Monday, March 15, 2010

I is for Ink, Inkwells, and Inspiration

is for

Ink, Inkwells & Inspiration

Handmade book by Laurie Doctor
(click photo to enlarge)

Early Darkness
D. Patrick Miller

Think of it as ink:
An indigo dye descending
Between the leaves of the trees
and down to the grasses.

There is no dying of the light - -
just the washing of a bowl,
and overturning it for the night.

When day arrives we must write with
bottled darkness.
In the night we can dream
free messages of light.

Welcome to another lesson for Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday class. I recently attended a workshop on The Poetry of Handwriting with Laurie Doctor. It was two days filled with both ink and inspiration. We worked with black sumi ink, walnut ink, white ink, and any other colors one brought along. Laurie, a talented painter, designer, and calligrapher lives in Kentucky. She teachers classes throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and New Zealand.

Visit to learn more about this talented lady.

Sumi ink is made from vegetable oils and soot. Traditionally it is made from grinding an ink stick, but it is also available in liquid form ready to use. Thousands of years ago Asian artisans discovered how to use this burned residue as an ink. Used for both sumi painting and calligraphy, this black ink can provide tonal variations from deep black to silvery gray.

Walnut ink as you might guess is brown. The walnut produces juglone, a toxic substance to other plants and some animals. It is the juglone that creates the dark color in the walnut hulls. This rich brown ink is wonderful for creating an earthy background on which to use the sumi ink. It is also fun to use this ink with various writing tools.

For me, one of the sad realities of the modern world of technology is that the hand written word is becoming scarce. In this day of cell phones, text messages, emails, and twits, many have abandoned the handwritten note or letter. Students today often don't receive formal handwriting lessons to learn the appropriate strokes of beautiful script. I grew up in the era of fountain pens; when one had to write out all assignments in long hand. I loved the idea of putting ink on paper. The fluid movement of the nib moving across the paper was like magic to me. The rhythm of that writing sang as if it were a sweet melody. My well used original Parker pen still sits on my desk.

I suppose it's no surprise that this love of writing with ink would naturally lead to an interest in and affection for ink wells. I'm a collector at heart and shopping antique markets is a favorite pastime. Though I didn't set out to specifically collect inkwells, the form has captured my imagination.

This crystal inkwell with a plum top sits within a pewter stand. It was made in France in recent years.

The larger of the three is this heavy crystal block with sterling lid. Though it is clearly marked, I've not been able to date this piece.

The smallest of the three is just an inch square and a little over an inch and a half tall. Both this one and the larger one were found at local antique shows years ago.

This is a vintage traveling ink well that was a purchase many years ago while roaming a London antique market.

The leather case opens to reveal a brass container in which to hold ink.

This group of Quimper ink wells gather on another tray that moves about our home. Each of these date to around 1920 - 1930.

The heart shaped one is the first piece of vintage Quimper I acquired. It was a birthday gift from a group of friends given to me in the 1980s. It was the piece that fueled my interest in the antique and vintage pieces of French faience.

A souvenir from a California vacation one summer, this little faience charmer is new production from the 1980s. It is simply marked France Decor Main.

It opens to this sweet little flower shaped stopper covering the well.

More faience ink wells can be found among books in a guest bedroom. These three were produced by Alcide Chaumeil and are known simply as CA faience because of the mark.

I first saw this square example in the collection of a fellow QCI member. I was fortunate to find one for myself a year or so later.


It appealed to me because of the mechanics of this box. The ceramic lid pivots across to reveal the well for the ink. I suspect this is a rare form.

Another rare form is this CA figural of a Breton fisherman pulling in his catch. The coiled rope is the lid to the inkwell which I purchased in France.

A French market find, this rather large piece is unfortunately missing its lid. I found it laying in a box of assorted things at a weekend brocante. The price was too good to pass it by, so it too resides among the others, sans hat as Debbie @ Confessions of a Plate Addict says. You can read about her recent French ink well find here.

A sweet pair of bunnies were an eBay score. One holds the quills and the other the ink well. They are Desvres production.

A limited edition piece, this handsome ink stand was produced in 1990 by HB Henriot to commemorate the tricentennial of the faience of Quimper. The hand painted scene depicts the city of Quimper and the Odet River. The soft blue glaze and the fine detailed painting make this a remarkable piece.

