One of the best things about my shop is that you can find pencils from places you didn't even know make pencils. Before I first opened the shop I sent a LOT of emails to companies I knew about or had researched and got replies from about 30% of them. The ones who replied were a little confused but willing to sell their things to me and by the time I was ready to put the website online I had enough brands to support my concept. Since then I've still been chasing that 70%, a number that has multiplied as I've grown to know more.
These days sourcing goes one of two ways: either a brand has heard of the shop and reaches out to me to sell their things or I have beg and plead to get the things that I'm after. It's not easy anymore because we already have all of the things that are easy. This year I'm making it my mission to add a few specific countries to the list of those represented in pencils in our shop and man, it's proving to be very difficult. For every 10 emails I send I maybe get one reply, which often tells me that they can't sell to me because I'm in the US or that the thing that I want is no longer available. For the other 9, who knows what happens to them when they go unanswered and possibly unread. Maybe it's a language difference (or not, on my second attempt I always translate the e-mails) or maybe these websites don't have active e-mail addresses on them (though I do try to gather as many e-mail addresses as I can from various resources) or maybe they just think I'm insane, or it's a scam or they're simply not interested in participating in my wacky microcosm of pencils.
I've given up on my dream to stock a pencil from every country still manufacturing them (it's more than anyone realizes, I can guarantee) and some of them aren't good pencils anyway but to the ones that I really really want: what do I have to do? Maybe there's nothing I can do and I need to just accept that. After all, I do have *most* of the pencils I think are the most interesting/best ones out there but I so desperately want to expose all of our customers to the deep cuts--the ones from far far away that few know about or have tried. To be honest, it's occasionally frustrating when I get e-mail from people wondering why we don't stock a certain pencil because the answer is usually because they won't sell them to me (or because they're just not very good).
Now that I've whined about this, let me say that I am lucky to work in a very very small industry where people are generally so so so so supportive and the encouragement I get from the companies that I do already stock is enormous enough to make up for not having the rest. But, where's the fun if I don't have something to chase after? I guess I'll be chasing all of these elusive pencil brands for as long as I'm doing this and that's fine with me. One of my totally ridiculous dreams is to have a travel TV show about stationery, a Netflix-style docu-series about me traveling the globe in search of the most fascinating stationery stories and the items that go with them, maybe then I can get their attention.
Photo: a recent example from my inbox