Quilling it softly

Unique hobbies

Quilling it softly

For calligraphy maestro K C Janardhan, collecting writing instruments is an extension of his passion and work. The artist proudly boasts of a collection of more than 600 instruments like ink bottles, exquisite pens, quills and nibs.

It comprises items from 1980s — when he started his work. “I went professional in 1990. But my collection includes items prior to that as well. Calligraphy took me to the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and across the globe,” he says. He recollects an interesting trip to Hong Kong, where he was given $500. “This was the limited amount one had to live on. In Hong Kong, I was near the World Trade Centre and spotted someone selling a set of Chinese brushes for HK $ 60. I badly wanted them but I didn’t have enough money. I explained to the man that I was a calligrapher from India. He didn’t budge,” narrates Janardhan.

Listening to this conversation was a fortune teller at the next stall. “He asked me if I was an English calligrapher and if I could write 4 lines for him. I asked him how much he would pay me and he asked me what I wanted. I told him it would be great if he could get me the set of brushes. I was elated. Later on, I discovered that English calligraphy for 4 lines could have got me around HK $ 500 to 700. I laughed as the fortune teller got a fortune! But it was all about the passion for collecting these instruments,” he says.

He remembers other travel tales, which include how he went for research work to the UK in the mid-90s and bought his first quill. “I bought it from L Cornelissen & Son on Russell Street.” He owns quills made from partridge and goose feathers. “These are picked from their left or right wing according to the person, if he is a left or right-hander,” says Janardhan.

His collection also consists of varied ink bottles from across the globe. “Everywhere I went, I would pick them up. I have ink bottles from Pelican  from the 1950s, 1990s and the more recent ones. One bottle was made in crystal. My collection also has ink bottles from Mont Blanc, Conway Stewart, Sheaffer, Monteverde, Stuart Houghton, Aurora, Reform, Private Reserve, Rotring and Sailor,” says Janardhan. He also owns special scented ink from Mont Blanc, which was used to write love letters. “There was also cinnamon ink for passionate writing.” The collection also contains ink wells. “Ink would be poured into them and dipped into, before writing,” he says.

Other items include nibs from Lindner, which were imported from UK around 100 years ago. “There was an unsold stock and I have around 14 boxes of these nibs. These were from Birmingham and include nibs from Joseph Gillott’s, Perry & Co Ltd (which had Celtic pens), C Brandauer & Co Ltd and more. There are various nibs from the 17th and 18th century,” he says. He adds that there are a huge variety of nibs across the world and he owns just a small portion of them.

Colourful paperweights are also a part of his proud collection. “I have paperweights which are more than 50 years old. There are some rare shaped or themed ones,” he says. His collection has special pens too. “There are some limited edition pens like the Classic 149 from Mont Blanc, Starwalkers and LeGrand Traveler 147R. The brand also came out with an edition commemorating John Lennon (which came with a record of ‘Imagine’),” he says. They have their own props around them, which add to the experience.

All of these are safely stored and displayed in his museum  ‘J’s La Quill’, to which people have also contributed benevolently. “All these are arranged diligently. When people I know come across a special pen or writing instrument they bring it to me as they know I will be able to appreciate it,” says the proud owner.

(K C Janardhan can be contacted at 40971996)

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