When I was in middle school, a friend of my parents gave me a sketchbook for a birthday I can’t remember. That sketchbook is in my house back in Arizona somewhere. The pages are full of pencil sketches that shows a time when I didn’t think too much about anything. There was school, homework, some free time, sleep, on repeat. The pages are mainly lots of fashion sketches, to doodles and swirls and hennah designs to magazine cutouts of things that amused me. College happened and work happened and it’s been a while, to say the least. I went onto photography to posting about other artists that I found inspirational and kept thinking about how I should/will eventually go back to doing some of my own.
There was a stint in Bangladesh when out of desperation (and in an attempt to get my mental sanity back) I just took a CNG and went to New Market one day and bought bunch of canvas and oil paint. I didn’t even bother bargaining and asserting my look-at-me-try-to-be-native-ness. I transformed one of the patios in my parents’ empty flat in Shymoli and painted away not thinking much. I eventually had to discard that patio because again, life happened- getting ready for grad school, going to social events, wrapping up my time. I just left my supplies there and have no idea how much dust has gathered around my paintings. (There was one painting, oil on canvas, of a deconstructed American flag, with just one diagonal white stripe. I painted this to spite my then-someone who was annoyed at me for missing home so much. It happens.)
I don’t know what it is about San Francisco that made me look up art supplies and make the walk today to Flax in SoMa.
I was feeling the same kind of unnecessary loneliness/desperation I did in Dhaka over a year ago, but also the need to get back to something that used to make me happy. When I entered the store, I was reminded back not of Arizona but Japan, when I was, for some reason, obsessed with stationary supplies and gel pens.
The high ceiling warehouse-esque art supply store was full of all types of paper and pen and amazing craft supplies. Everything smelled clean and new, waiting to be used. I left the place with just one, simply 5×8 black bound sketchbook.
The founder, Herman Flax moved out west during the Great Depression from New Jersey and opened this magical place in downtown SF in 1938. His brother became involved and Sam Flax opened the now art-supply chain.
The New York Times said it best:
From their glass-counter fiefs, Flax’s staff oversees a Willie Wonka factory of paper, ink and innovation. The large paper room of custom-made steel flat files holds about 9,000 varieties, ranging from pressed sheets with “floral inclusions” … to a Japanese silk-screened printed paper, or washi, at more than $20 a sheet.
I love this city.
I will post some sketches soon.
Flax Art and Design, 1699 Market Street, San Francisco; (415) 552-2355