An Interview with Marcel Kohns


Schmincke’s international sales manager discusses the company’s new direct connection to U.S. retailers, its historically tried-and-true paints and pastels, and its innovative new launches and special editions. 

AMR: In the U.S., instead of operating through a distributor, Schmincke is now delivering its products directly to American retailers from its headquarters in Germany. When did that happen and how is it working?

MK: In February this year, we re-launched in the U.S. The time was right with accelerated international trade and easy and transparent global price comparisons. We needed to create a very high fulfillment rate for U.S. orders, quick and smooth importing operations, and more competitive retail pricing to make U.S. retailers and our products more competitive – nationally and internationally. 

Now, after six months, we can say we are very satisfied with the new setup and pleased about the overall improvement in service that has occurred.

We made this switch because we felt we had lost the direct connection with U.S. retailers and the artists who use our products. The American market is very important to us; we think of our service to it as a package. It includes the highest-quality products, exceptional product availability, competitive pricing and in-depth product knowledge. We want to give our sellers there the opportunity to work with us directly, and benefit from the insight and the passion that comes from the work in our lab. 

Tell us about your products. What are your bestsellers?

Our handmade soft pastels, our resin-oil color line Mussini, and our Horadam Watercolors are all valued for their fine pigments and consistent high quality and are currently available in more than 70 countries around the world.

Mussini – named after Cesare Mussini, an artist and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence – originated in 1881 as the company’s first product. Hermann Schmincke and Josef Horadam were colormen; chemists who set out to find the resin-oil-color recipes of the old masters before they were lost forever. Professor Mussini was the guardian of the formulas, and he sold them to our founders.

The formula for our watercolor line, Horadam, was launched 11 years later, after much research. Over the years, our watercolors have become highly prized among artists around the world. We were recently contacted by a store in Guatemala, for instance, after a group of painters there requested Horadam. 

This year we launched the special edition Horadam Super-Granulation watercolors – 25 heavily granulated colors in five themes: Deep Sea, Glacier, Galaxy, Tundra and Forest. 

Our soft pastels were originally launched at the turn of the 20th century. Today they are known for their dense application – because they are so soft – and their color intensity. 

How often do you launch new products?

We launch new products every year, usually timed for Creativeworld in January. This year we introduced our all-natural and vegan Liquid Charcoal. It combines gum Arabic with natural, hand-charcoaled fruit stones – cherry pit for a warm brownish black; grape seed for a more bluish, cooler black; and peach stone, a natural black. 

We run two other promotional periods during the year that offer new specialties, limited editions and unique colors, like the new Mussini, YinMn Blue. Our biggest promotion of the year is going on now. Among the gift items we’re offering is a box of all 140 Horadam watercolors and a signed certificate. We have made only 140 of them, so first come first served. 

What else would you like U.S. retailers to know about Schmincke?

The most important thing is that our products are readily available. Say an artist has an idea and he wants and needs Quinacridone Purple. Our promise is to provide it. Sometimes it’s a hard promise to keep, but we aspire to fulfill it every time.

Logistics are in place to directly connect us to U.S. retailers. I am responsible for the U.S. market, and I am easily reachable. Not only me, but the whole team behind me. 

We only focus on color. We don’t also make paper and brushes. Color is our love and our passion. It’s what we do best.  

Schminke has always been a family-owned business and that’s very important to all 80 of us who work here. Our values, including our passion to strive for the best, came down from our founders. Yes we have a history – we’ve been in the market for 140 years and it’s a responsibility. But we are still innovating. We’re not standing still.

For more information, visit To contact Marcel directly, email

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