Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Okay, I know that there's some sort of war or near-war or something going on the Ukraine, and I've been kind of concerned about that -- especially now that Hillary, of all people, has played the Hitler card. (Why, Hillary, why?) And Iraq is falling apart now that we pulled out, and Afghanistan is likely to do the same soon, and Syria is a huge damned bloody mess. Also there are 20 million slaves in the world. And the NSA has apparently been spooking the Senate.

All of this evil stuff can definitely harsh your buzz, no doubt about it.

But now I want to direct your attention to a real scandal.

Due to some insane import restrictions, it is becoming difficult to bring real Kolinksy artist's brushes into the United States. According to the National Art Materials Association...
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently preventing any importing or exporting of natural sable hair brushes. It has to do with specific forms needed by the US government and the original source of the hairs used.

Previously, the European brush manufacturers had been using their own version of this form and the Fish and Wildlife Service had been accepting it. That was until the sable became an endangered animal. Please keep in mind though, that the species of sable used to make the artist brushes are not endangered. But because of this, the US is requiring their form be filled out and stricter regulations followed.

Therefore, we and many other art supply companies in America, cannot get replenishment for our sable brushes. This has been going on for at least 6 months and we are hoping that an agreement can be reached by the first of the year.
Update here.

Basically, here's the story: Kolinsky fur comes from a red weasel native to the Kola Peninsula and the Tajmyr region of Siberia. The best of the best fur comes from the tail of the male and is harvested only in the winter months. This precious commodity is shipped to Europe, where it is shaped into the world's finest brushes by skilled craftspeople.

The firms that make artists' brushes love to convey the impression that their Kolinsky fur comes from a land where balalaika music wafts over the permafrost. In reality, these days, most Kolinsky fur is harvested in farms located around Harbin, in China. (I'm not sure how many Kolinskys are still scuttling around the Kola Peninsula.)

Thanks to stringent new regulations, when fur items come into the United States, the American Fish and Wildlife Service tracks the fur to its point of origin. For some reason, the Chinese have been telling the FWS that the Europeans got hold of all that Kolinsky fur illegally, even though that's not true. The Euros imported it on the up and square, as they have always done.

So...who or what do we blame here? Do we blame the FWS? Or do we blame China?

It is possible that the Chinese are hoping to get into the business of manufacturing fine Kolinsky brushes, and that they want to drive those ancient European firms out of the market.

If so, fat freakin' chance. Producing truly top rate brushes on a routine basis is something that a company cannot accomplish in a single generation. These fur-tipped implements are hand-shaped by gen-yoo-ine masters. A good brush can be a fine work of art in and of itself.

I know what you are now dying to tell me: "Fur is murder! Use synthetics."

First, there is such a thing as justifiable homicide. Second, Kolinsky hair is harvested from the tail. It grows back in a year. The animal does not die.

Third, synthetic brushes just don't work the same. I have used synthetics -- the Winsor & Newton "University" series is nice -- but they don't last. If you're inking a comic book, you are lucky if a synthetic gets you to page 10. A great Kolinsky is a lifetime investment. It's an extension of the artist's hand -- of his or her mind.

My favorite brush in the world is a French beauty called the Raphael. Quite expensive, she is -- but worth it. (You'd be nuts to buy one from anyone other than these guys.) Even in the larger iterations, she comes to a point so sharp it could cut diamond. A Raphael knows where the stroke should go before you do. Back in the early 1980s, I went without food for nearly two whole days to buy a Raphael.

The second best brush is the venerable Winsor & Newton series 7, the preferred tool of Queen Victoria. The Series 7 is superb, but the Raphael is the quintessence of mysticism.

If you want to buy American, consider the inexpensive Kalish. (The brushes are actually made in Ireland.) They don't transport you into the beatific realms, but they do the job -- for half the price.

The truth is, I personally do not need any more Kolinskys. My collection, which came together in better days, includes two sublime Raphaels. One should use them only while playing John Tavener's The Veil of the Temple or the "Transformation Music" from Parsifal. On Christmas Eve, if you listen close, you can hear those two Raphaels sing Il est né le divin enfant.

So I'm good. But what about younger artists? Are they doomed to nylon, thanks to an infuriating spat between the Chinese and the FWS?

This will not stand! In previous posts, this blog denounced the romanticization of revolution. But damn it, some things are worth fighting for!

(We'll get back soon to the Ukraine thing. As if anyone's still interested in that.)
"Why Hillary why?"

Because she's a political sociopath, Joe. No hype, I really mean it. Watch the Khadaffi killing video. Came after Iraq was well steeeped in bloody anarchy. Believe Hillary has spent one moment in regret for her war vote on humanitarian grounds?

