Last updated on August 11, 2021
Alright, my third pen show of the year. Allow me to start of by saying that the Baltimore Washington International Pen Show (BWIPS) is my favorite pen show. I’ll do my best to describe and rate it (since I haven’t done so previously) in an unbiased manner, but I don’t know if I’ll be wholly successful.
To start, this was a show with several firsts for me. It was the first time I’d attended a full pen show, the first time I’d stayed at the show hotel, the first time I’d attended a pen show workshop, and the first time I’d volunteered as part of the show staff.
I’ll cover my volunteering experience in another post. For now, suffice to say it was great. I’m eager to volunteer again next year.
The Complete Show
Of the four shows I’ve experienced, Baltimore is the only one I’d actually want to attend for the full length. The relaxed atmosphere and wide aisles makes it perfect for strolling along and chatting with the vendors. There isn’t an overwhelming crush of people like there is at LA or DC. The price of admission at BWIPS is good, too.
As best I could tell, the registration desk ran smoothly. I don’t believe there was ever much of a line to get into the show. And that isn’t because the show was poorly attended.
Another part of what makes BWIPS great is knowing the people. You likely know how I feel about Bert, Bertram’s Inkwell and Adam. Because the store is local, various members of the DC Pen Crew visit the shop each week. This relationship put us in a perfect position to volunteer during the show. I look forward to that relationship solidifying and expanding in future years. Beyond knowing the “owner” of the show and the organizer, the DC Pen Crew was out in force at BWIPS. I got to see most of my friends, and met many members who haven’t been able to make it to our meetups.
I don’t know the story behind changing hotels for BWIPS 2018. But this year, BWIPS was back at the BWI Airport Marriott. Jim and I decided to stay at the hotel so we could hang out longer after the show was over each day. Also, it meant we could indulge a bit at the bar if we so desired.
The hotel was/is pretty nice. Our room was comfortable, as was the bed. I adored the pillows and comforter. The parking, while not underground or in a garage, was free, so I can’t complain too much. And the on-site restaurant we tried was really good. The fries were fabulous.
While there seemed to be a bit of a staffing issue Friday night, Saturday seemed much better handled.
There was one blooper. There was some confusion and discussion over the location of Cary’s typical Pen Show After Dark event. I didn’t catch the whole story, but it was clear that the hotel wasn’t happy with where we congregated, and we had a strict deadline to leave the room: 10pm. Granted, this wasn’t too terrible, as most everyone migrated to the bar area afterward, and that was only about 30 feet away.
I only attended two workshops myself, both on Friday. However, I had friends who attended several, and, nearly without exception, felt they were well organized and informative.
The few grumblings I heard were more along the line of “it wasn’t really what I was expecting based on the description.” But whether that was because they’d read the description wrong or because the description was misleading, I’m not sure.
I greatly enjoyed Ralph Reyes’ class on nib tuning. I learned a lot, and even managed to positively adjust one of my pens during the class. If you haven’t seen it, check out my short video of ‘Wreck It Ralph’ as he prepared the nibs for the lesson. You may also want to check out the last three photos of this post to see the nib model Ralph created to better illustrate the concepts he was teaching.
I certainly intend to attend more workshops next year, and am hopeful that I can get into Richard Binder’s class (providing he teaches it again).
Overall Score: 4.625 / 5
Organization: 5 / 5 – The intake line was so fast-moving it was virtually non-existent. The vendors I spoke to were all complimentary. The number of tables was appropriate for the size of the room.
Layout: 5 / 5 – The aisles were roomy, dead-end free, and included breaks to more easily traverse the room. There weren’t any areas with a large crush of people. The vendors all seemed to have enough space.
Price: 4.5 / 5 – I’m only giving this a 4 because it isn’t the cheapest show. That said, I think the price is completely fair for what you’re getting.
Selection: 4 / 5 – Like other shows, I wish there was more ink, although that’s down to the vendors. I’d also like to see some “complementary” exhibitors, perhaps with more focus on paper or journaling supplies.