Choosing a Christmas present for my Dad can be hard.  I always struggle.  It's not that he has a everything - he just doesn't want much more.

Last weekend I was in Bath (the city not the tub) and at a market I met an ex-IT professional - Simon - who has set up his own artisan workshop.  He has turned his back on IT and he now turns wood into pens and cufflinks.  Really nice pens and really nice cufflinks.  

What is great is that with each pen he sells he is able to tell a story about where the wood came from, why it was important and why the wood was chosen.  My Dad has had to move to New Zealand to live (against his better judgement) so I bought a pen made from old English Oak to remind him of home.   With the pen comes a certificate with all the history of the wood - where the tree is, how old it is etc.  Basically the pen comes with its own the story.

What I really liked about Simon's business is that you can send him any piece of wood and he will create a pen.  It might be some old furniture, a cutting from your favourite tree or even a church pew your favourite Aunty sat on before her church got turned into luxury flats.   Personally I quite like the idea of sending him parts of my boat that keep falling off - plenty of raw material there. 

My favourite story Simon told me was of a man who sent in his Grandfather's old hammer.  The Grandfather had been a master craftsman and the hammer had been his favrourite tool.  The customer knew he would never use the hammer but would love the pen - not because of the pen but because of the wood and the history it represented.

My point - my pen seller did not talk about the pens.  He did not say how well they wrote or whether the ink was black or blue.  He did not mention how smooth they were to hold or even focus on their aesthetic.  He told stories about their providence;  he told stories about the wood - and that is what I bought.

It reminded me that great stories sell.  Personal stories sell even better.

(By the way, it is worth checking out Simon's website (below) if you are after a Christmas present for that person who is always hard to buy for).