pin it, hold it, clamp it, staple it

how about an exhibition about how documents were attached throughout history? would this be of interest to anyone other than me? maybe you have pondered this very question. most likely not. here are five examples from my collection of such items. the far left example is a 19th-century example, a simple pin, before the invention of the clip. the others are variations on the clip or staple. i just love to look for these. i recall visiting a paper fair and combing through a box of old documents. you must be dedicated to do this. i am always looking for the unusual clip. when i find one that i don’t have it is usually attached to a document but all i want is the clip. the price, however, is for the document. i’m usually too embarassed to tell the dealer that i collect paper clips, but if the document is five dollars or less, i’ll buy it. if he says ten or twenty i’ll often pass or ask if he will sell just the clip. i have on two occasions been asked to leave with rolling eyes from the dealer. i have also been simply handed the clip gratis, though this is rare. these fine examples were bought from one dealer for less than ten dollars, i believe. i was especially pleases since at the time I didn’t have two of these styles. the evolution of the clip is so interesting to me. mr. petroski, who wrote ‘the evolution of useful things,’ has a wonderful chapter about the history of the paper clip. i was familiar with his books, ‘the pencil: a history of design and circumstance,’ and ‘paperboy: confessions of a future engineer,’ but didn’t know about ‘useful things’ until a visit from a group of designers from byu. each spring, professors linda sullivan and adrian pulfer bring a group of dedicated and talented students to visit new york and tour some design studios. they have been kind to me and have visited my studio many times. on one of these visits, i shared my love of the paper clip. afterwards, i received a wonderful thank you note and a copy of the petroski’s chapter on the paper clip. i was thrilled. there are many more in my collection, but just exactly where they are is the question.



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  1. I think about paper clips all the time. I think an unusual way of attaching something can really help set things apart. Clips are so visceral. The photo from Unseen that had all those colorful clips was one of my favorite photos. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Desi McKinnon — 07/04/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT


  2. you’re not alone in your love of the paperclip! great post!

    Comment by brandy — 07/04/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT


  3. Really cool, thank you for sharing

    Comment by Garrett — 07/04/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT


  4. small
    useful
    thin
    metal
    love it

    Comment by gina — 07/04/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT


  5. it would be lovely to see more paper fasteners. i’m definitely going to keep my eye out for some vintage ones…

    Comment by sara — 11/04/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT


  6. add me to the interested list-

    Comment by Elysse — 28/06/2010 LINK TO THIS COMMENT

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