Venerable Vintages: The Ghosts of Products Past

An early iteration of the Prismacolor logo; over time the rainbow arch has simplified to an iconic prismatic line.

Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

Introducing Venerable Vintages, a monthly feature of archaic art supplies. Anything from art industry ephemera to unlikely heirlooms; Venerable Vintages is a chance to indulge in the art supply nerd in all of us. To submit a collection or special item, send images and descriptions to us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com.

Many of us have a soft spot for vintage labels, first edition products or timeless typography from “back in the day.” The classic designs, often done by hand and screen printed onto the package, are in harmony with the contents. Aging art supplies are more than rusty compasses or dried out paint pans – they can tell a story, too.

This month we are taking a look at the collection of Prairie Clark, manager of I’ve Been Framed in Portland Oregon. I’ve Been Framed (@ivbnframed) is known for buying, selling and loving vintage art supplies. Prairie, who has been at the store for 24 years, is known for her collection, which includes the iterations of the Prismacolor logo, from a rainbow band to a spiral of color to a colorful gradient with packaging that features original colored pencil artwork. We took an interest in the Magic Art See and Draw Copier – an ingeniously simple predecessor to the projector.

Prairie’s enthusiasm for all things vintage is so effusive that on her birthday her coworkers gifted her a display case so that she could show off her treasures properly. They call it “The Museum,” and repeat customers beeline to it whenever they visit to see if anything has changed.

“I love having a little display case so we can rotate the supplies. It’s always fun to hear the stories – my grandpa had that one, or I had that one in college. Back then, all of that stuff was hand done by artists; that’s another element I love. Even the packaging and logos were designed by artists.

This set of Speedball linoleum cutters, a recent acquisition that Prairie rescued from an estate sale, feature designs clearly made from lino prints (we have a set at the MacPherson’s Emeryville office, and up close you can see the carving marks!).

There may be more to getting giddy over old art supplies than nostalgia; classics often resurface in the next trend or craze. For instance, the hand-lettering trend can rekindle interest in calligraphy supplies.

Stay tuned for our feature next month, where we explore a handful of items from MacPherson’s archives, and send us images of your favorite oldies!

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