The sheen of patriotism

COMBINING a passion for fountain pens, an appreciation of penmanship, and the love of Malaysia, a local pen shop collaborated with UK-based ink maker Diamine to create an ink that is uniquely and exclusively Malaysian.

The ink, named Jalur Gemilang, is the first commercially-produced fountain pen ink with a Malaysian theme, and is available exclusively from PenGallery in SS2, Petaling Jaya.

"It took six months to develop [Jalur Gemilang]," said Lai Kim Hoong, director of Pure Paradigm Sdn Bhd and PenGallery.

"We have been working with Diamine for 20 years before this project. Diamine is well known for [its] inks, and they make lots of colours."

Since 1864, Diamine inks have been used by royalty, presidents, and professionals around the world. Its Royal Blue ink was used by the US and Russian presidents to sign a nuclear arms treaty in 2010.

"When we began designing the ink, I wanted something with a Malaysian theme," said Lai.

"The idea of a sheen ink was firm in our discussions."

A sheening ink is a special ink that shines, sometimes in different colours, depending on how the light hits it. The effect is best seen when an ink pools and dries.

Because of this property, sheening inks are best used in pens that write wet (meaning a wet nib), and on smooth, less absorbent paper.

Lai added: "Most sheening inks do not use strong colours, and the results are not as striking or pronounced. I knew I wanted a blue ink, and I also wanted a red sheen."

Several discussions with Diamine and some experimentation resulted in a spot of ink with a deep blue base and a red sheen.

"The name came afterwards," explained Lai. "My team and I were thinking of a name; there were so many suggestions of a typical 'local' name. But, we decided names like Nasi Lemak were not appropriate.

"Then we took a look at the Malaysian flag. It is very colourful, and it has blue and red as well. So we thought: 'Let's name it Jalur Gemilang'."

The Jalur Gemilang ink is currently sold only at PenGallery's SS2 shop, and on its online store.

An 80ml bottle costs RM55.

"The Jalur Gemilang is a limited edition ink," said Lai. "We plan only to make 1,000 bottles.

Of course, we have also had many requests never to stop producing this colour.

"We sold hundreds [of bottles] to customers all over the world in the first few days.

"Word of the ink got around fast in the fountain pen community. It is especially desirable because it is only available here at PenGallery."

PenGallery first opened in 1999 in Kuala Lumpur. Initially selling luxury pens, the company then gravitated towards fountain pens as the medium enjoyed a resurgence among the youth.

It then moved to its current location in Petaling Jaya, which has developed into a sort of community centre for fountain pen enthusiasts.

"We carry the largest selection of inks and fountain pens in the region. We also frequently hold gatherings at the shop. The next one will be in October, and the [biggest] one will be in November for the World Fountain Pen Day."

Lai added that there are plans to further expand PenGallery with penmanship and calligraphy classes, and even paper products.