My name is Oma, and I am a pencil junkie.
During a recent trip to New York, I made a pilgrimage to the Lower East Side to pay a visit to CW Pencil Enterprise, a tiny shop devoted to nothing but pencils and a few of their accoutrements. (The shop, along with a resurgence in the use of paper datebooks, inspired the Fresh section in our January issue.) It’s a 200-square-foot, highly Instagrammable jewel box dedicated to wood and graphite owned by Caroline Weaver, a 24-year-old pencil pusher whose knowledge and enthusiasm are likely to turn you into a pencil junkie too.
What does your business card list as your title?
Chief Pencil Lady
What do you like most about writing with a pencil?
I love the tactility of writing with a pencil. It’s a really physical experience.
Where do you fall on the question of having an integrated eraser?
I actually don’t do a lot of erasing, but I like the added weight of the ferrule and eraser, I find it more pleasing to write with that little bit of extra heft.
How many pencils are in the shop right now?
We carry about 300 different types of pencils, including vintage ones. So I’d guess we have something like 20,000–30,000 at any time. We’re running out of room!
What does your desk at home look like?
I have two pencil cups, one for my current rotation of pencils (about 40) and a smaller one for pens. I always have a wooden ruler, a tape dispenser with washi tape in it, a pencil sharpener, and a notepad. On the wall next to my desk is an organizer for my letter writing supplies.
Anything you wish you’d known before you opened the doors?
I wish someone had warned me about what happens when things take off. I was totally overwhelmed, unprepared and exhausted when we started getting press. I really didn’t think it’d happen so soon. I was quite content just breaking even and working alone for the first few months or a year.
Are you ever asked to choose a pencil based on the description of someone’s personality, as opposed to the use they have in mind?
I’ve learned that I can get a lot from a person by asking a few simple questions, from there I’m pretty good at guessing exactly what they want. I try not to profile but often it really helps when making recommendations. An old man who does crossword puzzles is going to want something completely different than the girl who happened upon the shop on her way to brunch.
Any particularly interesting or surprising requests?
I had someone ask for an electrically conductive pencil. That tested us a bit, but we came up with something that worked.
I’m assuming you might have a tough time picking a favorite pencil, so how about immediacy: What are you writing with right now?
At home I’m using one of my all-time favorite pencils, the Mitsu-Bishi 9852EW. It has unfinished wood and the eraser is really good.
If you had to describe the shop in one word, what would it be?
I think it would be ‘playful.’
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Signature lip color?
My all-time favorite lipstick is Tom Ford Scarlet Rouge. And we actually JUST went to the Bite Lip Lab to make a Pencil Lady custom color to match the red of the Viarco Desenho Pencil.
Paper datebook or smart phone?
“Datebook. I’m addicted to my Smythson agenda; it’s my one stupidly expensive splurge.”
Any secret talents?
“I really like to build with Legos in my spare time. My other talents are embroidery and bookbinding.”
You’ve talked about the pencil shop originally being a retirement idea—what made you go for it now instead?
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Except I knew I wanted to be an old woman with a pencil shop. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with being a young woman with a pencil shop.