A documentation card provided with this piece shows the other limited edition pieces that were produced for this special occasion.

And lastly are these heavy ceramic Moroccan ink pots that I purchased in the souks of Marrakech. I found the rustic character with the vibrant turquoise and amber details irresistible.

With all these ink containers about the house and my professed passion for the handwritten word, what do you suppose will be my topic of choice for next week's letter J lesson?

I'm linking this post to both Alphabe-Thursday and Three or More Tuesday.
See you in class! Just click here to skip back over to Mrs. Matlock's.
On Tuesday click here to join Tam @ The Gypsy Corner for Three or More Tuesday.

References for this post:


The summer we married, my husband was in graduate school, and I was employed as a teacher. We took a portion of our savings that summer and purchased a sailboat. We christened our Catalina 22, “Hyacinths For The Soul” after Saadi’s poem. Our "Hyacinths" provided years of pleasure.


  1. Great"I" post and wonderful information on a forgotten art form.
    I really enjoyed your photos.

  2. Oh my gosh! First I saw Laurie Doktor's handmade book and my pulse began to race! Holy Crow!

    Then we got down to your exquisite collection of ink wells! THIS is a collection I would be willing to dust and there aren't very many of those in this world! Wow, I wish I could see them all in person. The different countries and different stories behind each are as fun and interesting as the wells themselves!

    This will be my very favorite "I" post, bar none!!!

  3. Good Morning Sarah, have so many intersting collections. I know you had a blast taking that class!

    I have practically lost all my handwriting skills. Working as an Admin Asst, having to take phone notes, writing in shorthand,-all took a toll on my handwriting. Sad to say, I can barely read my own writing anymore.

    Thanks for sharing all those ink wells today. They are all fabulous but my favorite one is the traveling one.

    Have a great day!

  4. What a wonderful post. I love your collection of inkwells, what a fascinating subject. The quimper ones are gorgeous, but my favorites are the ones from Morocco - love the colors and texture! Sad but true about handwritten letters and notes, as I was so gently reminded by my love Aunt on our recent trip home. As she put it, not everyone is computerized these days. And is there anything better than opening the mailbox and finding a real letter or card among all the junk mail and bills? Great post! Kathy (and I would guess that your J will be for journal ?)

  5. What a wonderful collection of ink wells. I remember my mother's Parker pen. Doesn't it have a little tab on the side that you keep lifting while the pen fills with ink? That's how I remember my mother's pen. She always used green ink and she'd sit at the desk and write checks and pay bills.

  6. Those are beautiful ink wells. I never knew they came in such a variety. It must have been when I was a kid I remembering trying to write with an pen that you had to put on the ink. It was very hard. To think many years ago that's all they had. I guess the more you would use it the better a person would get at it. Very interesting and I love your collection.

  7. What wonderful ink wells. I think the crystal looking ones are especially elegant and romantic. It is sad about the strokes of our pens and brushes that are fading out of existence. What a neat collection you have and really attractively photographed.

  8. Hi Sarah,
    Loved your post, so eloquent and a little nostalgic too.
    The CA inkwells are wonderful, I have never seen an inkwell with a lid that swivels before.

  9. WOW.. I love the crystal inkwells.
    Lovely post!

    Happy Thursday!

    Did you know that I am now hosting a new meme? Find out more Blog of the Week Please join us for the WEEKEND FUNNIES. Week #2 is this Friday to Sunday (March 19-21). See you there? hugs shakira Oscar Wilde-The IRISH Gentleman ART OF GENEROSITY


  10. I just love visiting your blog. I always learn something and plus I get to look at pretty pictures. It doesn't get much better than that!

  11. Well, I never would have thought of collecting inkwells, but what a pretty collection! I miss a thick letter in the mail from a loved one. Mail used to be fun to get; e-mail just doesn't cut it! Joni

  12. Well, I never would have thought of collecting inkwells, but what a pretty collection! I miss a thick letter in the mail from a loved one. Mail used to be fun to get; e-mail just doesn't cut it! Joni

  13. Each week I am fascinated at the different destinations we arrive at all starting the journey at the same, exact spot.

