The core value of Pencils for Africa is the human connection: PFA wants used pencils, which human beings on one side of the planet (America, Europe and so on) have already used and then, we want to allow this opportunity for children in Africa as well – like a relay – whereupon they now also use the same pencil. It is the connection of humanity that drives the pencil drive.
– Karim Ajania, Editor-in-Chief, Mezimbite Magazine

Making Pencils

Written by Karim

Ariane Prin graduated in 2011 with a Masters from Royal College of Art (RCA), London.

Also in 2011, she was shortlisted for the RCA’s Sustain Award for her “From Here For Here” projects. She has won or been a finalist in numerous design awards for her young years.

Ariane is the winner of the James Dyson Award , the Cart’com design competition and the Cogedim sculpture competition. And just this year, she was competition finalist for the “Victory Ceremonies” podium design for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Ariane holds a Bachelor degree in design products from the ESAD (Ecole [school] Superior of Art and Design) of Reims, France. Her design experience ranges from furniture design for a luxury hotel in Marrakech to mapping new sustainability influences for “Nike Better World” to creating the “Art of life” design collection made by Cambodian artisans for Artisans d’Angkor.

Ariane Prin

Editor: Ariane, why did you design a pencil machine and begin making homemade pencils?

Ariane: Making pencils is part of a larger concept and ethos which has to do with my project From Here For Here. I like to go into an urban area where, let’s say, there is a hospital or a school, and study and analyze what the local culture is and what the waste is and how that waste can be efficiently used. I think the time is now over for us to ignore these pressing ecological issues.

Editor: What is the next step, once you analyze the waste ? How do you utilize the waste?

Ariane: Well, the objective then is to create useful products specific to the waste found on site. As I state on my website we have “the legitimacy of creating new objects by keeping the enjoyment of making without the guilt.”

Editor: And so the pencils you make are a specific example of these “useful products”?

Waste Materials for Making Pencils

Ariane: Yes, precisely. The new production system described below, treats the Royal College of Art as an experimental site for demonstrating these principles. It uses waste from the various departments of the school for a local pencil factory that will supply drawing tools to present and future students. Pencils are such a useful tool - and also essential for artists.

Editor: I created a project some years ago, in a poor township in Harare, Zimbabwe, whereby we activated a cottage industry of paper-making using biodegradable waste products such as water hyacinth, banana leaves and corn husks. The township made high-quality art paper from these waste products and then sold the paper to a high-end art store in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Do you envision similar African development applications for any of your ecological designs?

Ariane: Yes! Absolutely. I have worked for 8 years on designing products and creating innovative ecological solutions. However, there is nothing more satisfying than to see how this work can create a value-added in terms of the kinds of hands-on African development work that is featured in Mez Mag. Allan’s work with artisans in Mozambique is a good example of how a former design student at MIT can put his work to use and add real value that can impact not only a critical mass of people on the poverty line but generations of artisans. So, yes, this is precisely the kind of work that interests me and what I am aspiring to do more and more.

Making Pencils


The Pencil Extruder