I got a catalog in the mail the other day. A catalog arriving at our house is not usually a remarkable event—it seems like Sierra Trading Post alone sends us two or three a week– but this catalog was special. This catalog made me stop flipping through the stack of mail and pick it up and study it. Could it be? The name on the cover was a little different than I remembered, and there were far fewer pages, but it was indeed what I thought it might be. This was a Dick Blick catalog. Dick Blick art supplies. Wow.
I was transported back to my childhood, when I spent many hours poring over the thick and colorful Dick Blick catalogs that always seemed to be around. I don’t know if they came from Mom, who was a teacher and sometimes bought her own materials for classes, or from Dad, who collected art supplies. (He just collected them, oil and watercolor and acrylic paints and pastels and brushes and canvases. He didn’t make art himself, and there were only a few things I was allowed to use, so most of it was still in the cupboard, untouched except for periodic rearrangements, when he died. I took some of the things that were still usable home with me and have them stored in a box in my basement; I hope they won’t still be there when I die.) Regardless of whose catalog it was, I would study the pages and make lists of things I wanted: colored pencils and poster paints and different papers to put them on and all sorts of other things. I’d decide which colors I needed and weigh the merits of one brand over another. I didn’t have any specific art planned, and I certainly didn’t have any money to buy the stuff with, but I’d make the wish list anyway. It gave me the same kind of buzz I now get from going to Office Depot and looking at the gel pens and colorful letterhead papers—supply lust.
And now, here was a new Dick Blick catalog for the grown-up me to drool over. I flipped through quickly, then started at the beginning and looked more carefully. The colored pencils and pastels held my interest the longest, I think because they’re the most like crayons, which are still my art supply of choice (leaving quilting fabric aside for the moment). I already have a nice big set of colored pencils that I don’t use very much, but that didn’t stop me from admiring the Creatacolor set in an elegant cherry wood box or the Faber-Castell Polychromos Color Center or the Van Gogh set in the curvy wooden sleeve (not pictured online, alas). But what I really, really wanted, with a passion that was entirely unreasonable, was the Unison Handmade Pastels, specifically one of the 48-color sets packaged in wooden boxes. (I evidently have a thing for wooden boxes that I’m only now beginning to recognize.) Why these pastels? They looked yummy, that’s why– so plump and tasteful and elegantly colored, with their elegant black on white labels, nestled in their box like expensive chocolates. And they were on sale, too. But still, $168.98 plus shipping? That’s a little steep to scratch an itch I didn’t even know I had until the mail came. And what would I do with them? Just admire them? I’m not sure I could bring myself to use them, which is really silly. Art supplies are meant to be used. But I don’t draw. Could I learn, for these pastels? I could start with buying just a few from open stock, to see if I liked them, to play with them. But I didn’t want a few pastels, I wanted a lot of pastels, a color-coordinated set of pastels in a special box. I cannot explain why; I just wanted them. I still want them, even a few days later, having slept on it and waited for the urge to pass.
Per the catalog, there is a brick-and-mortar Dick Blick store in Dearborn. That’s well within my shopping radius. How could I not know this? Now that I know this, how long will it be before I make a trip to drool over the stock? I wonder if they have the plump pastels. Maybe seeing them in the flesh (in the pigment?) would dispel the attraction. Or maybe I’d see something else to lust after, something completely impractical and wildly expensive that I’d have to talk myself out of buying on the spot. I guess I won’t know until I go. In the meantime, I can play with my fabric.
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