciate the art of fine writing – the Conway Stewart way. When Conway Stewart was founded in 1905, Jarvis and Garner had a single aim, to produce elegant, timelessly beautiful, yet functional writing instruments. Today, more than one hundred years later, the entity still holds true to those original goals.
Conway Stewart is, in the final analysis, luxury, history and enchantment combined – I am you will agree.