A brush is one of the artist’s main tools, so they are approached with great attention to her choice. At first glance, the production of paint brushes seems like a simple business that does not require a lot of start-up capital. In fact, what could be easier than just connecting three parts together: a handle, a tip and hairs or bristles? However, in practice, the production of brushes for artists is a difficult business, requiring extensive experience, knowledge and special equipment.
Historically, the city of Kirov has become the center for the production of art brushes in our country. The reason for this, most likely, lies in its location, in proximity to the sources of raw materials for production - Siberian forests. The largest enterprise, which was the first to start producing such products, after the collapse of the USSR, was transformed into OOO Artistic Materials. Subsequently, separate firms began to appear from him, which began independent activity in the 90s.
Currently, there are about five brush manufacturing companies in Kirov. The most famous of them are LLC PTK Arteks-M, LLC Nil, and Painting Brushes. However, the company "Art Materials" still retains its leadership. Gradually, production for artists began to open in other regions. Many of them are quite successful, such as the Novosibirsk group of companies Albatros, Gamma LLC and the Nevskaya Palitra art paint factory.
Most of these companies produce not only specialized professional, but also school brushes. The main competitors of domestic manufacturers are Chinese factories. Nevertheless, the choice of Chinese goods is reduced, amounting, according to some reports, to about 15% of the total market.
This is due to the fact that earlier Russian companies lagged behind foreign manufacturers in technological terms by 10-15 years. Gradually, they began to update their equipment and improve production technology. Now our brushes are practically inferior to Chinese in quality and characteristics, equal in price and win in terms of delivery (products come from China longer, and spend some time at customs).
The brush consists of three main components: handles (cuttings), clips (it is also called a sleeve or a capsule) and hair. Handles, as a rule, are round in section, tapering to the end. But sometimes they produce brushes with oval or triangular cross-section handles. Most often they are made from wood and less often from plastic.
For high-quality brushes, pens made of hardwood hardwood (beech or birch) are used. Under the influence of moisture, the wood swells, which weakens the connection of the handle and the holder. Therefore, many manufacturers paint the wooden handle, which allows you to protect it from swelling, or offer brushes with plastic handles.
However, most artists prefer brushes with handles made of natural wood without additional coating, believing that they are better in the hand, do not slip and do not distract attention with bright colors. The best option is handles made of beech wood, which practically does not absorb moisture and is easily cleaned of impurities. The length of the handle is determined by the ease of use: it should lie well in the hand and at the same time not interfere with the artist during work.
The tip, or clip, is a metal rim that holds the hairs or bristles tightly together, clamping them on the handle. At the same time, the base of the hairs sticks together to prevent hair from getting out (glue should not be visible). The bezel is an additional clip. More convenient to work and attractive externally seamless clips. They should be seamless and made of copper or brass coated with nickel or chrome. The clip should hold tight to the handle due to deep crimping, without leaving voids inside. On cheap brush models, the metal rim is usually sutured. Often it is poorly fixed on the handle, and the hairs are connected only to them without additional gluing. It is difficult to work with such brushes, as the hairs that have come out can ruin the work.
Until recently, all domestic brushes were produced with a clip made of tinplate, the joints of which were sealed. As a result, the hair did not have an even shape, and the clip itself quickly rusted. Sheet or roll sheet is still used for the production of capsules (usually for school brushes), but now it has an anti-corrosion coating. In European countries, goose feathers are still used as a clip. Such brushes, which are also called French, are not produced in Russia.
Russian manufacturers of brushes use the same raw materials. Art brushes are made using natural hair: column, pony, squirrel, goat or bristle. Less commonly used are fox, dog, badger, fox, sandstone, ear cow hair, horse and bear hair. The most popular brush is made of squirrel hair (it is made using a wooden stylus and a galvanized braid), although it costs relatively cheap. The high price is due to a shortage of raw materials: with the failure of spruce cones, the number of livestock protein also decreases. And the most expensive is the brush from the column, which you can work with all kinds of paints. This furry animal lives in Siberia, China and Korea. Both the speakers and the squirrel do not live in captivity.
Waste from fur production is used as a raw material for the brush (for example, squirrel hair is taken from the tail of the animal), and in the fur industry in Russia there is a decline. Therefore, many manufacturing companies order raw materials abroad - most often, in China. Even natural pork bristles are imported from there, although it would seem that there is no shortage of pigs in Russia. Hair from the skins of animals grown only in certain provinces is pretreated, boiled and softened. In Soviet times, when it was impossible to buy hair abroad, domestic manufacturers managed on their own. In some places, such productions have survived to this day.
This raw material is more expensive than Chinese, but has a great advantage compared to it: hair lengthwise in our country is carried out without the use of mechanical clamps, as in China. Clips with teeth deform the ends of the hair, which affects its quality. The production of synthetic hair brushes is much cheaper. But in Russia they are not as widespread as they are abroad.
