Art Supply Insiders Podcast

ASI 34 "The Care and Cleaning of your art brushes". Interview with Dee Silver, President, Silver Brush Limited

June 28, 2022 Jeff Morrow
Art Supply Insiders Podcast
ASI 34 "The Care and Cleaning of your art brushes". Interview with Dee Silver, President, Silver Brush Limited
Show Notes Transcript

In our interview with Dee Silver, President of Silver Brush Limited, Dee wants you to know that quality brushes are an investment in yourself and your art. Silver Brush wants you to have the knowledge and tools necessary to ensure the longevity of your brushes and give you the absolute best painting experience with every stroke. If you've listened to the information on this podcast but still have questions, please feel free to them by clicking here to go to their brush care website.
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Jeff00:02

Welcome back to art supply insiders. My name is Jeff Morrow and we're very excited to have Dee Silver back for a second time. Dee is the president of silver brush limited, and Dee's gonna be talking to us today about the care and cleaning of brushes. How you doing today?

Dee00:19

I'm great. I'm great. I hope all of you are. I hope you had a great Memorial day weekend. It was a lot of fun. Got to do. We got to do a lot of things. I hope you did too. When everybody listening did.

Jeff00:31

Mostly, I got to rest. So that was high on my agenda.

Dee00:38

Okay. If that was high on your agenda then so be it. That's great news.

Jeff00:42

So today let's talk. It seems like we can talk about three things like the preparing your new brush for use.

We can talk about cleaning brushes and we can talk about the preservation and storage of brushes. So why don't we start out with preparing your new brush for use? What are the things that our audience should be doing when they get a new brush?

Dee01:06

So sometimes it really depends on where they actually bought the brush.

So if you go to an art supply store, very oftentimes the sizing is already brushed out of the hair. It, it that's different if then they bought it online because if they buy it online, it's probably in the prepackaged shape and they'll have to take the sizing out. So the first thing you have to do when you get a new artist brush is take the cap off.

A lot of these brushes come with plastic caps. The first thing you have to do is take the plastic cap off and then throw it away. The plastic cap. Only for one thing. It's to come getting from the manufacturer's floor to your, to your artist studio, that's it, that's the whole function of that plastic cap.

I've seen many, many people who take time and they wanna get the plastic cap back on again. And, and they think it's gonna help the brush and keep it. Well, it's not, it's actually the opposite because what can happen with a plastic cap is number one, you get hair. and you, you jam it in and it goes into the, you know, on the side of the ferrule and you think, oh my goodness, I, I broken the brush or I've destroyed the hair or something like that, which you haven't, by the way, you have not destroyed it, but it is a very frustrating thing.

eSo that's one very important thing that happens. And the second thing that happens very often is people will put the brush in wet and you can get mildew. You can get mildew. Now it does not destroy the brush. You can just take the mildew off when you go to use it, but it is ugly. It's a gray furry kind of thing.

Sort of like mouse hair almost. Mm. And You, you don't want that. So that's a couple of reasons why you should just throw away that plastic cap, by the way, if you have done that and you've got the hair that goes down on the side of the feral, what you can do simply is this take the hair, do not cut it.

Never cut an artist brush. Not certainly not a silver brush. Don't cut it. Take it. Put that the hair that's going all over. Kind of crazy into boiling water. Just dip it in very quickly and you'll see the hair relax. It'll go back to its original shape. Just pull it down very gently with your hand other hand.

And you've got a brush that's willing to work again. So it's not all lost. It's it's absolutely usable, but that first preparation is very important. So you wanna take. The you tend take off the plastic cap. You wanna take out the sizing now at silver brush, we use a vegetable sizing. And the reason why we do that is so that it looks like a really nice package when it goes out of our manufacturing floor.

So it, it can be very heavy in the brush. It could be very stiff. The brush is much stiffer than you thought it was gonna be that's course of all the sizing that's in it. Very simply just go put it in clean water. And just swoosh it around. If it's giving you a hard time, it doesn't wanna come out and put a little bit of like ivory, liquid or something on your hand, rub it and just put it under the water called water and it will come right out.

You can do that for hog bristle. You can use that for Sable. You can use that for any synthetic fiber and they all work exactly the same. So the first thing you wanna do is take the sizing out of it. Now it depends on if the brush is a soft hair. It, what we call a soft hair is something made outta goat hair or something made out of maybe a Sable or, or very soft hair, where sometimes you have the annoyance of that stray filament that comes out when you're painting.

