The Mysterious Da Vinci Code behind Vintage Namiki Pen – Autumn Grass – HAGI 萩

Vintage Namiki Pen – Autumn Grass alias Hagi

Vintage Pilot Fountain Pen Empeor Autumn Grass c. 1980s
Vintage Namiki Fountain Pen – Pilot Emperor size pen Autumn Grass c. 1980s

For experienced collectors of Namiki pen or Pilot Makie pens, most have seen this Emperor size Namiki pen, Autumn Grass alias Hagi 萩.  It existed as early as 1980s in Pilot design and then later in mid 90s as Namiki Autumn Grass.

Close up of trimmings
Close up of trimmings

The vibrant gold nashiji (named after the famous Japanese pear-like gold dust) application on this design is characteristic of an artist who had been with the esteemed Namiki Pilot Kokokai 國光會 (the design studio which produces all these beauties) for more than three decades – Mr. Hyakusen Murata 村田百川.  His unique style of makie in gold dust is found in many sought-after ever green classics like Yukari Double Gold Fish Kingyo, Kisshomon 吉祥文 and this pen 萩 Hagi Autumn Grass.

The highlight of this article focuses on an interesting aspect which even many experienced collectors may not know about it ; the secret codes on the pen.

It’s an interesting aspect of collecting Vintage Namiki pen and to unravel mysteries that few noticed.  Of course, this comes few and far between because it requires some observation and Sherlock Holmes intuition and curiosity.

There are actually 3 kanji characters embedded among the Autumn Grass theme. When most fortunate collectors who have this pen in their hands, they are naturally attracted by the AAA Grade golden mellow nashiji and taka makie art illustrated on the grass petals first.  Although It is not at all colourful like most beautiful makie pens, the skillful execution of makie lacquer art illustrates the highest lacquer art expertise from the artist.

Naturally, we are mesmerised by the aesthetics of the makie work so much so that we may actually miss the secret coded kanji characters weaved into the drawing itself.

Secret Kanji 1 on cap
Secret Kanji 1 on cap

In this magnified images, for the first time, you will see the detail of the characters revealed.  Literally, they are “城 “, “野”, “宮”.  It reads as “Shirono Miya” if taken as a continuous string of words.

Secret kanji characters on barrel
Secret kanji characters on barrel

I have also noticed in the early years “宮”on the cap but have certainly not seen “城 “and “野” – Shirono (both on the barrel).  Could it be a place? Or an artist’s name who creates the line drawing of the theme? It may well not exist on all Hagi pens and each could be different.

The Pilot Emperor Hagi Autumn Grass reminded me of a very special limited edition of 50 pens made by Namiki in Autumn 2002 – Namiki Zao Wou Ki 赵无极. The late artist (13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013) was residing in Paris then. Original paintings of the late Zao Wou Ki are selling today for millions of euros.

Apparently, the yellow striations on the roiro background came from his painting 1.4.66.  All his paintings are supposed to have his characteristic signature embedded in the painting.  However, till today, I am still not able to unravel the million Euro artist’s signature on Zao Wou Ki pen and so I remain only good to be a specialist with this humble instrument, a fountain pen.

Legendary Zao Wou Ki 赵无极 13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013
Legendary Zao Wou Ki 赵无极 13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013

You are most welcome to visit Elephant & Coral Singapore to view these Vintage Namiki Pen collection whenever you are in Singapore. It is our pleasure to share these wonderful stories and discoveries with all our customers and pen enthusiasts.

Namiki Pen Clinic meeting Namiki Pen Doctor Mr. Takizawa with Namiki Pen For Sale

Namiki pen nibs are well known to many pen users for delivering the best writing experience.  It comes in various nib sizes from EF (extra fine), SMF (soft medium fine), MS (Music Soft) etc.  You can see the range of nib sizes available on this chart:

Namiki pen nib chart:
Namiki pen nib sizes
This chart shows the various nib sizes and its feel of soft or hard nibs in Namiki pens or Pilot Pens

For a very long time, whenever there is a Namiki pen for sale , it is fitted with only F, M and B nibs.  But, over the years as calls for Namiki to increase the range of nibs available for users, they have finally take heed.

In fact, most of the Namiki pen nibs are actually available long ago; except that it was available only in the domestic market for PILOT pens.

The experience of using a Namiki pen nib is enhanced if you can start to use the bigger or perhaps, the biggest pen nib; The Jumbo 50 Namiki pen nib.  It is usually fitted only in the Emperor size pens which measures 15.5 cm in length.

It’s like sitting behind a Rolls Royce where you can feel the steadiness of how the nib glides on the paper as if you can actually feel the grains on the paper!

When it comes to negotiating the corners, it never skips and continue to deliver the unmatched writing experience of the grip on the paper surface.

The most beautiful part is about to come……the scratching of the sound on the paper.  It is like music to the ears of a true writer because it delivers an almost subliminal instinct to produce creative juices in the writer that it prompts the user to chase after the creative idea one after another and another… That’s the experience of using the Jumbo 50 Namiki pen nib.

