Saturday, April 6, 2013

Laurentien Coloured Pencils

Laurentien coloured pencils are a Canadian classic.  Most people probably remember either using them in school or buying them for their children to use.  For whatever reason, I never had a set of my own when I was young, so one of the first things I did when I was living on my own in my first year of university was walk down the street to the store and buy a set of 60 Laurentien coloured pencils (I know, I'm such a geek).  I was absurdly thrilled that I finally had a set of my very own.


 This post from the Canadian Design Resource has a good history of these pencil crayons.  They were originally called "Laurentian" (with an "a" not an "e") and were owned by the Venus Pencil Company, although later the name was changed to the French version Laurentien (with the "e"), apparently to help promote them in the Quebec market.  In the mid-nineties, Laurentien was bought by Sanford.  I remember when these pencils came in a nifty vinyl pouch that I coveted when my best friend owned a set, but this was later discontinued by Sanford.  The colours each had a number and a name (the numbers were apparently a relic of the days when they were used in colour-by-number kits), and many of the names were rather unique (you can find a list of the names on Wikipedia).  Unfortunately, the comments in this post tell a sad story: Laurentien pencil crayons have been discontinued and are now difficult to find (and those that are available are often of poorer quality).  I was sorry to discover that when I was researching this post, and thankful that I was able to purchase my set several years ago.


The pencils themselves have an easily recognizable design, with the name "Laurentien", the name of the colour (in both English and French), and the number stamped on white on the body of the pencil.  The large white space is apparently for students to write their name in, so they don't get their pencils mixed up with those of other students.  The colours are vivid and blend relatively well; several years ago I made this chart showing the colours I had in my set (which included both the basic colours as well as 6 metallic colours).

(Click to view larger.)

Most office and art supplies available in Canada today are made by American companies, so I am sorry to see the end of these pencil crayons.  They are still one of my all-time favourite supplies, and I'm sure I'll be taking better care of my set of 60 now that I know how much harder it will be to find them in the future.

Do you remember using these pencil crayons?  What other classic supplies from your childhood do you miss?

24 comments:

  1. LAURENTIEN!!!!!!! So awesome!!! I used to treasure these. My parents FINALLY bought me a pack of these when I was a kid and I treasured them so much, if the leads ever broke, I would save them and keep them in the plastic pack. ... Ok. That might have been a little weird. I no longer have any... rats.

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    1. Maybe not as weird as you think, Azizah! I actually used to save the broken leads from my pencil crayons as well. And for a while I even saved pencil shavings too :)

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  2. Hi Heather, first of all, I enjoy reading your blog. Second, unfortunately, where I'm from, Malaysia, dont have these colour pencils. But as a child I've always used Stabilo colour pencils, perhaps because my mother used to work with the company and I often get a box load of supply. :-) but I still enjoy colour pencils, markers, sharpies etc til today.

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    1. Thanks, Shia! You were lucky to have a mom who worked for the company :) I'll always enjoy these too; they're classics and a nostalgic reminder of childhood.

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  3. I always liked crayons better, but also had a pack of colored pencils. Crayola is the dominant brand here in the States.

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    1. Crayola is popular in Canada, too, and is probably the most common brand for items like this, but when I was a kid, Laurentien was usually what everyone preferred.

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  4. You bet I remember these! I got my first set in Elementary School. I never knew what the white spaces were for! Great post.

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    1. Thanks! I actually didn't know what the white spaces were for either until I did the research for this post. Those white spaces make so much more sense now!

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  5. Classic supplies from childhood? Y'know---none. Modern writing gear seems to me superior to anything I recall as a youngster in the 1960s. Polymerized pencil leads, gel inks, on-line availability of inexpensive but relatively difficult to find goods, etc. Norman Haase at His Nibs in the States says, I think, that this is a second golden age of fountain pens.

    You bet, I feel a little awkward not feeling nostalgic. Jack/Ohio

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    1. I'm not a very nostalgic person generally, but when I do feel some nostalgia for an item, it's usually more for the memories I have associated with it rather than for the actual quality of the item. Definitely agree that there are a lot of awesome supplies available these days, though.

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    2. Yeah, you're right about the memories. If pressed, I'd say the Lindy ballpoint pen and a brass manual pencil sharpener my Dad bought me do jog some good memories, the kind of childhood memories where a small thing seems very important because of its novelty, family connection, etc. Jack/Ohio

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  6. I came across your blog searching for the Laurentian felts. I just bought a Doodle Art, and yes I am reliving my childhood and wanted my "original" felts pens. I'm sadden to think my search is most likely going to end with not finding them. If the pencils are gone, surely the felts are as well :(

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    1. I can't remember if I ever used the Laurentien felt markers or not, but I remember seeing them around. It possible that some retailers may still have some old stock, though, so you might still be able to get lucky in your search.

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  7. I have been looking for these since my son has started using the ones I had since I was a kid. I'm so sad to hear that they're no longer available or hard to find. Boo! Which brand would you recommend if you were to buy them now?

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    1. It's hard for me to recommend anything, since I'm really not familiar with other brands. I do remember that I liked Prismacolor pencils when I was younger, and they definitely are a step up from the more commonly seen Crayola pencils.

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  8. I was feeling in a sentimental mood this week and decided I desperately needed some Laurentiens to remind me of my childhood in Canada in the '70s. I was distraught to learn that they've been discontinued! But my dismay was somewhat alleviated by reading about other people's memories. I wonder if anyone has a recommendation of another brand (available in the UK) which might come close to Laurentien. Thanks in advance!

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    1. As I mentioned in my reply to the above comment, Prismacolor is the other brand that I remember. Their UK site is here: http://www.prismacolor.co.uk/

      But I don't have a lot of experience here, so I welcome any other recommendations as well!

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  9. Well, I am devastated. As a kindergarten teacher, I have tried other brands of coloured pencils with my kids and the Laurentiens break far less and apply colour more smoothly than the Crayola and the Prang, which are the only other brands we can order from our school board. You pay for cheaper, you get cheaper. :(

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  10. You have confirmed which I have dreaded to hear that the Laurentien Pencil Crayons are a product of the past. This is unfortunate for these pencil crayons were of high quality. They were strong and didn't break as the Crayola ones do. I have one package that I have yet to use. Now, I will keep them. The Laurentiens were the only pencil crayon that I would recommend on the supply list. Now, I buy Staedtler which are made in Germany.

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    1. I haven't used Staedtler pencil crayons - I'll have to give those a try one day and see how they compare.

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  11. The only brand I have used for my art then and now. But am sad that I have to find another brand to switch to as I exclusively use Laurentien.

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  12. This is horrible. I have a few Laurentien pencil crayons that I'm hoarding for as long as possible. I won't even share them with my niece. I think I'm going to have to switch to Staedtlers. They have water colour pencil crayons that look promising. I never did like Prismacolour or Crayola. I found the quality of the leads to be far less superior to Laurentien. Thank you for the post. :)

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  13. When my 2 Sons were young, every time I would go back to Montreal, the first stop was always Rossi's to pick up as many packages of Laurentien colored pencils as I could find. When I'd get back home again, the first thing the kids would say was "did you get us come pencils ( and smarties)". I have a 16 year old granddaughter and will give her the last package of 60 that I have been saving for a special occasion.

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  14. I am dreadfully disheartened to find out that Laurentian pencil crayons are no longer available, as they are way better pencil crayons than crayola. I will rather send my daughter to school with a used makeshift set of laurentian, and Canadiana, for the love of quality colouring.

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