So, if you go directly from buying the brush to painting, you might have some difficulty with, with these issues because you, number one, you wanna get the sizing out and you wanna clean it up and you, then you wanna look at it. So before you actually use the brush, what I'm suggesting is you should do something called knifing.

Knifing is a very, very simple process. You take the back of a butter knife, and that means it's a flat back. It's not the sharp. And just gently tug it on all of the hair, especially the goat hair at all. And you'll see that you'll get little loose hair and you just put it, you know, put it away that loose hair would've gone into your painting and, you know, cause all kinds of grief and aggravation for you cuz you, you have to get a tweezer and all that kind of stuff to get out.

Right. But the important thing here is to remember is not to tug it very hard, do it very, very gently. And it's the back of a plastic butter knife. And it really prolongs the wearability of the brush. You feel like you really got no good brush, nothing is wrong with it. You'll see. Very, very. At least silver brush.

I'm always talking about silver brushes. You'll see, very few hairs actually come out. So that's the best way to prepare a brush and you know, it could take 10 minutes of your time to do all these things, but it's well worth it in the long end. Long run because it'll it'll last that much longer. Now I have had people ask me, can you do that with synthetic fiber and the answer's sure, but you're not gonna have that problem with synthetic fiber cuz it's completely different species.

And you know, basically you put that in it's it's a extruded plastic and it's gonna be held in the ferrule very strong with the epoxy and then the crimping. So that really won't happen with syn synthetic fiber. Generally that happens with a natural fiber.

Jeff06:25

So tell me why, why is it when I buy or when our audience buys a new brush, why do hairs come out? Because it seems like hairs shouldn't come out.

Dee06:34

So by its very nature. okay. So it's not gonna happen with synthetic brushes because of the very nature that you can mold it together and you can glue it together very easily. And, and that's not gonna happen with synthetic brushes. If it does, then you probably have a Monday morning brush, you know, somebody to do the job of the epoxy with inside the ferrule right?

It is not unusual to happen with natural hair. Natural hair is very, very fine. It's extremely fine and very, very thin. And so capturing that hair. Into it, it actually goes into glue. It should be glued. Sometimes they don't capture all the hair and it's very lightweight and it, you know, it may not even be long enough to be captured so that maybe it's some of the, the shorter length hairs.

So when you're doing the knifing, you'll see those shorter hairs will start pulling out. Remember we're not, we're doing it very gently. We're not, you know, we're not ripping it apart. We're trying to do it very gently in a silver brush. It is not a defective brush. If you, if a couple of hairs come out with natural hair, it's, it's just the nature of the way the hair is.

It's very fine. Sometimes you get a shorter length out then the, then the longer length out and you know, that does happen, but it's not frequent. So if it happens a lot, then there really could be something wrong with the brush. From what I've seen over the years that happens consistently. With a manufacturer that has had a problem in their warehouse, either the warehouse is exceptionally dry, exceptionally cold, and that tends to shrink the epoxy.

And you can have hair coming out from that. We try and we heat our warehouse in the winter. And we, we tend not to have that issue at all. Okay. But you know, it, it can happen, but so it happens.

Jeff08:24

So our audience doesn't need to freak out if they see some brushes come out and don't need to return it immediately.

It's just some hair, part of the nature. Yeah. It's some of the hair. Yeah.

Dee08:34

The hair. Right. And, and, you know, basically. Look, if, if you have a couple of hairs that come out, you're you're okay. But if you see a whole side come out of a brush that's a defective brush, you know, sense. I, someone came up to me at a, a consumer trade show once and showed it to me and I went well, you know, it, it missed the epoxy glue that was inside.

Then it missed the epoxy that was in the ferrule and you have a defective brush. It can happen.

Jeff09:06

Makes perfect sense. So, so now we've ta it's a brand new brush we've taken the cap off, right. We've taken the sizing out of it and we've used it on our, whatever we're doing, whatever we're painting. Mm-hmm what are, what are the tips that you can offer in cleaning a brush that has been used?

Dee09:24

Well, there's a couple of really important issues here. So what happens after you have a, a long painting time is here's. Here's a couple of tips for you. Don't ever leave a brush in water for any extended period of time or any kind of solvent, anything at all. The moisture is the enemy of a brush.

