Nick Cave’s Online Store: Pencils Adorned with Lyrics, Mugs, Polaroids & More

I’m sit­ting on the bal­cony
Read­ing Flan­nery O’Connor
With a pen­cil and a plan

- Nick Cave, Car­nage

Access to tech­nol­o­gy has trans­formed the cre­ative process, and many artists who’ve come to depend on it have long ceased to mar­vel at the labor and time saved, seething with resent­ment when devices and dig­i­tal access fails.

Musi­cian Nick Cave, founder and front­man of The Bad Seeds, is one who hasn’t aban­doned his ana­log ways, whether he’s in the act of gen­er­at­ing new songs, or seek­ing respite from the same.

“There has always been a strong, even obses­sive, visu­al com­po­nent to the (song­writ­ing) process,” he writes, “a com­pul­sive ren­der­ing of the lyric as a thing to be seen, to be touched, to be exam­ined:”

I have always done this—basically drawn my songs—for as long as I’ve been writ­ing them…when the pres­sure of song writ­ing gets too much, well, I draw a cute ani­mal or a naked woman or a reli­gious icon or a mytho­log­i­cal crea­ture or some­thing. Or I take a Polaroid or make some­thing out of clay. I do a col­lage, or write a child’s poem and date stamp and stick­er it, or do some granny-art with a set of water­colour paints. 

Last year, these extra cre­ative labors became fruits in their own right, with the open­ing of Cave Things, an online shop well stocked with quirky objects “con­ceived, sourced, shaped, and designed” by the musi­cian.

These include such long­time fas­ci­na­tions as prayer cards, pic­ture discs, and Polaroids, and a series of enam­eled charms and ceram­ic fig­ures that evoke Vic­to­ri­an Stafford­shire “flat­backs.”

T‑shirts, gui­tar picks and egg cups may come graced with doo­dles of fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor War­ren Ellis’ beard­ed mug, or the afore­men­tioned naked women, which Cage describes to Inter­view’s Ben Bar­na as “a com­pul­sive habit I have had since my school days”:

They have no artis­tic mer­it. Rather, they are evi­dence of a kind of rit­u­al­is­tic and habit­u­al think­ing, not dis­sim­i­lar to the act of writ­ing itself, actu­al­ly.

Of all of Cave’s Cave Things, the ones with the broad­est appeal may be the pen­cil sets per­son­al­ized with the­mat­ic snip­pets of his lyrics.

White god pen­cils quote from “Into My Arms,” “Idiot Prayer,” “Mer­maids,”  and “Hand of God.”

A red dev­il pen­cil bear­ing lines from “Bromp­ton Ora­to­ry” slips a bit of god into the mix, as well as a ref­er­ence to the sea, a fre­quent Cave motif.

Mad­ness and war pen­cils are coun­ter­bal­anced by pen­cils cel­e­brat­ing love and flow­ers.

The pen­cils are Vikings, a clas­sic Dan­ish brand well known to pen­cil nerds, hard and black on the graphite scale.

Put them all in a cup and draw one out at ran­dom, or let your mood or feel­ings about what said pen­cil will be writ­ing or draw­ing deter­mine your pick.

Mean­while Cave’s imple­ments of choice may sur­prise you. As he told NME’s Will Richards last Decem­ber:

My process of lyric writ­ing is as fol­lows: For months, I write down ideas in a note­book with a Bic medi­um ball­point pen in black. At some point, the songs begin to reveal them­selves, to take some kind of form, which is when I type the new lyrics into my lap­top. Here, I begin the long process of work­ing on the words, adding vers­es, tak­ing them away, and refin­ing the lan­guage, until the song arrives at its des­ti­na­tion. At this stage, I take one of the yel­low­ing back pages I have cut from old sec­ond-hand books, and, on my Olympia type­writer, type out the lyrics. I then glue it into my bespoke note­book, num­ber it, date-stamp it, and stick­er it. The song is then ‘offi­cial­ly’ com­plet­ed.

Hmm. No pen­cils, though there’s a ref­er­ence to a blind pen­cil sell­er in Cave’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sound­track of Wim Wen­ders’ sci­ence fic­tion epic Until the End of the World.

Two more lyrics about pen­cils and he’ll have enough to put a Pen­cil Pen­cils set up on Cave Things!

Fol­low Cave Things on Insta­gram to keep tabs on new pen­cil drops.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Nick Cave Answers the Hot­ly Debat­ed Ques­tion: Will Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

Lis­ten to Nick Cave’s Lec­ture on the Art of Writ­ing Sub­lime Love Songs (1999)

Ani­mat­ed Sto­ries Writ­ten by Tom Waits, Nick Cave & Oth­er Artists, Read by Dan­ny Devi­to, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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