Friday, July 26, 2019

Vintage Colored Pencils: Berol Karismacolor

A grail pencil: Berol Karismacolor

Although I like to try anything, and I’m always interested in finding vintage pencils that are of better quality than average contemporary products, I don’t have many colored pencil “grails.” Perhaps one that would qualify is the Berol Karismacolor.

When I first saw photos of it, I was immediately attracted to its appearance: a lovely round, natural wood barrel with a clear varnish and a unique diagonal end cut that exposes the core – both brilliant and beautiful! Then I read that it was Roz Stendahl’s favorite colored pencil before it was discontinued years ago, and that really piqued my interest: If Roz favors them, they must be a high-quality product.

Searching for some on eBay, though, was discouraging. Good sets of Karismacolors are now rare and therefore ridiculously expensive. I didn’t need a full set – all I wanted was a few to try – but that was even harder to find.

I hang out in Pencil Land, however, and every now and then, the elves and fairies sprinkle magic pencil shavings on me. A very nice person found out I was looking for Karismacolors, and he generously sent me a handful as a gift. Apparently acquired as seconds, the pencils have some misprints, and some of the end cuts are chipped, so they aren’t of much value to collectors, but they are perfectly good to me.
US- and British-made Berol Karismacolors

Most of the mix I received are made in the USA by Berol, but interestingly, one is marked as made in England. The cores are deliciously thick and soft and sharpen beautifully.
Thick cores!

The highlight of the pencil’s distinctive design is the bezel end cut. I have never seen any other pencil with this detail! It evokes contemporary chopsticks and decorative bamboo poles.
A unique design detail that I love!

How do they apply? Making a sketch of Rainier cherries in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, they were very soft, creamy and easy to blend and layer. The pigment content and quality are similar to vintage Design Spectracolors and US-made Prismacolors, which are both excellent. These are pencils I will happily use, even as I admire those end cuts displayed in a (grail) cup.

6/27/19 vintage Karismacolors in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

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