Another Blackwing Volumes: They come out just in time for when we all need a bit of a pick-me-up, which seems like all the time. This one was actually released at the tail end of 2021, although we only received it early 2022. This is the Blackwing Volume 93. Each box of 12 has two of each of the six different colours. I’m always torn when there are sets like this, because then you have to make agonizing decisions about which pencils to use first or last.


This one is particularly lovely, both because it’s colourful, and celebrating Corita Kent and creativity and artwork in all of its forms, and because it’s a soft lead, which is my favourite, even if it’s possibly the least usable if you’re doing lots of writing. I do not actually agree with this, as I use the soft lead for all sorts of writing, including the occasional letter, as well as lots of journaling and scribbled notes on catalogues. Objectively, catalogue pages are not the best for pencils, their glossiness requiring fiber tips or page flags.


The pencils are inspired by the work and philosophy of artist and educator Corita Kent. Here is the information from the Blackwing website:


Corita Kent was an educator, artist, and social justice advocate who believed that art could be a tool for dialogue, reflection, and change.


While chair of the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, Corita asked her students to engage in “slow looking” exercises. Using a paper viewfinder tool that simulated the experience of using a camera, her students were able to select, isolate, and examine the details of the world around them. This resulted in piles of drawings that taught the students how to slow down and see the world with a fresh perspective.


This message of being present and curious permeated through every chapter of Corita’s life and work. From the 1950’s until her death in 1986 her art progressed from modernist interpretations of traditional religious subjects to pop-infused political statements and introspective examinations.


The Blackwing 93 is a tribute to Corita and her message to slow down and find gratitude in the everyday. Each pencil features one of the six colorful brushstrokes that make up Corita’s iconic rainbow swash. Commissioned in 1971, the rainbow swash adorns a 140-foot-tall natural gas storage tank along Interstate 93 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The pencils contain our soft graphite and each set includes two of each color design.


5% of the proceeds from this pencil will support continued work in art education through the Corita Art Center.



I first learned about Corita Kent through Austin Kleon, who is a huge fan of her work, and writes about her influence on his work on his blog and website often. Here’s a great video he did, posted on his website, and here’s another article with images of her work. Of course I love that she was a teacher who expected a lot of her students—and got it. Her philosophy about artwork is so universal: art is for everyone, and it’s everywhere, if you work at it, take your time, pay attention. You don’t need a lot of fancy art supplies, you just need an open mind and a willingness to put in the hours and focus.


In any case, these are fun and bright and ready for spring. Caleb has already taken his tax, and selected a green one for his “homework.” A box might make a fun gift for a teacher or artist in your life.



It’s always such a thrill to open a fresh box of pencils and select one or two to sharpen up, the rest tucked away for some other day. The first one! Its graphite core slowly sharpened to a point, the wood shavings curled up, the satisfying first few strokes on the page. I do have an electric sharpener which I use most often, but the very first sharpening has to take place by hand, so you can enjoy the ritual of it.





Currently reading: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Currently eating: leftover pasta with chicken and peas

Currently slogging through: phonics readers with Naomi

Currently experiencing a newfound appreciation for: clear SODA tapes

Naomi currently enjoying: her pink slippers while mopping

Currently recovering from: mopping the floor with the kids

Latest heard from Caleb: “How come there’s no Mrs. Clean?”






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March 17, 2022 — Liz Chan

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