Monday, March 27, 2006

My imposs-sable dream. (I'm sorry. I can't resist a pun.) I know this means I am a Bad Person, akin to Cruella de Vil and Montgomery "I Really Like the Vest" Burns, but I have always found it a little odd to think of sables, minks, chinchillas and ermines as animals. Did you know that an ermine is just a stoat in its white winter coat? And did you know that chinchillas are possibly the cutest pet since the mogwai? Oh I want one hella bad. They are like an extremely fluffy mouse, only the size of a guinea pig.

Then there are sables.

The sable is a small, dark-coloured European quadruped of the same family as the weasel and the mink. Its soft, dark fur is pointy on the ends and wide at the base, which makes it ideal for making paintbrushes for watercolours and detailed work with liquid paint. The tail fur of the male Kolinsky sable makes the best brushes, because they are wild sables, and their fur is stiffer and stronger than that of farmed sables.

So today Natalya was complaining about how expensive these brushes are, and we were joking about how we could save some money by raising sables especially for the local art market. We'd only need a few. Winter in Melbourne isn't as cold as Russia, I know, but we could toughen 'em up by keeping them in the backyard, in a special sable run with chicken wire over the top to stop Meep from attacking them. I don't know how we would come by chipmunks and squirrels with which to feed them, but they also eat fish, mice, berries and pine nuts. I am sure we would track down some sort of pet food they'd eat.

The main issue for us was, does the sable have to die to donate its tail fur? Is that what makes the brushes so expensive - because you can only make one brush from each sable? Can you imagine me, who gets squeamish about injured mice, having to slaughter and skin sables?

Being the person that I am, I decided I would look into this. And it seems that the sables are killed. But it totally doesn't have to be this way.

Seems to me that they only kill Kolinsky sables because they're wild animals and that's the most efficient way. And the skin isn't used for the brush - they snip off the fur close to the skin. So if we were raising just a few, especially for paintbrushes, couldn't we just snip bits off - give the sable a bit of a haircut, as it were - and then the one sable can keep on growing fur and we can keep snipping it off? We could even make little tail-socks for the sables to wear in cold weather while their tail fur grew back. And we could market the brushes as special "Friendly Sable" brushes to appeal to the animal-loving crowd. Our logo could look like this.

It is a pity that this is a total pipe dream.

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