;e Original Low-Tech Tool
We indeed live in an ama- zing time with incre- dible technology that can do so much for us. ;e
computer is no longer a large, clunky,
box-like machine on the desk but is sleek
and small and ;at. Computer technology
is found in our cell phones, tablets, part
of our entertainment systems, and the
vehicles we drive.
;e pencil we are so
familiar with today—a
yellow wooden #2—has
its origins in ancient
Rome and Egypt . . . .
And, as an artist, the most low-tech thing
I can think of is actually one of my favorite tools: the pencil.
;e pencil we are so familiar with today—a yellow wooden #2—has its origins
in ancient Rome and Egypt, where the
;rst stylus was used. ;e stylus was a thin
metal rod that was used to leave a light
mark on papyrus, an early type of paper.
But the dark grey smudgy material that
looks like lead, and that we know as pencil
lead, is not lead at all but is a carbon-based
mineral called graphite. ;e ;rst known
discovery of a graphite deposit from the
earth was made before 1550 in Cumbria,
England. ;e local people had discovered
that this substance was useful for marking
their sheep and that this particular deposit of graphite was large and dense so that
chunks could be sawn o; into long sticks.
;is made them the perfect shape for
use during writing or drawing but pretty
messy on the hands. So early graphite
sticks would be wrapped in string to keep
them from breaking and to protect the
hands of the user.
Most of the known graphite deposits
in the world were in England until other deposits were discovered in the late
1600s in Germany, so the square sticks
of graphite made in England were the
only pencils available for centuries. ;e
graphite from England (and therefore
the pencils) were of a higher quality, but
the Germans found a process to make
pencils more e;ciently by combining
graphite with clay, which made their
pencils less expensive.