More than a poster, STUDIO B.I.B’s latest release is an homage to the black marker. Over the past decade Allister Lee, the man behind STUDIO B.I.B, has traveled the world collecting black markers – slowly but surely pushing toward a dream of landing in the Guinness book of world records.
Now at 500 markers, Lee memorializes the collection in a limited run of posters picturing each and everyone. “From vintage glass-barrel Magic Markers, famed Mini-Wides, metal-jacket Sakuras, and contemporary Sharpies, the collection as depicted in the illustrated poster, shows a historical and international spectrum of black marker design,” making the release perfect for everyone from graffiti nerd to material culture connoisseur.
To commemorate the release, we spoke with Allister about his collection. Lee’s work with Nike, Stussy, and Supreme may have vaulted his name, but its with black markers that he is inking his legacy.
Interview by Peter Williams for Curated.
The full poster, and Lee’s thoughts on markers, after the leap.
CR: So how does one end up with a collection of 500 black markers? Where did they all come from?
AL: It began with a shoebox of drawing supplies, in a flat on Kings Cross Road in 2002. I drew most things using a black marker and needed a variety to get the effect I wanted in my drawings. I noticed I had 8 different black markers in the shoebox. I separated them into another shoe box and then consciously started looking for more.
The first 50 markers were collected from stationary shops, art supply stores, pound stores, friends marker stashes, and random shopfronts throughout London.
The next 250 were collected from stationary shops, art supply stores, dollar stores, friends marker stashes, random shopfronts throughout Paris, NY, SF, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver.
The next 150 were collected from stationary shops, art supply stores, dollar stores, random shopfronts throughout Shanghai Beijing and Chengdu.
Since then been getting markers from just walking around and ordering from online spots l for things that I know I would never stumble upon.
CR: Have you always been a collector? What other items have you stockpiled over the years?
AL: I had normal kid collections of rocks, pennies, stamps, stickers, popsicle sticks, sports cards, comics.
Other than black markers, I collect Chinatown related stuff.
CR: Tell us your most interesting story, with regards to the acquisition of an item, marker or otherwise?
AL: There is a mini art supply district in Shanghai on Fuzhou Lu. First went in 2008. Rows and rows of shopfronts dedicated to art supplies and stationary. There is one larger store that is basically a department store for markers and art supplies, separated into different concessions by brand; Sakura, Simbalion, Pilot, Zebra, etc, each staffed by it’s own customer service representative in nice uniforms. All their products are nicely displayed under glass or on racks. If you take the escalator up, it opens into 2 more floors of tightly packed independent stall owners, each with a selection of goods to wade through in search of black markers. Going to that area is a marker collectors dream.
CR: Hand drawing the full collection, to such meticulous detail, looks to be an impressive feat – what was the process like – what did you use to draw with?
AL: Drawing each marker started concurrently when the marker collection reached 50 markers, for cataloguing purposes.
Whenever I get new markers I put them in a tin. When that tin gets to the overflow point, I take each one out and draw them on a brown piece of paper. The markers are drawn to scale, along with a test line from each actual marker to show the ink and line properties of that marker.
It has been a staggered process over the past 9 years and has become a normal part of my studio routine.
I use a rotation of various black markers to draw each black marker illustration. I do the white fills with a Uni Posca white marker.
CR: Which marker is your favorite? Which was your favorite to draw? Why?
AL: My favorite marker in my collection at the moment is a vintage Ideal that I got in SF last year.
I like old stuff. I like metal jacket markers. I like packaging. This is the best case scenario of all three.
There is no one marker that I liked drawing the MOST, but there are markers I enjoyed drawing more than others.
If i like the marker/marker brand, I put more effort into the drawing. If the marker is a Sharpie bootleg, or boring design, I just try to get it done and move on to the next. Every marker needs to be catalogued, so I just try to get on with it.
CR: To us, the black Sharpie is THE classic black marker. What are your thoughts on the Sharpie compared to the rest of the pack?
AL: The Sharpie is a contemporary design classic. Sanford, their parent company, consistently puts out quality product. My favorite piece I have in my collection from Sanford is a vintage King Size metal jacket.
My thoughts about the range of Sharpie black marker products in my collection can be found here.
In summary, I follow what the company does, I use their product, and I like what they make for the most part. Their products are of a high standard.
CR: How about KRINK? That seems to be another popular option.
AL: Krink makes a great product. At the very foundation, the ink, its properties, and its inventor are unique. This is a marker company made by someone who is passionate about ink and markers and knows their marker history. The manner in which the branding, model numbering, metal jacket construction, industrial cap and nib properties come together, have elevated Krink product to classic status in a short amount of time. Krink may have started as a specialty marking device amongst a niche, but it has the quality, form and function to continue developing into a sustainable mainstream marker brand.
CR: One last “marker expert” question. Products that come packaged with markers – shoes, hats, etc. – how do you see these in the market?
AL: I have an Adicolor one that came with the shoes. And another random Adidas one from their office. And a Krooked Skateboards paint marker. And a Gundam Marker. And one with Snoopy on it. I have a WK Interact branded one , which I suspect is a scraped down Bic, from his old shop on Stanton. I have the Mike Giant and Stussy Sharpies, although they do not qualify for inclusion in my collection. I seen the Beautiful Losers Krink. I seen a Zebra McKie with Mickey Mouse ears on the cap as a Disney collab.
I think for the most part, all of these marker products have made sense within the context of marker and ink culture.
When a company/brand/artist/entity you like, that isn’t in the business of manufacturing markers, makes a branded marker, it has a definite appeal. Sometimes even more than the product it may come with, in my case.
But sometimes it’s just another marker to add to the collection.
CR: We hear this MAY be the world’s largest black marker collection. Have you investigated to see if there are others? Any chance this qualifies for a Guinness World Record?
AL: At 550 unique markers and marking devices, it MAY be the world’s largest collection of black markers, according to my following criteria…
-Markers and marking devices should be larger than the average Sharpie.
No Microns or thin-liners. (there are exceptions based on another set of
-No repeats. Blacks Only.
-Same marker, but different labelling from different years, counts as different markers.
-Marker must emit some form of black ink or marking property. So yes to whiteboard markers, paint markers, chalk markers. No to smudge sticks.
-Factory made markers only. While I appreciate handmade mops, shoe shine, bingo daubers, etcetera, I could create an infinite amount of those that would skew the collection numbers way up
I have seen a lot of marker collections in person and on the internet, but I haven’t come across a Guild of Black Marker Collectors or anything to compare numbers.
A friend sent me the particulars on how to submit an entry for consideration to the Guinness organization, but I still think I have some ways to go before submitting an official claim. And even then, who knows if they think it’s a valid inclusion.
I am waiting to reach the 1000 mark, and then i’ll make a claim.
CR: What’s next?
AL: I will continue to make intermittent releases of lifestyle products that cater to black marker-and-ink aficionados under the Studio B.I.B moniker.
In regards to black marker collecting, the next milestone is 1000 markers / 10,000 hours spent drawing or creating black marker illustrations or associated projects.