Let’s bring women and people of color to the Blackwing Volumes editions

Last week, I traveled to beautiful Vancouver for the Design & Content Conference. In addition to enjoying the city immensely (and visiting an incredible stationery store: Paper-Ya), it was one of the best conferences I’ve attended.

In an industry where workers look mostly like me (white, male), the speakers and subject matter during the conference was strikingly diverse. We had all-women discussion panels, and at least half (and maybe more) of the speakers were people of color.

We talked a lot about diversity and inclusiveness, too. Several panels were about designing software and web interfaces for diversity, crisis and stress-cases, and I came out of it amped to make sure the stuff I work on works for everyone; not just for those I’m most familiar with.

It made me think about the communities I’m a part of, and where I exert the most influence. It occurred to me that it might not so much be the tech community, but that the stationery community (while smaller, perhaps) is a place where my words and thoughts may have the most impact.

Because of that, I was energized to read a fantastic observation made by a Melissa Chapin, an artist and active member of the Erasable community on Facebook , about something that I’m embarrassed I’ve never noticed: that all five of the Blackwing Volumes editions are tributes to white men.

We have the 725, modeled after Bob Dylan’s guitar; the 211, a tribute to John Muir; the 1138, a movie reference to a George Lucas film; the 24 for John Steinbeck; and most recently, the beautiful be-Yankeed Volume 56 for Joe DiMaggio.

These are all fantastic tributes, and I love the story behind them. But they represent just one demographic of those who made history. What about a pencil that Blackwing fans who are women, or people of color?

I’d love to challenge and encourage Blackwing to consider that for their next edition, or better yet — next several editions.

Here are a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about that would be absolutely amazing:

  • backwing-tributesVolume 11.8: The Grace Hopper Science Edition — named for the distance, in inches, that light travels in a nanosecond. Admiral Hopper was known for using lengths of wire this long as visual aids in her talks about satellite communication technology.
  • Volume 1940: The Hattie McDaniel Film Edition — named for the year this actress became the first woman of color to win an Oscar, for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. It would be another 62 years before it would happen again, in 2002 for Halle Berry.
  • Volume 45: The Jesse Owens Sports Edition — This African-American Olympic runner broke three world records and tied a fourth, all in 45 seconds.
  • Volume 70: The Ibrahim Ferrer Music Edition — This amazing Cuban singer gained renown later in life after he joined the Buena Vista Social Club at the age of 70.
  • Volume 35: The Frida Kahlo Art Edition — This is the number of surgeries she suffered through in her life, after polio and a bus accident. The constant pain she felt informed her iconic art work.
  • Volume 135: The Ralph Ellison Literature Edition — This is named for the street he moved to in Harlem in 1936, where began his career as a novelist.
  • And finally, how about Volume 11: The Harvey Milk Politics Edition — The first openly gay publicly elected official served 11 months in office before he was gunned down in the streets of San Francisco for his pride and bravery. (OMG, a rainbow Blackwing?!)

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m finger-pointing or declaring Blackwing to be racist or sexist. They’re creative professionals who build amazing products I use everyday. And, like me, they are inspired by heroes to whom they feel a connection. It’s pretty natural to find connections most strongly with those like yourself, and because society more loudly applauds white men for their skill and accomplishments, it’s not surprising that the five editions so far represent creative inspiration from this group.

In researching these icons of history and literature, and discovering the numbers that run through their lives, I was inspired by how vast a field of candidates could be for a Blackwing tribute. Others in the group suggested editions named for Amelia Earhart, Toni Morrison, Susan Kare, and more.

What great women and people of color inspire you? Where would you find the number for their edition? I would love to hear it, and I’m sure Blackwing would as well (though I hope and suspect they have some great ideas of their own).

Thank you, readers, for letting me opine, and Blackwing: thanks for being good sports and stepping up to inspire all of your customers, not just those who look like me.

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Refreshed Palomino design at Pencils.com

I got an email last night that had some interesting and welcome news — the Palomino pencil got a brand refresh! At least the drawing pencils did. Just look at this:

Refreshed Palomino Drawing Pencil from Pencils.comThe “Palomino” brand has gotten a lot of play since the restarted Blackwings have been co-branded with the little California horse, and then later, a few other Pencils.com pencils shed their “California Republic” brand to join up under the Palomino name.

The actual Palomino pencil, however? Continue reading

Aaron Draplin is coming to speak in my town tomorrow

Tomorrow is an exciting day for me — designer and Field Notes inventor Aaron Draplin is coming to Fort Wayne to speak about his “cosmic wit and wisdom on design”! This is his only tour stop in Indiana in 2013.

DDC vs FTW: A Night of Graphic Design Straight Talk with Aaron Draplin » 

A draft of the limited edition poster of Aaron Draplin for Kickstarter backers.

It all started as Kickstarter campaign, and quickly met its funding goal and eventually, more than doubled it. Fort Wayne, though not a big city (we’re the second-largest city in Indiana, with just under a quarter-million people) has a talented, tight knit graphic design community. In fact, two of my best friends who form the creative partnership pye,brown are the main sponsors of this event.

