There are many things quite fascinating in the world of tea. One of my most favourite qualities of the beverage is that it is so versatile. As a reader of The Cup of Life, you notice that I enjoy finding any way possible to include tea into my lifestyle in addition to just drinking it all day, every day. I’ve shared tea infused recipes, tea DIY, jewelry made with tea, and even an artist that uses tea as a painting medium. That is why when I found out about another product that was using tea (and other liquids) in yet another creative way, I just had to research and learn more.
Take a look around your current collection of teas and accessories. Even if it may seem like you have plenty, there is always one more thing we just have to add to it. Imagine sipping on one of your favourite teas and jotting down tasting notes with that exact tea as ink. WinkPens is a refillable glass pen that was built to write with alternative inks such as tea but also juice or wine! It allows a user to get creative with not only traditional inks, but virtually any low viscous fluid that contains a staining property. The WinkPen can be thought of as cross between a dip pen and a fountain pen. Ink can now be virtually limitless.
I had a chat with the founder, Jessica Chan, to discuss the inspiration behind the product, how it actually functions and much more. Keep reading for the interview!
Q: Hi Jessica, I just couldn’t help but get in contact after I fell in love with your product, WinkPen. As I find out more about the product itself, I can’t help but wonder about the creator behind it all. How would you describe yourself?
A: I’m an industrial designer with a background in business and also occasionally do contemporary art as a hobby. I have a love for produce, and creativity (both in tangible form and also immersing myself into fresh and new perspectives/experiences).
Q: Where does the inspiration for such a unique product like WinkPens come from?
A: The idea of using raw inks was something I thought of while working on a concept for a sustainable printer, during which I learned that inks—even those made with vegetable and soy—used in traditional printers are not 100% biodegradable. From the printer project, I re-evaluated my approach toward product design as a whole and began taking into consideration the full cycle of products; everything from how materials are first sourced to the manufacturing processes, as well as environmental foot prints pre and post-consumer use. Being inspired I ran with the idea of integrating alternative inks leading me eventually to the creation of the WinkPen!
In essence, the WinkPen was born from the desire to create a sustainable alternative to something that many of us use in our daily lives. Traditional pens are, more often than not, disposable products; once the pre-loaded ink stem is exhausted, they essentially just become empty plastic cases that inevitably wind up in a land-fill somewhere. With with the WinkPen, however, an ink reload can be found right there in your kitchen.
A: The pen is built to be very modular and user friendly. All the components pull apart and are pushed back together fitting snuggle by the use of rubber o-rings. To refill the pen, you simply submerge the tip into whatever ‘ink’ and twist the back of the pen to load. Although the pen stores ink (like a fountain pen with reservoir), it is also manually fed. With the pen filled with ink, you slowly twist the back cap counter clockwise to get the ink flowing, then begin to write and repeat as necessary.
The biggest innovation with this pen is that it simply slows down and maintains the control of very runny fluids, to the point to where you can write with it normally. What also sets it apart from other pens is not only are the writing tips (nibs) individually hand-made and glass, but the overall pen is very easy to take apart, re-assemble, re-fill and clean. Note that the pen doesn’t change whatever fluid or ‘ink’ you refill it with, it simply slows it down so you can write with it normally.
Q: As someone who is always finding more ways to use tea I have to say this is probably one of the most innovative ways! How does tea work as a non traditional ink for the pen?
A: The biggest factors that affect vividness of varying inks such as ‘tea’ is how concentrated and deep the color is. Think of this as the staining property in a fluid (Ex: If you think it would really stain your shirt, then it would probably work very well haha). More watered down teas that haven’t been steeped long will show up more like a watercolor. Steeping more leaves or bags in less liquid on the other hand will give you a richer color. There are many artists out there today who use tea bags for their staining property to be the medium for creating art pieces. WinkPens gives you that accessibility but presents basically a new tool to do this in penmanship form.
Q: Would you say another important factor affecting colour is the type of paper being used?
A: Definitely. A laser paper for example that has a coating will not take in tea well in comparison to an art paper, such as a pastel or Bristol paper.
Q: It brings a whole new meaning to the job title “tea writer”. How has your experience literally writing with tea been?
A: Yes! The experiences have been great. I steep longer for more vivid colors or don’t if I want more of a watercolor affect. I let a layer dry then re-visit if I want to add another color. I also choose teas accordingly based on what I want for color such as berry teas for unique colors or have used a Chinese black tea for a more neutral color.
Q: With a non-traditional ink like tea or similar, is it possible for it to fade more quickly?
A: Yes, each non-traditional inks from wine to tea I would assume has their own organic properties. Wine for example in my experience tends to dry darker the next day. Solutions to this is mixing raw inks with other liquids such as alcohol, gum arabic, etc. (these are some examples I’ve seen in homemade ink recipes). Another solution for this would be spray sealing with a fixative (similar to what an artist would do on a painting, pastel piece, etc). Again, it is hard for me to speak for all fluids as each one acts uniquely depending on what it is.
Q: Congrats on the Kickstarter success! When are WinkPens expected to be available? How can others who didn’t contribute to the Kickstarter get there hands on the product afterwards?
A: Thank you! Right now, we are in the middle of production and mainly just waiting on our injection molded tool (this could take up to however 8 weeks). Once we perfect the tool after receiving then we will ship out. Our goal is this holiday season – November /December. We have a pre-order site up now (can be ordered at www.winkpens.com). Our first run consists of 2000 pens. (with 1350 already sold). This first run will also include a certificate of authenticity signed by the founder (myself) for being in the very first production run of WinkPens, ever 🙂
As Jessica’s business grows, WinkPens plans to carry and sell inks as well as move into customization of the pens, such as selling varying and different cosmetic pen sleeves (metal skeletons, wood sleeves, etc.). Their plan is to also sell different colorways and styles of the glass nibs and eventually also stationary (recycled sketch pads that have been tested with raw inks, etc). View the video below to see WinkPen in action.
What are your thoughts on a fountain pen that allows you to write with tea, wine or other items in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below!