Felissimo pencils

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A few people have asked, “What happened to the Felissimo pencils?”

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about an unusual offering of 500 colour pencils. (I learned about this set from Japanese pencil blogs.) I was soon contacted by the manufacturer, who were planning a global launch, and was offered a set of pencils in exchange for some modest publicity.

Felissimo had a very unusual sales model – 500 colour pencils for sale, but delivered in twenty monthly sets of twenty-five!

I wrote about the first few sets they sent me, and then – the New York based program was relocated to company headquarters in Japan. I was really surprised – it seemed like a complete success story to me. I believe these pencils gained more prominent US media coverage than any recent pencil offering of any type. (New York Times, Martha Stewart, and many others.)

Since then, there was a gap of several months, followed by some pencil sets arriving in fits and spurts. I don’t have any contacts at the company, and I’m not sure if I will receive all 500 pencils. I’ve not complained. Some of the original staff may have been laid off, so some perspective is called for.

I thought I would show just what happens when a monthly Felissimo set arrives.

First a cardboard box arrives via Japan Post EMS:

Felissimo pencils

There is a cellophane wrapped interior box:

Felissimo pencils

Sans cellophane:

Felissimo pencils

An insert forms a guide to the pencils, if you can read Japanese:

Felissimo pencils

The order in which the pencils are sent seems to vary, based on what I’ve read online. A small circled numeral seems to represent the box number:

Felissimo pencils

This set seems to be dark blue and purple variations:

Felissimo pencils

Slightly closer:

Felissimo pencils

In an acrylic display:

Felissimo pencils

I’m not sure where this is all leading, but I’ll show more if there is interest.

If the pencils don’t suffice, Felissimo just announced a 500 crayon set.

Pencil displays – showcasing your pencils

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Collectors and accumulators of woodcase pencils have long looked for display options, and the choices are few. As well as offering a collection of 500 colour pencils, Felissimo is a rare vendor of display cases for pencils. Today we’ll look at their “Aurora” and “Flower Vase” models.

I am sure that some craftsperson out there could also come up with something! There are a lot of low cost cases and displays for fountain pens out there – pencils also deserve some attention.

First, the Aurora, which holds 100 pencils between two fitted acrylic sheets. These photos show the assembly stage on a desk, though the display is meant for a wall – probably a white wall to best show the pencils.

The sheets fit together with acrylic nuts and bolts. Probably no explanation is necessary, though an instruction sheet is supplied. Round modern standard sized pencils seem to fit best, and hexagonal and triangular pencils also work. But – no oversize pencils, no pencils with ferrules and erasers, and no square pencils.

I thought the Aurora would be great for displaying some of my favourite novelty pencils. These favourites all seem to come from the UK – Japanese pencils such as the Pantone and Japanese Railway tributes series are in square format.

Well, I think it is taking shape nicely, though 100 turns out to be a large number. I’ve filled only about a third of the case and I’m out of pencils.

Display cases for pencils

The view from the top:
Display cases for pencils

The entire case from the top:
Display cases for pencils

The Flower Vase displays hold 25 pencils each, and are a non-acrylic plastic. It seems to be a pretty good way of keeping a number of pencils tidy:
Display cases for pencils

Display cases for pencils

You can of course use everyday pencils, such as these California Republic Prospectors:
Display cases for pencils

Displaying vintage pencils is of course another possibility. Starting with major manufacturers in Germany and Austria, I was surprised that I couldn’t find that many to display. I may have to rethink this!
Display cases for pencils

Something else to note is that, especially with the vintage pencils, positioning the imprints is key, and not easy to accomplish in a satisfactory way. It is easy to put a pencil in, but if you want to adjust it, hard to remove.

The products are nice though not perfect, and I hope to show some photos when (and if) I figure out what to put in them!

Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 4th set

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Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

Blue is the theme of Felissimo’s fourth set of colour pencils.

I’m a bit behind in displaying these – I’ve already received the fifth set, and a Canada Post notice tells me I wasn’t in when they attempted delivery of the sixth set. Wow, 150 colour pencils here or nearby! The collection is starting to take shape.

Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

I’ve noticed that pencil blogs in Japan mention these pencils with different reference numbers. I’m afraid I only just figured this out – the boxes have a small circled identifier. I’ve been referring to the pencils as I’ve received them (calling this the “4th set”, for example), but depending on where you live and when you ordered them, you might receive them in a different order. For the record, this is volume 15.

