WINKPENS LLC is a manufacturer of innovative and quality writing instruments, with a unique niche for creative and refillable glass fountain pens built to write with alternative liquids such as wine, juice, or tea. The company was founded in 2015 by Jessica Chan, an industrial designer from Portland, OR, to realize her vision of creating a sustainable alternative to something that many people use in their daily lives.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The basis for the branding, WINK, was originally derived from the concept of using “wine as ink,” but the pen can be loaded with virtually any liquid that possesses a staining property. The idea of using alternative liquids first came about while founder Jessica Chan was working on a concept for a sustainable printer in 2014, during which she learned that inks—even those made with vegetable and soy—used in traditional printers are not 100% biodegradable. From the printer project, Chan re-evaluated her approach toward product design as a whole and began taking into consideration the full cycle of products; everything from how materials are first sourced to the manufacturing processes, as well as environmental footprints pre and post-consumer use. She ran with the idea of integrating alternative liquids with a writing utensil, leading her to the eventual creation of the Wink Pen!
Chan has a diverse background from teaching martial arts and personal training to business, customer service, construction, to freelance art and design. Each major experience has been a stepping stone to where she is now—which is passionately pursuing this business venture. Towards the end of year 2013, as Chan was finishing up her industrial design degree, she decided upon graduation that it was the time to embark on her first entrepreneurship venture. At age 24, she devoted her time and savings outside of school into the early phases of concepting and creating design iterations of what became the Wink Pen.
In July 2014, Chan sought out an engineer for additional help and brought on Matt Malone, an engineer whose area of expertise was in medical equipment. Together they arrived at the first working prototypes of the Wink Pen early 2015. In May of that year, with prototype in hand, Chan launched a month-long crowdfunding campaign on kickstarter.com. This was a wonderful platform to test whether or not the market was valid and if this new writing utensil was worth pursuing. With a successful crowd fund ending in June and pen orders from over 26 different countries, the demand was clearly there. Along with the excitement, new markets emerged in the form of pen enthusiasts, creatives, and everyday users that appreciated innovative, low-tech products. With revenue built through pre-orders, continued freelance work, and additional loans, Chan was able to fund the creation of the first edition Wink Pen.
“The manufacturing journey was more than I could have ever imagined,” says Chan. “From each individual component, to various material breaks, custom parts and tooling, I could have never imagined how many steps and logistics there was to everything. At times, it was really scary. Financially, all of it was at risk and nothing went smoothly the first time around.
In the span of a year, we miraculously overcame the biggest hurdles and turned the negatives into positives by bettering the design of the pen itself. Between the many iterations of the nib design to the trial-and-error injection molding lessons, these problems ultimately helped us forge a stronger final product.
I expect the design to naturally continue to evolve as we grow. There will always be new problems to solve and new opportunities to innovate. This product grew from simply being a unique and creative idea, to now having become a tool that has bridged history with the present and provides a new avenue to creativity. As many hurdles as I’ve encountered along the way, the experience, the lessons learned, and community built is absolutely invaluable. The number one thing that always keeps me going are my loyal supporters and customers that helped lay the very foundation to this company. “
- Jessica Chan WINKPENS president
MANUFACTURING A DREAM
The manufacturing of the pens is held primarily in the USA with some materials sourced in other countries. WINKPENS injection molding for example is based in Oregon, textiles and steel out of Asia, glass tubing from Canada, pistons are from the Netherlands, and the skilled glass workers who painstakingly handcraft each individual glass nib are located in Colorado.
TRADITIONAL TOOL IN A MODERN AGE
Aside from being engineered to handle low viscosity liquids, the Wink Pens are the first hybrid cross of a fountain pen and a dip pen.
This also marks the first significant advancement in glass pen technology since metal was scarce during WWII.
The glass nibs, being that they are each individually handmade, take a very high level of skill and precision to craft. The glass nibs used in the Wink Pen draw inspiration from glass dip pens used first introduced in the 1920’s. Each nib carries with it, not only a beautiful aesthetic but also serves as a feeding mechanism that is truly one-of-a-kind.
As a writing utensil, the Wink Pen differentiates itself in that it combines elements of previous pens throughout history and elegantly marries them all into one. Built to be modular, versatile, and as user-friendly as possible, the Wink Pen also contains a piston filler integrated into the body, a glass dip property, and presents itself as a demonstrator—its transparency allowing users to see the inner-workings of the pen.
CREATE TO INSPIRE
"My job as a creative is to lay foundation to new purposes. Design is solution and utility. It is the root of evolution, the answer to needs and the illustrator of ability in product. As a creator, I will evaluate potential solutions not only of today but always with visions of the future. Art promotes a sense of adventure, great design promises discovery and together they introduce endless value and opportunity."
- Jessica Chan
Creatives are constantly seeking new means of inspiration and methods of self-expression. WINKPENS provides an exciting new tool to add to their arsenal, serving as a unique vehicle for new and unexplored mediums. Whether it be utilizing their freshly brewed coffee in the morning or their favorite bottle of wine in the evening, the Wink Pen can allow for spontaneity, experimentation, and an added personal flair.
With today’s trend towards the high-tech, there also naturally comes a renewed appreciation for the traditional—art, calligraphy, and the hand-made. In a digital age, there’s an undeniable beauty to be found in the crafts.
Founder Jessica Chan’s goal with WINKPENS was to create an innovative and quality writing instrument people could use and reuse in their daily lives. It can be a unique purchase for the creative in your life or serve as a beautiful gift to just about anyone. The Wink Pen is a luxurious, “low-tech” product that elegantly marries history, modern aesthetics, and environmental awareness with traditional function.