Introducing Plumbago Magazine: an analog companion to a digital publication about analog tools

Recently, I got the chance to explore a medium I’ve been interested in for a while — zines! The Facebook Analog Lab held a Zinefest last week, raising money for the Oakland Fire Department Relief Fund, helping those affected by the Ghostship warehouse fire.

I’ve been meaning to try to put together a zine for years — ever since my friends Alex Brown and Danee Pye made them for various creative projects. This gave me the perfect chance!

And I knew I wanted it to be about pencils and analog tools of creation. Although it’s a fantastic irony that it’s an analog throwback from blogs and podcasts and whatnot about analog tool, it’s with an authentic love and passion that this came about.

So here it is —the inaugural issue of Plumbago Magazine!

Why “Plumbago”?

As I mention in the introduction:

In the late 1500s, residents of Cumbria, England stumbled across a massive tree that was overturned during a storm. The roots brought up soil with it, and beneath it, there was a strange, dark mineral. It felt a lot like a mineral they used at the time — *plumbago*, or dark lead. The used this new mineral to mark their flocks of sheep to identify them in the field.

Zines are a delightful anachronism, though maybe not totally useless. It’s a messy, raw, tactile, finite way to communicate, and in that mess, there’s also a richness to what it’s communicating. Much like pencils.

A short history and exploration of Eberhard Faber's Mongol pencils, by Caitlin Elgin of CW Pencils.
This issue is 22 pages full of amazing contributors — if you’re dialed into the pencil and stationery community, you might already be familiar with some of them:

I tried to make this thing as authentically ziney as possible — no digital copy of the whole publication exists. This was put together with tape, staples and lots of photocopying.

Head over to the Plumbago page on the Erasable Podcast site for more information and to buy your own copy!

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This article has forgotten more about the Trapper Keeper than I will ever know

There’s a fascinating article in Mental Floss published last week with an exhaustive history of the Trapper Keeper. Because I’ve written about Yikes! pencils before, and I used Trapper Keepers around the same time as Yikes, this is definitely relevant to my interests.

Trapper Keeper

I definitely learned things from this; facts that make me feel dumb that I didn’t know it before. Like: did you know that a “Trapper” is Mead’s name for their pocket folder with vertical pockets rather than the horizontal pockets in most folders? Therefore, a Trapper Keeper is the binder that lets you keep all of your papers together.

Duh. I knew that all of my Trapper Keepers had folders with vertical pockets, but I had no recollection of them being called “Trappers”. Doesn’t this seem like something I should know?

If I would have seen this commercial, I would have known that:

Turns out, this commercial is older than I am. Which brings me to my second facepalm moment:

Trapper Keepers are way older than I thought:

Launched in 1978 by the Mead Corporation (which was acquired by ACCO Brands in 2012), Trapper Keeper notebooks are brightly colored three-ring binders that hold folders called Trappers and close with a flap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, some 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.

That’s at least a full ten years before they ever entered my consciousness (Well, and a full five years before I was born, in 1983). I don’t recall trapper keeps ever looking like this:

The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article. The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article.

I remember the ones that looks like they were designed by Commander Mark from Imagination Station: like this or this or, famously, this one featured prominently in “Napoleon Dynamite”:

It's pretty much my favorite Trapper Keeper.

I had this exact Trapper Keeper.

Oh, and I had this one too:Red dots IN SPAAAAACE

You don’t know how thrilled I am to have so many things in common with Napoleon Dynamite.

I had a very close relationship with my Trapper Keeper. It was with me six hours a day, five days a week, and kept m life organized. Eventually, I moved onto other binder organizers that were more collegiate-looking and less youthful. Gone were the lasers and psychedelic 90s spacescapes, replaced by navy blue fabric.

If you, like me, had a Trapper Keeper, you should definitely check out the full article. It’s fascinating, and brings back so many memories.

The History of the Trapper Keeper | MentalFloss.com