To live and enjoy every day to its fullest, use my gifts to help others, I travel to wherever passion finds me.

What Will She Paint?

So many friends I met here...!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


This brush comes from China. In Beijing, the capital, we were searching for books written in English. We found three in total, and this story is about what happened in the second book store.
This was the year before the Olympics, so mainland China was gearing up for an English speaking invasion. Most book stores had some English titles on the cover. But upon opening up the book, the text was in Chinese.
The only English books in this store were the tourist guides and maps.

Suddenly, close to the cash register in the back of the store, I see what looks like a coat rack with several big painting brushes hanging on it. they all have very nice handles. On the end of this handle is the skin or the animal (All these images can be enlarged for a closeer look). It has partly the color of the skin in the pic below,and also some black hair. And in the middle is a hard(bony?) piece, where they have made a hole so the brush can hang. There was only one brush that was more expensive than the one I chose.

"What hair?" do I ask. Two people start talking and one looks for a long time in a dictionary. Then another person asks if we wanted to buy something. I point to the brush, and repeat my question. He then walks up to the young man still looking in the dictionary. A little later, a third person adds himself to the group. After some time, this company disperses.

They didn't give me feedback! So, I ask the question again. I have learned that when you don't understand the language of the country you are in, you just keep repeating, till they give you some kind of answer, LOL.

The only thing we could get out of them is that they could not find the translation for the animal's hair in English. Another person indicates that the hair of the brush belongs to the skin of the animal, which hangs close to the coat rack.
I decide to buy this brush anyway, because it looks hand made. And where would I find a brush with a cool handle like this one?

If anyone of you nature lovers have any idea which animal's skin this is, it would solve my problem. You see, I cannot use this brush yet because certain kinds of hair would not tolerate the oil medium. Since this brush is a keep sake, I would like to keep the hair of the brush nice. Hope someone knows!


Michelle said...

I do know that lots of chinese brushes are goat or wolf hair

I also know that I WANT THAT BRUSH!!


Barry said...

It's certainly and elegant brush, perfect for a keepsake.

I've no idea what animal the hair might come from though!

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

In pottery we use Chinese brushes too. I was talking to a student from China about this last week. I said I suspected it was dog fur. She says it varies, fox can be used, and the best of course are sable.
I wonder if that is a dog pelt in your photo?

Gaston Studio said...

Jeannette, it could be red fox. I would suggest looking up red fox in Google images and see if you can get a match.

Cool brush!!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Gosh Jeannette. The person who would be able to tell you is Mingfei. I think you have been to his blog before and he is a very helpful person. If you dont want to ask, let me know and I will do it for you. :) A lovely story though. It does look like a very special brush but their writing and painting are so different and lovely.

Eleanor said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and how nice to discover yours and your world. Wish I could help re the hair on that brush! I was just going to say that I am looking forward to seeing the special painting you will create with that brush. Then I read your comment about not being able to use the brush without knowing the origin of the hair.

Sreddy Yen said...

Hello again...I'm Taiwanese and I absolutely detest China~! :O) But anyway, normally these calligraphy brushes are made out of rabbit or fox or horse hair. The really good ones are made out of the hair of a baby~!
My opinion is that you don't use it with any oil mediums because in the art of Eastern calligraphy, we use an ink stick that is made by grinding it on a ink "stand" with WATER. I hope that has helped you a bit. :O)


The Weaver of Grass said...

I have no idea what kind of hair that brush is made from Jeanette but it is a lovely keepsake.
When I was last in Beijing in 1984, there were thousands of cycles and hardly a car - I think things have changed since thenm.

Mingfei said...

Hello Jeannette. Joan asked me to solve you problems. Here I am and I'll try to help you.

The brush your bought called "Maobi" in Chinese, means a pen made by hairs. It is the only writting tool for ancient Chinese. Though we use pencils and pens like you nowadays, we still have to use "Maobi" to write our famous Chinese Calligraphy and draw traditional Chinses Painting.

There are different types of "Maobi" to write in different sizes. The one you have is a mid-size one. If you want to use it, you should have bought the special ink stick, paper and ink stone with it. In Chinese cultural, that's called the "Four Treasure of a Study".

The "Maobi" could be made with different materials. Rabbit hair, goat hair and weasel hair are often used. The hair on your brush is weasel hair. Weasel, the animal in your photo, is a kind of mongoose-like animal which is widely distributed in China.

And I'm so glad that you are interested in my nation!

Is this what you are looking for?

jeannette stgermain said...

thank you Joan, you probably asked, because Ming Fei never has been to my blog and visa versa, and as you see below he gives me an explanation. Yes, I love this brush, because it's so elegant!!

jeannette stgermain said...

Went to your blog again, because I had forgotten about my visit. My interest peeked because you hold to the Jewish feast Seder, but yet you talk about your "church." Most Jews would refer to the synagogue, or are you a Messianic Jew? I love your blog - it's very classy. Hope you visit again to look at my paintings her and there scattered throughout my posts.

jeannette stgermain said...

