Rosemary & Co.

Rosemary Jackson is the owner and chief brushmaker of Rosemary & Co, a small brush manufactory in West Yorkshire, England. Formerly of ABS Brushes, which was dissolved in January, 2004, Jackson has been making brushes for over 20 years and has retained the same quality of materials and design in her new products. A selection is catalogued at the Rosemary & Co web site and a fuller selection through her free print brochure.

Rosemary has worked closely with artists in England and around the world to refine her products and develop specialty brushes for different media. As she says, "for the professional artists out there who sometimes work long hours like myself and perhaps don't have much fun painting at 2 in the morning, I hope by using a quality tool I can throw a little sunshine your way." Overall I found her brushes to be cost competitive and very good quality for the money. (Note: Rosemary mentions on her web site ("How to Order") that she deducts the 17% European value added tax or VAT from all shipments to the USA, which amounts to a 15% discount off the tax inclusive prices shown on her site.)

Kolinsky - The handmade Series 22 pure kolinsky designer rounds are a remarkable value for the quality of hair and materials. Sizes range from #0 to #16; custom sizes available on request. The handles are black lacquered wood, slightly thicker than most, with a double crimped nickel ferrule; total length of the #12 is 23.2cm. (This is in the "short" handle, which seems a little too short to me; Rosemary also offers a "long" handled brush at about 5% higher price.) The tuft in the #12 is 37mm long and 27mm in circumference at the ferrule, with a 9mm belly when wet. These rounds are unusual in that they do not have the typical wiry kolinsky "snap": they are made of a quite soft sable, which some painters may find too limp. (As always, the marketing term "kolinsky" is not a reliable indicator of brush quality or characteristics.) They respond immediately to slight variations in touch or brush angle, and are one of the best for bringing out the surface of cold pressed or rough textured papers. They hold a good charge of paint, snap to a perfect "needle" point when wet, and shake out effortlessly. They clean up well but take a little longer than other brushes to dry. The hairs are only moderately packed at the ferrule edge, which may let pigment collect far inside the tuft. That drawback aside, these brushes are a great pleasure to use: it's very gratifying to see how responsively they render almost any brushstroke you can imagine; and with their flexibility they invite a greater range of expressive improvisation. These are truly an artist's tools, at prices an artist can afford. Rosemary also offers a Series 1 pointed pure kolinsky sable mop (with a quill ferrule wrapped with copper wire), a Series 11 pure kolinsky filbert (cat's tongue), a Series 33 pointed pure kolinsky (with a slightly shorter tuft than the Series 22, and less expensive) and a Series 44 pure kolinksy rigger (with a longer, narrower tuft). Prices of the Series 22 (short handle): #6, US$17.96; #12, US$86.51.

Rosemary & Co pure kolinsky designer (#6 & #12);
Rosemary & Co pure kolinsky
one strokes (1/2" and 1")

The Series 55 pure kolinsky one stroke are available in the standard six widths of 1/8", 1/4", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4" and 1" in either a short or long handle. You'll notice at once that the double crimped nickel ferrule (uncrimped in the 1" size) is narrower than on most commercial flats — just 4mm thick — which gives the tuft a more flexible, almost floppy behavior when charged with paint; the width of the painting edge of the tuft also contracts (narrows) more strongly when wet. The black lacquered handle is slightly thicker than usual, and can be ordered in regular or long lengths; total length of the 1" brush is 23.2cm (regular handle). The exposed hairs in the 1" brush are 34mm long and 26mm wide at the ferrule, moderately packed, with a 5mm belly when wet. The tuft is softer than most other "kolinsky" flats, and snaps to a strong inward taper and chisel edge when wet, but it flattens out to a wider chisel edge when applied with slight pressure to the paper. As with the rounds, these brushes can render a remarkably wide range of strokes, bring out the surface texture of the paper, and are great fun to use. Prices (short handle): 1/2", US$38.90; 1", US$76.17.

Other Sable - Rosemary & Co makes red sable watercolor rounds, as well as riggers, fans, filberts, brights, mops and spotters. Sizes of the rounds range from #000 to #24 in the standard intervals, and custom sizes are available on request. You can order nearly all these brushes with the handles in regular or long (which is about 4" longer). The sables are made to the same quality as the pure kolinskies, but have slightly smaller tufts in the large sizes (#12 and up). Prices of red sable rounds: #6, US$5.90; #12, US$35.20.

The red sable flats come in both "one stroke" (long hairs, rectangular shape) and bright (short hairs, square shape) styles. The one strokes are in the standard five widths, but the brights are in eleven widths sized numerically from #1 (~3mm) to #18 (20mm), again with regular or long handles. Prices of the "one stroke" flats: 1/2", US$20.40; 1", US$52.30.

Other Types - Rosemary & Co makes an unusually large range of other brushes that I can hardly do justice to here. Most of their brushes are described on their web site, linked above, where you can explore on your own. While you are there, request their print catalog, which is more convenient to use and contains many brushes not listed online.

I suggest you order two or three brushes from Rosemary & Co before you foray into other brands (Cheap Joe's and Rekab are also worth starting with). Rosemary & Co provides excellent quality, handmade beauty, and a reliable standard by which to judge the quality of mass produced products from larger volume art supply companies. And their mail catalog and web site are a model of factual marketing: all brushes are photographed against 1/4" graph paper, so you know exactly the size you are ordering.