Review by Tina Koyam\
Whenever I see a lovely, handcrafted pencil roll, it evokes fantasies: Seated at a sidewalk table in a Venetian or Parisian café, sipping an espresso, I sketch – my colored pencil roll, charmingly patina-ed with years of travel, casually opened next to my sketchbook.
Despite the fantasies, I didn’t think a roll would work for me. When sketching from the sidewalk, I prefer to stand, so I have no place to spread out a roll. In the cold-weather months, though, I do most of my urban sketching from my car or in coffee shops. Maybe I could fulfill my roll fantasies, at least during the winter. . .?
The roll I had coveted for years is the Peg & Awl Sendak Mini Artist Roll. In December, a Christmas gift card and a post-holiday sale at Peg & Awl came together, and I decided it was time to make a mini Sendak mine!
Peg & Awl’s Sendak rolls (mini and full size) are made of durable waxed canvas in many color options. I chose Moss, which I knew would hide dirt well (mine is already starting to gain a scuffed patina that is definitely charming). Unrolled, a flap protects implements in the upper pockets.
I use the single narrow zipped pocket to hold a sharpener and a blending stump. I could put more in there, but I’m trying to keep the Sendak’s profile svelte. (I don’t want it to turn into a bulging burrito.)
The other pockets and slots are for my limited watercolor pencil palette, one brush pen and a waterbrush – the key essentials in my sketch kit.
One benefit I noticed immediately is that it’s much easier and faster to slip pencils into the Sendak’s slots and pockets compared to the elastic loops in my long-time sketch bag organizer, the Tran Portfolio Pencil Case. As much as the Tran Portfolio has served my needs for years, getting pencils back into the loops has always been frustrating – like randomly stabbing into the black hole of my bag.
Another upside is that thicker items like markers fit easily into the mini Sendak’s pockets; they would not fit into elastic loops designed for pencils. Overall, the mini Sendak’s elegant design is more flexible and versatile for a variety of tools and materials.
Versatility – that brings me to my biggest and most exciting discovery about the mini Sendak: Like my Miata, it’s a convertible! While sketching from my car or at a table, I can unroll it, use it, and roll it back up again.
That’s all find and good, but what about when I’m standing on the sidewalk? What I loved most about the Tran Portfolio is that it kept all my pencils upright and fully accessible just by opening my bag. In the same way, when I’m sketching on location, I simply keep the opened Sendak standing inside my bag. (It fits nicely in the small size Rickshaw Zero Messenger Bag that has been my everyday-carry for a decade. I pulled the Sendak up for the photo below, but it easily tucks in all the way to the bottom of the bag.) During outdoor-sketching season, I’ll leave it that way. Imagine my glee when I realized that it works well both ways – while I’m either sitting or standing! The mini Sendak is my year-round convertible.
I made two hacks to meet my needs better. The Sendak’s diagonally slanted cut of the lower slots is intended to accommodate implements of various lengths. But as some pencils get shorter and shorter, they begin to disappear into even the shortest slots, and then they are difficult to retrieve. I devised an easy solution: When a pencil gets too short, I drop a plastic, flat-bottomed pencil cap (like the Sun-Star Sect) into the slot, which gives the pencil a leg-up.
Field Notes-size books will tuck into the upper pockets easily, but I prefer to use the pockets for more implements. The pockets are the right depth for longer pencils, but even medium-length pencils start to disappear inside them. I put a small piece of foam at the bottom of the pockets to make them a bit shallower. When I use brand-new pencils, I can pull the foam out.
The only mini Sendak detail that I’m not crazy about is the leather belt and buckle that secure it. Fastening the buckle is fussier than I like, but I can live with it. I hope the leather will soften over time and become easier to fasten.
I’m thrilled that the ever-versatile mini Sendak is meeting my needs in ways I had not expected. Whenever I get to travel again, I’ll be ready for that Parisian café. Meanwhile, I’m happily rolling along in Seattle coffee shops and on sidewalks, too.