    What an interesting post.

    Your collections are so intriquing.


  14. Beautiful, interesting post and your photos are so gorgeous.....

  15. what gorgeous collection and celebration of the written word!

  16. You have such a wonderful collection! They are beautiful. I have one very plain jane ink well from when I use to do a little calligraphy. It is funny I thought of ink for my I post also. But I could not figure out how to post about the stack of ink pads I use for stamping. Your post is so much better than I could have came up with!

  17. Hi Sarah,

    You are such a wealth of information. i just loved this post.

    big hugs,

  18. Oh Sarah-
    Your ink wells are amazing.
    What a beautiful collection.This was also very informative-

    Thank you,


  19. Sarah,

    Wonderful post. Your collection is amazing. I love the faience and wish I had collected it - wouldn't know where to start now. I have never seen any in the antique shops around here.

    Thank you so much for sharing.


  20. gorgeous ink wells. my father has a beautiful collection that my mother started for him. he is a pen guy as well!
    i couldn't help but notice, with envy, your collection of the LV city guides....lucky!

  21. Sarah,
    I have read about faience, but I don't think I see it around here. You have such a lovely collection, and your post is so informative. I think I like the crystal inkwell with the silver top that you can't date the best.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Until next time...

  22. Sara, these are just delightful little sources of pleasure! I ♥ the bunny ones but the limited edition piece is outstanding, too. What a wonderful collection you have!
    Great idea for a post. :-)


  23. What an interesting post!
    I learned to write with a pen and nib and an inkwell in the corner of my desk. My children can't believe it! We took such pride in our penmanship, being careful not to drop ink on the page, to keep the flow even - this brought it all back.

  24. sealing wax and ink blotters, quill pens and all the wonderful inks...I love them all...

  25. Sarah, you have such a variety of interests, and I love all of them. Your ink wells are wonderful - of course, I especially love the Quimper wells, and you've got such a gorgeous collection of them! I'm in love with the one that looks like a boat. I so agree with you about hand-writing. I'm wondering if they will even continue to teach it! There is just something so much more personal about hand-written note as opposed to an email. I started a new weekly event today. "A Few Of My Favorite Things" Saturdays. I'd love to have you link this post to it. Have a great weekend! laurie

  26. Hi Sarah, please come visit my blog'll give you a smile!

  27. such a beautiful post!!! & the handmade book is gorgeous!!! certainly hyacinths for my soul today!!! most wonderful wishes

  28. I just loved the handmade book! So lovely. And your inkwell collection is very beautiful.

  29. Sarah, this is fascinating. And, the gorgeous pieces are breathtaking.

  30. That was very interesting! As a calligrapher I always love seeing different pens. The inkwell collection is wonderful, and yes, I did see Debbie's.
    I remember in grade school we had very old desks that had them, not functional, ball points had taken over.
    I used a fountain pen for years! Just loved the feel of it..When I taught I showed the kids the pen and bottle of ink..They were amazed..something they had never seen!
    I enjoyed your post, Sarah..

  31. Very unique! I haven't seen many in my lifetime, so thanks for sharing.

  32. Very fun post. I enjoyed learning about all the inkwells and art form that unfortunately is long out of use...

  33. Thanks for an educational post. I did not know there were so many different looking ink wells. This is an interesting collection and you have some great finds. Joan

  34. Ah! still trying to catch up to all the wonderful "I" posts...

    and so glad to make my stop on your post here... What an amazing and fun collection of inkwells.
    (You've inspired me to keep my eyes open for these lovely works of art!)

    Blessings & Aloha!

  35. Hi Sarah,I love your collection of ink wells, they are so neat...If you will give a couple of days I will get you all the info you need on the little Plates

  36. You have some amazing collections. Those years when you travelled to France so frequently must have been amazing.

    But... I miss your tablescapes! Maybe one for Easter?

    - The Tablescaper

  37. Sarah, what an outstanding collection of inkwells. The Quimper are beautiful but my favorite is the little crystal one.

  38. Sarah, sorry for my English, but I need info about age of your Morrocan inkwells (I have one in my collection, seller seid it is 1920-th). Many thanks! DoctorDoom, Moscow.


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