Thursday, January 18, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils, Part 1: My New Year’s Resolution

Happiness is a bouquet of vintage colored pencils.
My one and only resolution this year is to remove unwanted and unneeded stuff from my studio. I’m relatively good about regularly getting rid of clothing, kitchen goods and even books, but my biggest hurdle has been my studio: all the fabric, yarn, rubberstamps, beads, paper and what-all from the many crafts I was heavily into at various time but haven’t touched in years. I guess some part of me always thinks I might get back to them someday, but I decided it was time for them to go.

During the first half of January, I packed carton after carton and hauled them over to Seattle ReCreative, a nonprofit store I discovered only recently. It’s like a thrift store, except it carries only art and craft supplies, and it gives those supplies to local schools. In addition, it offers a variety of art classes to children, and all the class materials are supplied free from donations by people like me who want to get rid of their stuff. Win-win! I was very happy to discover this store only a mile from my house.  

When I made an initial visit to find out whether my intended donations would be welcome, I couldn’t resist walking through the store. I told myself over and over that I was there to move stuff out of my house – not bring stuff back in! I did just fine past the fabric, yarn, rubberstamps, beads and paper – but then I spied a neatly sorted tray of colored pencils.

Now, I’ve been in many thrift stores where the only pencils for sale are part of a huge plastic bag of miscellaneous writing utensils, and you must buy the whole bag. Or there’s a bucket of crayons and pencils that look like they have been chewed by kids or dogs, and I’m not inclined to dig through them for possible gems. At Seattle ReCreative, there was such a bucket of the usual Crayola colored pencils, but in addition, some volunteers had picked out a small selection and even sorted them by color. These looked worth going through!
The logos and typefaces alone are worth the price of admission.
And go through them I did, one by one. Most were older, art-quality pencils, some never sharpened or nearly full length. I left the store with a modest fistful of old Berol and Eagle Prismacolors, Verithins, Eberhard-Faber Mongols and various others. The nostalgia-inducing logos and lovely typefaces alone were worth the twenty-five cents I paid per pencil.

As I sharpened them up and made a sketch, I recalled a post on the Well-Appointed Desk in which Ana had talked about vintage colored pencils and how the older Prismacolors were superior in quality to contemporary ones. As someone who had tossed a box of modern Prismacolors years ago because the cores kept breaking (as if they were already broken inside the wood), I had made a mental note when I’d initially read the post: Old is better.

My finds at Seattle ReCreative and re-reading Ana’s post piqued my curiosity. I started searching the Internet for information about colored pencil history. And as anyone who “collects” anything does, I went to eBay, where I picked up a modest assortment of vintage pencils for about the same price as the thrift store. (May I just pause here to say that I’m annoyed that products manufactured in the ‘90s are considered “vintage”? Why does “vintage” keep getting more and more recent! End of old fart’s rant.)

One day, Ana and I were chatting about vintage colored pencils, and the next thing I knew, she kindly sent me a bunch of unsharpened Eberhard Faber Colorbrites and others! Suddenly it seemed I had a collection! (Yes, I’m well aware that I’m still moving stuff out, not in. But it’s just a few pencils. 😉) 

Stay tuned – I’m going to review specific pencil brands in upcoming posts. 

Here's all the stuff I got rid of. Surely a few pencils will take up less space than this!

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