Shreddy Yen,
Thank you for that explanation. That is helpful :) - I was already beginning to think in that direction, since not many oil paintings come from there! Do you live in Taiwan or here in the US? Many Taiwanese live here.

jeannette stgermain said...

Weaver of Grass,
To cross the street - it's an absolutely heart-stopping experience. By the end of the week I begin to notice that the only people who wait for the cross-walk light to become green are the tourists :). I was glad we had our son with us, explaining the traffic "rules" (there are none, LOL, except for 2: one, is stop for a red light, two is when another vehicle hits you, wait for the police.
Many cars, but only the rich can afford them. And many many taxis.

jeannette stgermain said...

Your answer was exactly what I was hoping for! My son was there barely a year when we visited him (teaching English), so I guess he had not caught up to this cultural part yet:). When he came to the US next summer, he brought a book with many different types of Chinese artists.
I am a Dutchman living in Los Angels, so I am interested in cultures and travel! Thanks again!

jeannette stgermain said...

Thanks for the "Follow"!

jeannette stgermain said...

Thanks Michelle. When you go to China, you'll buy one for sure - they are sooo cheap in comparison to brushes in the US. My 1-inch watercolor brush bought here 10 years ago was $20! The one I bought there amounts to approx. $12

jeannette stgermain said...

Yes, am so glad I stumbled on it, otherwise it would have been a tea set, and I already have 2 of those, so this brush was perfect!
Thanks for visiting - I have been more on your blog than you might think, but often I was the 40th or so comment:) Take care!

jeannette stgermain said...

Thanks for your input, Gary! Don't think it's a dog pelt, because the one who was helping me, pointed at the brush and then to the skin -so I think that the brush was made from the hair of that animal. Look at the comment of Mingfei - he thinks it's a weasel. (that would also explain why they couldn't translate it in English - I think they probably would have known the English word for dog).

jeannette stgermain said...

Yes, the hair of the brush sure is reddish! do you know if weasels are reddish - Mingfei thinks it's hair of a weasel! thanks for the visit!

Whitemist said...

Weasels can be reddish and it probably is just that.
Enjoy your brush!
I love sable brushes for my water colors!

jeannette stgermain said...

Yeah, I'm with you - all my watercolor brushes are sable (up till now). And they're reddish, that's how I knew it couldn't be sable, because it's much finer hair than the Chinese brush. Yes, I will enjoy my brush-thanks! Has the pounding head improved?

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Hello Jeannette. Minfei was on my blog so I asked him to take a look for us.

Thanks Mingfei for the help. It was very kind of you to do so. :)

All the information about the brush is amazing. It can be a real dinner-conversation piece. :)

jeannette stgermain said...

already thought that that was what happened! And I'm jazzed about all the info. I got - I finally can use that brush now LOL - So where's the food Joan?

Chrisy said...

Reading this post and the comments has been so interesting...I feel that I've had a real learning experience! I've travelled in a number of Asian countries (haven't been to China yet)and could identify with some of your experiences!

Shellmo said...

What a great treasure you found! And I see from the comments above that you will be able to use it - congrats!

Denise said...

What a fascinating brush and a great momento of your trip to China. I also enjoyed all the comments on what your brush might be. Thanks for visiting my blog. Always enjoy stopping by here. Have a great weekend.

jeannette stgermain said...

when you've traveled yourself, you recognize, like you say, the experiences others went through. Glad you found it interesting - it's heart warming how everyone tried to be so helpful!!

jeannette stgermain said...

you have an interesting blog and I like your writing style! so that brings me often to your blog :)

Whenever we travel we try to bring a souvenir that we can use in daily life, instead of a trinket. What is really neat is that my kids have taken over that habit. they bring a t-shirt, a purse, egg cups, etc. back from wherever they've been.
Yes, it was like everyone was trying to solve my puzzle.

jeannette stgermain said...

Indeed a treasure. I am so jazzed I'll be able to use it for watercolor - that's my conclusion for all the types of hair it could be:)
What is happening in your corner?

Marvin said...

What a great treasure your lovely brush from China is.

I was thinking that sables and weasels were fairly closely related animals. I checked on Wikipedia and found they are members of the same family. Wikipedia also says many so-called sable-haired brushes are actually made from weasel hair.

I am not an artist and know nothing about artist's brushes. You are the artist. You are the expert. I just thought I'd pass along the information that I found. I will defer to your judgment whether it is accurate or not.

jeannette stgermain said...

You got me there...I'm the artist, but I am not by any means an expert on determining from which anmial the hair on the brush comes from. That is why I called in the troops of the nature lovers reading my blog to solve my puzzle...I'm a city kid LOL!
Summarizing, whether it is sable or weasel hair, they both are better for watercolor paint.
Thank you Marvin, I appreciate your input and going to the extent of looking it up in Wikipedia!