Liliana Bühlow of the Secret Montblanc Society in an intimate tête-à-tête:
Inked Happiness: A “Secret” Montblanc Society with 3.7 thousand members in Facebook – as the lady who made that possible, your enigma defies definitions. What is next, a book by Dan Brown? Kindly tell us about the group, its members and the discourse that you help conduct therein.
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: Haha … who knows, he is one of my favourite authors: everything is possible! But, first of all thank you so much for your kind invitation to do this interview.
Well, I established few start-ups in past years, also few social media accounts as groups. But the last project with Secret Montblanc Society was a heart thing, just for fun. Really just for fun, without expecting too much. And it started during the lockdown on April 14th 2020 to be precise. It was actually my amazing friend Yaseen from Abu Dhabi (a collector of many high-end pens) who really motivated me to open the group. So, I started to create the frame of group and the rest just followed, as if by divine ordain. There is nothing secret about the group…it is all about the commitment of the lovers of the pen, the brand, the values it represents …
Inked Happiness: How did your passion for the fountain pen and your obsession with Montblanc begin? How long has it devoured you? What do you consider to be your single most satisfying moment as a collector and a lover of fine fountain pens?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: I am not a collector per se I guess, but over time, my love for pens have changed. I am attracted by new shapes and colours though I guess, I get pens for my writing pleasure alone. And yes, I have more than I actually need.
As for our members I can say, we have a fantastic circle. Incredible talents, awesome collectors, who contribute a lot to group and I always follow carefully all that they post to try to find out what are their best talents and to support them to nurture their unique talents further.
To mention, the group has also made it a mission to support: for example, a launch of a book, or assist retailers in these difficult times, so that their stock of Montblanc products may find new owners. You can call us a “High end, likeminded Platform.” But we are not restricted to that alone and would like to view ourselves as a platform to share experiences and the passion for writing. Everybody is welcome. Writing gives us chance to slow down, to empty our mind in the form of words – to manifest goals and wishes and I hope our platform will succeed in encouraging more people to write.
This obsession with pens is about two years now though the group is only nine months old.
As for how it all started, it was a Montblanc Marilyn Monroe that, as a gift, got me into this fascinating world. It was also my most satisfying moment as a collector.
Inked Happiness: How does it feel to straddle the social media – to be the bridge between the digital present and the handwritten past, fountain pen firmly in your hand?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: I love it. It is more than fascinating to see how many likeminded friends we have and how many members were motivated to buy Montblanc after coming into this group. The group gives people a place to visit over and over, to share stories of their happy moments while writing with, or buying their favourite Montblanc. I am blessed to have met so many beautiful people with such passion in the group and it is so heartening that their numbers are growing by the day.
Inked Happiness: From your vantage point, do you see the fountain pen making a revival of sorts? How are young people – in your country and in the social media platform that you manage, relating to the fountain pen? Is there hope yet?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: This is a very good question. This is exactly the reason why I opened this group: so that people can be weaned back from the digital world back to basics. To encourage people to learn the value of time, to value a written sentence.
Imagine anything, make a story out of it to write in a diary. Try it out and you will be surprised how difficult it has become. It is sad how we have forgotten, to write nice thoughts, how to write a postcard, use the snail mail, instead of sending digital messages on our smart phones.
For example, I do make it a point to write down in my notebook things that I wish to say to friends or to the members of my family. I then take photographs of my handwritten messages to express my mood, or to wish someone a good day. They add a nice touch, a bit of warmth to the messages adding a personal dimension to the communications, increasing their value.
It is so heartening to note that groups like these in the social media are influencing people to pick up the pens, to write, to show that they too care. In Switzerland, kids and teenagers including my daughter love to write, as lettering has again become cool. As a matter of fact, a few of my close friends have also got themselves Montblanc fountain pens.
Inked Happiness: As an obvious Montblanc connoisseur, what is your message to collectors who love the instruments characterised by the snow-capped peak but are often deterred from making the acquisition due to the steep price?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: Again, a good point – well, it is a fact that the writing instruments have started to increase in value from the 90s on. Earlier, pens were more affordable and were within the reach of everyone. Now not all of us can invest so much money for very high-end writing instruments. That’s true. That is why I wish there were Montblanc starter Sets for students and kids which would be attractive, fancy and of the characteristic great quality, yet be affordable to the intending buyer. But I guess we can’t have the best of both worlds, as exclusives these days always come at extra prices.
My message to collectors? Well, enjoy your decisions, for it was definitely a great choice to buy the writing instrument that you have. Have fun and make others happy with your beautiful written words.
Inked Happiness: What are the top three fountain pens in your collection? Why do you rate them so high in your list of favourites?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: My pens are priceless to me as each one of them have emotional value and stories to tell that cannot be valued in terms of money. They are parts of my being, and I will not part with any for all the treasures of the sea. In terms of choice, they are:
Montblanc Marilyn Monroe
Montblanc 149 Meisterstück Calligraphy
Montblanc 147 Meisterstück M/OB
Inked Happiness: The Black Plague in Europe had given rise to the Renaissance – do you see the world recovering from the pandemic to a new reawakening? Do you feel that the world will do a phoenix with a fountain pen in hand?
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: For sure we have all changed: a new mentality has manifested, even while we were otherwise locked out. I personally feel that the “new normal” has forced us to become less social and is somehow making us more prone to maintain distances amongst us. A subconscious fear is working in all of us which is changing people, making them more introverted.
When it is all over, humanity will certainly triumph again. Maybe, not all of us will come out of the ordeal with fountain pens in hand, but will emerge certainly and with new selves. I hope that on the other side of this pandemic we will again realise and cherish the values of being together. I hope that we will value reading and writing again.
Inked Happiness: Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
Liliana Bühlow, Secret Montblanc Society: Do whatever makes you happy. Sounds easy when I say it, but for most of us, it is even difficult to think about, leave alone achieving regularly. Think about!
And remember happiness is in the simple, small things: like writing a post card to your grandmother, which could be last words she reads from you and maybe it will remind her that she is loved, that you care.
Remember to share love through writing. Words of love doesn’t cost a thing but can make a huge difference to the lives of so many people.
Life is short. Make it more valuable for yourself and your family and friends.
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