Kirshenblatt, Mayer (1916-2009)
The brush factory, October 1993
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 in.
"The farmer would bring the wood to the brushmakers already cut to size. The wood was called olekh, which means alder. The leaves of the olekh tree resembled elm, except that olekh was a beautiful soft wood, sometimes pinkish in color, with few if any knots and very little grain. It would not crack or splinter. All in all, olekh was very good for carving, unlike elm, which is fairly hard. Olekh was the only wood used for making brushes, so far as I know.
The farmer would cut the olekh to the desired size and deliver it to the brushmakers. A helper would split the wood with a broad axe and a maul to the required thickness. He would then put the wood into a vise and, with a spoke shave, would smooth both sides. Then he stenciled the outline of the brush and the holes onto the wood. Using the spoke shave, he would follow the outline to shape the wood. With a special rounded chisel, he made a groove along the side of the brush for a better grip...."