By LIZ PERKINS ’17
Artists are often thought of as just creative people who struggle to make ends meet, but sometimes, they don’t have to be a starving artist. Some artists can use their imagination to do something innovative as well as creative.
Craig Cornwall, professor of printmaking at Pacific Lutheran University, didn’t like the original crayons used in the lithographic process. The crayons were created to be self-sharpening, a string that you would pull to expose more of the crayon.
“Invariably, I ended up drawing with the string stuck in the end of it,” Cornwall said. “I mean it was really awkward. ”
Lithographic crayons are used to draw on limestone for the printing process. The artist uses the crayon to create an image on the stone, which will be printed later. The parts drawn with the crayon will absorb the ink while the areas with no marks will repel it.
The fact that the original crayons were so awkward inspired Cornwall to come up with a new lithographic crayon that didn’t include the string. He used old textbooks from the 1940’s to find formulas for his crayon. Cornwall tested out different formulas and discovered the one he liked the best.
“It was really smooth to draw with. It was easy to make,” Cornwall said. “It was a really nice formula.”
The crayon that he created had no coating around it like the original one did. He found a pen-like device to hold the crayon so people would be able to use the entire product versus having a stub that would be thrown away.
With this formula, he had to come up with a way to market the product. He was able to make molds out of clay. He shot hot wax into them and just had to wait till it dried for the finish product. This made it easy to mass-produce.
“It shoots the wax in here and fills these up. So when you peel it apart, then you take out the crayons,” Cornwall said while demonstrating on a piece of paper.
“Our kitchen was the production area. So we had hot black wax over everything.” Cornwall said while talking about the start up process of the company.
Cornwall and his wife, in 1988, sent out about 2, 000 samples of this new product. People instantly wanted to work with it. The market for his new crayon even started to span overseas. Even with the expanse in the market, the production was still small.
“I was at a printmaking conference last spring and I heard from several people Craig is one of the best lithographers in the country,” Lauren Peterson, a senior printmaking student at PLU said.
Cornwall and his wife moved to Olympia, Wash. where he started to teach part time. He sold the brand name product, Stone Crayons, to one of his distributors when he was offered a position at PLU. Today, he is still at PLU teaching printmaking and 2-D design while maintaining Trilobite Workshop.