David Rees is not kidding. He really does sharpen pencils for a living.
Sure, he made his name as a humorist (from 2001 to 2009, he created the acclaimed political cartoon “Get Your War On”). Yes, he’s been known to create straight-faced projects with a satirical bent (e.g. URL Shortening Service for Twitter and Joey the Midwife Advertising Agency). And of course, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments of over-writing in his new book, How to Sharpen Pencils.
But think twice before you call Rees out for empty sarcasm. Since 2010, he’s actually made thousands of dollars sharpening pencils by mail through his Artisanal Pencil Sharpening service. The pencil-sharpening techniques in his book are all legitimate and replicable. He really does travel the country to perform his pencil-sharpening demonstrations. He even took the sharpening show on a cruise ship, and once, into a waterfall.
And as I found out when I spent a gorgeous afternoon with him at an abandoned paper-clip factory in his hometown of Beacon, NY, what he does is hypnotic — and, at times, oddly moving.
At the intersection of irony and sincerity, high art and low, wood and the Web, there is David Rees. Like each of his pencils, he’s one of a kind.