Last month, Ghadir Gallery and Yacob Behbehani Sons Company launched an inspired joint tribute gallery exhibition that celebrates the relationship between the artist and Sheaffer pens, an event that is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Renowned artist and writer, Thuraya Al Baqsami, produced an astounding collection of artwork that features the use of the elusive Sheaffer pen. The exhibition arrived as Al Baqsami’s 61st exhibition to date, and marks a tribute to the world-famed manufacturer of writing instruments, particularly luxury fountain pens, which celebrated its 100th year in business in 2013.
Mr. Brian Kenny, International Sales Manager at Sheaffer, recognizes the brand’s presence in the Middle East, specifically Kuwait. Sheaffer’s first official involvement with Kuwait came about around 1977 and even prior to that period when traders brought Sheaffer to the region, as was the case in many different countries. Handsome men clad in their dishdashas bearing the Sheaffer fountain pen attached to their pockets visualized the mark of Kuwait’s first businessmen and traders. This is a memory that even Al Baqsami vividly remembers, as she recalls her father’s Sheaffer bearing dishdasha with nostalgia, always wanting this mark of success herself. The first official distribution began with Halikias & Partner Company, who managed the business until the late 90’s and in 2008, the prestigious Yacob Behbehani Sons Company took on the Sheaffer appointment where Sheaffer continues to flourish today.
As for Sheaffer’s history, Kenny told bazaar that the brand was first established on May 16, 1913 when the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company was incorporated in Fort Madison, Iowa for $35,000. Its founder and President was Walter A. Sheaffer, a humble gentleman who formed an idea, tested it, staked his life savings, and against all odds created one of the most highly respected and honored organizations around the world. It was the invention of the lever-fill fountain pen in 1907 that ignited a dream and gave the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company its favored position in the industry. Little did Walter know, his namesake company would become a worldwide symbol of quality, craftsmanship, and innovation over the next one hundred years. Over the years Sheaffer has evolved, developed ranges and finishes in line with current trends and the needs of consumers while at the same time maintained some features that ensure people recognize a Sheaffer Pen. Kenny explained, “For example, the unique Inlaid Nib on our top ranges was first introduced in 1959 and remains a feature of our Legacy Heritage collection today. And of course, the iconic White Dot, first introduced in 1924, is still visible on Sheaffer pens today.”
Thuraya Al Baqsami’s memories with Sheaffer also began during her school years. When she excelled in the subject of art, her prize was a luxurious Sheaffer pen. When she was recently approached by Yacob Behbehani Sons Company with the idea of using Sheaffer products to create a collection of artworks, the personal history with the brand made the project all the more special.
Al Baqsami is not only an artist but also a writer; she has published a number of books that have been translated to other languages, including French and Spanish. Throughout her career Al Baqsami has received many prestigious accolades, including an award in literature from the Almadina Culture Society in Madrid, Spain in 2006, and the “Prize for Art activities” from the European Union of Arts in Prague in 2001. If anything, the established artist deeply understands the spiritual relationship between the artist and the pen, where she described that “Technology might dominate our modern world in many aspects, yet I feel that the connection made between an artist and the canvas is best conveyed by using a writing tool. The physical manifestation of inspiration through the use of pens, pencils, and in this case the wonderful collection of Sheaffer pens, led me to so many art pieces. I was able to explore shadows, etchings, motifs, and even calligraphy in so many new and unprecedented ways. It was such an exhilarating project, where inspiration never left me for a moment.” The commanding collection showcased the artist’s seasoned techniques that she has mastered throughout her life. Pen drawings, watercolors, prints, mixed media and many other techniques that Al Baqsami became recognized for in the art world graced the walls of Ghadir gallery.
Sheaffer celebrated 100 years of business in January of 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany, where the brand exhibited at the Paperworld trade show. Distributors visiting the fair as well as surviving members of the Sheaffer family that came from the USA, including John Sheaffer, grandson of founder Walter A Sheaffer, and Russell Sheaffer, his great-grandson, attended this celebration. To coincide with the launch, Sheaffer also launched limited edition Fountain pens in celebration of the centennial. These included 46 Gold Fountain Pens, representing the age of Walter A Sheaffer when he founded the Sheaffer Pen Company, 516 Silver Fountain Pens, representing the date the company was founded (May 16th) and 1913 Legacy Fountain Pens, representing the year the company was founded.
As part of the Sheaffer’s legacy, and Yacob Behbehani’s desire to constantly nurture Kuwait’s local and established artists, the exhibition at Ghadir gallery came as a natural decision to both prestigious establishments. Al Baqsami was gifted an entire collection of pens before she set off on her artistic journey, one that she used extensively through different mediums. The final result is a record breaking collection of 70 art pieces, as Al Baqsami wished to laud the brands for their support by delivering a collection that stemmed from her emotion and relationship she shares with both established companies. In every art piece there lay a story, where the amount of art pieces, the quality and the expertise and use of Sheaffer pens in this collaboration is the first of its kind in the Middle East, let alone the world. Her favorite piece from the collection, titled ‘Memories’, was so emotional for the artist that she had to actually purchase it to add it to her own personal collection. She spoke of the painting with pride, and stated, “I felt something new, serendipitous if you may, with the contrast presented in this painting. I also loved the ‘Behbehani Courtyard’ painting, that ties the story between Sheaffer and Yacob Behbehani Sons Company, where I used Sheaffer pens to illustrate the Middle Eastern motifs I love to include in my work.” Al Baqsami is currently working on two more projects, a book and an art piece; where both are due to enter final phases of completion in 2015.
You can shop Sheaffer at Yacob Behbehani Boutique in Behbehani Complex (2240 3954) Baitak Tower (2225 7908) and Symphony Mall (2244 1614), as well as the Morad Behbehani Boutiques in Marina Mall (2224 4839), Al Kout Mall (2393 0338) and The Avenues (2259 7727). For more information about Yacob Behbehani Sons Co., follow them on Instagram @Behbehani1938.