A Visit with Stipula
"... we make our pens, one by one ..."
That is how I will remember by visit with Stipula.
“Stipula” is today a partnership among long–experienced professionals in the pen industry and the company is comprised of a small, dedicated group who are familiar with the key stages of making pens: design, manufacturing, and marketing
Stipula's vision is to stay true to the roots of the brand, to its history and place of manufacturing - Florence – thus upholding the tremendous craftsmanship tradition which has always characterized the brand “Stipula”.
A relatively young pen company, it was in 1982 that Stipula turned to making its own pens rather than making them for other pen companies.
The “Stipula” trade name was coined in 1991. In 2005, Etruria acquired the brand name Stipula, but despite this change, the company has always remained a family-owned business.
Today, the Stipula brand represents a range of pens, both regular and limited edition lines.
Small in size, with about ten employees, Stipula is a team of individuals who create their own pen designs and produces their lines of pens at their factory in Firenze/Florence.
When I had the pleasure of touring the Stipula facility, Claire Kolb, from Stipula's marking and sales department, explained the various stages from concept, production and final assembly as we toured the Stipula factory.
The name “Stipula” alludes to the stipule or “straw” that the ancient Romans were break as a sign of acceptance to an obligation.
A Stipula pen starts with an idea, and from their concept drawings are prepared. Once the concept drawings are completed and approved a full set of technical drawings are produced. The technical drawings outline the detailed specifications of all the individual parts of the pen.
Production is all done on site. Technical staff use equipment to lathe turn and cut the various pen parts. Rather than relying on injection moulds, this hand work is an aspect of distinction of the Stipula pen.
They use both traditional and computer-controlled equipment to complete the production of the pens.
The materials used in Stipula pens are chosen under strict high quality standards. The pen body is created from materials such as cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate, hard rubber (ebonite), and certain special acrylic resins.
Rods of celluloid kept in fire-proof contained until ready for processing.
Stipula's research and manufacturing processes have identified the best materials to use. For celluloid pens, the preparation involves a long “ripening” process. The celluloid rods, for safety purposes, are stored in steel fire-proof cabinets located outside factory.
The final stages of production involves the assembly of the pen. This work is done by hand giving the pen that touch of true craftsmanship.
The silver and other materials for the metal details of the pen are all fashioned and engraved in strict accordance with Florentine goldsmiths’ tradition. I was not aware of the number of gold and sterling silver pens they produce. Lines such as the Sceptrum, 18 kt gold (298 produced in gold, 598 produced in sterling silver) or the Franciscus I Medices, complete with diamonds and 18 kt gold were limited to 88 pieces.
When the manufacturing of the pens components is completed, the various parts are held in trays or kits. The kits are stored until ready for assembly.
Stipula usually produces between 50 and 100 pens at a time. Final assembly of the pen is is timed with actual orders.
On some models, the gold nib—the “heart” of the fountain pen—is rhodium plated for beauty and streamlining, and is iridium-tipped for best resistance to wear. Stipula nibs are made in Germany, and then cleaned and prepared by Stipula in their factory involving a four-stage process.
I was impressed that Stipula nibs are available in eight different writing types. In an era when some companies are producing mainly medium and fine nibs, to create pens with this range of nib styles shows a conviction to producing quality products that will respond to a range of writing preferences.
I have two Stipula pens, the Etruria (broad nib) and the Etruria 991 (stub 1.1). The later was released to recognize the 10th Anniversary of the Company. The pen, made of celluloid in browns with mother of pearl highlights.
I always get asked about ink. In talking about their line of inks, I found out that Stipula purchases the base for its ink, and then mixes the colours at its own factory in Firenze/Florence to their specifcations. The ink comes in a 2.3 oz or 70 ml bottle.
In addition to its regular lines of pens, Stipula has created some very impressive limited edition pens.
The Academia Line has a number of impressive limited edition pens.
One of the Academia Projects that we spent some time looking at was the Transfigurations Collection — The Arcimboldo. This is a series of four different limited edition pens. Each pen is named and reflects one of the primary elements (water, earth, air and fire). The production of the Arcimboldo pens is limited to 88 pieces each. Each piece is hand-painted by artisans in Firenze so you truly have a pen that is somewhat unique.
The project was inspired by the Florentine Renaissance, a period in time when much flourished in the field of science and art. The hand painting is inspired by the works of 16th Century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
The series is modeled after the Da Vinci collection but with an almond shape to the barrel. This provides the space for the artwork that is a part of the beauty of the pen.
I thank the folks at Stipula for allowing me to visit with them and tour their factory. After enjoying my Stipula pens for a number of years, and exchanging correspondence with others on their pens, it was most rewarding to get a first hand view of their process.