Plumbago, Volume II.

If you don’t listen to the Erasable Podcast and are not a member of our ever-growing Facebook group, maybe you missed the first issue of Plumbago, the zine edited by Comrade Andy Welfle. You’re in luck. Issue II is about to drop:

At long last, Plumbago is back! At 36 pages long, this zine will be chock-full of writing and illustration. We’re celebrating the spirit of the hackwing; what we call a pencil modded from its original design to suit the user’s style and usage preferences. You’re buying a pre-order to help fund the printing and distribution of this zine.

Just a few features you’ll find here:

– “What I’ve Learned from Field Notes”: A piece by urban sketcher Tina Koyama
– “Rabbinic Musings in Graphite”: about how pencils aid in the intense study environs of rabbi school by Mordechai Lightstone
– “How to Keep Score at a Baseball Game Using a Pencil”: A piece by Gregory Dresser
– “Are You *Too* Obsessed with Stationery:” A quiz to help you measure your sickness
– A comic by the Mad Penciler
– An editorial by Dr. J. Frank, encouraging you to lovingly destroy your pencils
– And lots, lots more.

Pre-order the upcoming second issue, and you will get a PDF of the first issue and maybe another little surprise too. Hurry, and click here to get  your copy, while they last!

Portable Sketch Kits.

We have a playdate tomorrow to go to zoo with our Pals, and we thought we would design some portable drawing kits.

We took some empty mint tins from Trader Joe’s and then stuck on these name tags that we found at Target in the dollar bins. I trimmed down pencils by hand with a sharp utility knife and then sharpened them in the Dahle 133, using its Auto Stop feature.

We included some tiny sharpeners that we found at the shop, along with some tiny 💩 erasers and some rainbow erasers.

Finally, we made some tiny little notebooks to fit inside. My kids are super excited, and I am busy eating more of those delicious vanilla mints so that I can get more tins. I want one for myself!

In Defense of Doodling.

[This wonderful post is both written and illustrated by Pencil Hero Vivian Wagner. Many thanks to Vivian for allowing us to publish this fantastic piece!]

I doodle. I admit it. I doodle a lot. In fact, around a third of what fills my notebooks when I’m presumably writing is actually doodling. Drawing circles, squares, wine bottles, flowers, scribbles, bird silhouettes, random buildings, peculiar faces. Sometimes I just use whatever I’m writing with – often, lately, a pencil – to fill in an area with cross-hatching. It’s what I do. I can’t imagine writing longhand without doodling.

What I’m finding is that though doodling might seem secondary to the work of writing, it’s actually central to my process. It gives my brain a chance to pull away from whatever I’m focusing on, become a little daydreamy. And in that liminal, relaxed, seemingly unfocused space, I make connections. I have new thoughts. I imagine different directions. And I return to my writing refreshed, calm, and ready to think about it anew. Doodling is like a little vacation, but without all the hassle.

I’m realizing, too, that my affection for doodling is one of the main reasons I like to write longhand. Sure, there are ways to doodle on a screen. There are apps for that, and I’ve experimented with them, especially on my iPad. But there’s something vital about the visceral laying down of graphite, ink, or pigment. This, too, is part of the process. The physicality of writing and doodling on paper keeps me grounded and helps me remember that I inhabit a body, that I live on a planet. My hand’s movements across the page link me to the electricity firing in my brain, to the sound of rain and wind, to the feel of my chair sliding on the floor.

Usually, even when I’m composing on my MacBook Air – which I’m doing with this essay, in fact – I’ll have an open notebook next to my keyboard, along with a few sharpened graphite and colored pencils and pens. Every few minutes, I’ll stop typing, turn to my notebook – in this case Baron Fig’s Metamorphosis, which, by the way, has wonderful paper for both doodling and writing – and absentmindedly scratch out a few lines and shadings. Sometimes, too, I’ll flip back to earlier doodles in my notebook, looking for pencil drawings that I can fill in with color. In this way, my doodles become my own self-created, anxiety-relieving coloring pages.

I usually don’t show anyone my doodles. They’re not art, really. They’re not meant for any outside audience, any more than my unedited handwritten pages are. But they’re a record of a mind at work, and an integral part of my creative process. Nothing that I write and publish is ever done without the shadow world of my doodles behind it, and I’m grateful for all the analog tools that allow me to experiment, to assay my way through my thoughts and world.

Probably most people doodle, secretly, on the corners of to-do lists or the backs of envelopes. I’d like to just give all of us permission and encouragement to keep doodling. Keep making marks. Doodling is like doing yoga, meditating, vacationing, brainstorming, improvising, daydreaming, and even sleeping. It’s not secondary to our real work. It is our real work.

And, besides, it’s fun.