As a pledger, I’m getting a super-cool limited edition poster designed by a friend of mine Josh Tuck of Rustbelt Co (you may remember him from his review of Gridbooks), as well as a ticket to the event.

And what an event! According to the event page:

Let’s just say that Draplin is a colorful speaker whose passion for design and the work ethic of the American Midwest and its history shows though in abundance. Once you hear him speak, you will leave the premises fired up to create and make cool things.

I’m definitely going to bring some of my first-edition Field Notes cahiers to get signed, and hopefully — hopefully — there are some DDC branded bullet pencils that will be on sale with the other merch he’ll have.

Why do I think this? Following up my post about Pencil Revolution’s interview with Draplin about bullet pencils, I tweeted him to ask if he ever made them for his prodigious merchandise catalog. This tweet back from Aaron Draplin in September:

And then, as I was reading about XOXO, the big tech fest in Portland that just finished its second year, I found a photoset about it in the Flickr feed of Glenn Fleishman, owner of The Magazine. Draplin was there, and Glenn took a picture of the merch table he set up:

XOXO 2013 Marketplace

Wait, what’s that? There, in the mid-left of the photo:

Could those be DDC bullet pencils?

Could that be? Bullet pencils?

No. It’s too thick and blunt-ended. After scouring the Merch section of the website, I realized it’s a Toothpick Canister.

As you know, I’ve been kinda obsessed with bullet pencils for a while. I’m definitely going to snag some of these puppies if he has them.

In any case: Be jealous, internet, because I’m going to meet The Man tomorrow!

The old Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory in Brooklyn

Have you ever listened to 99% Invisible? It’s a fantastic podcast with features about, primarily, architecture and design (and starting in 2014, thanks to their Kickstarter, they’ll be producing episodes weekly!). The newest episode, “All the Buildings”, features James Gulliver, an artist on a mission to draw the buildings of New York City — all 700,000 plus of them.

One building in particular that they talked about was at 61 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn — an old pencil factory:

Drawing by James Gulliver at AllTheBuildingsInNewYork.com. Click image for original post.

Drawing by James Gulliver at AllTheBuildingsInNewYork.com. Click image for original post.

After a minute or two of Googling, I found a photograph of this building:

Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory in Brooklyn Check out the story-tall terra cotta pencils at the top of this building: Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory

(Photographs are from Scouting New York. Check out the original post for lots of great information and more photographs.)

How cool is this? It’s the old corporate offices of the Eberhard Faber corporation, maker, of course, of Eberhard Faber pencils. Built in in the 1920s, it was vacated when the company shut down its Brooklyn factory and moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1952. What they left behind was an amazing six-story art deco building with FREAKING PENCILS on it.

Print Magazine has an interview with a few graphic designers who has developed a relationship with this building. Read it when you get a chance; it’s a fun interview.

As of a couple years ago, other buildings from the factory campus were being turned into condos. The Pencil Factory Condos had a website that now seems to be defunct, so it’s unclear as to what is happening with them. I found an interesting (though cheesy) video on YouTube with a walkthrough of the building in question, showcasing some great looking loft spaces:

Next time I’m in NYC, I need to get to the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn to check this place out and get some pictures of my own.

Any Woodclinched readers have any stories about this building? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Old Staedtler factory footage

Screencap from "STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2". I love old pencil packaging. Why can't they wrap them up like this anymore?

Screencap from “STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2”. I love old pencil packaging. Why can’t they wrap them up like this anymore?

Speaking of Pencil Revolution, there was a great comment thread on a post where we discussed the bevy of How It’s Made videos on YouTube about making pencils! Sean from Contrapuntalism linked to these fantastic old 1950s silent films from the Staedtler factory on how they made pencils back then.

(UPDATE: Sean first saw it linked from the great German pencil blog, Lexikaliker, back in 2010.)

There is no sound, and the intertitles are in German, but I think you get the idea, especially after watching the more modern video posted with English narration.

Here they are, in two parts. (Warning: be prepared for the bizarre music playing during part 2)

(Sean warned us when he shared the link, but I still wasn’t prepared for Christian rapper Soul P to start blaring in an ancient black-and-white film about making wood case pencils.)

It surprised me that this film is from 1950 — with the production quality, and the general look and feel of the factory, I would have guessed that it was much earlier, like from the 1920s or 30s. But then I realized I was looking at it through an American culture lens; it looks, to me, like it took place during the Great Depression. And the decade preceding this film was rough on Germany — the government lost a war, unprecedented in scope, was toppled, and the entire population had a huge financial, political and moral mess to deal with. This was a bad time for Germany.

The films are fascinating. Thanks, Sean, for pointing them out!

(In case the videos didn’t embed for you, here are links to YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2)

A party for a pencil

Disclosure: As I try to do whenever I talk about CalCedar and any of their products, I want to mention that I am a former employee. So take what I say with a grain of salt.

California Cedar, the makers of the California Republic brand of wooden pencils and the Palomino Blackwing, their modern interpretation of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602, is throwing a party they’re calling called the Blackwing Experience, in New York City on April 17, to celebrate the opening of a week-long exhibit running until April 20 at the Art Director’s Club.

