Pelikan Hubs 2018 and Niche Communities

On September 21st, I attended the Pelikan Hubs 2018 in my city of Christchurch. It was the second time I’ve attended, and our little group had grown by one (to a total of six!) since the year before. We’re a small country, so unlike America, there are only two cities in New Zealand that held a Hub this year.

If you’re unfamiliar with what the Pelikan Hubs are, it’s an event that Pelikan has run for the past five years. The Hubs encourage fans and fountain pen users in general to gather together. It’s basically a pen meet with some Pelikan goodies thrown in.

The Christchurch Hub this year was in a cafe. All the attendees knew each other from other small pen meetups we’d had throughout the year, except for one newcomer. After some small talk, we got into the hard stuff:

“What pens have you got there?”

Out came the pen cases, tidily organised by brand; the Pelikans in one, the Sailors in another. We started chatting excitedly, passing pens around the three cafe tables we occupied. Over the next two or three hours, we kept saying things like, “That’s so cool!” and “Ugh, I know.”

These aren’t poignant or insightful observations or anything, but they’re the kind of things we don’t get to say in the context of fountain pens on a day to day basis. Having a niche hobby is sort of like having a secret identity or belonging to a secret society, in a sense, with less intrigue.

What were you saying about niche communities?

Loving something a little odd can be liberating when you discover or create a community around you with other people who love that thing too. The Pelikan Hubs wouldn’t be able to exist in its current capacity without the Internet, even though it’s a celebration of an analogue hobby. I find the inherent mismatch of creating digital communities around analogue things really interesting. I don’t know if anyone else does, but hey, it’s my blog.

This all boils down to… communities are great. Being around people is great. If you’re able to attend a pen meet in your local area, whether it’s around Hubs time or not, I highly encourage you to do so.

A podcast I love, Dear Hank & John featured a question from a young person wondering if they should join the local bonsai enthusiasts club. Their worry was that it’s largely made up of people much older than them. Although they advertise their “dubious” advice, the hosts emphatically encouraged this person to go. I think that’s excellent advice. They reminded this person and me that we can learn from people much older or much younger than we are. It’s no different with fountain pens, and I suspect it’s no different from many “niche” and “weird” hobbies out there.

So, go. Learn from people and have fun. Even if the meetups are few and far between, even if you’re in a smaller city or country, even if you can’t get cool sponsors for your events. There’s something to be gained, even if it’s just hearing “Ugh, I know,” when you say, “I want this weird pen so badly.”

I’m working on some reviews, including one for the Field Notes “End Papers” edition notebooks. I hope to get that up soon and start updating regularly.

Maree, who I met through the pen meetups, started a business selling handmade pen accessories. She’s got beautifully made, sturdy pen pouches and lovely pen cushions. If that sounds up your alley, check them out at Hurlestone. (I’m not being paid to say this, they’re just neat.)

Thanks for reading!

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