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Hi! I'm Maybelline, founder of OnFountainPens. Ask me anything!

Chemist by day, Fountain pen blogger and reviewer by night. Ask Me Anything!

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This AMA session now LIVE! Ask Maybelline anything by leaving comments below from 8-10pm (SGT)

Hi Grouphunt,

Maybelline here! I'm a chemist by day, and by night, a fountain pen enthusiast, blogger, and self-proclaimed pen addict. I started on this fountain pen hobby in late 2010.

I have always loved stationery since I was a young child, and I love colourful things and beautiful writing. Ever since a fellow left-handed friend showed me his TWSBI Diamond 530 fountain pen, I’ve been hooked onto fountain pens. I started acquiring various fountain pens to try out, and am still doing so today!

At some point I decided to embark on the journey of curating my experiences with fountain pens via On Fountain Pens - which has grown into one of the most established sites in Singapore that serves the fountain pen community in Singapore. I also organise events frequently for the awesome fountain pen community via the Singapore Fountain Pen Lovers (SFPL) Facebook group in Singapore.

My wish for OFP is to serve as an important, relevant and useful information source to fountain pen enthusiasts around the world, and to keep the local fountain pen community alive and interesting!

You can ask me questions like:

  • Why I started OnFountainPens
  • What's my favourite pen?
  • What's my morning routine?

Feel free to ask me anything and I'll try to answer!

NOTE from the community manager: This AMA session is scheduled to go live this coming Saturday 22nd August from 8pm to 10pm! If you have any questions you can post them first and Maybelline will answer them once the AMA begins. Remember to subscribe to this thread by clicking the button below so you will get updates on answers! It's a community discussion so please be nice! Rude/tasteless/vulgar comments will be moderated/deleted.

EDIT: This AMA has officially ended, a huge thank you to everyone for your support! I believe we've learnt quite abit from Maybelline today :) If you have more questions you can still post them and it will get answered over time. Do watch out for more AMAs from Grouphunt in the future. Have a great Sunday ahead :)

Additional Info: Original Link
jonathanlee a year ago

Hello! My handwriting looks like chicken scratch. I bet yours looks printed. Any tips or resources on how to get started?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi Jonathan,

Lol. My handwriting definitely doesn't look printed. If I may allow myself to comment on my handwriting: it changes with mood! Most of the time I scribble, sometimes I write neatly. It's not out of will or desire, but rather the state of my mind and the agility of my arm muscles at that time. I haven't yet found any correlation between the state of my mind and the quality of my handwriting, though.

I do have a starter tip on how to improve your handwriting. Learning how to form letters individually can help. Write more slowly. I write in a mixture of print and cursive, but when I want/need to be more legible, I write in print. That means no joining of letters. It's really not easy to change handwriting, especially since it's something that is usually ingrained in our subconscious, just like speaking and walking, ever since we were kids. However a good amount of conscious effort can definitely get you anywhere. If you've watched My Fair Lady, that's a great example of how you can work on anything you're trying to improve! Practice, self-critique, repeat. Soon enough, you'll see that your handwriting gradually improves, and I'm sure that will be a great motivation for you to keep on working on it!

Note that I didn't mention using fountain pens at all. A common misconception is that fountain pens improves handwriting! Fountain pens may make you more conscious of writing as you need to hold the pen in a certain way, and the sweet spot of the nib on paper tends to be more specific than ballpoints and rollerballs, but it does not directly influence your handwriting quality. Just a note!

Nicholas Yeo a year ago

a. What is currently your favourite fountain pen? b. Why do you like this pen - is it due to sentimental reasons, writing performance or appearance? c. Would you describe yourself as a fountain pen user or collector?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi Nic,

Currently, my favourite pen is the Pilot Capless "Bamboo" fountain pen. I love this pen because of the red wood design, and that it's just so convenient to use! Writing performance is great too, as with most Pilot pens that I've used so far.

I suppose I'd describe myself more as a fountain pen collector. Due to the nature of my job, I don't get to use fountain pens a lot, and when I do actually need to write things down in my lab book at work (I'm a chemist), the paper is so lousy that I just gave up using fountain pens on it. Too bad. While I try to use my pens as much as possible off work, I don't feel it's ever enough! Yet, I keep on buying more pens! So yes, definitely more a collector than a user.

