Blackwing Volume 54

Surrealism 101

Surrealism began as a literary movement in the early 20th century, but blossomed into one of the most influential artistic and ideological movements of all time.
Best known for its bizarre visual artworks and writings, Surrealism was founded on the principal that we are limited by our conscious minds. Poet Andre Breton was fascinated by the theories of Sigmund Freud, and used his writings as the foundation when writing the manifesto that introduced the movement. Surrealists created techniques and exercises to break free from these constraints and unleash the creativity of the unconscious.

Freud’s ideas divided the surrealists into two groups, the automatists and veristic surrealists. Automatists used the technique called automatism to illustrate emotions and fantasies in abstract forms. This technique suppressed all control over the conscious mind allowing the artist to create ‘automatically’ without much thought. Veristic surrealists, on the other hand, depict the unconscious as concretely as possible. They dove deep into the unconscious and aimed to create a reality through a metaphor.

Artists such as Dali and Rene Magritte arrange daily objects in unusual ways to create that strange and unnerving atmosphere in their images. Joan Miro, Jean Arp and many others created abstract work that has little to no resemblance of familiar places or objects. Even though the movement ended with the breakout of World War II, it had a deep impact on visual arts, literature, film and music that can still be felt today. Our future blog posts will explore how the techniques and principles from this 90 year old movement is impacting contemporary arts and culture, and also how you can use the techniques to unleash your creative side.

For a more in-depth look into Surrealism, here’s Peter Capaldi with more:


Image 1: Surrealists. Source:
Image 2: Shirt Front and Fork (1922) by Joan Arp. Source:
Image 3: The Listening Room, 1952 by Rene Margritte. Source:
Video: Exploring Surrealism with Peter Capaldi. Source:


The Exquisite Corpse – Behind the Design of Volume 54

The Exquisite Corpse started off as a parlor game invented and widely used by poets and artists during the Surrealist movement. Surrealists loved Exquisite Corpse because they thought it helped them break free from the constraints of consciousness, and the name came from one of the first phrases created using the technique: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouvea”, or, “the exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.” Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise, and Man Ray, created this version of the Exquisite Corpse, in 1927.

The game originally started off being played with words, but over time artists started drawing and sometimes even collaging using this method. The game is played by breaking down a poem or painting into several parts, each player finishes one part without any knowledge of the rest. As the game concludes, all the components are pieced together and you end up with a wildly quirky phrase or drawing that’s unlikely to be created otherwise.

The first game was played at 54 rue du Chateau, which is where the Volume 54 got its number. When the Volume 54 was designed, the pencil was separated into 5 parts: graphite, barrel, ferrule, imprint, and eraser. The team sat down, and each one of us designed one element of the pencil. The video shows the full design process of the Volume 54.



Image 1: Nude by Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise, Man Ray. Source. 


Blackwing Music to Release Johnny Irion’s Driving Friend [Press Release]

Alexander Poirier
Blackwing Music


Album to be released on the Blackwing Music label May 18th.

Stockton, CA: Folk-rocker Johnny Irion’s new solo record Driving Friend is set to release on May 18, 2018. The album was backed by Blackwing, the artisan pencil makers with a diverse musical heritage. It was produced by Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips and features performances by members of Dawes, Wilco, and other renowned musicians.

Best known for his folk explorations with his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie and his rock venture with US ELEVATOR, Irion has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting artists across the folk-rock spectrum. Will Hermes of Rolling Stone Magazine praised his ability to write “songs that are hand crafted as lovingly as the jeans on the back of After the Gold Rush.” AllMusic offered further admiration, delighting in “how tuneful [his songs] are, how easy to catch onto, even on first listen.”

While he spent the past decade spent on collaborations and side projects, Driving Friend represents a reconnection with Irion’s musical roots. “It’s almost like starting over,” Johnny says. The album was recorded on an original 24-track Studer tape machine, and the analog behemoth is the central force around which the album revolves. “The thing about firing up the Studer,” Johnny muses, “is once it’s going, you might as well give it all you got… It’s a beast of a tape machine.” The result is an album filled with an almost tangible warmth to go with its undeniable heart.

Irion has teamed up with Blackwing to release Driving Friend. The album will be released on the Blackwing Music label and distributed to their unique network of lifestyle stores around the world. “The people who use our pencils are the same people who appreciate the sound of a vinyl record and the craftsmanship of a songwriter like Johnny,” said Grant Christensen, leader of the team at Blackwing. “We can’t wait to introduce our fans and stores to Johnny’s music.”

Driving Friend will be available 05/18/18.

About Blackwing Music: Blackwing Music was created to shine a spotlight on musicians who deserve attention through live performances, storytelling and album releases. A portion of every Blackwing Music album sold benefits the Blackwing Foundation to help fund and develop music and arts education in public schools.