How does a dynamic nib-swapping duo based near Cadiz come to the attention of United Inkdom? Well, they were based here in Blighty for a while, for starters – but they also provide an increasingly well-known source of rather splendid replacement nibs, while growing the specialist Gimena pen brand too. We caught up with Esther and Pablo over the internet…
So, how did living in the Forest of Dean lead on to setting-up shop near Cadiz?
Well actually the Gimena pen project started when we were based in Spain, but as the Spanish economy got into trouble earlier this decade we relocated to Coleford in the Forest of Dean, when Pablo found a job as a cabinet maker there in 2011. At first, that put a stop to the Gimena project, but via the Writing Equipment Society Pablo involved in a pen repairing course and made some good contacts along the way. That introduction to the vintage world soon led him to start repairing pens.
About a year later we returned to Marbella, Pablo brought his tools and lathes from Ronda where he’d stashed them so he could continue working on Gimena pens, and we developed the Ebenus and Amaranthus models. We also kept going with pen repairs and started selling nibs then too.
In early 2015 we moved from Marbella to a new workshop in Jimena de la Frontera, near Cádiz; we were very lucky because it was a bargain in a great location that many Brit’s people know well. From that moment too we started working on both Gimena and FPnibs.com full time.
What got you both started in fountain pens?
In 2008 we had a shop in Ronda where we sold hand made wooden products that we made by ourselves. Someone who came to the shop talked to us about kit pens, so we started to make some, but many people asked for fountain pens and that was the beginning. Then we realised that pen collectors and users prefer non-kit pens, so Pablo started designing whole pens.
Tell us more about the Gimena brand; what inspired the choice of materials and what’s coming next?
As you now know, Pablo has loved wood since he was a child so there was no other material his pens could be made of! Then we thought that, as a hand made product, all the other parts should be of high grade and quality – there’s no sense to working for hours with bad materials, so bronze, silver and gold were selected. The Gimena project is very exciting to be part of; from the design to the finished pen it is a beautiful procedure that makes us very happy and proud. We still enjoy innovating, too, so there are new designs in the pipeline.
We would like to offer cheaper pens than the Gimena range, but maintaining the same quality and is a challenge. Some customers have asked us to make oblique dip pens, and we have made some and we enjoyed making them so much we are planning to offer some other models too. Via FPnibs.com we have started offering dip pen nibs as well as pen holders as calligraphy is a world that we would like very much to get into.
How did you move into selling replacement nibs – and which is the most popular?
For the Gimena pens we needed nib units as that is the only part we do not make, so JoWo asked us for a minimum quantity order. That was very high so we ended up with a lot of nibs, more than we could sell with hand-made Gimena pens. That is why we thought we could sell some and get a little bit of money to help start the Gimena project. The size 6 is the king of the nibs – both solid gold and steel ones sell very well and the most ordered finished is two-tone. People tell us they perform perfectly!
Your gold replacement nibs for TWSBIs are becoming very popular – are there other types of pens you’ll be providing gold nibs to fit soon?
That was something we were asked continuously – does any of your nibs fit in a TWSBI model? There was some information on the net about pens that claimed to do so, but we preferred to try by ourselves and bought the 700, 580, Mini and Eco models, and once we tested each JoWo nib we could offered them sure that they will fit properly. If you look at Pablo’s videos on YouTube you’ll see there are other pen makes we’re testing nibs for too.
So now the big question: what pens do you write with yourselves?
Esther uses an Onoto de la Rue with a purple ink, which is quite ‘dirty’ but a nice colour. Pablo normally uses a Gimena prototype in Ebony wood untreated, so he can test the longevity of this kind of pen. And we both have inked a Pilot 74 with a fude style nib and an unbranded jeweller’s vintage fountain pen with a very nice flex nib that sit on our desks, and we use those randomly.
If that’s whetted your appetite, it’s worth look at the Gimena pen site and, of course, the very handy replacements at FPnibs. Next week, we’ll be reviewing one of the other rather special pens which Esther and Pablo also sell!