The Kolinsky Sable Brush Lament

November 4th, 2014 | Posted in News

The Winsor Newton Series 7 watercolor brush is considered by many comic artists, myself included, to be the best inking brush available. I’ve tried other brushes, including both synthetic and natural hair, and none I’ve found are comparable. Series 7s have a tremendous “snapping” quality that allow the brush to keep its shape and point, and return right back to it, with vigorous use. They resist splitting and last for a long time with proper care.

Unfortunately, they have become very hard to get in the U.S. thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and something called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES), which has caused a ban on the import of these brushes and others made with the same hair which is obtained from the tails of the Siberian Weasel, also called a kolinsky. There is a lot of rumor and conjecture as to what is going on and why it’s been banned, most of it wrong.

The Kolinsky is not an endangered species. It’s actually a very common rodent in Asia and considered a pest in many areas. The Siberian weasel is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “least concern for extinction”, the lowest risk of extinction they can assign any animal, due to its large distribution and population (Wikipedia).

So why the ban? Here’s a post that explains in detail, but the gist of it is nothing more than a paperwork screw up. Essentially CITIES is an international agreement between governments to try to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of said animals and vegetation. While the Kolinsky is not threatened nor even close to being considered in danger of being so, CITIES has the species listed as needing to be monitored to be sure it does not become endangered (???). CITIES requires all sorts of certificates to prove that the export, import and re-export of anything like animal fur is within CITIES guidelines, and that incomprehensibly includes this non-endangered rodent. Apparently some time ago several shipments of Kolinsky hair were shipped to China with invalid certificates issued by a non-approved organization and were rejected by CITIES, and thus all brushes made with Kolinsky hair are banned from US import. ALL brushes mind you, since CITIES can’t tell which ones were made with the hairs imported to China under incorrect paperwork and which ones were made with hair imported under perfectly acceptable certificates.

No one seems to be able to tell anyone when this mess will be corrected and when we will be able to legally import Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes in the U.S. again. In the meantime the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and CITIES continue their heroic and tireless fight to protect the continued existence of unendangered, rodent pests everywhere with their mountains of paperwork moving at a speed that makes glaciers look like Ferarris.

Excellent work, CITIES and the U.S. government!


  1. Mike Edholm says:

    I was going to write you to ask where you are getting yours. I’m having a hellofa time finding them…. The UK is my next stop.

  2. Governments generally have a hard time with math. There are countless “threatened” plants that literally COVER every hillside in every eastern Oregon and Washington and Idaho county. You cannot pick those plants. You cannot disturb those plants. You cannot eat those plants. Because in the future those plants MIGHT become endangered.

    It’s a world ruled by bureaucrats who falsely claim knowledge of things that can’t be known…

  3. Jack Myhervold says:

    I’m picturing some pukey naturist outside a Dick Blick art supply store holding up a protest sign with a picture of a sad Kolinsky, and the words – Kolinsky VS Winsor Newton – A BRUSH WITH DEATH!!. It’s costly Tom, but I have been getting brushes made from the durable hair’s of lowest hairline ever commentator, Judge Napolitano!.

  4. Connie Nobbe says:

    Just last week, I ordered a kolinsky sable brush (pocket version) from Rosemary Brushes, located in England. I’ve never tried a kolinsky hair brush, but I’ve heard it’s the best. I can’t wait to try it. Rosemary brushes is a wonderful small company with great customer service.

    • Jack Myhervold says:

      Thanks for the tip. I went to the site and ordered 2 Kolinsky brushes. At first my order was denied because I thought they would change the currency to US at the end of the ordering, but I went to the top of the page to change it. They seemed to prefer Pay Pal rather than just my card. We’ll see if they allow me to have the Kolinsky here in the states, or if I am hauled off to appear before a new Senate sub-committee hearing on animal cruelty charges!.

  5. I just ordered and received a few Series 7 #0s from Dick Blick, which until recently had been out of stock, so they appear to be available again.

  6. carsenlud says:

    The difference is always palpable when using the dreaded synthetic brush or other lesser brushes. Maybe their attempt to edge out the indusputable champ of all brushes. I’ve noticed its scarcity as well.


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