I like what Birmingham says on their website:
“We started Birmingham Pen Co. in 2012
in the Southside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
with the doors of our first retail shop opening
to the public in 2016. The region of Pittsburgh
where we began once called “Little Birmingham”
due to the area’s prolific manufacturing industry
in the early 1900’s. The Birmingham moniker
was derived from Birmingham, UK –
a manufacturing hub that specialized in,
among other things, pen and nib
manufacturing with thousands of
craftspeople employed in the industry.
We chose the name Birmingham Pen Company
to share this little known piece of history and
continue in the traditions behind the name.”
Birmingham also turns their own pens,
which I’ve noticed often sell out as fast as they make them!
*I am currently in line for the
“Model-A Demonstrator Fountain Pen, Violet Beauregarde,” hint hint!*
A small family business started by the brothers, Nick and Josh,
Dad is the chief pen machinist, and Mom does one of the coolest things about Birmingham, which is their amazing historic names!
This brings us to one of the prettiest dark blue inks,
Birmingham Allegheny Observatory Celestial Blue.
It is named after the Allegheny Observatory, opened in 1912.
Designed by Thorsten E. Billquist in the Classical Revival Style,
it is part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and is now on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Remember that others review these inks just for writing;
I am also interested in how they are used for ink-painting!
Properties of Birmingham Allegheny Observatory Celestial Blue ink:
Celestial Blue is a well behaved ink
which dries relatively quickly. It feathers slightly on Post-its, but not in my Hahnemühle Nostalgie journal even with a wet writer, right, nor on watercolor paper, above. When I scrubbed it, it seemed to be water resistant, and further test sketches in my journals show it to leave a good imprint of water resistant ink lines when the waterbrush moves the color, easily.
*Above, watercolors from Daniel Smith.*
When painting, it first goes on the paper with a hyacinth blue cast, then deepens.
Looking at watercolor comparisons, the colors fall in the Indigo to Indanthrone range.
It is closer to Indigo but has a bit of that brighter Indanthrone blue.
In watercolors that puts the pigments in the following Munsell ranges:
PB 15:3/PBk7/PV17 and PB60.
*For more info go to this page.*
It has no sheen that I could produce, and is not a strong shader, so I don’t consider this a complex ink color. Above you can see the pretty blue that pulls out of the dark writing ink.
MOST water soluble ink companies do not pay attention to lightfast qualities and Birmingham is no different. Most artists who use ink are making prints of their work —
But ink-painting is becoming more interesting so maybe it is time!
I drew the Allegheny Observatory on my test page with a
FPR Muft pen with a 1.0 stub nib (below on cold press watercolor paper,
and touched the lines with water using a Pentel Aquash waterbrush.
This was a 30 minute sketch with water movement…
The lines stay slightly visible but also release ink; which means slight water resistance.
I did not add linework in, but left some lines untouched.
I’m committed to drawing every bottle too;
Birmingham’s are nothing special but they are glass, and functional, even in the small sizes. I like glass bottles; they feel like they will last longer.
In my Hahnemühle Nostalgie journal, with the pen that is currently hosting it!
You can see the water resistant properties best in this posie,
as the lines of the ink stayed even after being hit with water.
They were not scrubbed, but the waterbrush was run repeatedly across
them lightly to move the ink where I wanted it to go.
Disclosure, I bought my own inks from Birmingham.
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“Memory is more indelible than ink.”
Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
“I think not….”
Me… why I journal!
Pentel Aquash waterbrush,
FPR Muft with1.1stub and Birmingham Allegheny Observatory Celestial Blue ink.
©D. Katie Powell.
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I teach architectural sketching,
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That annoying loud-mouth editor/critic in your head? GONE! How great would that be?
You give the best, most thorough reviews, Kate! These companies should pay you for this.
From you lips to God’s ears. Even payment in ink!
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I always especially love your portraits of pens and ink bottles. I have heard great things about Birmingham inks but did not know they were a PA company. I love all of the blues you showcase in this blog post. Blues are my most used watercolours and inks (with the exception of my everyday bulletproof black). I hope you get that pen you are after.
Me too! It is a gorgeous pen… but it sold out and they have not made a new one.
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Oh man. Maybe you can pick one up second hand.
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