As famed sculptor Kehinde Wiley celebrated with a crowd of rain-soaked Richmondians at the unveiling of “Rumors of War” outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in December 2019, inside the museum, resident Michael Kahwajy-Hyland of Hanover County, awaited the unveiling of a different kind.
Kahwajy-Hyland held a small case containing a pen, a pen that had been meticulously and carefully crafted for Wiley so that each piece reflected the importance of what was happening outside.
A central band on the pen featured imported African horsehair, wrapped around sterling silver and cast in resin – a nod to the “Rumor” horse. The man on the horse was wearing Nike shoes, so the pen clip was created by taking a piece of Nike shoelace and casting it in sterling silver.
Knowing that Wiley visited a number of historic African-American sites in Richmond for inspiration and understanding, including places such as Lumpkin Jail, Kahwajy-Hyland visited those sites as well. He gathered dirt and bits of brick he found, which he incorporated into the body of the pen. A diamond element represented the future. The wood grains represented the past. The black, white, and brown resins represented the skin tones found on earth, while the red resin—seen primarily when the pen was uncapped—represented the notion that all of humanity is the same inside.
People also read…
It took four months to create, but it’s a moment that will live with Kahwajy-Hyland forever.
Kahwajy-Hyland is owner and designer of Turning Point Pen Co., a Richmond-based custom luxury pen company that designs handcrafted writing instruments to commemorate significant moments or show deep gratitude. Its pens – fountain, roller or ballpoint – offer personalized celebratory gifts for personal and professional milestones, or convey deep appreciation and sentiment as heirloom gifts and family heirlooms. He also creates pens for corporate gifts. His pens, which can contain more than a dozen parts as part of their construction, cost between $600 and thousands of dollars, depending on the materials and craftsmanship required.
“What Turning Point is, to me, is a message,” Kahwajy-Hyland, 29, said earlier this month. Before him were several of his creations. Each has a unique story – the legacy of a loved one, a military officer’s enduring love for his son – even plants and organic materials that represent hope and growth.
“Life is special [and] we have to be intentional in acknowledging what is meaningful in our daily lives,” he said. “Having a room like this – it’s an amazing way to keep those special moments alive in your mind every day.”
Turning Point’s earliest origins date back to the day before she graduated from college in 2015. A friend mentioned that she and her parents wanted to find a unique way to commemorate her college success. She mentioned a personalized pen.
Kahwajy-Hyland said he first thought it was a weird concept and one he’d never heard of, but quickly told her he could create something for her that would be unique and personal to her. His experience. Years earlier, while attending Chickahominy Middle School, Kahwajy-Hyland had come to know and love the art of woodturning – a craft that uses a lathe to create artefacts. Among his favorite pieces, already at the time, there were pens.
“The energy that comment made was what spurred this business,” he said, referring to that offhand comment about a personalized graduation pen. He remembers thinking, “If I can create that kind of appreciation for life and energy in a random friend, I can probably do it for other people.”
Kahwajy-Hyland decided to create this pen, but also to start a business. He held several jobs after college, he said, but found time to focus on his pens. He began attending pen trade shows across the country. He sought advice from a small but supportive niche market of custom pen makers, many of whom helped guide him through the process.
Eventually, he says, he realized he wanted to do this full time.
He settled on Turning Point as his name, for a number of reasons.
“Filming is the craft,” he said, but also, “our brand focuses on the special moments in life – the turning points.”
“We want to make those special moments last and give people a really unique and effective way to do it,” he added.
BK Fulton, Founder, CEO and President of Soulidifly, a Richmond-based media, film and stage company, has become an avid fan and customer of Kahwajy-Hyland’s personalized pens. Soulidifly produces everything from Hollywood movies to Broadway stage productions and more. His latest film – ‘A Day to Die’ starring Bruce Willis – hit theaters in March.
Fulton is also an author. His latest book, “A Tale of the Tee: Be Kind and Just Believe” with co-author Jonathan Blank, examines racial injustice in the aftermath of summer 2020 and the national unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
That’s how he met Kahwajy-Hyland, who Fulton originally commissioned not for pens, but for custom golf tees.
Kahwajy-Hyland agreed, creating two t-shirts made from the jawbone of a donkey, with smoky elements in transparent resin and white and yellow gold, symbolic nods to meeting his ethnicities and those of Blank in the writing of the book.
The t-shirts include both men’s initials – but also depict the “be kind and just believe” mantra found in their book, he said.
“There are only two in the world,” Fulton said of the tees, and “we wear [them] with us all the time as a reminder of the work that remains to be done.
But Fulton said he was so enamored with the tees that he approached Kahwajy-Hyland to create pens for some of Soulidifly’s executives. Rollerball pens feature spots of Soulidifly colors inside a clear resin. The company logo is featured on a custom silver clip.
“When you get a Turning Point pen…you get something no one else has,” Fulton said. “You can’t get that by just buying off the rack.”
“I wear it, I write with it,” he continued, joking that only a few people are allowed to hold it — briefly. “It’s a perfectly designed writing instrument.”
Today, Kahwajy-Hyland is the pen designer for his company, which consists of him, another employee, and a board member. He relies on artisans locally and across the country to create the pens. There is no retail store, rather customers start their experience online and then discuss their ideas with it.
Kahwajy-Hyland also offers consulting services to small businesses, helping them craft messaging and wording to attract customers. He is a board member of RVA Works, an organization that provides resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially people of color.
His Lebanese roots from his mother’s family led him to Lebanese dance, which he still enjoys.
Turning Point’s vision, Kahwajy-Hyland said, “is to have the greatest impact possible.” He said he wanted to start working with more nonprofit and mission-based organizations.
Regardless of the client, every opportunity starts with the same questions: How important is it? What is the significance? Kahwajy-Hyland said.
“That’s really what sets Turning Point apart,” he said. It’s about honoring a life, an award, a momentous occasion in a very personal and tangible way “to last for generations”.
PHOTOS: Turning Point Pen Co.