The Heritage Post 09-2021

Pens as works of art? Doubters could hardly believe this concept until Frank Pressentin sold the first two of his custom-made pens. The hamburger has given up his good and secure job to follow the path of the handmade. He sees himself as an artist and creative craftsman with his brand Elbwood - The Hanseatic Penmaker.

A great article about ELBWOOD - the Hamburg brand for precious writing instruments in: The Heritage Post 09-2021 / Text • Stefanie Kobayashi | Photos • Marcel Bock and Florian Läufer

Frank Pressentin simply built himself a boat - as a counterbalance to his actual work as an social waorker. He had helped set up a social educational facility with 50 employees, a sure thing in a managerial position that he could have pulled through until his retirement. But before he knew it, he was just sitting over Excel spreadsheets, which made him no longer happy. So he gathered all possible information about the boats construction, looked for a mentor and got started in 2014.

“The most important tool is a chair,” Frank learned during his research. Because with such a big project you just have to sit down and wait for inspiration. The inspiration came, but with a different thought: “Well, when I'm done, what do I do then?” The next boat? Then he would need a bigger hall. While dreaming where he was going to go with his self-built boat - which was finished last year - the captains' logbooks came to mind and so he ended up with the art of handwriting. A turning course for pens later, Frank Pressentin found a new hobby and a nice prospect: Much smaller, but also handcrafted.

In addition to his actual work, the hanseatic penmaker opened a small shop, which was planned like a showroom. Open on two days and by appointment. In retrospect, he realized what an effort it was to run the business and clean his showcase in the Port of Hamburg, parallel to his job and his workshop at at home. But at the same time he was very lucky with his neighbor. A violin maker was right next door and so joint events were held, including small concerts with the marvelous Elbphilharmoniker. So the store was good for its reputation and market research. Frank found out that there are customers who value his highly individualized pens, but that he also needs a product in order to be successful in the long term that people can take with them straight away. Some people want to buy when they like something and don't wait several more weeks.

In the meantime, Frank has given up the shop because it threw him out off balance. A step backwards? Absolutely not, because this decision and the experience he had made with the business meant that he now wanted to concentrate fully on Elbwood in his home studio/atelier. Of course, there were doubters among friends and family who could not imagine that people would be willing to spend four-digit amounts on a custom-made pen.

With an exquisite selection of metals such as 935 silver, mokume-gane damask and copper, special woods such as ebony and tuya burl or even fine ebonite, Frank turns wishes into unique pieces. "I work - like a sculpturer- from the solid material and prefer materials with character." It is a process that takes so long that it has to be expensive. Accordingly, the Elbwood penss are not banal everyday objects, but applied art objects for everyday use. The people around him, who know him really well, support him with the knowledge: "If we don't let him, he won't be happy."

For the impatient - but also as a basic edition - in addition to custom-made products, there is also the Pocketmaster, a hand-made fountain pen in a small series with a minimalist, elegant design language made of brushed brass. At 55 grams, the closed ten centimeter pen is nice and heavy in the hand and it glides over the paper like a ship through the sea with its JoWo nib made exclusively for Elbwood in either 18k gold or stainless steel. The nibs are also the only things that Frank Pressentin gives out of the house. Further small series design objects , including a candlestick made out of patinized brass, will be added shortly.

The Hanseatic Penmaker loves materials with “self-will” and accordingly his pens will change over time, develop patine, become more beautiful and so will be able to tell stories. If you don't like that, you can polish it up again. "Emotions are transferred to the work via the hand" and that applies to both production and writing.