Dr Sreekumar of Krishna Pens talks about pens, inks, nibs!
If turning a fountain pen is an art, then grinding of the nib is certainly a fine art, one that is the exclusive domain of the masters. And Dr Sreekumar is certainly a master who can easily walk into any hall of fame for his contribution to the art of penmanship in India – he not only turns pens that connoisseurs queue up to acquire, but also is perhaps the most respected exponent of the art of nib grinding in the country, apart from making inks that are destined to leave their indelible mark on history. All this, in his spare time, when he is not busy tending the sick and the infirm.
Inked Happiness was fortunate to get a glimpse into his thoughts – about pens, pen making, penmanship. Excerpts:
Q1. Doctors have always been known to patronise fine writing instruments – but a practising Doctor who makes them? What made you turn into a turner of fountain pens?
First of all, let me tell about me and my work pattern. When I started pen making, I used to just randomly make a pen and list it in the e-bay to sell it. Later started a web site to sell them. Then I realised the need to consolidate my energies on a particular model since my turnover was just 2 to 3 pens per month. I therefore consolidated on the 64 th model called K 64 Bai Chii Sai, a lacquered Ebonite pen. As I received a long queue of orders which runs up to 2019, I have stopped taking new orders.
My grandfather was a great artist and I have observed him cutting brushes and making inks using German dye strips, and so I too started modifying nibs in my own way when I was a child. Fountain pens were the primary writing instruments during that period. Later I started making inks for my own purpose in my college days.
Even later, when I became a Doctor I had spare money to buy antique pens and collectables. During this period of my pen journey, I met Mr A C Ramachandran, a senior pen maker and became his dearest student, his disciple. As he had interest in traditional medicine, we used to have long sessions about both pens and medicines.
Q2. What are the USP’s of the pens that you create? How are they different from the standard Indian ebonite pen with the Schmidt converter and Bock/ Jowo nibs?
As you may have heard, I am making custom nib grinds. Yes, my pens are unique. They may not be custom pens per se but they do stand apart. But nib is the most important part of a writing instrument. Only thing is that custom nib grinds are available only to customers of Krishna pens and not to the Lyrebird or Kim. This is because Lyrebird and Kim are models which are meant to take No 8 old type nibs. They are available only as fine tips. The nibs in these pens I will be giving as either Fine Super smooth in Writers Series or RC MB Fine series. Both are excellent for regular writing. SSF is great for sketching too.
Q3. What makes your creations a must-have for any serious collector?
No. My pens are not for collectors. They are made for writing. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Q4. A line of Indian Fountain Pens – a tribute to our prowess as pen turners – is it too much to ask for? How will future generations know that there was more to India than Gandhiji’s Swadeshi Pen and the Gama? Can we look at you to create this tribute to our elders?
Wish I had the time. I am stuck with more orders of pens than what I can handle! But wait! My nibs and inks are there. My best inks are RC (Ramachandran) and my best nib grinds are RC! For me, my master is the best pen maker in the world. My tributes are to him.
Q5. What are the problems facing the Indian fountain pen industry, if we can use the term “industry” that is? What are you doing to address these issues?
I think the Fountain Pen industry is on an unprecedented boom which will continue. Many new makers have come and will continue to come. Gone are the bad days! And our customers are also very receptive these days. Even without a single advertisement or web support, I have survived from 2010 for 8 years. That too on pure online selling.
Q6. Why are our major fountain pen makers so terribly weary of technology – especially in terms of web-based marketing? Why is their response to customers so callous (I use the term grudgingly but am a victim)? I understand that their means are limited, and the demand is far higher than what they can handle, but what stops them from acknowledging repeated mails or even answering queries about the status of orders that have been paid for?
The makers of Ratnam, Gama, Kim, Deccan are old world people. They are used to selling through shops rather than online. Pleases excuse the old brains! They can never understand what new generation people are expecting from them.
Q7. What are your plans for the immediate future?
No plans as such. By profession I am a doctor. But I enjoy making pens and experimenting new things. It is just for my relaxation.
Q8. While your move into ink making has been widely appreciated – I myself am a happy user – do you have plans to scale up? Especially in view of the general lack of quality ink in the market?
Yes, the production of Krishna and other inks are on a steady rise. When compared to 2017, the selling too has increased by many folds. Ten times at least. We are expecting to increase again 3-4 folds from the present level.
Q9. Do you, from your vantage point, see a revival in the demand for fountain pens? Even if not as the primary tool of communication, but as a hobby? As a catharsis?
Yes. Now a Fountain Pen is primarily used as a show piece. I am not too much happy about the situation. A Fountain Pen is a writing tool. Collectables are the antique pens: those with a history. Let us not forget this and buy fountain pens to hoard as opposed to filling them with ink putting them on paper.
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