Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Derwent Carry-All (product review)

This is a preliminary review of the NEW Derwent Carry-All which I have yet to take out with me.  This review relates to what it comprises, how it's made and what I can and cannot get it in it.

Derwent Carry-All
(left) front view with shoulder strap attached
(right) opened up showing web pocket for accessories and pencils in a "leaf"; 
space for sketchbook is underneath the pencil leaves
(note: it doesn't come with any art materials - it's just a very big empty pencil case on a strap)

I think the Carry-All has distinct potential but for me it's a "near miss".  I'm awarding it a B+ for a good effort but could do better. 

The reason why?  Two reasons
  • I'm confused as to who it is for
  • My personal preferences for what I need - I think I would have been tempted to use it an awful lot more - and hence liked it a lot more - if it had just been 25mm taller.  I'll explain why.
I think the dimensions for this carry-all probably started with 'the pencil'. In that context it’s size makes complete sense as it’s well set-up for carrying pencils and I can imagine it will be a very useful bit of kit for those attending classes and workshops.

However if you started from the perspective of who else might want to use it then I think Derwent might well have given some more thought to the size.  It’s not big enough to take an A4 sketchbook or most panoramic sketchbooks so one’s limited to carrying an A5 size sketchbook or a smaller Moleskine sketchbook.

The size aspect is what’s going to limit my use of this holdall.  I was ever so disappointed as I tried every which way to get my A4 sketchbook into it.  That's because if I'm using a smaller sketchbook I then also downsize how many pencils I carry around with me.  I can get a small sketchbook and mini pencil wrap in my handbag.  (see Making a Mark Reviews: Product Review: Derwent Pocket Pencil Wrap 24 May 2010)

Here's the breakdown of what I found.  I'll also report back once I've used it 'in the field'.  I'll also be asking Derwent about the size issue as the Carrry-All I have is nothing like the dimensions on their website.

Product: Derwent Carry-All
Summary Review: It's a well-made rather large pencil holdall on a strap.  I find this product promising but confusing. I’m not clear who the target consumer of the carry-all.
  • Storage emphasis: It’s great for people who want a good way of keeping their pencils and other bits of kit neat and tidy and all in one place at home.
  • Mobile with pencils: It’s great for those who just want to carry a lot of pencils and a bit of extra kit around from A to B without lugging a great big pencil box or tin around. However if that’s all they want to do then I’m puzzled as to why the Derwent pencil wraps - which take 30 pencils each - would not work better?
  • Sketching: HOWEVER It’s undersized for the serious sketcher and oversized for a small sketchbook or anybody with a more minimalist approach.  If this bit were fixed it would still serve the other two pencil uses equally well.
Technical Details: The Derwent Carry-All is described as “a pencil storage solution” with the scope to store “up to 132 pencils and more”.
  • size: the product details tell me it should measure 8" square and 6.5" deep (220mm x 220m x 170mm) which would make it an ‘almost’ cube. HOWEVER the one I’ve got is 220mm wide, 275mm high and 130mm deep - so I’m now wondering if there are different sizes. (Mine is 25mm short of an A4 sketchbook - very frustrating!)
  • material: made of a sturdy grade of fawn canvas (same as that used for the pencil wraps); the trim is dark brown. Feels robust.
  • strap: optional shoulder strap in fawn/dark brown canvas. The strap clips are diagonally opposed and not fixed to the centre of each side as that’s where the zip goes. I’d have liked a more padded shoulder grip
  • hand grip: comfy padded carrying handle/grip with velcro fasteners (if not using strap)
  • pencil storage: product details say it comes with 3 pencil “leaves”; each one is supposed to be capable of holding 44 pencils. Mine came with just 2 leaves and I think I can get 24 pencils in each side (2 per elasticated slot) making 48 pencils per leaf and 96 pencils in total. I guess the scope to hold “up to 132 pencils” is related to the three leaves it’s supposed to come with
  • exterior pocket with velcro tab
  • Interior web pocket - big enough for incidentals (erasers, sharpeners, viewfinder etc)
  • Interior elastic band - looks as if was designed for a very fat sketchbook. Too big to hold my Moleskine secure.
Who should buy this?
  • people who sketch (but work out when you’d use it first)
  • pencil artists needing a neat storage solution for the home
  • pencil artists attending workshops
  • suitable for all makes of coloured pencils - I tried them all!
Who should not buy this?
  • people who like big sketchbooks
  • appears to be robust materials and well made
Think Again?
  • decide first what method of transporting pencils works best for you and your own personal needs
Manufacturer / Distributor: Derwent / Cumberland Pencil Company

Interestingly it's also big enough to take an iPad - but then if I was sketching with my iPad I wouldn’t need the pencils! :)


PenciLion said...

Who would buy it?
I have got over 300 Derwent pencils, and when I go on holiday, I don't really want to take my entire set of 120 Artists complete in their wooden box. not exactly convenient if you get me.
as for a sketchbook, I'd just carry my A3 one around with me. I don't really care!
When I go out, I do find myself rather limited to the selection of watercolour and inktense that I carry around in my Derwent wrap, and though I can go home and change them to coloursoft or pastels if I really wanted, it just seems if there were another 10 or 12 pencils slots... that it would work better.

I did read a very interesting article last year when I was doing a school assignment on coloured pencils, and some artists going on an art tour, who wanted to take as many pencils as possible with them, were taking FOUR of Derwent's wraps. they had organised them into colour groups, so they had the yellow, orange and red in one, the pink, purple and violet in another, and then the green and blue, finally followed by brown, black, white and graphite. I thought it was a wonderful idea. and then they release this... I think it was definitly made for those people.

Making A Mark said...

Well yes - you have a point.

However unless you use a sketchbook exactly the size of the one permitted by the size of the carry-all then I think I'd rather use a pencil wrap or an ordinary pencil case.

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