Sharp, dull, bitten, broken or whittled down to a stub: The pencil, no matter what its condition, holds a special place in the popular imagination. After all, our first writing utensil will always be our first.
Now step in the wayback machine and get off in 1858, when Mr. Hyman Lipman patented the first pencil. Perhaps he would be surprised to discover that his modern invention is now viewed with nostalgia.
Though we don't use pencils nearly as often — though National Pencil Day was celebrated this week —a new company is offering sprouting pencils that can grow in your backyard, and along with the adult coloring book craze, colored pencils are all the rage again. So does this mean pencils are experiencing a renaissance?
Caroline Weaver, owner and "chief pencil lady" at CW Pencil Enterprise, a shop on New York's Lower East Side devoted exclusively to (you guessed it) pencils, seems to think so.
"We've been totally immersed in digital technology for just long enough that I think people are just now craving the use of actual objects again," says Weaver in an email.
It's the physical and sensory experience of feeling the graphite glide across the page that simply can't be replicated.
Says Weaver, "The smell of the wood, the feeling of the graphite, the act of sharpening — it's all very tactile. You can physically see how much you've written or drawn by the length of your pencil. I love thinking about how many words, ideas and images a single pencil is capable of."
It's no surprise that are some highly successful people swear by their pencils. According to Faber-Castell, President Obama, DC and Marvel comic artist Adam Hughes, and director Michael Cimino all prefer pencils (particularly FC's Perfect Pencil).
Because they affect us "more cognitively more than using a computer," we still gravitate to pencils, suggests Weaver.
"I feel like when I have to physically write something down I put more thought into what I'm writing because it takes just that much more work. I also think that because of that I remember it better. It's more stimulating both physically and mentally," she says.
Pencils are clearly trending — not to put too fine a point on it.