An Interview with Eranna Yekbote

January 2021

Eranna Yekbote is an accomplished architect based in Mumbai, India. He has been collecting vintage Montblanc inkwells for only a few months now, but has already curated a truly exquisite treasure trove!

What sparked your interest in inkwells, and when?

I was an artist from childhood, and then I became an architect. So, I always had an interest in colours and flow and such elements of art. Then I attended an exhibition in Mumbai called "Travelling Ink Pot" organized by Dr. Yashwant Pitkar in 2017 (link). I saw many bottles and colours, and learned about different characteristics of inks like scent, sheen, glitter, viscosity, shade, waterproofness, dry time, etc. There is so much heritage and history to the art of creating inks and ink wells too. It is so intriguing! And since I was already using inks in my urban sketching art and in my professional drawings, I connected very naturally with inkwells.

Examples of vintage MB ink bottles from the 1950s

Tell us about the tyes of inkwells you collect.

I collect modern and vintage inkwells made by several companies. Some modern products like those by GeckoDesign (link) are truly marvels of design in how the ink spout and rest of the ink in the bottle stay in perfect equilibrium with each other! At the same time, I am fascinated by vintage inkwells - I have a few brands, and Montblanc is one of them. I have modern inkwells too, almost every colour made to-date! The evolution of the colours, bottle shapes, and packaging art through the decades is fascinating. 

A 1 litre ink refill bottle from the 1980s

AreMontblanc inkwell designs distinct from other brands that you collect?

There are some similarities in the shapes and mechanics across vintage brands. But, Montblanc designs are unique in some ways. I feel the company has always done great research to make bottles that were practically designed in terms of functionality, unlike some other popular brands that did not and do not always make practical bottles for use.

Patents of MB ink bottles from the 1920s.

From your vintage Montblanc collection which ink bottles are your favourites?

First, the 1930s glass bottle, turtle-shaped, is beautiful! I was lucky to find it. The shape is just beautiful and I feel it was the inspiration for glass bottles that Montblanc makes even today. You can see the 1950s iteration of the turtle bottle too - its a beautiful evolution and there is a cute smaller version of it too which is on its way to me. But, I appreciate the original 1930s bottle because it was the inspiration for what came after. The cap is bakelite, which tells us this was made quite a while ago, and I believe the grey border at the bottom of the label tells us it was iron gall ink. 

The 1930s turtle-shaped bottle

The 1950s iteration of the turtle-shaped bottle

Then we have the older 1920s hard rubber inkwells. They have a charm of their own. The one with the box and artwork on it, resembling the No. 1000/1 model, is one of my favourites. I love how they used to make boxes with handmade art on it instead of pictures. Also, the large hard rubber bottle with a unique shape - a sprout at its top - is quite special. I believe it is called the 'Odol bottle' in reference to the resemblance it has to a popular old mouthwash bottle. This one is in great condition given its age. 

One of Eranna's favourtie bottles from the 1920s because of the art work on the box

The 'Odol Bottle' design from the 1920s that is rather coveted by vintage inkwell collectors

A rare pen-shaped travellig ink well from the 1920s

An inkwell from the 1920s made for the French market

And then, we have some clever designs from the 1970s and 80s. These clever bottles are shaped in ways that allow the user to utilize even the last drop of ink. 

Ink bottles from the 1960s to 80s. Notice how they either tilt up or end in a triangle edge to ensure easy access of the nib to the last drop of ink. 

What advice do you have for budding inkwell collectors?

It's very difficult for us in India to collect such vintage inkwells, especially for German brands. We might find antique dip pen inkwells in India that were used by Maharajas back in the day. But, if you want to collect vintage Montblanc ink wells then eBay and international pen shows are probably the best places. Ink wells are very expensive, but they are not as mainstream as vintage pens. So, they are harder to find and probably harder to sell too. 

What are your other hobbies? 

I love travelling, and that's something that I get to do thanks to my work. When I travel, I make time to visit architectural sites and do urban sketching. I do this in Mumbai too, with a group of enthusiasts on Sundays. I also collect banknotes and coins, stationery - watercolours and paints and pens too. I use all these items for my professional as well as urban sketching. 

The Sunday urban sketching group

The pens I collect all have very special nibs that make amazing variations in line and are very broad and allow me to make large sketches. I have special nibs from Sailor - my first one was the Emperor Cross Music nib. I loved it! I used to carry it everywhere for my urban sketching. But, I lost the pen on one of my trips. I was so sad. The loss of that pen made me obsess over special nibs even more. I then started collecting other nibs made by Sailor - the only ones I don't have today are the Cobra and the Emperor Cross Music that I lost. I hope to acquire them in the future. I also commission special and unique nibs from nibmasters from around the world.

A few Sailors from Eranna's collection

The Emperor Cross Music Sailor nib that was lost!

Variations of the Sailor Concord nib

You can find Eranna Yekbote at:

Facebook - www.facebook.com/eranna

Instagram - #eramumbai

Website - www.Eraarchitects.net

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link

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