Okay. Because what happens is it can seep into the hair. It goes up in the ferrule and then it starts cracking the handle and people get really very upset when the handle starts to crack. Not realizing it may have been something that they were doing in the studio. They didn't realize it. And look, this is, this is what happened and they're very aggravated about it.

The Mo so that's really one of the, as you're painting, don't leave it in water. So you, you get a phone call or you, you have to go to the bathroom or going to get lunch or whatever. Take the brush out of any moisture and just leave it flat on your, on your table, on your work table. That's the best advice.

Okay. That's in between sessions. Then what you wanna do is you wanna clean. So, what happens to brush is when it's being used on a canvas is very often the paint goes into the feral. So that's, that's a real bug ABO because you know, that's what starts to make the hair go crazy. Even though you say, well, I cleaned it and I did all of this and look, the hair's going all over the place.

Nine times outta 10, the hair there's paint in the ferrule what is the paint? The paint could be oil color. It could be acrylic color. Rarely is it watercolor? Cuz watercolor is just colored water as it says. And it just flows right out.

Jeff11:01

Now before you do, before you go on, hang on just a second. Let me ask you this. You use the term ferrule so the ferrule is that, that, that piece that's between the handle and the brushes. Is that what a ferrule is?

Dee11:14

The, so there's three parts to every brush. So there's the head, which is what we call it. And that's the part with the hair. So the hair can be, you know, natural hair is synthetic hair, and then there's the part it fits into.

That's the metal part that's called the ferrule and then there's the handle. So you've got three parts. I use them interchangeably obviously, cuz I've been doing this for a very long time. So what happens in ferrules where all the action is. Okay. That's where all the action is. Whether it's going to last a lifetime or it's, it's gonna fall apart.

All that action is in the ferrule itself. So it's, I, if you look at the ferrule you're gonna see that. So they're painting with this Say hog bristle brush. And that oil color goes into the ferrule that's at the tip where the hair goes into the ferrule that creates the problem of the hair flying all over and they say, okay, now what, how am I gonna get this out of here?

And depending how long it's been in the ferrule that's, you know, that gives them the opportunity to clean it off. Do try and get the brush to. Have the head down when you're drying the brush because if you have the head down, then moisture will flow out. The biggest problem that people have is when the Mo.

Paint goes into the ferrule nine times out of 10, they're putting their brush handle F head handle first into a cup or some sort of holder. And the moisture goes right down and the paint goes right down and that's where it really starts to create its problem. So you wanna do just the opposite. You wanna try and let it dry with the head down.

So there's lots of tricks for that. You know, you can take another brush and get the, the back of the handle up and let the head. Slow down. Mm-hmm . Or you can use an Ash tray. I use in my, when I do my Facebook lives, I'd use an Ash tray and the, the old Ash trays, which no one should be smoking anymore.

So you might as well use, put it to good use. my brother, my brother-in-law gave me a couple of beautiful crystal Ash trays. And that's what I use for drying the brushes when I'm demoing. And basically what you can do is you can lay a brush. Two of the cigarette holders. And then you put the other brush down and you get the backup and you get the head going forward.

It's not touching anything, but the moisture is flowing out now that's, that's how you can preserve your brush. So it's that paint that goes in the ferrule that gives you the most problems. How do you get it out? Let's go back to the original thing. I talked about, get a, a cup of water, put it in the microwave for.

Two minutes, two solid minutes, and then it's gonna be bubbling. It's gonna be really hot. Don't touch it. Okay. Just use the handle, put that, that brush into the cup. Not long, just for a couple of seconds and, but do it midway up to the, to the ferrule and you are gonna see that the, the paint inside is gonna start to melt.

Mm, that's gonna start to melt and you're gonna have rainbow colors coming out, get a clean non-lint cloth and start pulling that color out. That that will make it a lot faster. If it's more than a year old, especially with acrylics, good luck with that because you know, it's just dried in there. It's gonna be brutal to get it out, try and get to cleaning your brushes as soon as you possibly can, because you can really have for years and years and years I recently had an email from a customer, very satisfied customer.

