TCNJ Magazine: Fall 2017

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46 FALL 2017 Greco, right, with one of his metal lathes. The set of pens, far right, given to Pope Francis. I n an era of using a fingertip to scrawl your name on a screen, John Greco '97 makes pens. Handcrafted from resin, gemstones, and wood (olivewood is his favorite), fitted with gold-plated hardware, and balanced to sit comfortably in the hand, his pens glide across the paper. These are not pens for your average desk jockey — his have found their way to Prince Harry of Wales, President Barack Obama, and even Pope Francis. "Just to be asked to do something like that — where your work is presented on that level — is an honor beyond words," says Greco. One reason Greco's pens make worthy gifts for headliners is his use of historically significant materials. For the pen the city of Philadelphia gave to the Pope during his 2015 visit, he employed wood from an original beam in Independence Hall. After Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey-based company History Salvaged commissioned him to create a series of pens from boardwalk planks salvaged from the storm. Prince Harry, President Obama, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie received their pens on visits to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, to examine storm damage. Both jobs were on point with Greco, who is both a pen lover and history buff. CLASS N O T E S F A L L 2 0 1 7 Greco dismisses those who say the mighty pen is dead. "There will always be people who use pen and paper." Even when a pen isn't touched by history — a bulk of Greco's business comes from corporate clients giving personalized gifts to VIPs — the work means something to him. "I love the creative outlet it offers me," he says. Greco's interest in craft began in a seventh-grade blacksmithing class in Moscow (Pennsylvania, not Russia), where he learned he loved working with his hands. At TCNJ, he started as a technology education major before switching to political science, and just that one year of tech classes — materials and processes, specifically — taught him to use many of the tools found in his workshop today. But it wasn't until 2011 that Greco learned to make pens and grew it into a business. His pens go through a four-part process in his studio in Pitman, New Jersey: design, shape, polish, and final fitting. He may spend up to four weeks making an original pen, switching between sophisticated machines, which include three lathes, each about the size of an average sedan. The work is messy, and despite having a dust collector and air scrubber at each machine, "there's no avoiding leaving for the day with some sort of debris stuck to me," he says. Simpler pens, such as ballpoints, can be made in a few hours and their prices start at around $60. Rollerballs start around $125 and fountain pens around $200. Greco dismisses those who say the mighty pen is dead. "There will always be people who use pen and paper. Radio didn't fully replace newspaper consumption," he says. The passion for ink hasn't eluded Greco, who himself has a collection of almost 30 specialty pens. If Greco admires a pen he makes for a client, he'll make another for himself. —Peter Croatto '00 COURTESY JOHN GRECO

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