Mark Blake is the real deal. He’s a complete force of nature from his dry humor on twitter (@mcblake) to a vast amount of fountain pen knowledge to share with the likes of The Art of Manliness. Mark is a budding aficionado. I caught up with Mark to ask him a few questions for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s a lefty. It’s a big myth that fountain pens are not for lefties. They may have a slightly more difficult road, but Mark has found a lot of joy from them. Two, he’s a young guy. Fountain pens aren’t just for old guys or rich guys. Mark’s an M.Div student at Southern Seminary with an infectious personality. I hope you enjoy our small conversation.
Who did you first learn about fountain pens from, and what captivated you about them?
I had heard of fountain pens when I was younger, but I didn't have any more information than what the name provides. It wasn't until my first semester at Southern that I knew and interacted with people who used fountain pens regularly. Being left handed, I was initially skeptical about using a fountain pen. I was worried that ink would smear all over my left hand (a fear that didn't come true).
Several years ago I started working to improve my penmanship. Years of writing in all capital letters left me with a sad, illegible script that only a mother could love. I was initially captivated by fountain pens because they made writing so enjoyable. Because fountain pens require less pressure applied to the paper when writing, many people–myself included–experience an improvement in their penmanship when they start writing with a fountain pen.
Why do you think a young guy like yourself is intrigued with fountain pens in a world that mostly promotes innovative technology?
Growing up I was fascinated by the trinkets and goodies my dad kept in his jewelry box. It was full of pocketknives, lapel pins, old coins–a treasure trove of fascinating things every little boy is interested in. Unlike most pens bought and sold in the world today that are thrown away or lost as easily as they were picked up, fountain pens are made to last. If they're taken care of, fountain pens can last for decades. I have several pens made in the 1930s and 1940s.
Today's technology is great, but modern devices aren't built to last. Technology teaches us to constantly be trading our old models for the newest, latest, greatest gizmo. Imagine a father writing letters to his son all throughout his childhood and then giving that pen to his son later in life for him to use to write letters to his children. This is a situation alien to anyone using modern technology to communicate: who still has their first cell phone or computer? Fountain pens last.
With the new Ipad Pro, do you like the idea of the Apple Pencil?
The problem with styluses is that they haven't been very precise or allow line variation without changing. Apple has definitely changed the game with styluses and I'm sure the Apple Pencil is an excellent product for illustrators and graphic designers. I'm more of an ink-to-paper guy, so it isn't for me, but I’m glad they are making advances to put the human element back into writing.
Do fountain pens make a difference in your communication?
Fountain pens make me write more, because they make the writing experience more enjoyable. People love receiving handwritten notes. In our day, when mailing a typed letter seems like a chore, I want my friends, family, and others to know that I care enough about them to stop, sit down, and take the time to write a personal, handwritten letter to them.
You can start writing with a fountain pen easily and inexpensively. Fountain pens don't have to be intimidating or expensive. Ask questions, take a pen for a spin, and get a feel for it. Pens as a hobby aren't just fun, they're useful as well
Well, there you have it. Thanks to Mark for our small conversation. If you are in Louisville, take his advice and come take a pen ‘for a spin.’