That said, I do try to use all the fountain pens that I buy at least once. To me, fountain pens are designed to be used for writing. It may just disappoint the maker if we buy a pen and not use it!

GroupHunt Admin a year ago

Hey Maybelline, totally agree with getting usage out of stuff that we acquire. I'm intrigued that you've only used certain pens once, and it's a pity you aren't able to use it at your daily work. If it hasn't yet been asked, what makes you keep acquiring more pens then? :)

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi Groo Han,

Good question, and I'll need to search my mind for a while to provide a good justification for buying and buying pens. ;) Well, I guess this is what hobbies are about. I generally hate shopping and going out (Singapore is way too crowded for my liking), so I don't usually buy a lot of things. I spend my money on fountain pens to keep myself happy. I do like new things to play with, so I keep on buying new pens to explore. Also, another more practical reason is that I want to keep on writing reviews of fountain pens for my blog! I have turned to getting support from retailers as purchasing costs would be really high for me in order to be able to keep writing reviews about fountain pens. So nowadays, I take a longer time to decide on the next pen I would buy.

Nicholas Yeo a year ago

Thank you for sharing. The Bamboo Capless is indeed an interesting fountain pen, though I am not much of a Capless fan myself. I just can't get over the clip. I'm rather impressed that Pilot managed to make a nib which is both small enough to fit in the barrel, and keep production quality high - most Capless pens I have tried are reliable writers. The only issue I have is really the small ink capacity.

I'm quite surprised that you see yourself as a collector. I am a little of both, and there is definitely satisfaction seeing that certain pens I had purchased are sought after by other people. I do maintain a pouch full of daily-writers, these are pens which have the best nibs and that are practical - those which are not too expensive! I'm also guilty of not using many of my pens, but recently I inked a Sailor with a Concorde nib and an Omas with a Flessible nib.

Have a great weekend!

johnbosco a year ago

Hi there! I'll get the ball rolling! I've read on your blog that you gave a speech during the Sheaffer Centennial launch event in 2013 about your No Nonsense Pen.... I sense a nice story here - is it possible to share the story? Why is it a memorable pen for you?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi John,

Yes, I decided to share about the No Nonsense Pen as it was a special pen for me! It was given to me by one of the readers of my blog. His name is Joel, and he was one of the first readers who actually wrote me an email. After some exchanges, I found out that he knows some of the fellow pen collectors and retailers that I know personally too. After a long time, we finally met up with a couple of my other friends, and he gave me this ivory No Nonsense pen. He said he meant to save it for his son, but his son didn't like fountain pens, so he thought it was better off given to someone else who would cherish and use it better. He even named it Snow White due to the colour, so I preserved that name for the pen even until today!

johnbosco a year ago

I see! Thanks for sharing! That a really lovely story...No wonder the pen is so special

For some reason your story reminded me of the Patek Philippe Watch "Generations" campaign tagline - “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” I guess in your own way you will look after Snow White til you can find someone worthy too, in far future! :)

Maybelline Tan a year ago

That's an interesting link, John. Yes indeed, I hope I can save some of my pens (including the No Nonsense) for the next generation too. :)

juneelim a year ago

Any preference towards European pens or Japanese pens? Or inks for that matter.

Maybelline Tan a year ago

I must say I really like Pilot pens. I have a large number of Pilot pen reviews on my blog, and also I do tend to prefer the feel of writing from Pilot pens.

I don't have any particular preference for inks. But I have a large number of J. Herbin inks, and I have all the Iroshizuku inks in 15ml bottles. The next set I'm eyeing is the R&K range of inks.

andyphang a year ago

(i) In this day and age, what do you think are some of the best ways to get another hooked on fountain pens?

(ii) Do you think fountain pens should be viewed as a utility tool or more an art form?

(iii) If you have to only live with one fountain pen (at the moment), what would that be?

(iv) Putting aside financial constrains, name ONE pen that you would like to have next in your collection?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

(i) In this day and age it is indeed not easy to get someone else hooked onto fountain pens. I guess fundamentally a person needs to be appreciative of analog tools to start with, before he/she might consider being interested in fountain pens. Also, it may be easier to influence another by showing them all the calligraphy and penmanship works that people can create from fountain pens (flex, italic, oblique nibs, etc)!

