The goodly Richard Thompson has triggered my brush fetish with a tantalizing website. Rosemary, (curiously, a former gynecologist,) is rumored to make the finest brushes around. If you share any of my jones for great brushes, you'll enjoy her lush descriptions.
My Winsor & Newton series 7 red sables are an industry standard. I used to use a #4 but age and deteriorating strength have forced me to adopt the #3. Anything larger feels like a vast imposition.
Like Richard's finely tuned sense of the quality of pen nibs (10/8/2007), I can feel a good #3 from a bad #3 the moment I dip it in the ink. I think the difference resides in the single hair in the middle and I cannot imagine the skill involved in building such a great brush just right.
I used to think about the irony of my brushes when I would draw cartoons about the Cold War back in the 80's. The Kolinsky red sable from whose tail hairs my brushes are made is bred only in Russia. (Rosemary points out that, ounce for ounce, Kolinsky hairs are three times the price of pure gold.)
But what prompted this whole post is a tip on Rosemary's website about brush maintenance. Long ago I wondered if brushes should be washed with shampoo rather than bar soap to get the last of the ink out. Then I wondered if they would benefit from a bit of conditioner. It seemed a funny idea, but it kept making sense to me so I've been quietly doing such for several years. And now I find that Rosemary concurs.
Surely her unique blend of expertise can be trusted.