WHAT’S GOING ON: Sculptures are carved out of the sharp tips of wooden pencils and then photographed using a macro-lens. There are the world’s most recognizable landmarks, everyday objects, abstract sculptures, pop culture characters, and even lush landscapes, all contained within less than an inch of space. While the beauty of the pieces is beyond doubt, their full effect may not be instant: it takes a minute to sink in that these creations are, in fact, as small as a needle eye and require copious amounts of skill and patience to produce. Lately, the medium has become popularized, and accounts of new artists pop up on Instagram regularly. Meanwhile, giving a gift of laboriously produced art is also gaining in popularity, and tiny capsules containing one’s name carved out of a carbon tip go for sale online everywhere, from London to Kolkata. But whenever the media covers this cultural zeitgeist, they usually concentrate on just one artist. We decided to do a survey of the finest pencil-carvers from all over the world to give this complex, demanding, and mindblowing medium the full scope of attention it deserves.
WHY DO WE CARE: Although pencils might be going out of fashion, with digital advancements in drawing, architecture, writing, and other uses for these once-ubiquitous wooden sticks, they remain one of the most iconic objects in our history. There are still books on pencil culturology, quirky stores dedicated to the finest achievements of the pencilmaking industry, and new iterations of the familiar object equipped for the technological advancements, like the Apple Pencil (which, by the way, helps Supamodu draw its little flags). Pencil carving is one of the ways in which the heritage of the revered objects is preserved for current bemusement and future generations. This transfixing medium is both a reflection on the world in its present state and a reclamation of past heritage, when artisans who were able to make the tiniest carvings or moldings on ivory, mother-of-pearl, wooden or metal reliquaries and objects of reverence, were held in the highest esteem.