To fix the hair bundle, special glue is used. It must be safe for health (in Europe and China, harmful adhesives are often used, which, nevertheless, can be used with any solvent) and at the same time resistant to acetone for a couple of hours.
Brushes differ not only in the raw materials used for their production, but also in size. It is indicated on the brush handle: the larger the number, the larger the size. The thinnest brushes are considered to be the thinnest (from "00000"), and the widest one is a brush of the size "40".
The brush manufacturing process was developed more than half a century ago. The technologies and materials used are being improved, but its essence does not change. It consists of six main stages. First, the hair is prepared. It is washed and degreased, sorted by length and straightened. In some cases, the hair undergoes additional processing to give it elasticity and softness. In small semi-handicraft companies, where the production process is practically not automated, the hair wet after washing is combed and sorted for manual drying. This allows you to achieve the most direct pile required for an ideal smear. In a large enterprise producing products in bulk, of course, manual labor is irrational. Therefore, the most expensive and high-quality art brushes all over the world are produced not by large companies, but by small family enterprises.
At the second stage, the smear is formed. For this, special assembly forms are used, which are produced on high-tech equipment. Since its cost is quite high, Russian artisanal manufacturers carry out molding, knocking a smear on the butt (the opposite side of the top of the hair). Such a smear is formed from hairs of various lengths, therefore, voids are formed inside it that hold the paint. A similar technology is used to assemble a brush stroke of cheap brushes in Chinese factories.
Then a clip is made where the hairs are fixed. Previously, in our country this was carried out using rosin. By heating the clip, the artist could independently adjust the exhibition of the hair of the finished brush. Now, with a large assortment of brushes of any size and thickness, the need for this has disappeared.
At the penultimate stage, a handle is made of wood, on which a paintwork or impregnation is applied. Foreign manufacturers of brushes do not manufacture pens, buying semi-finished products at specialized enterprises. It is economically more profitable. However, Russian manufacturers are forced to have their own woodworking shops, which increases the cost of the goods, and sometimes leads to a decrease in its quality (for example, poor processing).
At the last stage, the smear is fixed on the handle using a metal crimp clip. In the production of high-quality professional brushes, they undergo a mandatory quality check. It is carried out by specialists who test the brush stroke - visually and even by ear, check the hair for the presence of impurities and other additives.
Finally, markings are applied to the brush, special transparent pencil cases are put on so that the hairs do not wrinkle and do not fluff. Then, the finished product is packaged for shipment in bags, blisters or in a film with Euro-suspension. The last two packaging options are used for school brushes intended for sale through self-service retail chains. Professional brushes are usually sold individually.
The cost of special equipment necessary to open your own business for the production of art brushes is more than 300 thousand rubles. Moreover, the technology is constantly being improved, and in order to keep up with competitors, manufacturers have to constantly update their lines at least once every three years. Specialists working in artisanal enterprises (the so-called cysts) must have extensive experience. You can become a professional no earlier than five years from the start of training. And the productivity of such firms is several times inferior to large factories, so it is almost impossible to compete with the latter.
The assortment of Russian-made brushes is much more modest than that of Western enterprises. The reasons for this are that the current domestic drawing teachers at one time had an extremely limited selection of professional products, so they simply do not know how to use special brushes that were not in Soviet times. Perhaps in the future, when demand for them grows, manufacturers will significantly expand their product range.
Meanwhile, synthetics is an excellent material both in price and in quality. If the cost of natural raw materials increases every year, then the prices of synthetics only fall. Prefabricated squirrel hair is priced at $ 750-900 per kilogram. This is enough for the production of 800 brushes No. 1. Thus, the cost of such a brush is quite large. The cost of synthetic hair is half that of squirrel hair, and ten times less than a hair column. Synthetic fiber is made on the basis of polyesters. The fiber is blown under pressure to form a tip. It has good elasticity and can be assembled into bundles of various diameters, which allows for good control over fluidity. Experts are confident that in the near future brushes made of squirrel and a column will gradually cease to be produced, and they will be replaced by cheap brushes made of synthetics, which in their qualities will even surpass natural materials.
Professional and school brushes are issued under different trademarks. Moreover, brand fragmentation is observed even within the same trading group. Thus, despite the large, at first glance, the variety of products for artists, manufacturers who work in this market, not so much.
The market for art goods is rather narrow. All major manufacturers work with several major dealers with their own retail stores. They advertise their products on specialized forums and websites on the Internet, as well as in publications for artists and in stores selling such products. In addition, manufacturing companies supply special trading equipment and catalogs, open showrooms where their employees conduct consultations and master classes. School brushes are sold in large volumes through stationery stores, retail chains, including super and hypermarkets.
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