Hi friends. Welcome to another Stationery Sunday! In this series I introduce interesting stationery shops in Seoul, South Korea. Today’s post is brought to you by vintage pencils, in all shapes and colors and ages. For more stationery shops in Seoul, see my Seoul Stationery Guide (with Google map).
Black Heart Pencil
Address: Seoul, Mapo-gu, Yeonnam-dong, Yeonhui-ro, 47, 3rd Floor (Google map link)
Online store (Korean): https://smartstore.naver.com/ttangbyeol
The Black Heart Pencil shop is a lovely curated store and showcase of all things vintage pencils.
It’s on the third floor of a very nondescript building. Keep your eyes peeled for this little sandwich board sign telling you to look up. (I passed by several times before I noticed the sign.)
Black Heart is the literal translation of the store’s name in Korean, heuk-shim (흑심). Heuk means “black” and shim can mean “heart,” but also “center”, like the central column of lead in a pencil). In an interview with the owners, they said it can also be a play on words, like to “harbor a black heart” (흑심을 품다) means to have bad or indecent intentions.
The owners also run a design company, called Ttang-byeol Medley, which derives from the pure Korean word for earth. (The name is translated as Ground Star Medley(땅별메들리). About 70 % of Korean words are derived from Chinese characters, called hanja. The Korean word for “earth” ji-goo (지구) is also Chinese character derived (地球). So the company’s name, ttang-byeol (땅별) is the “pure” Korean word for Earth, as it uses only Korean characters not derived from Chinese characters. This name reflects the firm’s philosophy to design different things on Earth. I liked learning that, and the name in pure Korean is cute.
The store showcases the two owners’ collections of vintage pencils and related items, and they have select items for sale. The owners’ collect only pencils that are still usable, and also test all the pencils themselves. They also have sample pencils set out so you can test them yourself before purchasing. There’s also a tray of pencils with all the different hardness and numbers for you to experience yourself.
Black Heart also values the stories behind the pencils. There are little information cards next to the pencils, and the owners will tell you the stories behind the pencils as they ring you up.
For example, did you know these Mirado pencils were originally released as Mikado, which is the Japanese word for emperor. Days after Pearl Harbor, on December 8, 1941, the Eagle Company changed the name from Mikado to Mirado to avoid the Japanese association. Thanks to this shop, I now know a little history behind my favorite back Mirado pencils.
In the interview, the owners answered they first started collecting pencils because of the pencil boxes, specifically the vintage packaging from the Othello brand. Back in the day brands invested a lot into differentiating their products through packaging, so they were a lot more diverse than pencil packaging is now.
I loved looking at the different vintage pencil boxes, drawing inspiration from the typography, colors and graphics.
The shop has a mix of vintage and modern items, and some customized products too, such as these mini pencils you can mix and match to buy as a set.
There was something to marvel at in every corner of the shop. Like this vintage pencil sharpener.
And these up here.
Confession: I have a thing about portable pencil sharpeners. I might have just as many pencil sharpeners as I do regular pencils (about six?). So it was fun to see the different types of little pencil sharpeners for sale, some very unique like these Spanish blades below:
Or these Japanese pencil sharpener blades with a safety guard. They remind me of potato peelers. 🙂
All the cool artists seem to carry these brass double hole pencil sharpeners. I was tempted, but I resisted this time around. There were many more different types of little pencil sharpeners, especially by the Milan brand, that were so cute. I really had a hard time choosing just one.
Black Heart is located at the outer boundary of Yeonnam-dong, which is a hip and happening neighborhood FULL of cafes, shops and stationery stores. And by full, I mean, FULL. There are at least ten stationery shops five minutes walk from Black Heart, including the Cat-themed stationery store, Cat Frame shop. See the Yeonnam-dong section of my Seoul Stationery Guide for other stores in the area.
Are you a pen or pencil person? What about wooden versus mechanical? I’ve always used wooden pencils, which might be because of my upbringing. My mom didn’t let me use mechanical pencils when I was younger, I forget why. (I think this might be common in Korea too?) By the time I was “old enough” I already preferred wooden pencils. That might be why I like sharpening pencils too.
I’d love to hear if you have any favorite pencil brands (or erasers) or memories associated with pencils.
Also I’ve also shared a video tour and haul from the Black Heart Pencil shop on my YouTube channel:
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next episode of Stationery Sunday! Until then, be safe and well!