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?

Going Pro

I consider myelf someone with a wide variety of interests and passions. Some of my passions, in no particular order, include literature, the arts, technology, Apple computers, and, of course, pencils. And it is really exciting when, as a friend told me recently, you can go from “passion to paycheck.”

It is with that in mind that I make an exciting announcement: As of January 2011, I will be working for our friends at CalCedar as the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for Pencils.com! This is a really exciting opportunity, and I’m honored that I was even considered for the position, let alone accepted for it. Continue reading

Checking in

The brand-new Palomino Blackwing gift set. I got a good look at it during my visit. See end of post for a link.

Whew! It’s been a busy couple of weeks for this humble blogger. My blog silence is not an indication of having nothing to talk about, but merely me not having much time for anything! I went to California for a few days last week, to visit a friend and also to visit someone I’ve wanted to meet for a long time, WoodChuck.

I was fortunate to be in Stockton and hang out a little bit with Charles Berolzheimer, President and CEO of California Cedar Products. We all know the organization as the maker of California Republic-brand pencils, like the Golden Bear, the Palomino, and the oft-talked about Palomino Blackwing. They also own and operate Pencils.com, which sells products as well as maintains a large resource for pencil enthusiasts.

He showed me their offices, warehouse, some products we don’t see every day, and even took me to the Duraflame offices (his brother is the president and CEO), which are on a decommissioned ferry boat!

I even got a look at his amazing pencil collection. When your business is to supply cedar slats to many pencils companies globally, they send you lots of awesome samples. And since his family has been doing this for at least three generations, he has some incredible old pencils.

Of course, bad blogger that I am, I have no pictures to share with you. I told him that I want to spend two hours in his office with a DSLR camera, and I’d be set with blog posts for a year. Maybe that’ll happen next time I’m in Stockton.

I also went to San Francisco, rode some cable cars, ate some great food, and bought a few pencils and notebooks I can’t find in the midwest. Look for that soon!

I wanted to link to the Palomino Blackwing gift set, but apparently WordPress doesn’t let me place a link in a photo caption. Here is that link.