My favorite kind of story is I couldn't buy the thing I wanted, so I designed and made it myself, and now I run a successful company selling them. Today's example is Chicago-based Renaissance man Pierre Miller, a former chemist, writer and music instructor who became obsessed with flex-nib* fountain pens.
*As the name suggests, flex nibs can flex, allowing you to adjust the line width by modulating the pressure you provide. This feature is a big deal among pen nerds.
"I wanted to make things I couldn't buy," Miller said in an interview with Pen Addict. "I bought lots of flex pens that didn't work the way I really wanted. The vintage ones that did, were not replaceable in case of any damage or failure. Dip nib holders with reservoirs didn't quite give me what I was looking for."
Miller gave piano lessons on the side, and one of his students, a machinist, offered to teach him how to use a lathe. Naturally, Miller learned how to turn pens.
That was about a decade ago, and today Miller runs The Desiderata Pen Company, which sells stunning writing instruments like this:
"In 2016, I purchased an ABSURD quantity of dramatic cast acrylic to use in pens. Most of it was transparent, colored, and decorated with little accents that looked gorgeous. The only problem was I had almost no experience working with it! Without great care and an almost impractical amount of hand finishing, a presentable (not exemplary, just presentable) appearance was not possible. So I put away the material, and every so often picked off little bits of it on which to practice in the hope that one day I might be able to do it justice without undue effort.
"I finally reached that point last year, and I sold the first pilot run of them at the San Francisco in 2022. To be sure, I've sold transparent cast acrylic pens before, but they required a beastly amount of work to be presentable.
"These pens are beautiful and I'm extremely proud of them."
The pens are produced in batches, all hand-turned by Miller on a lathe, as opposed to being CNC'd. Check out the rest of Desiderata's offerings here.
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