The Exceptional Box

Dancing pencils on the wall of a Caran d’Ache boutique in Geneva.

Exactly three weeks ago today Matthew and I were in Geneva, Switzerland.   We had a special reason for being there; we were to be given a tour of the Caran d’Ache factory!  [Caran d’Ache, in the opinion of this artist – and many other artists – are manufacturers of the best artist-quality light-fast coloured pencils in the world.]  Before the appointed day and time, we had an opportunity to explore Geneva and visit two Caran d’Ache boutiques in the city centre.

First we went to House of Colors Fine on Place du Bourg-de-Four opposite the Palais du Justice.

“House of Colors Fine”, the Caran d’Ache boutique on Place du Bourg-de-Four.

I sought permission to photograph inside the shop…

…and then I bought some supplies.  I was almost light-headed from the treasures within.  What was to be done next?  TO THE SECOND BOUTIQUE….

Walking from one boutique to the other, we never forgot that we were in Switzerland.

Caran d’Ache chez Brachard on rue de la Corraterie 10 was our next stop.  Once again I was given permission to take photographs.

I was stopped in my tracks by an an enormous box of coloured pencils on display.  I had seen this box on the internet and hoped that I might see it in real life in Switzerland – and there it was.  Oh MY!

I bought some more art materials and then we walked in a happy daze beside Lake Geneva while I daydreamed about how the factory tour would be…and I thought about that exceptional box.

The following morning we were greeted at the Caran d’Ache factory in Thônex by Eric Vitus, Fine Arts Manager.  We were introduced to Carole Hubscher, President, and then Eric took us on a comprehensive tour, showing us materials, machines and methods which are used to make pens, pencils, oil pastels, and paints.  It was such a delight to discuss my favourite art materials with their creators and developers that I have no adequate words to convey the absolute joy of our visit.  Thank you, Eric!

We mentioned to our guides, Eric Vitus and Gaby Perrissol, that we had seen a rather amazing box of pencils the previous day, and was this box perhaps available to purchase?  There was one on view in the board room so we had a thorough inspection of it.  Matthew said, “We’d like to buy one if it is available”.  To cut a long story short, arrangements were made.  Huge thanks to Gaby and to Viviane Du at Caran d’Ache for organizing passage of The Exceptional Box across the world.  We have number 62 out of a limited edition of 100.

The box is not only a piece of perfection on its own, but it also reminds us of that day, the factory tour, the alps of Europe, the people we met, and the whole magnificent trip.

This afternoon at the front door.

The Exceptional Box is unpacked on the kitchen bench.

To fully appreciate this box of pencils which is a true work of art, I invite you to watch the two minute video Matthew made.

The Certificate of Authenticity says, “To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Supracolor Soft, Caran d’Ache has concentrated its colour expertise to gather a selection of its legendary products in a luxurious wooden box.  This world most important treasure chest of Swiss made artists’ pencils contains 422 colour pencils, including 30 exclusive Supracolor Soft tones.  The exceptional Limited Edition is a testimony to the history of Caran d’Ache and a tribute to the world of colour.”

Lucy (youngest daughter) admires the Supracolor Exceptional Box.

Related articles:  Art Materials  

Caran d’Ache open stock available in Australia



27 thoughts on “The Exceptional Box

  1. anna warren portfolio

    What a magnificent object! The thought and engineering that went into just the box is a delight to behold. Will you treat this as a workhorse, and use the pencils as normal, or just keep it as a treasure? I think it is the kind of thing any artist would lust for. I think I might feel a little afraid of using the pencils, taking away that wonderful pristine newness, but then again, it is like a beautiful piece of clothing, or a special cup and saucer, if they are only kept for best, they are never really appreciated. Hard choice! But what a wonderful memory to bring back with you, and it will always remind you of that trip, and the Caran d’Ache factory. (My lust was for the wonderful pencil holders or clutch pencils in the glass case too!)

