3 Oysters – an inky 3 cheers (with a thank you to Pen Specials)
When I was a kid and writing with fountain pens was de rigueur (mainstream, as opposed to being restricted to a passionate lunatic fringe), ink options were pretty limited – Royal Blue or Blue Black for school. That too, only from Sulekha, Bril or Camlin. Black and Red inks were also available, though the use of black ink was strictly not allowed in school and Red was the exclusive privilege of the teachers.
I remember begging my mother for a bottle of Chelpark Turquoise Blue, which I used to save for those flowery love letters – whose recipients, alas, have literally gone with the ink. There used to be a pinkish red as well, a Barbie-on-steroids kind of a hue, which I did covet, but never got to possess to quench the thirst of my pens with.
Even a few years back, the choice was pretty limited. Forget about fountain pens, the death knell had already been sounded on writing itself and buying a bottle of ink was akin to catching a falling star. Bril had shrunk back to Tamil Nadu, Sulekha had downed shutters and the Chelaram-Parker offering was a thing of the past. Camlin inks were available, but only so. Using a fountain pen was not only an anachronism, but as the vanishing ink seemed to be telling us, an antediluvian passion that needed an immediate upgrade.
Then the internet exploded on our unsuspecting faces and we realised that we are not alone and that there are fountain pen lovers scattered around the globe – people who quickly seized the opportunity and came together, in web-groups and collectives. Initially I had my reservations – uncompromising as I am about writing my thoughts down the old-fashioned way, pen on paper – about seeking digital intervention to protect my right to write against the same digital onslaught. It was like joining hands with the enemy to fight the digital demon, almost like selling the soul for pleasures of the flesh, something that was deeply disturbing, a contradiction of sorts.
But move I did, for it wasn’t long before I realised that the very pens and inks that I so craved, were available in the net and that the spread that was laid out, was enough to make pen and ink nerds like me spill all over the place. Imagine buying Japanese inks glorious in their bright subtleties. European and American inks that flaunted legacies as old as the history of fountain pen’s global domination. Chinese Inks that have descended from the famed ink sticks of yore. Even inks from Australia. Fact is, had I not made the transition to the web I would not have known the fifty shades of grey – ink.
Experts squarely “blame” the internet boom for the renewed interest in inks, which has brought the likes of me together, generating the demand, which in turn, has got the wheels of supply churning. Good old Sulekha now has inks in a dozen flavours and is readying to storm the digital marketplace. Camlin, now with a Japanese connection to boot, is still going strong, while Bril is now a well-established name in the virtual world. But that is only the surface, for right under it is an inky darkness, a world that is constantly in churn with everyone from boutique ink makers to legacy brands offering inks across the spectrum: from flavoured to the sustainable, in every possible hue and at price points that range from the vanilla affordable to the ostentatiously expensive.
Yes, I have always been fountain-pen obsessed, but inks? Well, I now am.
Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when I stumbled across a brand called 3 Oysters from Korea in www.penspecials.com. The website said precious little about the brand or the entity making the inks, except that they are made using water-based dyes, are pH neutral and non-permanent. The key term that was highlighted as a descriptor was “delicious”, which was naturally, shall we say, enough to whet my appetite. Besides, the square glass bottles that the 3 Oysters inks come in – which has a thoughtful groove cut in the side to let the bottle tilt to ease the act of filling the pen – is pretty pretty, and I just had to have one.
The difficulty was choosing one – for the colours on offer were astounding: they have Cobalt, Jade, Marine Green (Special Edition), Black Moss, Navy Blue, Purple Gray, Aqua Green, Red Wine, Mustard (beat that) and Chilli Red. The site also offers a series that comes with the label “3 Oysters I Colour U (Seoul Colours)” which are apparently a tribute to the iconic landmarks of Seoul city. The 3 Oysters I Colour U bottles and boxes are decorated with traditional Korean motifs. With shades like Dancheong (deep, rich red); Giwa (rich grey with pronounced green undertones); Hangangmul (an exotic blue black); Namsan (rich pine green) and Haneul (rich turquoise)!
I finally settled for the 3 Oysters Red Wine and the Marine Green with sworn promises to myself to return at the earliest opportunity for more.
The inks dry quickly, show no bleeding or feathering and are just swell. However, for most of us used to chemical-dye based inks, the 3 Oysters that I used are a bit on the side of under saturation and look just the shade washed out. But then again, for those who prefer to look at life and their writings without tweaking the contrast filter, the look, a dash unstated, will be just right. As for the ease of use, they flowed as smooth as the Korean Air.
The 3 Oyster marine green has just that whiff of “delicious” jade mystery, while the wine red is simply intoxicating.
Priced reasonably (considering they use water-based dyes and come from the far east) the inks have been another dash of sheer exotica that the up and coming web-store Pen Specials has introduced. As always, dealing with them is a breeze, a “delicious” one at that!
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