This is the next in a series of posts called “Pencils in Community”, where I share the stories of other people in the pencil world alongside me. I’m very excited about this one! Today’s guest is Caitlin Elgin, the Deputy Chief Pencil Lady at CW Pencil Enterprise.
What pencil made you fall in love with pencils and why?
I think I didn’t fall in love with pencils specifically – I have just always loved art and office supplies. I still have my pencil box from the 4th grade, I have my first set of drawing pencils from when I was an art student in college, I’ve stolen the nice pens from every office job I’ve ever had. I love the nostalgia and tactile feel of writing utensils and books and that sort of thing – I’m very romantic about it. I’ve just always sort of collected these things, so when I first walked into the store it immediately spoke to me.
What is your current favorite pencil and why?
My current favorite pencil is the Nataraj Marble HB. I spent about a month just writing with one of these. They’re really excellent for the price, and I adore that every single one is different. Opening a box up is a surprise every time, and we’re always showing each other the good ones in the office. It’s hard for me to not buy all the really pretty ones for myself.
What is your go-to pencil and why?
My ultimate go-to pencil is General’s Cedar Pointe #1. It has excellent point retention and I really love the way it feels on paper. The erasers are pretty good and I’m very fond of the raw cedar finish – it sort of absorbs the oils from your hand and the grit from your pencil bag and looks satisfyingly well-loved by the time you’re done with it. It really just epitomizes the best of the simple pleasure of a pencil for me.
What do you say to people who don’t know about this whole world of pencils that are curious about it?
I usually tell people who are curious about pencils that there’s more to them than they would think. If you really sit and consider a pencil, it’s not just a simple writing utensil – it’s got a smell when you sharpen it, a feel when you write with it, a sound when it scratches across paper. They all have this unique feedback when you use them. And some are just really, really nice! On top of that, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, so there’s all this long-standing history and nostalgia and culture – I very often point out that we have pencils from all around the world.
I also like to tell people something I heard from Andy Welfle (of Erasable), which is my very favorite thought about pencils: They’re a self-sacrificing tool. They literally become your thoughts and ideas on paper, and then they’re gone. It’s kind of amazing, when you think about it. Of course, not everyone quite gets that, but I can usually sway them with a really nice pencil like a Blackwing or a Hi-Uni.
Strangest reaction you’ve had to you being a “pencil person”
This is a hard one to answer because what we do is definitely not a normal job! I’ve definitely had people laugh in my face (mostly out of disbelief that this exists). There’s kind of two reactions when I tell people what I do for a living – either they’re kind of like “What the hell? This is a thing?” or they’re like “OMG THIS IS A THING?!” It’s fun to explain either way. I usually end up giving a random person a pencil when I have conversations like this.
Favorite part about working for CW Pencil Enterprise
I think my favorite part about working with CW is hearing all the stories. Our store is very much about learning and sharing knowledge and stories about pencils. If you think about it, all across the world people learn to write with pencils, so it’s a very unifying utensil. It’s amazing to have people come into the shop from Japan or India or Italy and have them pick up a pencil and say “I used this in grade school!” We hear a lot of really passionate stories about what a certain pencil meant to people. The nostalgia of it all is really powerful, and it makes this job really amazing.
If you would like to have your story of how you discovered the pencil world featured here, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org