Guest Post: All Roads Lead to Bras Basah: Our Latest Foray Into Nib Retail Therapy

I’d like to think that Maybelline (being the good friend that she is) is my enabler in all things related to writing material. But really my obsession with pens may have started when I was younger. See, I used to write for my school paper and my notebooks in school had more doodles and stories than actual notes. So between the stress of the deadlines for the paper I contribute to, my school work and my other extra-curricular activities, a girl has to have her means for coping. Some people use chocolates (which was my fall back too), others smoked their stress away. In my case, it was indulging in retail therapy for office supplies. Yes, as strange as it may be, office supplies were my crack. Just the thought of having a new notebook to jot my whims of fancy down or a new ballpoint pen or eraser was enough. If I didn’t have to buy another notebook in my lifetime, I’d probably be all set since I’ve bought enough to supply my future, unnamed, currently faceless kids. So it is but a natural progression that I got into pens. What’s paper without a nice set of writing tools? Thus the progression from the lowly ballpoint into fountain pens and lately into dip nibs and the ink. Of course, the fact that Maybelline was just as into it has helped facilitate our periodic forage for the next best thing, which is how we ended up in Bras Basah. Come to think of it, most of our outings always end with us being in Bras Basah one way or the other and stumbling upon obscure stores recommended by fellow enthusiasts.

In fact, during a prior exploration, we went in search of Fook Hing which was just about as easy to find as an underground exclusive club. I half expected that we ought to know the secret handshake and password to get in. But it was actually just like any normal shop and the shopkeeper was very, very patient. Anyway, but that’s a blog for another day. On this particular outing, we went to our favorite street on earth looking for two stores (god knows where Maybelline finds these store recommendations) that at first we couldn’t seem to locate. And so a good pair of walking shoes is the costume de rigeur and thankfully I had the good sense to remember as a learning from our previous meet-ups.

The first shop was Straits Art Co Pte. Ltd. behind the National Library, opposite the Bras Basah complex. From the minute we stepped foot inside, we knew that we’d be plunking down serious money. Amidst the styrofoam busts in the store (it is after all an arts shop), the shopkeeper took out a box of nibs and when he opened it to show it to us, I swear I thought I heard a chorus of hallelujahs in the background. He was very kind and didn’t mind that we were holding up closing by taking our own sweet time trying out the nibs. Not only that but we did get good advice on appropriate ink (gouache if you know how to use the right dilution ratio so that it isn’t runny nor is it too thick but bottled watercolor is easier for newbies like me) and paper (something that looked like a thick cardboard-y cold-pressed type of paper but was neither porous nor too rough). In the end, we both had 5 new nibs, 2 bottles of watercolor ink each and an oblique pen holder (something that I am still trying to figure out how to angle and use).

The second shop was Fancy Paper which as its name suggests had every kind of fancy paper imaginable. But we did not leave with any purchases. We were trying to look for the paper that the shopkeeper from Straits had recommended but the grooves on our fingers may have been ground down to nothing from fingering the merchandise trying to find the same one we used at Straits. In hindsight, I should have tried to remember the name of the paper itself. Perhaps it was a good thing, then next time we can focus on paper instead of pens.

On the whole, it was a great girls’ day out capped by good dinner at the Creperie des Artes on Prinsep Street. I’m certain that this outing would be followed by another one perhaps next month. For me, apparently some things never change, with the stressful week I’ve had and will be having in the next couple of months, I’ll probably find myself on that street quite often.

Written By: Blusneakers

I would love to hear your thoughts!