[Caution: opinion and strong subject follows]
This is the first of a series of blog posts in which I will be sharing a few things about what has become a very important part of who I am as a person and as an artist. I feel that my beliefs could be helpful and eye-opening for others who are curious and want to be informed. My intent is just to share who I am and hopefully inspire.
While doing some research on upgrading to a higher quality of artist brushes, I discovered that the very best brushes are the sable-hair variety. Even more sought after is the kolinsky brush – made from the winter coat of the kolinsky – which is a breed of Siberian weasel. I admit, I never put any thought into it. Maybe I have naively been assuming that the hairs and bristles found in my brushes were the result of these happy animals shedding their winter coats. Nothing could be further from the truth. The expensive brushes I was considering owning – and many of the lower-end brushes I already own – are a product of the fur trade – the worst possible fate for these small animals that just want to live their lives. Sables, mongoose, weasels, and kolinsky are trapped in record numbers by horrendous painful leg traps, legs broken, where the last hours of their life are in fear, pain, and suffering.
The ones that are not trapped have even worse fates. Others are bred and confined in “farms” (factories of battery cages), terrified, sick, and in pain. Even worse, I discovered that these animals are fed whale meat, making the issue even more tragic!
The frightened, tortured animals give up their lives with their fur. They are in some cases skinned alive, because it is one less step the workers have to take when processing them. The pelts are then distributed and sold and master brush craftsmen then take select hairs from their pelts, tails, and coats to make brushes. It is for this reason I will never own a kolinsky brush in my studio, and I am getting rid of all my tools where the fibers are “natural”.
I thought I was more conscientious, but sometimes we don’t even realize these things. I don’t know why this reality had escaped my notice for so long; but as a result of the research I have discovered, I have since decided to only use synthetic fiber brushes forevermore. No mongoose fur. No sable hair. No hog bristle. The hair on these animals may indeed have unique properties that make them ideal for certain brushing techniques; but the advantages of these “natural” fibers are not worth the price these creatures pay. Hopefully, my decision can help others be informed and make a similar decision on the choices they make for their art supplies. Incidentally, I have found a few high-end synthetic varieties that replicate the effect and results and feel of the “natural” fiber brushes, and at a much more affordable price. They still are hand-made, and have a lifetime guarantee just like the brushes they are replicating…and nothing had to suffer to make them.