Visiting the Caran d’Ache Factory in Geneva, Switzerland

Let me start off by saying this trip was the most spontaneous one I’ve had in a while.

After several back and forth attempts to renew my Schengen visa (I thought I had maxed out my 90 days from Berlin—or so I thought) and my anxiety in getting regular phone calls from the Swiss embassy (I really *hate* answering phone calls!), I finally confirmed my trip to Switzerland albeit a week before my flight.

By the time I was packing on Monday morning, it obviously hadn’t dawned on me that I was flying halfway across the world and back to Europe. *Oh well* as per usual, I watched two films in-flight (The Hows of Us and To Love Some Buddy, both Pinoy films; both heart-breaking lol), spent a good four hours of ideation and brainstorming during my layover in Doha, and finally arrived in Geneva.

My vague memory of Switzerland was in Lucerne, and I wasn’t *feeling* it. I love traveling during the warmer season, so it was nice to walk around the area I stayed in (near the Old Town) before settling in.

Long walks in a city always makes it more real. Does that make sense? I’m not the type who favors exploring a city fast—I like taking my time to see all the little streets, the architecture, the vibe.

After downing 3 cups of coffee in total before arriving, I was well-adjusted. LOL.

The next day we headed to the Caran d’Ache factory which was around half an hour from the city center. One step inside the office and you’ll immediately be drawn to the pencils display and the vintage posters (of course!).

Fun fact: Caran d’Ache was founded in 1915, and means “pencil” in Russian. It was also the “artist name” of the famous French caricaturist / cartoonist Emmanuel Poiré, whose signature was also the initial logo of the brand.

The factory was built in 1974, and so far has produced 400 different colors using 100 pigments.

We were instructed to wear these shoes to enter the factory. They’re quite comfy and on brand—red and black!

Annelies and I geeking over *all the things*. I actually follow Annalies on Instagram for a while now and when I found out she was part of this trip, I fangirled!

Inside the factory, we were shown the process of how Caran d’Ache makes pencils—from choosing the right type of wood, picking out the right colors (imagine how many combinations they make, considering they have over 400 colors?!), testing each material’s durability, up to packing each and every product in its box, ready to ship out.

Caran d’Ache is quite a premium brand, but it comes with the quality that is definitely worth its price tag. Each set of Luminance colored pencils are packed by hand by their personnel. I also loved that they hire disabled people to help them with work, as it also helps enrich their livelihood and keep them productive. 🙂

As an artist, my favorite part is the process, of course—especially from start to finish. Above are some Neocolor II wax pastels and Pablo colored pencils being left to dry before they are packaged and shipped out to stores worldwide.

Prior to this trip, I have only been knowledgeable about Caran d’Ache’s Studio Gouache—which has been my go-to set of paints for my watercolor lettering work. I’ve only ever dabbled in watercolor pencils for my illustrations, which is why it was great that Pete instructed us in the afternoon on how to use Caran d’Ache’s different materials. My personal favorite? The Pablo pencils, which is named after Pablo Picasso (he used Caran d’Ache!).

My favorite technique was mixing permanent colored pencils and water soluble pencils to create this mask effect I did on the “make things” quote.

Here I am with Catherine (from Caran d’Ache), Annelies from Korea / Netherland, Crystal and Ray from Taiwan, and Steven from Hong Kong. Thank you, Art Bar Philippines and Caran d’Ache for choosing me to represent the Philippines!

If it isn’t any obvious, I’m actually wearning a terno top from Anthill Fabric. I wanted to wear something a bit Filipino and since I went to Artefino the week before, I got myself this top. It’s a Yakan weave and I love it so much!

On our last day, we took a tour around the city—had chocolate fondue, walked around the Old Town, and got to know more about the city. Thanks Juliane of Local Flavours Tours for taking us around.

You can check out more about my trip on my vlog below:

Selected photos by Igor Laski for Caran d’Ache

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