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Anna, I remember when I first saw reference to the box on the internet. I thought, what a pity for it to be only an object to collect, as opposed to something to use. That was then. But now I have it I want to keep it as a treasure in itself, something to behold and enjoy as one enjoys a painting or sculpture. Talk about a 180 degree turnaround! Maybe one day in the future I will change my mind but at the moment it is not to be the workhorse but the art piece.

  2. Brigitte Shaw

    Oh Julie, you are so lucky to own this. What a glorious purchase. I think you should spend the rest of your days just looking at this treasure. Also, I would just like to take this opportunity to let you know that I do love your work, even if I don’t respond to your posts.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I will do as you say, Brigitte,and enjoy my Exceptional Box for years to come.
      Don’t give a second thought to responding to posts. Most people don’t. I’m happy that they look (and they do because I see the stats).

      1. lauraslittlecorner

        My first approach with Caran d’Ache was thanks to my Mom. She was in Switzerland to accompany my father for a legal case, I was 11 and had always loved drawing and she told me she would have bought much more, but it was so expensive (indeed Switzerland is, respect the rest of of Europe). I yet have the tin, and I use to store some of my Museums. It happens I buy them spare, then I complete the set. 🙂 Of Caran d’Ache I have only two full box sets Luminance and the 30 new Supracolor limited edition), but I have a lot of them, almost the entire colors for Museum, Supracolor and Pablo. I love to read your blog, because I love to use both colored pencils (I have several brands, yet the Karisma) and oil or soft pastels, and I love the effects you obtain and the impressive deepness of your colors. They are almost magic. I thought I’ve recognized in the photo of your studio in 2018, on the right corner, the great and creamy Holbein colored pencils. What magnificent pastel tones they have.

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hi Laura, lovely to hear from you. I also have a long history of using Caran d’Ache. I discovered the gouache paint first – in 1975 when I was 15 and still at school. Next was Neocolor 1 which I began using in 1980 at art school. They are such beautiful art materials.
        You are correct – you did see Holbein coloured pencils on my blog. I used them from 2009 (when I came across them in Japan) until quite recently. They are creamy and rich but they do not have the light-fast qualities which Luminance have. Indeed, those pastel colours in the Holbein set have quite a low light-fast rating. At present (and perhaps forever more) I am only using Luminance pencils. I am teaming them up with Neocolor 2. The Neocolor 2 is the undercoat, and then I work the Luminance over the top. As you say, Caran d’Ache products are quite expensive, not only because they are high quality, but also because the Swiss franc is such a strong currency compared to many other currencies. However I love them, and continue to use them. All the best, Julie

      3. lauraslittlecorner

        I apologize for my mistakes: I meant loose sets, and not spare. 🙂 You are right, the lightfastness has become a big issue in the last 16 years and for watercolours yet. As far as I remember, Derwent tried to improve it with the Signature series… I remember well how they were. I am really curious about both Neocolor II and Neopastel, by reading what you wrote and watching your artworks. As for my drawings, it happens to me to do the same subject more and more times, just to try different paper surfaces and colour brands and, as they are scanned to be printed, I can yet “play” with Holbein or other brands, though near to me, here, I have Luminance. I am very curious about the new 20 teints, I can imagine the 96 set will match the Neopastel II colour chart. Your “Eventide” has so stunning colours.

      4. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hello again Laura, please do not apologise for mistakes. I completely understand you. I am so hopeless with languages that I only understand one – English. I very much admire people like you who are fluent in more than one language.
        Like you, I am also very curious about the 20 new Luminance colours. However you and I will both have to be patient, since I do not believe they will be for sale until July. (Caran d’Ache still have not publicly announced the new colour addition to Luminance yet.)

  3. Charlee Hyde

    Wow, Julie what a wonderful souvenir of a wonderful moment… absolute treasure to enjoy forever. I also am one who enjoys your posts and very rarely comments. You keep up the good work girl.


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      It is so nice to read your message to me today, Charlee. Thank you! As to commenting more regularly, not necessary at all. Please just continue to enjoy the posts.


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