A Kolinsky is a member of the Siberian weasel family with tail hairs that are nice for brushes. The casual word used for Kolinsky is sable. There are actually several natural sources for “sable”, and Kolinsky is one of them. This is what a Kolinsky looks like. Isn’t he cute?
Sable brushes used to be the highest quality brushes for oil and watercolor. Old school painters swear by nothing else. Since 2013, Kolinsky brushes have been banned, but some tails got grandfathered in, harvested prior to 2013 so they are still available, especially from European brush makers. (I believe this to be true, but if you have different info please let me know.)
Over time these sable brushes have increased in price, decreased in quality (due to global warming), and have become largely unnecessary due to the innovations in synthetic fibers. While there is a very valid argument for choosing natural over synthetic (thereby avoiding plastics and keepin’ it real), I have some conflicts about enjoying a creative tool that someone died for. And if death doesn’t stop me, the price will. Quality sable brushes are outrageously expensive. Just yesterday I held a sable Escoda watercolor brush priced at $170.
The Escoda family makes some of the finest brushes in the world, and while they use some natural fibers, they also use some of the world’s finest synthetics. Their Versatil synthetic Kolinsky brush is the modern-day alternative to the natural Kolinsky. My personal favorite brush is the Escoda Modernista, an oil brush made with synthetic mongoose. The brushes are absolutely exquisite. They taught me a new level of painting, and a new appreciation for quality tools.
LINK TO VIDEO: The Making of an Escoda Brush (4 minutes)
Two reps from the Escoda family show how Escoda brushes are made. Each brush is hand crafted. Watch the video to see how it’s done.