Classic supplies receive top honors in our magazine’s second annual Fabulous Products Awards
by Tina Manzer
The iconic Pigma Micron Pen, beloved by a diverse audience that includes manga artists and entomologists alike, received the most votes from retailers to win the top spot in this year’s Fabulous Product Awards. Fredrix Artists Canvas from Tara Materials came in second place, followed by Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors in third.
They were “nominated” in 2013 by art materials retailers who shared their best-selling product recommendations within our pages. Our regular “Retailers Recommend” column, which results from this question: “What’s selling well in your store now?” is one of our readers’ favorite features.
If I had to name one aspect of each winning product that contributes to its fabulous status, it’s a detail that they have in common: the ability to make art “more permanent.” Here’s what I mean.
Writing and drawing’s little black dress
Perfect for every occasion, the Pigma Micron pen is available in six point sizes and a variety of colors in addition to the bestselling black. Developed in the early 1980s, the first disposable technical pen quickly became a favorite among folks who needed to create permanent and precise lines. The ink is pigment-based – with bigger and more complex molecules compared to dye – so the marks it makes last longer in comparison.
The list of Pigma Micron users is long. It includes, but is not limited to, designers, architects, Zentanglists, scrapbookers, archivists, manga artists, illustrators and cartoonists. Scientists who need to protect their intellectual property use the Pigma Micron to write in their lab books – the permanent ink makes their notes tamper-resistant. Bible readers recommend it for jotting down thoughts in the margins of their Books because the ink doesn’t bleed.
In short, the pens “are wonderful,” said Jay Zywenburg in Art Materials Retailer last winter. The owner of Jay’s Art Shop & Frame Gallery in Bennington, Vermont, told us, “We put an order in almost every month to six weeks to replenish that display.”
A Zentangle teacher in Chicago told us, “Microns are the best in the world! I buy, sell and use them for work and play. I have a Micron on me at all times.” Another user said, “It is my number-one tool.”
Classic, yet innovative, canvas
At Art & Frame of Sarasota in Florida, “Frederix Artist Canvas is just blowing out the door!” exclaimed store owner Robert Antoval in our Spring Issue last year. It’s no wonder. “The quality materials and impeccable craftsmanship that go into the creation of our products ensure that every painting painted on Fredrix canvas will stand the test of time,” said Julie Kramer, the company’s former marketing director, in an interview with Art Materials Retailer last fall. “If artists paint on bargain-bin canvas, their paintings won’t last long enough to ensure their status as a legend. In 10 years, the priming will be chipping away, and in 20 years, there might not be much of a painting left. Artists need it to hold up against the elements to ensure that their art will still be intact 100, 200 or even 300 years after it’s created.”
Today, Fredrix, the first brand of artist canvas produced in the U.S. for the trade, comes in a wide variety of high-quality, archival iterations. “Artists don’t need to venture outside of our product line to find what they are looking for,” noted Kramer.
And after almost 150 years in business, Fredrix is still innovating. Last year, the brand went big and came out with Wyland Paint-It-Yourself Classroom Mural Canvas measuring 5 by 10 feet. This year, it went small and introduced 5-3/4- by 3-3/4-inch canvas board “postcards” that can actually be mailed.
While white canvas may be timeless, black canvas is hot right now. We discussed the trend in February after A.I. Friedman stores in New York noted an uptick in sales of the stuff in a variety of sizes. The brand? Fredrix.
Colors that resonate
At Neil Capozzi’s Stuart Art Supplies store in Florida, the oil painting category is strong. Last summer, Capozzi nominated Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors for a Fabulous Award by telling us, “While all our brands are doing very well, I would say the number-one brand right now is Gamblin.” As illustrated by the votes the paints received, other retailers agree.
They were developed in 1980 by a young painter on a quest. “I want to make permanent paintings,” said company founder Robert Gamblin, in an interview on the company’s website. “I want to make artists’ materials for painters who share my goal.”
Thanks to his efforts, Gamblin oils today are known for their permanence, as well as their luscious texture, nontoxic ingredients and intense color. The range includes both historically accurate colors and modern, synthetically derived hues.
They are made by hand in Portland, Oregon.