Vivian Wagner writes and doodles in New Concord, Ohio, where she teaches English at Muskingum University. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), and a poetry collection, The Village (Kelsay Books). Visit her website at www.vivianwagner.net.

Review of Baron Fig Askew.


This unapologetically blue notebook has been making the rounds for the last week on social media and The Stationery Blogosphere. Baron Fig was kind enough to send a review copy over; so I thought I’d weigh in. Let’s take a look at the Askew Edition.

First, what is it?

“A ruled notebook unlike any you’ve ever used.
Every line is hand drawn, and while some cooperate—others are downright unruly. This limited edition is designed to inspire thinkers to bend the rules and follow even their most meandering ideas.”

This is more than a Baron Fig Confidant in a different color. This notebook challenges the definition of blank/lined journal to some extent.

The cover is Blue Pen Blue and looks like someone painted the fabric with the ink from a Bic Cristal. The color caught my attention first when it came out. The box looks like someone tried to color it in with a Cristal, and the bookmark must be Red Pen Red. It’s a beautiful book. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the paper quality for pencil again. (Check out our take on Baron Fig paper here. tl;dr: it’s awesome.)

There are good number of folks who…don’t like this edition. If a subscriber expected to get a different Confidant each quarter that worked basically like a regular one (lined, dot, blank paper), I can certainly understand the frustration. They are not getting what they paid for under that set of expectations. But did Baron Fig actually promise four different versions of the same, or were they vague? (I have no idea.)

I think the question comes down to whether or not this book does what it’s supposed to do. Can you write in it? Most of the pages come with relatively parallel lines and could be used like a regular notebook for the most part. Some pages are nutso. I can imagine using these to doodle, to test pencils, or even to paste things onto. But they are also “lost” pages if you’re after lined paper on which to write.

But that’s asking if the Askew does what the Confidant does. Does the Askew do what the Askew is supposed to do?

Wait: What IS this notebook supposed to do? It’s supposed to get you to try something different. I don’t want to say “think out of the box” — but maybe write off of the line. And in this regard, I think it’s successful and a hell of a lot of fun.

This book got me to pull out some pens (Bic Cristal Bolds, sign pens, bold Uniball Airs) and go nuts because I write with pencil so much that it can be stifling. And writing mostly in pencil also has the effect of inviting me to over-analyze each piece of graphite I write with. Pens were a welcome change, and I wrote some…different stuff than I usually do so far in this book.

I think this is the Nice Stationery version of Wreck This Journal, a book I enjoyed enough to get the expanded edition when it came out. If nothing else, it is an invitation to have some colorful fun during this dim time of year. I can certainly get behind that.

(We received this notebook free for review purposes, but the opinions expressed do not reflect that we scored it gratis.)

A Pretty Spring Day.

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This picture is by my optimistic daughter. With rain for the next 48 hours, it’s anything but pretty around Charm City this weekend. She did this entirely with Yoobi colored pencils and highlighter pencils. (We go to Target a lot.)

City of Industry Pencil Pin: Badge for the Revolution.

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About two months ago, Sarah of City of Industry was kind enough to send us three pencil pins, with an eye to a giveaway. As usual, they disappeared already, and I think someone stole mindefrom my hoodie. These pins are totally adorable:

Enamel Pencil Pin

If you’re an illustrator, designer, or letter writer, you’re probably always looking for a pencil. Keep this one close at hand: It works just as well pinned to your shirt pocket as it does to your backpack.

Cloisonne pin with gold-plating, approximately 1.25 inch by .25 inch in size.
$12.00

I wore mine long enough without a post about it going up that I fear Karma might have take my pin away. My better half runs a public school; she was an obvious suspect (and, in fact, took one). I got a lot of compliments and hopefully sold a few for CoI while I dallied about a blog post.
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They sell a lot of other really cute stuff, including an airmail pin that I really want. This is a solo operation by Sarah, and I suspect pins like this would render those flimsy one-inch buttons a quaint little effort at coolness. Thanks, Sarah!

50 Dozen: The Pencil Chair.

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So this is another “Your life would be better if you lived in Baltimore” post. With apologies for the bad photo pics, the newly-reopened wings of the Baltimore Museum of Art include a hunt for the BMA’s chairs, one of which is made of 50 dozen Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (from back when they were made in the USA, 2005, which was really at the end of domestic production). Some of the construction involves removing the erasers and sticking the pencils end-to-end into the ferrules. Artist Jeremy Alden made this chair using 600 pencils and glue (and awesomeness).

Charlotte liked enough to ask to be photographed next to it, in her insane Art Gallery Outfit.
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The BMA currently prints a field guide to its chair collection, which is very nice for curious kids. Charlotte kept hers. More information about this chair that you really have to see in person can be found here.