The collector: Allister Lee, Toronto, Canada. Graphic Design and etcetera maker.
The collection: Black Markers. Criteria > Must be larger than the average Sharpie. Must make black ink mark.
The story behind the collection:
I started collecting in 2002. I had a shoebox of drawing supplies and separated the black markers from the rest of the pack into another shoebox as a way of organization. At some point in time I started a third shoebox and kept single specimens - no repeats - of black markers in there. I bought a bunch of black markers at Osman & Sons on the corner of Wardour to grow the collection and consciously started looking out for new black markers on street wanders thereafter.
Black markers are a mix of utilitarian form, design and function. I use them to make drawings and write things down. They are relatively cheap and easy to acquire and store. I like how they look, their variance in construction, labelling and design and I like how they smell.
I have been collecting since 2002 and currently have close to 600 unique markers. Right now they are on a white background on my floor. I took them out to take photos. I arranged them according to scale and type across 7 rows. Usually I have them bagged in large plastic ziplocs in groups of 50, put away in a small trunk.
My best find was the stationery/art supply district on Fuzhou Lu in Shanghai - rows of shops with one large 3 floor building, all containing little concessions. I just went from one shop to the next, picking up new black markers. Between two trips I picked up 150-ish markers from that one area.
The 'Holy Grail' used to be the Sanford El Marko but my friend picked one up for me earlier this summer. There are a lot of markers missing from my collection. Off the top of my head, a Mickey Mouse Capped Zebra Twin-Tip, a vintage jumbo Niji, Marsh 88's, a lot of the Magic Marker brand range...
I don't think the collection is out of control. Black markers are cheap to acquire, and at the moment it fits into a small trunk and can be kept out of the way. It does however probably reveal that I can be selectively obsessive and focused when I feel like it. I'm passively obsessed. I like it when I find/get new markers, but don't think about it all too often. But then sometimes I do.
Earlier this year Allister made a poster print to commemorate the acquisition of his 500th piece. From vintage glass-barrel Magic Markers, famed Mini-Wides, metal-jacket Sakuras, up to the contemporary Super Sharpie, the collection as depicted in the illustrated poster, shows a historical and international spectrum of black marker design.
Images © Allister Lee.