Of course, you will find differing experience using the Yukari Royale, Yukari and the Nippon Art collection.  All will give you differing experiences because the size of the pen differs with the nib that was fitted to it.

Namiki Pen nib clinic was the first of a series of activity Pilot Japan interacts with its customers to understand their special requirement on the pen nib.

Continue reading Namiki Pen Clinic meeting Namiki Pen Doctor Mr. Takizawa with Namiki Pen For Sale

The Heritage of Namiki Pens – Like Father Like Son

Namiki 4 Treasures Limited Edition Pink Sakura, Namiki Goose & Pink, Namiki Dancing Beauty and Namiki Sailing Boat
Namiki 4 Treasures Limited Edition Pink Sakura, Namiki Goose & Pink, Namiki Dancing Beauty and Namiki Sailing Boat

In the sequence preceding year 2001, a special collection of Namiki pens were made by Namiki. These are the Namiki  Pink Sakura, the Namiki Goose & Pink,  Namiki Dancing Beauty and Portuguese Tradeship (alias Sailing Boat).

The edition sizes were 62, 83, 75 and 73 pieces respectively with  the last matching numbered set being 62.  It was not easy to have all the 4 pieces to be in matching set as it took, literally, 3 years to have all the various pieces made and delivered to customers due to the immaculate detail in the making of these pens.  Many customers have forgotten about their order and from hind sight, it appears that the wait is all worth the while now as there are very few sets of four that are in matching numbers.

A quick reference to the book The Fountain Pens of The World revealed an interesting evidence that all these pens were actually a reproduction of prototypes made in the early years

  • Pink Sakura – reproduction of Vest Type, Raden Aogai-Pearl c. 1926
  • Goose & Pink – reproduction of a prototype c. 1968
  • Dancing Beauty – reproduction of Hagoromo c. 1926
  • Sailing Boat – reproduction of Portuguese Tradeship by Ritsuzan c. 1931

They are all absolutely fabulous masterpieces that are not available now except in the Pilot / Namiki museum archive.

P-1

Namiki Pink Sakura - Masterpiece of Kyusai Yoshida
Namiki Pink Sakura – Masterpiece of Kyusai Yoshida   吉田久齋

 

The reproduction of Namiki Pink Sakura was the most outstanding as it was made by then the Chief Kokokai 國光會Artist- Master Kyusai Yoshida (吉田久齋).  Appreciating the pen as one rotates the pen in the hand, it is as if you are looking at the glitter of a kaleidoscope. Pearls and aogai shells cut in the shapes of hearts to form the outline of sakura were seen as if it was in the floating world.

P-2

Namiki Goose & Pink by Seki Chida 正樹
Namiki Goose & Pink by Seki Chida 正樹

On a roiro background, the Namiki Goose & Pink revealed the simple pleasure of seeing a cute gander looking smart and right facing the world.   The outstanding creation of the goose using silver on its breast revealing details of the layers of feathers and the high relief taka maki-e lacquer on its torso is a pleasure to feel and touch.

It was the lowest priced pens then and was the first to be sold out.  Nevertheless, you can find the original prototype Goose & Pink in Elephant & Coral Singapore, from which the limited edition 83 pieces Goose & Pink, were modelled and reproduced around 2001.

Reference:

a.    A Heritage of Maki-e Pens – The Briggs Collection (Book is available for sale at Elephant & Coral – click here )

b.   Fountain Pens of The World by Andreas Lambrou.

Prototype Pilot #4 Goose & Pink LF c. 1960s.  Extremely rare  & collectible. AAA grade condition
Prototype Pilot #4 Goose & Pink LF c. 1960s. Extremely rare & collectible. AAA grade condition

P-3

Namiki Dancing Beauty - Seki Chida 正樹
Namiki Dancing Beauty – Seki Chida 正樹

To many collectors, there are various reasons why certain pens appeal to them. Specifically, when comes to colour, green is not the colour many will cast their eyes on it.  Green is usually deeper in colour when comes to maki-e (so far, I have not seen lime green lacquer).  It is not the first preference for many users or collectors because it doesn’t stand out.

In the case of the Namiki Dancing Beauty, I have always advocate it as the ugly duckling that turns into a beautiful swan; if only one knows and sees beyond what this pen means in the future.  The resemblance of this pen to an antique 1926 design is no coincidence but shows the high level of appreciation of art during the golden age of fountain pens.

The slender figure of the dancer under the aogai inlaid cherry blossom tree has an intricate illustration of aogai pearl shells,taka maki-e high relief lacquer  and detail exhibit of the beauty of the clad kimono.  On close scrutiny, the green lacquer is not just pure green but sprinkles of aogai shells are visible within the lacquer.

Green lacquer is not only rare in many maki-e but also precious.  Essentially, because many did not like it on first sight; few are being collected or in the hands of users.  Isn’t this a perfect excuse to collect it?  Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder….

P-4

The only Jumbo 50 Emperor size pen made by Namiki among the collection.  Namiki Portuguese Tradeship (alias Namiki Sailing Boat) illustrated a huge majestic ship in the ports of the Bugafu government.

