A Colorful Experience

Today’s post comes from Stacey Kelly, one of our Emerging Professional Scholarship winners and the Paper Conservation Fellow at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. She shares her experience at the tour of Golden Artist Colors from the Annual Symposium. Stay tuned for more reflections from our scholarship winners!:

There were many things to look forward to at the 2016 MRCG Symposium in Cooperstown, and no I am not talking about the legendary baseball hall of fame, but of the wonderful opportunity we had of touring the Golden Artist Color’s factory.

At dinner before the tour, I remember a conservator at my table mentioning that she envisioned visiting Golden Artist Colors to be like a trip to Willy Wonka’s factory. I commented that that was a high bar to set. However, apart from not having a giant chocolate waterfall, the Golden tour (yes I am calling it that from now on) truly exceeded expectations.

Mark Golden, CEO of Golden Artist Colors, together with his wife, Barbara, and daughter Emma, gave golden tours of the establishment, going through the various production stages of the different paints they manufacture, including their acrylic paints, the Williamsburg handmade oil paints, and the new QoR watercolor line. The tour included the various quality control tests done on their products using very fancy machinery including spectrophotometers, impact testers, texture analyzers, scrub testers, weather-o-meters, BYK spectra and GTI light booths, Xenon arc chambers, I could keep going…

Most impressive to me was the amount of resources dedicated to research and development.  In the last 30 years, Golden has initiated more than 3000 projects that have strived to improve their products, and meet the needs of artists. The laboratory team at Golden includes 3 lab formulators, 2 material handlers, 5 paint makers, 3 application technicians, 7 materials and application specialists, and 4 quality assurance technicians.

The Golden tour included mini presentations by members of their team, detailing some of the current/recently completed projects initiated by the R&D department. These covered exterior mural paint testing, the dark yellowing of oil paint, tint strength, adhesion and brightness of the QoR watercolor line, and lightfast testing. A brief introduction of the online resource: The Materials Information and Technical Resources for Artists (MITRA) was also touched upon – a forum and portal that Golden helped initiate. This portal aims to bring together material experts, art conservators, and scientists to provide independent information on art materials. MITRA can be accessed here.

What really stood out to me was the passion and dedication the staff at Golden have towards making the best possible product, and catering to the individual needs of their consumers. It was impossible to ignore the glint in Mark Golden’s eyes as he talked about how much Golden Artist Color’s has grown since its inception in 1980 (in a cow barn), and how creating customized paints for their clients’ remain a huge priority for their business. Finally, their dedication to the community and environment is admirable, with their focus on bringing art to the people through their foundation and artist residency program; as well as their wastewater treatment facility which allows them to reuse about 60% of the water in their facility. They also have a Seconds program where materials that do not meet their quality control standards are given to artists at very low or no cost at all.

Needless to say I left Golden feeling completely awed at everything they have accomplished, and everything they are working towards. I also really appreciated the little gift they gave all of us which were a bunch of product samples all placed in what I now call my swag bag (a gorgeous tote bag with real paint swatches!).

My only regret was not knowing that the job of paint swatch maker existed prior to this tour (which will now be my fallback career), and not being able to purchase anything from the store!  I would also like to express my thanks to Mark Golden and his team for hosting us at Golden. Let’s face it, a group of conservators around paint? I’m surprised we all made it back to the hotel.

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