RAD AND HUNGRY was born out of my love of office supplies and travel – but my ORIGINAL love was pencils. All kinds, all colors. A bonafide pencil collector by the time I hit 3rd grade, maybe even sooner.
My family lived in the north end of Seattle – but the extended family all lived in Queen Anne. All my mom’s siblings and their immediate family, along with my grandmother, immigrated to Seattle within a one year period. Everyone settled in Queen Anne except for my family. They all lived within a 4 block radius – two families even bought homes on the same street with only one house separating them.
Family portrait taken shortly before moving to America. My mother is standing in the back, on the right.
During the summers, all my brother and I could think about was heading to Queen Anne so we could hang with our cousins. It was a pair of brothers that we bonded with the most. We, the Gang of Four, were inseparable come summer. We’d spend weeks at a time together, swapping homes every other week. And when the run would end and our parents came to pick us up, my brother and I would hide in a closet, hoping my parents would forget about us and head home. But of course they never forgot us. It was hide-and-seek at the worst – my parents wouldn’t even pretend to search for us! They’d find us instantly and when they did, I’d cry and my brother and cousins would pout.
We spent our summers camping in the backyard, staying up all night playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching a nonstop stream of karate movies, walking to an arcade to play video games… and we always stopped in at the corner pharmacy. Sometimes up to 3x a day. It was run by a pharmacist and his family. They knew everyone – it stood on the corner and held reign over the neighborhood. My brother and cousins would head straight to the candy aisle. Me? I was one aisle over, checking out their stationery. I’d pick up the notepads with four different colors of pastel paper (remember them?). I’d shake a box of paper clips and wonder, does this small box really hold 100? (100 seemed so infinitely big back then.) Why is the box so light if it’s holding 100 paper clips? MIND BLOWN.
No matter how excited paper clips and stationary got me, pencils were next level shit. All the colors, the glitter, the holographic images… pencils with toppers? OMG. OMG. SO MANY OPTIONS. I methodically went through their entire inventory and every visit, I’d leave with one more pencil.
Fast forward to the present and guess what? I got a dream job – I travel the world hunting down pencils.
But RAD AND HUNGRY isn’t the only niche business focusing on pencils. Have you heard of David Rees, aka the Artisanal Pencil Sharpener? David has a pencil-sharpening business. No joke. Mail him a pencil, and he’ll send it back perfectly sharpened with the shavings bagged up along with a “Certificate of Sharpening.” He’s written a book about his craft, “How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artist, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants” – and there’s even a documentary. It’s been traveling the film festival circuit and collecting awards along the way!
I don’t remember how, but I discovered David on August 24th, 2011. I immediately shot off an email to the RAH posse about him…
Me: holy f’in shit!
Laura: Ummm that is frickin awesome. You go, crazy dude.
Yup, that pretty much sums up how excited we were to discover David. We’ve been wanting to send him a pencil since then, and over the last year we’ve had multiple RAHstrs contact us about David, requesting a collab.
And then on September 19th, 2013, I read an article suggesting that David may be calling it quits. First I felt sadness, then panic. In full-on do-or-die mode, I headed over to his site and placed an order.
We all knew the perfect pencil to send. The very first pencil we purchased for RAD AND HUNGRY – USO General from Colombia. It’s a goldenrod #2 pencil with “Colombian Pencil” stamped in silver foil. We read the name as “you so general”. It makes us laugh, it’s like our inside joke. This pencil was included in our first kit, STMT X Colombia. It kicked off our world tour of hunting down daily-diet office supplies. This pencil is far from being general – it’s our inspiration, it embodies what we do and why we do, it’s our unofficial mascot.
We sent it off and it returned bottled in a tube, shavings in a bag, accompanied by a certificate. It now feels magical. Are we gonna use it? Hellz no. We’re gonna keep it safe. Frame it and display it proudly. Some people rub Buddha’s belly for good luck, others carry a rabbit’s foot, and now we got us our own tradition. We’re gonna blow kisses to our USO General pencil!