You're too much the gender egalitarian. Feminist neolibs are sociopaths.
There is no difference between W Bush playfully leaping around the stage looking for unfound WMDS and Hilly the Feminist Sociopath Clinton.
It won't keep the majority of "progressives" male and female from voting for her.

Why do people continually blame Hillary Clinton for the mess made by the men? said..."First, there is such a thing as justifiable homicide. Second, Kolinsky hair is harvested from the tail. It grows back in a year. The animal does not die".

Ok, maybe to set up your joke you put reason number one, as reason number two, but, kind of makes me worry a bit.
Joseph, I could probably purchase a mid 90's top of the line S-VHS video machine, a top quality VHS Tape, an old microphone, and make a better voice demo tape than many people are making on the latest, compressed audio doo hickey.

But who is going to go back in time and get those things?
Ken, your comment about Hillary Clinton is unfair. Most of the people who are in Obama's inner circle she did not pick. If Hillary Clinton ges to pick her own people, she's probably going to be a tenderhawk, which is much better than being a chickenhawk.
To hold a truly fine tool is a magical experience. It not only becomes an extension of your hand, but there is a synergistic relationship where you can do better work than you knew you were capable of... that is if you treat the tool as a partner, not a servant. But the bean counters and paper pushers have destroyed the world in which such a thing can come into existence anymore. I treasure my grandfather's hand tools.

"... something that a company cannot accomplish in a single generation." Profound words Joseph. Keep the dermistid beetles away from those brushes.

For something to live, something else must die. Captive sables are a renewable resource. Nylon is not. And hydrocarbons will ultimately kill us all in the end.
The Kola Peninsula is not in Siberia.
B, you're right. I mis-wrote. Kolinskys are (or were) found on that peninsula and in the Tajmyr region of Siberia. I will correct.
Cbarr, you understand. My larger point isn't just about brushes. It's about craftsmanship. Whatever your field of endeavor, there's probably something you love that isn't made quite as well as it used to be.

Of course, some things that are better than ever. Desktop computers are AMAZING right now, compared to the way they were a mere three years ago. But who is buying them?
Alessandro, you fully understood my larger point as well. But about Hillary -- I dunno. That "Hitler" remark really was kind of Glenn Beck-y, and she can't blame anyone but herself.

Still, I'm not a Hill-hater. I simply have...concerns.
I live in a small rural town in a ninety nine year old house. Just finished remodeling a seventy year old house. All the old wood is close straight grained without knots. Every item of metal is three times thicker than anything you can buy today. And objects were made to be beautiful as well as functional. The cork insulation in my attic needs updating though.

Fine old woodworking tools are extra special. They were made by craftsmen for craftsmen to use. Luckily a few people are keeping that tradition alive, but so much inter-generational knowledge has been lost.

I saved your link for Raphael brushes. With the completion of the house project my life actually lays before me once again. And I actually might need some new brushes. Hopefully the feds can get this sorted out. At the very least there is hope the European market may be enough to keep traditional manufacturers alive. If the Chinese make everything then what’s everyone else supposed to do? Sell houses to one another?

“Fur is murder!” I’ll bend over backwards to do my part to help maintain healthy wildlife populations. All individuals have defined life spans. Populations should be timeless, and are the rational focus.

Speaking of computers, my five year old laptop died, leaving me with my twelve year old desktop. The time it takes to load and scroll web pages is numbing, but enlightening. It is the advertisements which burden every page like ticks on a hound. And even after all the ads are in place they still suck the memory. It’s not because the website is sending info to my computer, but because my computer is sending info back to the advertisers! Google Analytics seems to be one of the hungriest parasites.

I was stunned to see Hillary make the Hitler comparison. Putin’s confronting neo-Nazis who commandeered a country on the western Russian border. Why make such an absurd bassackwards statement? Hillary knows what’s really going down in Ukraine. What’s her game here?

And the America population is either numb to the all the machinations or fooled into cheering the headlong rush into the next war. Seems we learned nothing from Iraq. It’s truly maddening to witness.

On what other blog can one learn about all things spooky, Tarzan movies, and fine paint brushes?

The spying on senate staffers thing may not be quite as bad as it sounds. This incident took place on CIA supplied computers provided for senate staff in a room in Langley. CIA searched computer history after the senate staff were finished, and found that the staffers had printed out a classified document. CIA guys weren't supposed to have done it, but it's not quite like hacking computers in Senate offices.
The most important problem on the face of the planet is that Fuji discontinued QuickLoads and I've almost used up all that I had stored in my freezer.
What CBarr said. And then some.
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