eye candy: troublemaker foxglove
A chill runs through your veins despite the wool cardigan around your shoulders and the freshly brewed coffee in your hand. Maybe even a small treat you get for yourself, yesterday’s lunch cookie or -in my case- half of a Kinder Bueno from the other day. Sweetness doesn’t do much to chase away the gloom of a dawn that won’t result in sunlight. Seagulls blare in your ears, their screams getting more and more distant, leaving the early morning to a bird that actually sings from one of the flowering trees below. That dark, diffused blue of the dawn mixes with purple and reflects off of the clouds, less and less every moment. The white fluffy clouds that reflect the dawn are getting further away, and the wind replaces them with dark heavy clouds that won’t rain but still won’t let the sun in. Only about three cars have passed from one of the busiest avenues in the city, and not a single person is in sight. This is a city that sleeps.
I’ve been a little neglectful towards my pens in the past couple of weeks, and the break went on much longer than I hoped it would. Writing took a backseat as exams and deadlines piled up, though finally I can shake the dust from my planner, bring out all the lovely notebooks and get to writing once again.
Fortunately, I have been reaching for one pen and ink often these days, refilling it again and again instead of actually cleaning it. It’s the TWSBI Mini Diamond Grape, a 1.1 stub nib on it, and filled with Troublemaker Foxglove. The pen deserves its very own post because I am so happy that they finally made a special edition colour for the Mini to facilitate me getting it, I wasn’t interested in any of the previous colours.
Now, the ink, on the other hand, has been on my radar for quite a while for two simple reasons: beautiful colours and the minimal but useful packaging. Unfortunately, they weren’t sold in EU until relatively recently, so the only thing that I could do was to swoon over the swatches I see from online friends. Once they were available, I picked Milky Ocean (still figuring that ink out) and Foxglove, with a much stronger preference for Foxglove. My ink preferences are running purple these days.
Foxglove is a beautiful flower, growing like weeds everywhere. It has a funny little legend about its name, that people thought the foxes wore the soft petaled flowers as gloves to muffle out their footsteps. Foxglove. They also remind me of summers spent in Greece, because the tall stems would grow from every single crack on the streets of the village, and then dry to a crisp towards the end of the summer.
The ink’s colour strikes that balance between the delicacy of the base colour and the shifting colours of the petals. The ink flows from the nib as a single, pale lavender colour, then dries to pool and reveal the shading. I say “reveal” on purpose, because you wouldn’t think this ink shades to so many colours if you just saw it wet. Where the ink pools the heaviest, light blues start to appear around the edges of the letters, and the middle part of the letters shade to a brighter and warmer pink-purple. The drier parts stay lighter, but still quite legible with a wider nib that’s not overly wet.
Must all beautiful things in life have drawbacks?! It seems so. A common problem with these multi-shading inks are how dry they are. Let me tell you, this is the driest ink I own, and it is not even close. It is also finicky according to the weather, I never came across another ink that was so picky about humidity and heat. Perhaps it is because it is so dry. This ink prefers humid, warm weather, it does help a little with the flow. Prepping the nib is also an option, but you have to keep doing it every now and then, because the flow will slow down. Otherwise, when you first fill the pen and the feed is very saturated with ink, it is a dream to use. Then, it starts to dry and the unlubricated scratch of the nib starts to feel like nails on the page, especially if your page has a bit of a texture and if it’s not very absorbent. When you open the cap, the flow will be better for the first couple of sentences too, then it will start to get fainter.
On the upside, the dry flow means that it does behave better on not great papers. My Pathfinder notebook is a random non-fountain pen-friendly notebook that usually feathers with a mid-wet fine nib and Parker Quink. It doesn’t feather with Troublemaker Foxglove and a 1.1 stub. It even shows some multi-shading. That’s how dry this ink is.
Alas, I will put up with it, because the colour is so pretty.
Next up, I want to talk about the presentation of the ink a bit, because I always think that it shows a lot about how the brands want to be seen. I like this packaging a lot, it is simple, yet shows attention to detail in specific ways. The plastic rectangular bottles are reminiscent of the 30 ml Diamine bottles. Their base area is similar, and the Troublemaker bottles are much taller. The openings are about the same size too, so it might not accommodate bigger pens. But, the edges of the Troublemaker bottles are faceted. Not cornered, but straightened out to little facets. And I absolutely love that. That shows me that they thought about how to bottle their inks and the plastic bottle was not a way of cutting costs or accessibility, but they actually made a conscious decision about it. The bottles are stackable, light to ship and show the level of the ink because they are transparent. A label on top of the cap shows the name of the ink and a little gradient of a colour swatch. Even though, the multi-shading is kind of paper dependent, I appreciate this little label very much. I even kept the box of the ink bottle, it is cute and the textures and colours continue around it to create a simple but attractive design. This is one of the rare instances where even the bottle design and the box design are related, the graphics are carried over. There is so much work and love that went into this. Sometimes, in a world of samples and ink sharing, the work that goes into designing a package is obscured from us. I find it unfortunate, because the packaging and the ink must support each other to create one product.
Lastly, the price of the inks and the fact that they are handmade only adds to the value for me. Good inks in useful and cute bottles that support people halfway across the world. That’s all. It reminds me why I love modern fountain pens and the 21st century version of this hobby. I see some more Troublemaker in my future.
Thank you for reading! The photographs turned out too saturated and washed out at the same time because of the weird weather, click here to look at the Mountain of Ink for a more familiar setup. The ink on the page doesn’t look exactly like that to me, so I guess it’s somewhere in between.