In a certain sense, a culture is a collective collection of memories passed down from one generation to the next. In the joy that is the passage of time, each of these generations then adds new memories and traditions to the culture, growing it in beautiful ways. But what happens when old memories start to disappear, and the culture vanishes with it? This is the question the Taiwan-based Ystudio asked itself when it was founded in 2012, and they found that the solution lies in the design of artifacts; well-designed products that relink our modern life to the fading edges of our old ways. This journey comes to a head in their new Brassing series of pens and pencils, which invite users to slow down and think about what they want to write.
Experiencing firsthand the Brassing Ballpoint pen, I was struck immediately by the tantalizing ritual embedded in its packaging.
Forged in Taiwan by master craftsman, the stationary sets are each a complete work of art that recalls the days when writing was a cherished life skill rather than something spit out at 140 characters at a time. Experiencing firsthand their Brassing Ballpoint pen, I was struck immediately by the tantalizing ritual embedded in its packaging. A simple black box with gold lettering, the sleeve is slid off to reveal a delicate piece of rice paper that unfolded contains instructions for use and care for the pen. The paper also explains the use of the next layer in the package, a piece of fine sandpaper. This sandpaper is included to encourage each user to remove some (or all) of the black finish from the pen to expose the brass underneath, making each one a uniquely precious object. I was intrigued by this offer, as usually such a carefully designed object demands to be handled like a baby, and found it exhilarating to make the pen my own with a few simple rubbings. The pen itself is held snugly in place in the box, asking you to lightly grab it. At first I was thrown by the noticeable heft it carries due to the brass of its construction, but it sat in my hand comfortably as the weight was well balanced to its function. I was also initially irked by the method one uses to expose the pen’s tip for writing, a spring loaded assembly that one locks into place by rotating the tail end of the object. While this mechanism is as well crafted as the rest of the pen, I found that I needed both hands to operate it, impeding my ability to use the pen at a moment’s notice. But then I had an epiphany; this “inconvenience” was all part of the product’s thought-out ritual, as it demands that you reflect and think before you even begin to write. This is in huge contrast to the typical ballpoint pen that thoughtlessly invites you to click it as soon as the emotion of an idea pops into your head, before its had time to percolate. And I think this is what Ystudio is striving for in their products; objects that slow down the pace of modern life and help a user appreciate all the little joys that define a harmonious existence. The pen writes cleanly and crisply thanks to a Schmidt inkwell (a replaceable part for when the well runs dry), and so far I’ve seen no drop-off in the quality of any part of the pen, as it was truly built to last. Writing as a ritual, as a choice rather than a necessity, helps keep the old memories of the past from becoming obscure, and products like the Brassing series of pens and pencils helps continue to grow our culture in beautiful ways. Buy here