Sunday, August 26, 2012


On my desk (which is really an inexpensive interior door stretched across two sets of double filing cabinets) I’ve got an old Dedham Pottery mug full of colored pencils.  I use them to fill in my appointment calendar, and each week turns into a wild splash of colors marking lunch and dinner dates, appointments, swimming schedules, and reminders of birthdays and anniversaries.

Pencils have been around since the 1400s, although the initial technology was a little rough – pencils were simply slender pieces of graphite bound with carefully wound string, which gave minimal support to the weak core. In the late 1500s, people figured out how to glue strips of wood around a piece of soft lead (much more support than the old string method!) and that led to the process of producing two distinct wooden grooved halves, inserting the lead, then gluing the two pieces together.

In 1858, a genius named Hyman Lipman patented the idea of sticking an eraser on the end.

Colored pencils appeared in the early 20th century, and they’re made the same way, except that their cores consist of dye and pigment mixed with a binder; bases can be of wax, clay (very dry), oil (smudges easily) or water.

There are plenty of company brands: Crayola, Derwent, Faber-Castell, Felissimo (500 colors!), Pantone, Prismacolor, and Steadler to name a few, and the imaginative color lists from those companies include Raspberry, Bubblegum, Dollar Bill, Electric Green, Guppie Green (I thought guppies were a murky brown), UFO Green, Canary Yellow, Pale Lemondrop, Artichoke, Espresso, Snow White, Steeple Gray, Copenhagen Blue.

A company called Lakeshore makes a set of jumbo colored pencils for kids called “People Colors” (for diversity, because not all people have the same skin color), and it includes: Olive, Chestnut, Ebony, Gingerbread, Peach, Cinnamon, Wheat, Melon, Toast, Fawn.

So...I’m a Fawn (toss in a few Toast freckles and some Cinnamon age spots) with a mix of Pale Lemondrop & Steeple Gray hair and Copenhagen Blue eyes.




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