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Portland Made: Kairos Pens

Monday, October 05, 2015

 

Photo credit: Aaron Lee

Doug Scott is the heart, mind and hands behind Kairos Pens, and he believes that whenever a person picks up a pen to write by hand it is a significant moment in time (“a significant moment in time” is the definition of the Greek word Kairos). “Writing by hand is a whole brain activity,” explains Scott. “All eight lobes of the brain are engaged.” (Only four are actively engaged when we type). Writing by hand is a slower, more intensely focused and traditional human activity, and in the current deluge of throwaway plastic pens, it is the more permanent fountain pen that stands out for Scott as the epitome of handwriting culture. 

While looking at a woodworking catalog in 2005 (one of his hobbies at the time was making Shaker furniture), he found patterns and instruction for making cross-style pens. His curiosity was aroused (but little did he know how that curiosity was going to direct his future). After a few months of making these pens Scott became bored. He wanted more of a challenge, and so he started investigating different materials and methods of construction. “Problem solving is the best part of the process,” Scott says. “I like finding unique or new ways of doing things, uniquely my own.” 

He has acquired materials from far and wide – woods from all over the world, vintage plastics and polymers, even a small piece of a meteorite – all of which are ripe and ready to be transformed into a one-of-a-kind writing tool. “I never make two of the same pens,” says Scott. 

Photo credit: Aaron Lee

Retiring after years spent as an Episcopal priest and then as a psychotherapist, Scott’s time is his own to work on his pens. Except for the nibs, he hand constructs every piece and part of the finished product. His basement contains a small workroom that is precisely organized and utilizes every bit of available space. There are shelves full of bins with different woods, polymers, ebonite and bits of ephemera that might someday find a new life as part of a pen. His favorite of his machines is a 1947 South Bend lathe that he bought and rebuilt himself. 

Scott and his wife moved to Portland to be near family, and he says this is where he wants to stay. He feels like Portland is unique in its own style of “quirkiness” and sense of values, and he has found a welcoming community amongst other Portland Makers. And though he sells some of his pens locally, most of his customers are in Europe and Asia - countries where the tradition of personal handwritten 
communication is still strong.

All the materials he uses have a story behind them, and customers sometimes commission him to make a pen with a specific material, one that has personal meaning – in one instance, a piece of floorboard from the house where the customer was raised. 

Scott admits he couldn’t make a living from his handcrafted pens, but for him it is truly a labor of love. “I have spent my whole life living in my head…now everything is involved with touch, smell, sight.  It is very satisfying to think I am making something that will outlive me, be passed down to a future generation.”

Want to learn more about local makers and the movement that is sweeping the nation? Buy the definitive book on Portland's Maker Movement.

Portland Made is a digital storytelling platform and advocacy center for Portland's Maker Movement. We do 2 features a month on Portland Makers; connect makers with more local, national and international markets; connect makers with local professional and manufacturing resources; advocate for makers with politicians at all levels of government; work with PSU on an annual survey that captures the economic power of the Maker Movement; help makers find real estate; and promote Portland makers with local and national media.

 

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