Koi fish are a domesticated variant of the common carp and have been around for thousands of years. Carp are a cold water fish that can survive and adapt to many climates and water conditions which facilitates their propagation to new locations. With proper habitat, they can grow up to three feet in length and easily live 25-30 years or more. They were originally found in Central Europe and Asia but are most frequently associated with Japan. This may be because they were largely unknown to the outside world until a Tokyo exposition in 1914. Carp were first bred for food but color morphs were later selectively bred resulting in the beautiful diversity that we see today. There are currently over 20 different varieties of Koi fish. The carp has been revered for thousands of years, often represented in stories as a symbol of perseverance. In Japanese culture, they symbolize wealth, prosperity, love, a successful career, and good fortune. One ancient legend of the Koi stands out and Pelikan highlights it in the promotional materials for their 2015 Maki-e release, simply titled Koi.
Earlier today, Pelikan International gave us a glimpse of their new 2017 Maki-e model. It was just around this time last year that we learned of the prior release, the Spring & Autumn. This new release has been given the moniker Dragonfly. Not many details are available at this time. Pelikan themselves only state;
“This limited edition “Dragonfly” is a masterpiece that combines the craftsmanship of Pelikan Germany based on 179 years of tradition and technology coupled with superior Japanese traditional Maki-e painting techniques. Each fountain pen has the Pelikan logo on the crown, a limited edition number and the artist’s signature drawn in by hand using Maki-e techniques.“
While there isn’t much to glean from that excerpt, the picture is a bit more telling. The double scroll work on the nib clues us into the fact that this is designed off of the M1000 chassis. The traditional Make-e painting depicts a dragonfly amongst a colorful background which stands out nicely against what appears to be a black pen.
Following the recent news of the upcoming Statue of Zeus, Iguana Sell, a purveyor of luxury goods out of Spain, gave us a preview of an upcoming Maki-e limited edition fountain pen today in a post on The Fountain Pen Network. The new model has been named Spring & Autumn. This appears to be an ambitious Maki-e release, encompassing both traditional Maki-e and Raden techniques in a veritable patchwork of thematic motifs. The pen’s finish is designed to symbolize both of its namesake seasons. The imagery includes cherry blossoms and maple leaves, both symbolic of their respective seasons in Japanese culture. Gold leaf is employed to create three traditional Japanese designs on the cap. These include flowing water in green, a hemp leaf in brown, and a golden stripe. There is an area of blue abalone shell on the barrel of the pen, creating a Raden effect. An additional area of stripes in violet depict eternal love. Yet another area in silver is done in the Harikiri technique. Several different Maki-e techniques exists and Harikiri entails generously sprinkling gold powder over a design and then carefully removing it with a needle in selected areas so that the original design shows through the gold dust. When taken as a whole, these different panels come together to give the front of the pen, where the clip resides, an Autumn motif whereas the opposite side depicts a Spring design.
In 2012, Pelikan hosted a special auction in which 11 pens done in the Maki-e style were sold. These were unique pieces, never to be reproduced. The final sale prices ranged anywhere from $4400 to $19,000 plus. While these prices are out of the price range for most of us, it is still fun to look at these beautiful pieces (and perhaps dream of hitting the lottery). Two years later, Pelikan is again hosting a special auction, this time with 17 pieces up for sale, again done in the Maki-e style by renowned artist from Japan.
According to Pelikan, these pens will be available for purchase in successive auctions held at one-week intervals during November. For those that don’t know, “Maki-e is a complex Japanese lacquer painting technique, which requires a great deal of patience and skill. The artist applies lacquer as well as gold and silver particles in multiple layers, which are repeatedly polished, giving a 3D effect. Only a few artists in the world have mastered the technique of Maki-e painting; it takes years to learn.”