Caran d’Ache + Alfredo Häberli Fixpencil: Colorful, Practical, And Environmentally Friendly
by Nancy Olson
As far as writing instruments go, my heart is in fountain pens. But other writing implements are also highly collectable and provide an interesting lens through which to view the history of manufacturing.
Mechanical pencils offer both, and a variety of makers were filing patents for the then-newfangled instrument in the mid-nineteenth century, though some examples date much earlier. They really came into their own in the early twentieth century, with brands such as Pilot, Lamy, Parker, Caran d’Ache, and many more getting in on their development.
Caran d’Ache Fixpencil
Geneva-based Caran d’Ache’s acclaimed Fixpencil was conceived in 1929 by Swiss engineer Carl Schmid, who relocated from his birthplace, Ennetbaden, to Geneva in 1918.
He invented and patented a unique clutch-style lead holder that made it possible to accept leads of different diameters. Caran d’Ache acquired the patent the following year. The Fixpencil, which conveniently incorporates a sharpener into its pushbutton, was born.
According to Caran d’Ache, the Fixpencil was a result of necessity: diminishing supplies of cedarwood (used to make traditional wood pencils) encouraged this focus on producing mechanical pencils.
Notably, the hexagonal shape of the Fixpencil eventually became an integral part of Caran d’Ache’s “DNA,” evident throughout its collections. Win-win.
Caran d’Ache + Alfredo Häberli Fixpencil
The Fixpencil has remained a favorite among Caran d’Ache’s range of pens, pencils, artist supplies and more, and its reliable clutch mechanism, ease of use, and light weight make it popular among architects, engineers, designers, and illustrators.
“The Fixpencil is a tool that I use every day, and I have always dreamed of having the chance to give it my own personal touch,” the Buenos Aires-born artist shares regarding the collaboration. “My work with Caran d’Ache has been as precise and colorful as the Fixpencil itself.”
Yes, the Fixpencil is all about color, and it is available here in an attractive two-tone plum shade or a vibrant two-tone ochre – both inspired by art and fashion. Even the pushbuttons at the crowns of the pencils make a statement in electric blue or black.
Häberli also fathomed a selection of four Prismalo leads that offer an additional colorful jolt: cobalt blue, periwinkle blue, emerald green, and ochre come with the pencil.
Introduced by Caran d’Ache in 1931, the water-soluble Prismalo lead, the first lead of its kind, has been around nearly as long as the Fixpencil.
This is not the first time that the Fixpencil has achieved special edition status. Earlier examples include the Caran d’Ache + Klein Blue Limited Edition, created in recognition of French artist Yves Klein, and the Caran d’Ache + Mario Botta designed in collaboration with the eponymous Swiss architect.
Given Caran d’Ache’s status among artists for its wide range of art supplies, the company’s affiliation with guest designers is ongoing and appropriate, I think.
Häberli moved to Switzerland as a teenager, and there he studied industrial design at the Zurich University of Arts. He founded his own studio in Zurich in 1991, serving such clients as Alias, Georg Jensen, Iittala, Kvadrat, Moroso, and Vitra among many others.
In addition to a number of restaurants, Häberli’s interior projects also include more than two dozen shops for Spanish shoe manufacturer Camper as well as the interior of the Swiss embassy in Copenhagen in 2016.
He was bestowed the Grand Award for Design from the Swiss Federal Office for Culture in 2014.
One important final note: the Fixpencil’s box turns into a case that may be reused indefinitely, another example of Caran d’Ache’s commitments to sustainability.
For more information, please visit carandache.com/ch/en/fixpencil-haberli.
Quick Facts Caran d’Ache + Alfredo Häberli Fixpencil
Material: aluminum, two-tone plum or two-tone ochre; metal pushbutton with incorporated sharpener
Lead: comes with one graphite lead and four water-soluble leads (cobalt blue, emerald green, ochre, periwinkle blue)
Limitation: 19,000 pieces across both colors
Price: CHF 49 plus VAT
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