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long description of brushmaking

updated mon 13 jan 03


Karen Sullivan on sun 12 jan 03

My interest in brush making started about 15 years ago. I have evolved from
techniques borrowed from fly fishing techniques of wrapping the fishing rod=
splitting the base, where the ferrel/brush end of the brush is located, and
wrapping with tape, dental flos. I now drill out/route the site for the
brush hair in the portion of the bamboo that has a well and about 1-2 inche=
away from a membrane/web I place the hair into the cavity.

I have tried a number of types of hair=8Amy current favorite is elk mane that
I purchase from a tannery in Lander Wyoming=8Athey have a web site which is
Or another name for them is Rocky Mountain Dubbing,
P.O. Box 1255, Lander Wyoming 82520, phone 307.332.2989
I talk to Steve and ask for elk mane=8A
Another source is in Moscow, Idaho
And their web site is

I keep the fur attached to the hide=8Ato increase the life of the brush=8A
I twirl the hide and hair and stuff it into the bamboo well=8A
I try to consider the nap, or growth of the hair. I want the hair growth to
be straight=8A
The glue I use is 15 minute epoxy.

I use steel wool to polish the bamboo=8Aas it oxidizes and turns chalky grey.
The selection of bamboo stalks is a matter of hunting and luck in
discovering the portion of the stalk that are treasures. The site of the
bamboo that is just beginning to grow above ground is the location where th=
rhizome root is bursting with new growth and is the most interesting to me.
It is also the most work to pull out, clean and polish.
I also dig out sections of the root. Those take considerably longer to clea=
and polish. And you would need to drill the site for the hair and the wood
is dense.

I have tried a variety of animal hair, elk, goat, ringtail cat and squirrel
are the choices of hair that are most successful. I have had the most luck
using portions of hair attached to the hide.

Using the brush

The brushes I make will not push pigment, rather they pull pigment in what
is often thought of as sumi/ calligraphy painting techniques.

I think of each brush having a specific vocabulary of form. So in using my
brushes play with the amount of pressure you exert on the brush in the
drawing of a line=8A go from gentle pressure and you should be able to draw a
thin hair line=8A. exert more pressure for a more dense line.
Then move the brush down and sideways for a wide line.
I tend to place the work on the floor and stand over it, so the act of
painting engages my entire arm=8A not just my wrist.