(ii) I believe fountain pens should be like watches. While they can be pieces of art, it sort of defeats the purpose of making it in the first place if it cannot be used. Fountain pens can also be like human beings. What's the point of spending tons of money and effort decorating the outside, when the inside is useless/bad? They should first be usable, before we talk about how pretty we want to make them. I would not be able to justify spending, say, $5000 on a totally exquisite-looking fountain pen, but not be able to use it. Unless there is another very compelling reason, like maybe it used to be utilized by a famous and inspiring person, which would make it very worth preserving in a museum instead of being used!

(iii) Wow, tough question. I would probably say, my TWSBI 580. Huge ink chamber which allows me to see what ink I put into it, easy to take apart to clean. Yep, I think that's the only pen I can think of for this question right now.

(iv) Another very tough question, lol. I'm quite fascinated by the Mont Blanc Skeleton pens, purely because of the design. Can't decide which one, though!

joelleong a year ago

Hi Maybelline, thanks for taking the time out to do this AMA! =)

I'm interested to know what's the inspiration (why) behind starting your blog and the SFPL group (love the group btw - some of the nicest people out there)! Of the N hours a day you spend pursuing your passion, how is the time split between maintaining your blog, the SFPL group, and honing your craft?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi Joel,

For me, I started my blog to curate my journey in fountain pens. When I first started using and collecting fountain pens, I thought they were such fine writing instruments that they deserve to be written about. I read many blogs online that review stationery products, including fountain pens, and they opened up new ways from which I can look at a writing instrument. So, why not write about them? I initially started on blogspot and later on moved to my own domain when I got a bit more serious about it. Also, initially, I reviewed all kinds of writing instruments, but later on decided to focus largely on fountain pens, in order to stay true to the name of my blog.

While the SFPL group was not started by me (the founder is Leon Lim), I was made an admin of the group a few years ago. It was quite by accident - I happened to organize a fountain pen meet (then located at King Albert Park's McDonalds'), and the turnout was so great. So there were more requests of such meets to be organized. Leon then decided to make me an admin so as to facilitate event creation and so on, on the group. The group has really grown a great deal over the last few years (not because of me, of course, but because of all the awesome members in it), and it's not difficult now to organize a pen meet with a high turnout. It's really nice to meet and get to know fellow enthusiasts.

That said, I do really have vey few hours a week to spend on my blog, the SFPL group, and my fountain pens. I have a busy job, which sometimes requires me to bring work home to do, so I only mostly get to work on my blog during weekends. I try to use my fountain pens at least once everyday. As for the SFPL group, I work with my fellow admins to organize pen meets, and I'm the main contact person for "external affairs" such as liaising with sponsors, etc. I do visit the Facebook group a couple of times daily, and scroll quickly through the posts to see which ones catch my eye.

joelleong a year ago

Hey Maybelline, I find it really inspiring that you've gained from reading other blogs and reviews and are now in a way giving back to the community by documenting your own journey. It's something we see in the tech (specifically programming) community too, and I really like the initiative and 'pay it forward' kind of thinking. Thanks again for sharing! Hope to catch you in person at one of the upcoming pen meets one of these days :)

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Thank you for appreciating it, Joel. Hope to see you in person soon too!

Julius Yap a year ago

How does a day in your life look like (ie daily routine)? Favourite ink colour?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi Julius,

My weekdays differ from weekends of course, so I'll write about both:

Weekdays: get up just in time for a quick breakfast, then rush off to work. Work my head off, then get home totally exhausted (lol). Watch TV while having dinner, then go online to catch up on social media. Sometimes I call in to teleconferences for work, or quickly finish up the last report or presentation slides that I haven't had time to finish at work. If I have the energy, I'll do stuff on my blog. At the same time, I chat with my boyfriend on Skype. Then I doze off at the table, then crawl to bed. :)

Weekends: get up as late as I feel is reasonable, then turn on the computer, and basically just spend time on my computer all day long. If I'm not at the computer, I'll be out catching up with friends, or out with my mum, or hanging around pen shops. Sometimes my little cousins (they're preschool age) come to my place and we spend time entertaining one another, lol.

