Thursday, 2 September 2010

From France to China

The glass cabinet of the stationery shop is the world in a teacup. The glass cabinet resides in a small local shop in central Athens which seems to have survived the financial troubles that have caused many of its neighbours to shut down. An anemic tree enlivens the shop's drab entrance which is partially blocked by a parked vehicle. The glass cabinet is in a state of disarray. It holds pencils, loose pencils and pencils in boxes of 12, and some erasers. They are all covered by a thin layer of dust. 

  • "Liberty" pencils made in Taiwan by the Pai-Tai Co.; 
  • a Chinese "Finest Pencil"; 
  • an American Ebehard Faber ECOwriter (I'm informed by Pencil Pages that Eberhard Faber USA was bought by Sanford in the 1990s and the EF range is not made any more).
  • a fun pencil with faded Mad characters; 
  • a German EFA Eberhard Faber (Extra Extra Graphite); 
  • Faber-Castell Dessin 2001 , Made in Indonesia, (which seems to be the staple school pencil in Greece, like the Staedtler Noris in the UK perhaps); 
  • Conté eVOLUTION  pencil, Made in France (see review in penciltalk); 
  • Hardmuth's Austrian Koh-I-Noor; 
  • a pencil named FILA, Made in Italy and another one named Scorpione. 

How these pencils found their way into Mr Katsikas stationery shop, I do not know. Seeing me rummaging in the glass cabinet, Mr Katsikas brings me two clear plastic boxes full of pencils. He admits that in his spare time he marvels at them "like a child."

He then presents me with a gift: a thick "NEW GUITAR Marking Pen" bearing a seal with endearing Greek typography, possibly from the 70s if not earlier. The typography makes the GUITAR a nostalgic relic. 
The Same Olde Guitar But Improved
A Sealed Pen: A Guarantee that it is fresh and has not been used
A Longer Pen: Can be Handled Better - Has More Ink - Lasts More
The Ink is of Oil, not of Water Color
Sticks on all surfaces and cannot be rubbed off
Comes in 15 Colors, Three Shades of Grey
It is impossible to translate vintage Greek. Written in perfect seriousness, the message on the seal can only be perceived as a droll statement now: antiquated, nostalgic, even ironic. "They don't make them as they used to", Mr Katsikas remembers the Marking Pens of Old. I have no intention of breaking the seal. Facing the truth about the past may be disappointing.


  1. One of the italian pencils it's a FILA (not FILO), see

  2. Oh, I thank you, Anonymous, I shall put a correction and link straight away.

  3. I was quite surprised when I saw the FILA logo on a box of Ticonderogas. They are really big now.

  4. So is FILA making Ticonderogas now?

  5. and i must say i am intrigued by your greek-sounding name, as i noticed through your twitter-feed!