Quite a bit of feedback has been sent this way about the pencils. I’ll try to summarize.

  • The concept is unique and intriguing. Many mainstream media breakthroughs confirm this.
  • The subscription sales model (you buy 25 per month over 20 months) is quite controversial. A few love the idea of getting a colourful package of pencils each month. And many find the approach very hard to digest – taking almost two years to buy the set of pencils!
  • Professional artists are not onside. While many were attracted by the concept of so many colours, the lack of “open stock” replacements, the absence of comprehensive lightfastness testing, and the overall quality don’t meet professional needs.
  • The price is too high for many.
  • I’ll offer some feedback on these points:

    1. I am very happy to see mentions of these pencils in mainstream North American media, especially television and magazines. Felissimo has clearly made an impact in the public arena, a place other pencil manufacturers seem to have forsaken.

    2. A subscription may provide ongoing revenue, but it should be an option rather than the only purchase method.

    3. Artists – the message is clear, but as I’ve written before, high quality pencils that offer open stock, accompanied by laboratory tested lightfastness reports, are in a completely different price range. If Caran d’Ache offered a 500 pencil set, it might cost thousands. But it would be amazing!

    4. Cost. The Japan Post EMS (“registered air mail”) delivery multiplied by 20 is no doubt a large (majority?) part of the cost.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Perhaps five shipments of 100 pencils, or just sending the 500 pencils together, might be a better offer. If you could buy the 500 pencils in a single package for $250, would you be tempted?

    The offer may soon end. Though all orders will of course be completely fulfilled, the acceptance of new subscriptions may soon be closing.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Further reading: Felissimo pencils at pencil talk

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 3rd set

    5 comments

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Who likes purple?

    Felissimo’s 3rd pencil set is out, and again has a specific focus. I think it may be the nicest set yet! Twenty-five shades of purple beckoning!

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Congratulations to Felissimo for recent mentions on the December 8th Martha Stewart Show, in the New York Times Gift Guide, and many other locations.

    Finally, a company working and succeeding at promoting woodcase pencils in the modern world! This leadership is a reason why pencil talk is proud to be participating in Felissimo’s 500 pencil set promotion.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    So now that 75 (and soon, 100) pencils have been released, what happens if you subscribe to the series? Do you get just 425 (or 400) pencils? The answer is no – you will still get all 500 over twenty months, though I’m not sure if the delivery sequence will be the same as you are seeing here.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    See also:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 1st set

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 2nd set

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 2nd set

    one comment

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Here is the second set of pencils from Felissimo’s series of 500 colors.

    Again, the packaging is impressive:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    This month’s palette is hard to describe in a single word – the focus is on muted pinks, creams, pea greens, and mint greens. I was somehow expecting something like last month’s bright reds – perhaps another set of bright primaries, but also welcome this surprise.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    I did try them out, and realized that the pencil pigments are much subtler than the lacquers on the pencil surfaces – matching 500 sets of pigments with 500 surface lacquers must be a significant part of the manufacturing challenge.

    That ninth pencil, called Mrs. Parson, stands out in both surface lacquer and on paper.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    There were a few questions after last month’s post on the first set, and I recommend that those interested take a look at Felissimo’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page via the banner below. For example, on the issue of lightfastness, Felissimo state that a small sample of pencils have been tested, and all are 4/5 or 5/5 on the JIS lightfastness scale. JIS is the Japanese Industrial Standards section of the Japanese Standards Association. While probably insufficient data for professional artists, I think this speaks well about the pencils from the quality persective.

    I can’t wait to see what the next 25 pencils look like!

    See also:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 1st set

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils – 1st set

    19 comments

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    A very welcome package just arrived – the first set in Felissimo’s 500 Color pencil series!

    As befits such a set, the packaging itself is attractive and noteworthy:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    The theme is red. Twenty-five shades of red!

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    The only printed material was an index sheet in Japanese:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    The colourful lineup does not disappoint.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    The pencils have some very imaginative names.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    I’m not sure how well the translation holds up.

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    On a Holbein 33YK-2 Multi-Drawing sketch book, the spectrum amazes:

    Felissimo 500 Color Pencils

    The series sells worldwide for $US33 per 25 pencils, including delivery via Japan Post EMS, which is an air mail signature-required service. If you even occasionally order pencils online, you’ll know that this is a great price.

    I can’t wait for the next 475 pencils!