Favourite ink colour: anything in the range of magenta-purple, and orange, would interest me a great deal. But in practical situations, I use my J. Herbin Perle Noire. I bought a huge bottle of it 3-4 years ago when I was in a stationery shop in France (Georges and Co) which dispenses J Herbin inks from INK TAPS ON A WALL (!!!), and haven't finished using it ever since!

Mattia Miani a year ago

I found on your blog the picture of the ink dispenser you are referring. Never seen anything like that! I copy and paste the link in case others are curious to see the picture:

Maybelline Tan a year ago
CyrilKeith a year ago

What's your idea of a perfect weekend out of the house?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

I'm quite antisocial, so my idea of a perfect weekend out of the house would probably be in a place that is calm, quiet, and cool. That is something very difficult to find in Singapore! If I am not limited by the location I'm living in: I'd love to be able to take a stroll in a quiet park (without excess heat and humidity), sitting down in a nice place with a nice ambience with a friend or my boyfriend (who I have been maintaining a long distance relationship with for 5 years) beside me to talk about things and about life. I'd also like to occasionally have fun with friends. I have a group of friends from French class and we are making it a point to meet up at least once a month to do some activities together. I also like movies/concerts/musicals/stage so I have a movies/concerts/musicals/stage buddy to hang out with too.

jackiengo a year ago

Hi Maybelline, thanks for doing this AMA!

1.) Did you find any parallels/learning points between working as a professional chemist and penmanship? Anything you learnt from developing your fountain pen craft that was applied to your full time work, or vice versa?

2.) Any book recommendations (other than FP related ones)? What are the (if any ) defining books/materials that you've read over time that had a positive impact on your life?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

1) I haven't thought about this before! I would say, in any craft or skill, planning, patience and motivation are very important. Whether I'm formulating new formulations for my projects, or practising writing, I'll need to have a) a basic idea of what I want to do (i.e. planning), b) actually carrying out what I want to do, and being prepared to fail/make mistakes, and learning from them (i.e. patience), c) have the ability to press on even when you don't feel like it, or when you have had multiple failures (i.e. motivation).

2) I used to love reading, but never really read much ever since my uni days due to the lack of time, and due to the fact that I tend to doze off while reading! Such a bad habit! But the last most memorable book I've read is "The Five Love Languages". It's not necessarily about romance and dating, but helping us understand what motivates different kinds of people. For instance, some feel more fulfilled when you buy them gifts, while others aren't interested in gifts. Some prefer to spend quality time in order to feel cared for, while others like to hear positive statements about themselves to feel loved. There is no right/wrong, good/bad way of caring for a person. We just need to understand their needs. Everyone is different. This book helped me understand this, and I try to apply what I learnt to people I care for. I highly recommend reading this book!

juneelim a year ago

What's the fountain pen that got you hooked into this world? Are you a more a pen person or ink person?

I'm on a nostalgia kick at the moment going through Youtube looking at my favourite band and boy bands from secondary school. What's your favourite band or group from your secondary school days?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi again Junee!

My classmate (now good friend) from French class showed me his TWSBI Diamond 530 fountain pen. I was so fascinated by it, with the visible ink chamber, the size of it, and now nice it felt writing with it. It was THE pen that got me exploring the world of fountain pens from the beginning! I went on to buy for myself a Parker Vector, a Preppy, and then a Lamy Al-Star. That was my first visit to a fountain pen store (Fook Hing), and then I got hooked!

I'm more a pen person. I do actually have more inks (including samples) than pens at the moment, but when I step into a store, I mostly would look at pens first.

I'm a little embarrassed to talk about my favourite music in secondary school, actually! I used to rave on F4 - now I wonder why I liked them (probably because of looks only, haha!). My current taste of music is very different from that time! Omg!

juneelim a year ago

I guess I am a little different. I am still very much in love with at least one of secondary school era boy? band love. Haha.