Who bought one of our grand Prix, which is a hog bristle brush, nothing is left on the handle. She just knew it was ours from the colors of, of the handle, cuz it's a beautiful green and a copper ferrule and you know, she was talking about it and she said, you know, she does exactly what I told her to do and, and she's still using it and that's because she let you know the hair, the, the moisture flow out, you know, of the hair.

So it. You know, these are just tips and tricks. They don't cost you anything and it can preserve the life of the brush. And if you've spent to me, if I spent 30 or $40 on a, a tool that I use in my studio, I would wanna preserve it. Yes, absolutely. You know, I think it's very important taking the time. It doesn't take very long, but it is really important.

Jeff15:29

So I mean, really there's three types of, of, of, of things that you can use your brush with. It'd be an oil, it'd be an acrylic and it'd be a watercolor, generally speaking. Do you, do you clean all three of those exactly the same way? Or do you change, do you, do you clean them differently?

Dee15:47

Well, Obviously, if you're using oil color, you need a solvent based medium, a solvent, a solvent based cleaner to take off the oil color mm-hmm

So that's you know, one of the many odorless solvents that you can buy at the art supply store, I never ever recommend going into a big box store to buy it because that's, that's the worst thing you can. They have, they don't have a purity that the art supply companies do, they have a lot of harsh chemicals in it, and it, if you're using a synthetic fiber, it could really melt it.

It could really melt the synthetic fiber. It's, it's simple as that. And that's, that's the death knell of a synthetic brush. If you do that, it's. it's, you know, you just it's toast. Cut yourself off. Yeah. Now what happens is you start seeing the little hair starts to crunch up when you put it in solvent.

If it's a synthetic and I've tried to get the Sy, you know, I've tried to do everything I can, but I couldn't clean it out. So do not use a harsh solvent when you're using a synthetic brush and an oil color.

Jeff16:51

Okay. And with acrylics, is, is there a tip on best ways to, to clean acrylic?

Dee16:58

Well, acrylics are a water base, so you can use any of the anything that's a water base.

You can use Murphy's oil, you can use master's cleaner. You can use, you can use master cleaner on the oil base. Also. You can use, you know, an ivory liquid type of thing, and as long as it's not a detergent, as long as it's not harmful. Over the years, we've, I've actually liked the putting some, a little bit of conditioner on the brush head, especially when it's a an animal hair, you know, it makes, keeps it moist, but you gotta make sure you wash that out before you go and paint with it.

Jeff17:31

Gotcha. So, so we've prepared our new brush. We've now cleaned our brush. So talk a bit about the preservation and the storage of it. How should we keep these things so that they stay clean for years and years and years?

Dee17:49

So you've gone through. taking the, the paint off. And basically that's getting some, you know, some sort of cloth or paper towel or something, and you're taking off all the excess paint and then you use whatever cleaner you're gonna use.

And a lot of times people take use oil brushes, they use the cleaners to get it off, and then they also use the soap, like the general pencil Masters cleaner or the you know, the Murphy's oil. They like that. And so now you've got a very clean brush and you wanna store. What's really important to remember with animal hair.

Is that depending on the animal hair, it's very prone to parasites. Mm-hmm so depending on where you live. if you know that you are in an area that has a lot of little parasites, if you get a lot of moths if you get a lot of mosquitoes, you know, you, you know, it's in your neighborhood, you wanna protect your brush from that.

So you wanna store it in a very cool, you wanna store them in a very cool dry area. There's a lot of people I noticed in their workshops in their, sorry, in their artist studios, they have flat files. And in the flat files, they, you know, they put down some sort of, you know, moisture barrier, you know, like a paper towel or something like that.

And they put the the brushes in there to dry. But maybe also, if you put some sort of moth resistant, what we use here is some Cedar blocks mm-hmm . I also was able to find some Cedar chips. So with our natural hair, our Sables and things like that, we have them very well protected against. You know, little parasites coming into our warehouse, cuz our dock doors are open all summer long because we're gonna get some circulating air in there.

And so you wanna put something that's a parasite resistant and I, I can't tell you one thing or the other, I mean, you know, don't put it too close to the brushes cuz the brushes will absorb it, smell. Put it in a sort of like a distant area, not too close. Give it a little bit of breathing room, but cool and dry.

Jeff19:47

So when, when I look in a lot of artist studios, they have tons of brushes sitting in cans, you know, all around there. Is that a bad way to store a brush? Should they not do that? Or is that okay?