I think this is a cool concept — as their tagline says, it’s “the party for the pencil”, and from what I understand, it’s not just the Palomino Blackwing or the EF Blackwing that’s being celebrated, it’s the usage and history of all wooden pencils.

I had a conversation with Charles Berolzheimer, president and CEO of California Cedar, who told me about the origins of this idea:

“We began to get serious about such an event when we started thinking about how to build upon influencer relationships we had established over prior years as well as to support building with the 602 new influencers who participated in our Klout Campaign (I wrote about it here -AW) launched last December. In working with our creative team in New York during the early planning stages we had a ton of great ideas and were looking for the right venues and the final partnership we created with the Art Directors Club we came up with seemed like a natural fit.”

Justin Oberman is an independent creative director who is working with CalCedar to organize this event. You may remember him from my post about his concept ad campaign for the Dixon Ticonderoga.

A mockup of the video "Ode to a Blackwing". Photo from http://blackwingexperience.tumblr.com/

“We have a 64-foot tall 60-foot wide infographic timeline of the pencil — entirely drawn with (Palomino) Blackwing pencils”, Justin told me. He also talked about creating “Ode to a Blackwing” a video produced for the show. He mentioned that it’s all done with Palomino Blackwings and original Eberhard Faber Blackwings, “except when drawing the logos of other pencil companies. Those are done with pencil brands represented by those logos.”

Some other interesting things going on at this event:

  • A panel discussion about creativity with Chuck Jones’ grandson who runs the Chuck Jones Experience.
  • A blank space where attendees can draw themselves in (with pencil, of course) using a camera lucida.
  • Several performances and demonstrations by up-and-coming artists, musicians and writers.

I really wish I could make it to the Big Apple on Monday to check this out! Unfortunately, I’m not in a position where I can do this unless I plan months ahead.

There’s been some supplemental media created for it:

Please note that there is a bit of controversy surrounding that event and CalCedar, which I’ll let you check out for yourself. I’m staying away from that dialog: not only because I formerly worked at CalCedar (but briefly), but also because of my tremendous respect for both Sean at Blackwing Pages and Charles at CalCedar. If you’re interested, you can read further and make your own determination (I won’t be hosting dialog about that in my comments here):

 

Some great photos of the California Republic Stationers-branded notebooks

As a follow-up from my post last week about the Palomino-branded notebooks, I just ran across these photos from Studio 602, the Pencils.com blog, featuring paper products to compliment the Palomino Blackwing, the Palomino, and the ForestChoice line. Click to embiggenfy.These are perhaps my favorite, at least judging by the photos. It looks liek there’s a leather 5.5×8.5 clasp notebook, maybe an oilskin, Moleskine-style notebook, and some kind of cahier of unknown cover material with some illustrations on it. That Blackwing-man illustration was done by a very talented pencil artist Mogodore J. Bivouac  when I worked at Pencils.com. I’m glad to see it gracing the cover of a notebook!

I’d love to see something with a sharkskin blue-grey color like the PB 602s, as well — the jet black looks dashing with the black PBs, and though it looks good with the 602s, a matching grey leather would be really cool.

This is the Palomino-branded line, with much the same — a clasp notebook, some Moleskiney things, and some cahiers, it looks like. What really stands out to me in this picture is the tall, skinny notebook directly underneath the single, orange Palomino pencil: it looks like it’s a narrower size than a standard 5.5×8.5 notebook. Maybe something like 4.5×8.5? This is purely conjecture, as this photo’s perspective could be off.

In any case, it looks really nice. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to do a black-and-orange brand without it looking like it’s Halloween-themed. Rhodia does it well, and I think this product line has captured it too.

I’m a big fan of the blue Palominos; it’s one of my favorite shades of blue, and the white eraser looks great perched atop the barrel. I would love to see a blue notebook, too!

That CalRepublic product that I’ve maybe used the least are the ForestChoice pencils. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that when faced with the thick, glossy, colorful Palominos or Golden Bears, or the superior-quality Palomino Blackwings, these envrionmentally friendly cousins take a backseat, at least in my pencil box. Nothing personal, ForestChoice.

These are interesting, and perhaps the closest match as far as branding look-and-feel between the pencils and paper products. Those little notebooks with the elastic band look like something you could get at Target (that’s a compliment! Really!).

What I like the best from this photo is the tall, skinny steno pad, almost the shape of a reporter’s notepad, which I used for years throughout college in my journalism classes and working at a local paper. I would use this pad quite a bit, for notetaking at meetings where I am standing up, for shopping lists, to-do items, etc. It looks like it’s a bit more everyday-functional than the other lines.

In any case, bravo, Pencils.com! I can’t wait to see this in real life (or IRL, as the kids say)!

What’s next? This may never happen, but I’d love to see a Golden Bear or Spangle line of notebooks for school that may be just a smidgen higher quality (and higher cost) than a Mead notebook. Or perhaps a line of hand-erasers or more sharpeners akin to the Palomino KUM long-point sharpener.

What do you think of the photos above?