|Utrecht Colored Pencils|
Not too many years ago, Seattle had several good brick-and-mortar art supply stores. One was Utrecht on Capitol Hill. Catering to art students at nearby Gage Academy and Seattle Central College, it was the first store where I found a full selection of Stillman & Birn sketchbooks when they first came out (maybe around 2012). Just beginning as a sketcher then, I was intimidated by all the painting supplies I saw at Utrecht, but I found the staff pleasant, knowledgeable and helpful, so I kept going there for sketchbooks.
Only a couple of years later, Utrecht was purchased by Blick, and the building occupied by Utrecht eventually opened in 2014 as the brand new Starbucks Roastery and Reserve. I got a good deal on several S&B sketchbooks at Utrecht’s closeout sale, feeling sad for the glum-looking staff who seemed uncertain about their future. Later I learned that Blick had bought the entire chain of 45 Utrecht stores. Eventually Utrecht’s Czech Republic-made products became Blick-branded.
This backstory is the reason I own a used set of Utrecht Color pencils, which I picked up a while back at Tinkertopia. Stopping at the art and craft supply thrift store to drop off my donations of art supplies that I was getting rid of, I was not supposed to buy anything, but I couldn’t resist poking around. Digging through the pencils, I found this barely used set. I knew they couldn’t be considered “vintage,” but I also knew that Utrecht-branded pencils no longer existed. In a moment of nostalgia and desire to preserve a former pencil name, I felt compelled to grab them.
I remembered that in the set of Blick Studio colored pencils I had purchased a few years ago, one of the 24 pencils was branded Utrecht Color, and it looks just like the ones in the Utrecht set. Product information on Blick’s site then said that while some sets may contain a mix of Blick- and Utrecht-branded pencils, the quality was identical (well, the core quality might be the same, but the Blick Studio pencils have unfinished ends, while Utrecht Color pencils have attractively rounded end caps). According to Blick’s site now, Blick Studio colored pencils are still made in the Czech Republic.
(This is part of my series of occasional posts that are not really reviews but stories about products I find notable for one reason or another.)