Moises Chiullan’s “Borrowed Blackwings”

This week, Moises Chiullan, storyteller, marketer, film buff, comic fiend and founder of, wrote an essay about his passion for the Blackwing 602 pencil. The article coincides with the launch of Blackwing pencils on Need Edition, a site filled with curated goods for men. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

I did not realize that my first Blackwing pencil experience was a “Blackwing pencil experience” until I found out they’d been discontinued, the same day that I began learning about their history.

I was a music student, a high school choral singer. The most important thing to know as a music student of any sort is that one must never be at a rehearsal without a pencil. The same goes for actors. Whether I swiped the Blackwing 602 from my voice teacher or was offered it as a loan…either way, I’d forgotten to bring one. I paid less attention to the gold-lettered, “BLACKWING 602” emblazoned on one side than I did the slogan “HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED” on the reverse. What an awfully egotistical thing of a pencil to say. I mean, it’s just a pencil, right? I did not hold in my hand the tool that would bring world peace, for crying out loud.

Little did I know that I was holding the pencil par excellence used by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, men whose classic work I was studying and marking up with the same pencil they used to write, compose, and create it…

I went back to my voice teacher and asked if they had any more of the pencil that, I noted, I was pretty sure I had accidentally swiped. “No,” came the dejected answer, “did you know those are the pencils Stephen Sondheim uses?”

At the time, I’d only just begun a lifelong obsession with one of the great minds in musical theatre. In that world, Stephen Sondheim is a king, he of Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sunday in the Park with George, and A Little Night Music, among many others. He wrote the lyrics to West Side Story over Leonard Bernstein’s music. One of the few records in my house growing up was my mother’s LP of the Original Broadway Cast recording. In the era of tapes, just shy of CDs, everyone at school thought I was form another century, regaling them with how the mastered-for-vinyl music just sounded more…alive on vinyl…

It was fitting that, while performing in a production of it in the mid-aughts, that I came into possession of my second Blackwing 602. It was like traveling back in time in the good way (as opposed to the dooming the future way).

This one, like the first one, came from a mentor. This time, it did not involve an accidental theft on my part.


You can read the entire essay on Imprint, Need Edition’s blog. You can also follow Moises on Twitter to get a glimpse of some of his other passions.