This is Not a Pen is an ongoing series of float pen artist commissions. The float part of the pen is a section of the barrel containing a miniature world with a moving part - the floater - that slides between the static foreground and background. This unusual space, along with the very specific smooth gliding action of the float element, provides an animated canvas for the creation of tiny artworks.

The very first float pen was produced in the early 1950s for Esso, who wanted to produce ballpoint pens with a small oil drum floating up and down in clear oil. Float pens have continued to be manufactured by Eskesen, a small family company located outside Copenhagen, up to the present day. More than 50,000 designs have been produced by Eskesen, and they are now available all over the world.

The floating action uses a system where a movable film is fitted inside a transparent plastic barrel filled with mineral oil. The film floats up and down when the pen is tilted.

There are many obsessive collectors of float pens and millions of people have come across them either as a traditional souvenir item from a place visited, or a collectable kitsch object. With this background, it is exciting to broaden the use of this uniquely creative space by inviting artists to design individual float pens. The pen, as drawing or writing implement, is closely related to the pencil one of the artist’s most traditional and basic tools.

The first four pens have been created by Peter Callesen, Mat Collishaw, Kathrine Ærtebjerg and artist group Paint Over. These pens, each in a Special Launch Edition box, were presented for the first time during the Frieze Art Fair, October 2006. A forthcoming pen has been commissioned from Gavin Turk. The pens are available from Tate Modern, London as part of the new multiple range.


This is Not a Pen is produced by
artist Kirsten Reynolds
and Line Rosenvinge / Tender Task Ltd.