patents, pencils, freakin' laser beams

ray l carter patentMy dad was a machinist. When I was a kid he owned a machine shop, and for an awkward while, when my mom was ill, I got carted off to work with him every morning, where I hovered around pestering the women who worked up front in the office and playing hide and seek with the dog until it was time for me to go school. 

I was fascinated by that place. The building remains one of those magic memory spaces for me, not because I liked it — a weaker child would have died of boredom there — but because it's where I fell in love with physical places where work gets done. My dad's office had one section with a desk and another spare open space that in my mind's eye was solely for his drafting table and a stool. The secretaries had their own stations with typewriters and stacks of papers and giant telephones. Then in back the loud work of machines and men, with the one bright oasis of a Royal Palm soda machine. It wasn't fancy and it wasn't pretty. If I'm not mistaken, there was paneling. But the beauty of it sprang from everything having a purpose. Well lit, neat, organized, the perfect juncture between form and function. 

ray l carter patent


From chatting at open studio events I know I'm not alone; people love to see where things get made. I'd say there's a 50/50 split between clothes talk and studio talk. I get it! I think of making spaces as sacred. Not in some precious sense — just the opposite. They aren't untouchable, they're all about touching. They are the physical space where ideas in our heads come into the world. They are sacred because they're where shit gets real. 


ray l carter patent


One of the fringe benefits of my dad's little empire was being awash in CAR-WEL CORP pencils, in red, forest green and navy blue. They were a ubiquitous presence in our house. We were soaking in them. I coveted them. But I haven't had one in my hands in decades. I contacted all the continental siblings to see if anyone was sitting on a hoard of them and there was one. One sister had one pencil. I asked her to send it in a Brinks armored car immediately but she just drove down in her regular car and it arrived safely. Whew. And here it is, nestled with my new Secret Lentil pencils, completing a sentimental circuit wherein I, daughter of a machinist and a Home Economics teacher, design and build clothes. Of course I do! It seems obvious, but as with many things, only in retrospect. Okay. Here it is:

CAR WEL CORP and Secret Lentil pencils

Why didn't I get Secret Lentil pencils eons ago? I've been a fool! It started with a query to my friend Linda of Etched In Time and look what she did: she zapped them with her magic freakin' laser beam machine and now I have the handsomest practicalest penciliest pencils in town. They make me very happy. 

secret lentil pencilsAnd of course pencils are also part of that practical/magic world where ideas get made real. Sigh. So satisfying. 

(pssssst. Right now, until I run out of them, you can have a complementary pencil added to any online order. Look for the picture of the pencils below the items on your cart page. Just check the box and a pencil is yours.)

1 comment

  • I like the idea of the place you had your ideas/did your work is kind of a sacred place. I read somewhere about the paths of energy you create when you work. Even if you are just washing your dishes- your repetitive movements create a permanent trail of energy. I imagine these trails when I visit an old house and think about who used to live there. I imagined I could see the cloud of energy I left behind when I moved out of my apartment where I made a ton of drawings.

    Mary Pat Allen

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