Namiki Sailing Boat (alias Portuguese Tradeship) 真人
Namiki Sailing Boat (alias Portuguese Tradeship) 真人

With the maru pun gold dust sprinkled lightly on the entire pen and togidashi maki-e to give it the archaic look, the artist attempted to create a hybrid of the East and West cultures to appeal to foreigners.

Today, more than a decade now, a full set of these 4 matching numbered pens are rare and precious due to many reasons.  It’s intrinsic value of beauty and art is undeniably the most interesting by Namiki in its attempt to bring back beauty of fine writing instruments during the Golden Ages of Fountain Pens during the 1920s and 30s.

All pens viewed on this blog are available and you are most welcomed to enquire on its availability from Elephant & Coral Singapore.  Contact: sales@elephant-coral.com or +65-6736-1322

Dunhill Namiki ~ The Enchanting Story of Singapore between London and Tokyo

Dunhill Namiki And Singapore

Dunhill Namiki was introduced to the world because of the need to bring Japanese made Namiki fountain pens to the international market when the sales agreement was signed between Alfred Dunhill and Namiki Pen Manufacture Japan in 1920s.  The agreement to sell Namiki Pens under the name Dunhill Namiki was the biggest breakthrough for Namiki in its brand history.

How did Singapore come into play in the pivotal role as the conduit for the East & West culture?  An interesting box containing an antique Dunhill Namiki pen reveals how important was Singapore being instrumental in bringing this wonderful love story together.

Dunhill Namiki History
Dunhill Namiki Pens was already selling in Singapore since the 1920s. Amazing !

History is a mirror to the past and has  always repeat itself in different forms.  The modern history of Namiki pens cannot be complete without mentioning this island state Singapore.  It was in Singapore in 1998 that the first shop in shop of Namiki was set up in Elephant & Coral (www.elephant-coral.com) Continue reading Dunhill Namiki ~ The Enchanting Story of Singapore between London and Tokyo

The Legend of AAA Grade Namiki Fountain Pens and The Late Gonroku Matsuda

Who is Gonroku Matsuda?

Why is he such an interesting person in the world of Japanese maki-e fountain pens in relation to Namiki Fountain pens?

For many who collect Japanese maki-e lacquer pens, namely Namiki fountain pens, the name is synonymous to a legend who brings the soul of Japanese lacquer to a humble and simple instrument – A fountain pen. It is the late Mr. Gonroku Matsuda who first applied a traditional art form of maki-e onto a cylindrical surface,like a fountain pen, during his short stint in the Namiki Factory between 1925~1926. The late artist had an impressive list of honours under his name.

The following is a summary extract of Gonroku Matsuda’s life, works and honours:

1. 1896 – Born on April 20 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Ken

2. 1903 – Began studying maki-e with his elder brother Kosaku

3. 1914 – Graduated from the Ishikawa Prefectural Industrial School and began study at the lacquer department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts

4. 1919 – Graduated from Tokyo School of Fine Arts

5. 1924 – Displayed for the first time in the 11th Noten Exhibition and won second prize

6. 1926 – Began works on lacquerware at the Namiki Factory

7. 1927 – Resigned from Namiki and remained as an advisor to the firm. He became an assistant professor at Tokyo School of Fine arts and participated in the 8th Teiten Exhibition and subsequently exhibited every year.

8. 1928 – Made lacquer interior decorations for two Japanese ships.

9. 1929 – Received honorable mention in the 10th Teiten Exhibition.

10. 1930 – Nominated to the Imperial Art Academy

11. 1947 – Became a member of the Imperial Art Academy

12. 1955 – Designated holder of an important intangible cultural property (maki-e).

13. 1962 – Became chairman of the Japan Crafts Association

14. Published a book entitled Urushi no Hanashi (The Tale of Lacquer)

15. 1974- Awarded a Second class order of the Sacred Treasure

16. 1976 – Awarded an Order of Cultural Merit

17. 1978 – Held a one-man exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo A distinguished artist who had dedicated his entire life to the traditional art of Japanese lacquer.

He was a dedicated person in the preservation and protection of old works of art and to education in traditional crafts. His works are by no means limited to lacquer but he had earned the profound respect of many of his countrymen as one of the most important figures in the history of Japanese maki-e lacquer art.

After briefly turning his hand to the production of export lacquerware at the Namiki Factory, at the age of thirty one, he returned to the Tokyo School of Fine Arts to begin teaching that lasted until he was sixty seven. After retirement, he began putting to use his accumulated knowledge and skill in creating strongly original lacquer vessels.

Nice maki-e pen
A beautiful Japanese Maki-e pen

 

He and others who share his belief in the necessity of revitalizing traditions in modern terms formed the Japan Crafts Association in 1955. Gonroku Matsuda remains active till his eighties. A decorated, distinguished artist who had created a legacy of collectors worldwide who were so much enchanted by his dedication and development in Japanese maki-e lacquer works on a fountain pen.