Dee20:04

Well, it's the same problem might I described before so that they're sitting up in a, in a can and especially in the summertime, they're they're gonna be subject to parasite.

But the other thing that's gonna happen is you're probably letting it dry like that. So the moisture's gonna go into the ferrule ah, so you're immediately gonna start having the issues. So if you, if you don't have sufficient area to let your brushes dry flat Try and do them a little group at a time and let them dry on your some sort of flat surface in, in the studio.

And then you, once they're all dry, then you could put them up in the cans. I know they look lovely and they look very artistic. on You know, I there was a program not long ago. Well, a couple years ago now John Howard Sanden had all his brushes. They were had interviewed him and on Sunday morning and he had all these, all my stable brushes in cans right before him.

And you know, I, I looked at that and I thought, John, I hope you really clean them and wait until they dry before you put them in the can. And so, you know, I know it's very easy for people, you know, get a coffee, can get a, any kind of cup or anything like that. It's easy to store like that, but it's not necessarily great for the brush.

Jeff21:21

Okay. It's, it's still a problem. I've seen people that they put them in these zippered pouches, or they have these cloth where they put the brushes in and they roll them up. Is, is that a must for, for storing brushes?

Dee21:36

Well, it's certainly better than putting it in anything plastic. I don't think there's anything wrong with putting it in fabric at all.

Fabric is a breathable substance. So the brushes absolutely can breathe in that. And I think it's just fine. Also. I think there are a lot less prone for, to parasites and I think it it, you know, unless you crunch them fabric in some way, but if you can, if you can put the roll with the brushes in it on a flat surface, that's great.

Just don't put brushes in plastic pouches or plastic case or plastic boxes. There are a lot of storage containers and they say they're for artist brushes, but there's no air going in them at all. So what happens is it traps the moisture in there and you can get rot. You really can get rot and it's not good for the handles.

So before you put the brushes into. You know, one of those plastic holders make sure they're completely dry. So if you say you're going from your studio to a class, your teacher or student or whatever, and you have one of these nice art boxes. You that you have, if you wanna use that, make sure your brushes are in something portable to take out, whether it's a storage case or one of these rollups or something like that and get the brushes out of the case because don't trap the moisture with the brush. It's really a bad, it's a really bad thing. It can really corrode the brush. It start chipping the handles. You could start having mildew on the head. Plastic is our enemy in artist brushes.

Jeff23:14

Wow, great point. So if our audience wanted to say they'd listened to this and, and, and, and they wanna see more, can they go to your website? And do you have information about brush care?

Dee23:26

I, everything I just told you is also on our, at silverbrush.com. It is under brush care. I. And you can just, you could just hook up to that and you know, see me in action. I actually have a couple of videos where I'm demonstrating how to clean a brush, how to take care of brushes and how to prolong the life of a brush.

I don't think there's anything more important. I can say this. I, I am talking about a Silver Brush. And I know the quality of these brushes and they are extraordinary quality and you will pay a dollar or two more for the brushes, but I'm gonna show you why the, our brushes are worth that little bit more money.

And by the way, it's not a whole big bunch of money. We're talking about dollars, not, not tens of dollars. And. to me, if you're gonna make the investment already in a really good artist brush, take the time to get a good quality brush and then take good care of it. And I, I tell you, you know, this lady bought her Grand Prix brush about 20 years ago.

It's not unusual for us to have people come back and say, you know, you gave me. Some of these demo brushes years ago, when I first created the brush, like 1995, I created Ruby Satin. I still have people using our Ruby that Ruby Satin brush. And we know it because they just have funny numbers on the handles.

It's not like it's got the real imprint, so it's, you know, if you take good care of it, it will last a lifetime. And you know, it, everybody says things aren't made the way they used to be and all this other. Well at Silver Brush, we really believe in that. So we take a lot of time to create a, a really high very very high quality artist brush. We really do.

Jeff25:08

Well, there's absolutely no doubt that you not only manufacture a great brush, but you have all of the tips necessary to ensure that that brush stays in pristine condition for a very, very long time. So Dee thank you so very much for doing this again. You've given our audience everything they need to know on how to prepare your brush, how to clean your brush and how to preserve your brush. So again, thank you very much.

Dee25:38

You're very welcome. It's my pleasure. Any time.

Jeff25:41

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