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by Larissa Gill May 13, 2016 2 min read

Brush making is a modest craft.

Well it's certainly not as exuberant as a desired dressmaker or a fancy chocolatier. But nevertheless it's impressive.

Winsor and Newton have been manufacturing in Britain for well over 150 years. Their brush quality standards were set in 1866 by Queen Victoria, who was an enthusiastic watercolourist and requested the finest watercolour brush in her favourite size 7. Now many of their products hold a royal warrant by appointment of HRH the Prince of Wales (good old Charles). The factory in the coastal town of Lowestoft, Suffolk has been there since 1946; moving to this location after the war due to the high percentage of skilled locals who could mend fishing nets. Nimble fingers, of course!

Winsor & Newton brush factory production.


Obviously the workshop has been updated but the traditional skills still remain. Some of the workforce at Winsor & Newton have been there for almost 50 years. Considering that amount of experience it's no wonder it can't be surpassed by digital machinery or shaping cannons. Hand crafting is the gentlest way to avoid damaging the hairs. Yes it is pedantic but in the best way possible, they strive for perfection.

The world's finest watercolour brush

Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes are often seen as superior. Made by the experts with minimum of 10 years brush making experience, using only the robust tail hair from Siberian weasels. The hair for each brush is prepared from start to finish entirely by hand, beginning with cleaning the hairs without the use of detergents. Then separated in to grades and lengths (literally splitting hairs) there are many stages; a single brush is usually created by around six skilled people.

Once the hairs have been bundled, ironed and rested to ensure no static remains, they tied with a linen cord, twisting and shaping to form the dome and tapered point of the brush. This is then attached to the nickel plated ferrule and finally to the handle. 

To be honest I didn't know these brushes are hand crafted and I've only used kolinsky sable brushes in wet pointing; which is without colour to demonstrate how the fuller bristles hold water. They really do retain their shape and point constantly throughout use. Natural hair is softer than synthetic alternatives, and in my opinion requires that extra bit of care.

The finished product, available at ArtDiscount in sizes 000 to 10.  With such a dedicated craftsmanship put into producing each brush, Kolinsky brushes are made to last.

Larissa Gill
Larissa Gill


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