Some products on NIHON ICHIBAN do not necessarily seem to fall under the “traditional crafts” category. The Mizuho Cosmetic Brushes for example. Yet, these high quality, hand-made products carry a long history and unique manufacturing process that makes each and any one of them a true art work.
History of Japanese Cosmetic Brushes
Kumano, a city in the Hiroshima prefecture, is widely known for its superb manufacturing of a variety of brushes. With a history over 180 years, way back to the Edo period, “Kumano brushes” has become a concept recognized even internationally.
Due to the mountainous area, farmers have always had difficulties making a living out of farming alone. To earn extra money, many men would go find work in other areas, such as Nara. Travelling back and forth, they would buy writing brushes and re-sell them on the way back home to make some profit. Around 1840 a group of enterprising farmers decided to start manufacturing high-quality brushes themselves, and this way the Kumano method was created.
With the compulsory education law, almost 40 years later, the demand for calligraphy brushes rose, making Kumano brushes known and wanted all over the country. Many years later, the decrease in the calligraphy market led to the innovative decision to transfer the knowledge and skills to a new market; cosmetic brushes.
Now-a-days, Kumano produces about 80% of all brushes made in Japan. This equals an astonishing 15 million brushes a year. And even now, they are hand-crafted, using the techniques passed on for centuries. These techniques have been officially recognized as “traditional craft” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Makeup Brush Maker: Mizuho Brush
Successor to a former calligraphy business, Mizuho Brush Co., Ltd. was founded in 1970 and became specialist in the crafting of cosmetic brushes. In 2008 they created the Mizuho Brush brand, also known as the MB-series, whit which they won the Good Design Award in 2011. Continuing traditional craftsmanship and implementing quality control throughout the entire production process, Mizuho Brush ensures that every single brush is of the best quality.
Using different types of animal hair, based on the intended usage of the brush, they create softness and performance unachievable by mass-produced synthetic hair. The hair, being the most essential part of the brush, is carefully selected and combined. Included types of hair are pony, sable, squirrel, weasel, goat and PBT synthetic hair. Each hair type has specific features and is used or combined with other hair types accordingly. Pony and goat hair are often used for powder retaining brushes, firm water badger hair almost exclusively for eyebrow brushes, and squirrel hair is the utmost gentle on the skin.
How Japanese Makeup Brushes are Made
The production can be divided into five steps. The traditional processes are very time-consuming, but are the only way to ensure the best quality possible.
Selecting the best type(s) of hair for the intended use of each brush. The shape and softness is very important. You would need a soft, round shape for a face or cheek brush, whereas a flat pencil-like brush may be desired for the eyes.
A process Mizuho especially takes pride in is the removal of inferior hairs. A task that can only be performed by experienced and skilled workers; as their observation and touch is the only security that decides on the quality of each brush. Any hair that is loose, pointing a slighlt different way, feels different or is any other than perfect, will be combed out with a small hansashi tool . Doing this by hand requires a lot of time, but is the only way to create a perfect condition. The tips of most mass-produced brushes are trimmed into shape, resulting in skin-irritation or an uncomfortable feel due to the cross-section of the (cut) hairs.
Once only the perfect hairs remain, the hairs are inserted tip-first in a koma. This wooden holders allow the hairs to be shaped into the desired brush tip shape. Even these tools are still hand-made, as each brush type requires a particular koma.
Now that the brushes have their shape, they are inserted into a fastener to make sure they keep their form. Glue is used to make it all solid. And finally, the brush is washed thoroughly.
Once dried, the brushes are attached to their handle, which is often made of Japanese wood or brass. The brush is now completed and will again be going through extended check-ups and inspections.
This extensive manufacturing process results in top-quality brushes, that are said to slide over your face like rose petals, removing oil and easily dividing powder. The Mizuho brushes have gradually become more popular internationally and are widely appreciated by celebrities and professional makeup artists.
Where to buy Japanese Cosmetic Brushes
NIHON ICHIBAN offers a wide variety of Mizuho brushes, suitable for beginners and professionals. Take this chance to feel and experience these special crafts yourself, or surprise any make-up savvy friend or family member with one of our beautifully boxed gift sets. For the perfect finishing touch, have your (friend’s) name engraved on the handle at no additional costs!