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Haha, I just don't know what I was thinking when I was in secondary school. My teenage years seemed to have floated by like a dream. Anyway, there are indeed times when I find it very pleasant to reminisce old songs that I used to listen to a lot on the radio! It's just F4 that I'm embarrassed about, lol.

johnbosco a year ago

Hey don't be embarrassed! F4 was pretty darn popular in their heyday :) Who was your favourite member? Haha

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Haha, I'm rather angmoh-pai so I was quite crazy over Vanness Wu. Also, to do myself justice, I do believe he is the most talented artiste of the four. Lol.

juneelim a year ago
  • What's your grail pen?
  • What's your favourite pen, ink, paper combination?
  • And just for fun, are you a sweet or savory person?
Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hello Junee,

On the topic of grail pens, it's something I have been rather ambivalent about. On one hand, it's really a nice idea to have a pen to "target" at obtaining, and it's very motivating too. On the other hand, a grail pen to me is "the ABSOLUTE" pen that I can never really achieve. Even if I do choose a pen to be my grail pen, what happens after I obtain it? To choose another grail pen then seems to defeat the purpose of having a grail pen in the first place!

But that's just my opinion. At this moment, I do not have a grail pen due to the latter reasoning above. My mind might change in future, who knows!

My favourite pen, ink, and paper? Hmm. At the moment my favourite pen is the Pilot Capless Bamboo fountain pen. I used to love writing with medium nibs, but as of late, I tend to incline more towards fine nibs. Both Japanese and Western fines are fine for me. :)

As for inks, colours ranging between magenta-purple catch my attention very easily. Currently inking my Pilot Capless is Iroshizuku Murasaki-Shikibu! Love the colour.

Due to the fact that I'm left-handed, I like to use paper that are more absorbent, so that the ink dries faster and does not smudge easily. I like Rhodia paper as they fit my needs, and have a wide variety of sizes available!

I used to prefer sweet stuff, but nowadays I find very sweet stuff a little too overwhelming for me. I'm sure that's a result of ageing! I still like munching on candies, though. I've always loved savoury foods, even since I was a kid.

Mattia Miani a year ago

In your blog you hint the possibility to introduce a line of stationery/inks. Do you have any specific plan at the moment? How would your branded stationery look like?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

You're right, Mattia. I love stationery so much that I thought it would be nice to have my own range of stationery, just for fun. I don't have any specific plan at the moment, but those who support me on my Patreon page can get a chance to influence the type of pens/ink colours if my project is really going to take off in future.

I definitely would like my pens to be used, so I would look into more utility pens from the beginning. Probably something a little lower in price, but writes well enough.

Mattia Miani a year ago

Thanks, I will continue to check out your blog! Cheers.

Mattia Miani a year ago

Favorite food? Other hobbies besides fountain pens?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

My favourite food would have to be Chicken Rice. It's what I usually default to when I go to a hawker centre or a food court, and have no idea what to eat. Also, I love eating egg (especially soft-boiled ones), and soups.

Other hobbies besides fountain pens... hmm. I suppose I like tinkering around on Photoshop once in a while, and also trying to learn more about coding and website creation. I don't have much patience, so sometimes I give up soon after trying to figure them out. I enjoying learning and creating in general. I started structuring a novel series when I was 17 or 18, and partnered with a friend who writes very well, but due to various commitments later on, we stopped. Such a pity! We still have the notes and manuscripts, though!

Lately I bought for myself a second-hand micro four thirds interchangeable lens camera, so I'm beginning to explore photography. Once again, learning and creating. I enjoy it thoroughly so far.

tayjingshengduke a year ago

Hi there,

Other than fountain pens, what are other stuffs (hobbies) that you are hooked on?

Maybelline Tan a year ago

Hi there, I have just answered a similar question so I'll just copy-paste the answer, if you don't mind! You can also ask me more details about it if you want. :)

Other hobbies besides fountain pens... hmm. I suppose I like tinkering around on Photoshop once in a while, and also trying to learn more about coding and website creation. I don't have much patience, so sometimes I give up soon after trying to figure them out. I enjoying learning and creating in general. I started structuring a novel series when I was 17 or 18, and partnered with a friend who writes very well, but due to various commitments later on, we stopped. Such a pity! We still have the notes and manuscripts, though!

Lately I bought for myself a second-hand micro four thirds interchangeable lens camera, so I'm beginning to explore photography. Once again, learning and creating. I enjoy it thoroughly so far.

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