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The secret life of the pencil

General information December 13th 2018
The secret life of the pencil

Digital technology increasingly dominates our office desks at work, but the humble pencil still has a grip on us. We use it for doodling new ideas, making notes in our books and sketching creative designs. The pencil remains a classic writing tool owned by everyone from children to some of the greatest creative artists working today.

The pencil has a secret life - Designer Alex Hammond and photographer Mike Tinney were so fascinated by pencils and their owners that they began to document them in a long-running online and exhibition series, which is also published as a book. Their photographic collection presents images of pencils that reflect the quirky personalities of a host of well-known owners including writers, designers and musicians. Check them out for yourself. Go direct to their online shop and be mesmerised by 54 images of blunt ends, sharpened tips and broken leads.

From David Bailey to Nick Park - Pencil portraits jump from David Bailey’s basic red wooden implement to Paul Smith’s bejewelled scribbler. We see James Dyson’s clean revolving pencil and Stephen Fry’s hand-sharpened point. Plus, the strangely satisfying angular faces of Posy Simmonds' knife-carved lead. Start thinking about the secret lives of other people’s pencils and you will never look at your own in the same way again!

Talking about the project, Hammond tells how he and Tinney turned to established artists, photographers and designers like Tracey Emin, Philippe Starck and Sophie Conran to source pencils which represented their personalities and work.

And there's a book which also contains interviews with owners such as Wallace and Gromit animator Nick Park, who talks about drawing his characters with a reliable 2B pencil. Quentin Blake explains how he uses different pencils to achieve different effects as well.

A foreword from William Boyd - Writer William Boyd’s revolving pencil boasts a surprisingly funky pink barrel and turquoise tip. “The fundamental nature of the pencil is that it is a brilliant invention and will always be with us,” he writes in the foreword to The Secret Life of the Pencil: Great Creatives and Their Pencils. “The pencil is like the wheel, the button, the comb, the wheelbarrow, the umbrella, the book, the fork, the needle, the compass, the map, the zip – and so forth. Products of humankind’s ingenuity that – whatever the mind-boggling technological advances we continue to make – remain irreplaceably super-efficient and thereby unimprovable on their terms.”

There is something intimate about taking a peek at other people's pencils. It encourages us to keep a place for them at the heart of our own.

Although our cherished super- efficient pencils aren't going anywhere anytime soon, we have no choice but to embrace ever-changing digital technology and interior solutions. Here at Office Reality, we have recently added a wellbeing department to our product offering which, next to our pencils, will be our new best thing. Come on in >

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