As I discussed in my post on public relations, one sure-fire way to catch my interest is to offer me something that would be fun for my kids. I’m a mom, I like to be able to offer my kids new experiences. So when Leah Mebane dropped me a line and offered to send me some eco-friendly natural earth paint to try out with my kids, I was in. My daughter Hannah is quite the artist, and she’d used up her existing stock of paints, so the time was ripe. Plus, I was intrigued by the concept – these paints are made from mostly dirt.
The concept behind earth paints isn’t new. Leah says, “Natural earth paints were the first used paints on the planet. Recent discoveries prove that they’ve been in use for atleast 100,000 years but they were probably in use long before that. Ancient people from all over the world used earth and minerals to make their paints.” When I explained to Hannah that this was the same kind of paint that was used to make cave paintings, she was ready to go find a cave of her own to leave her mark on. While I put the kibosh on the idea since I don’t really enjoy dark confined spaces, it was cool to be able to draw that line between a modern art material and ancient history.
Earth paints have something else going for them, in that they’re made with natural materials. While pretty much all kids’ paints are labelled ‘non-toxic’, that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Many of them contain petroleum products and other chemicals. Leah says, “Even ‘Low VOC’ or ‘non-toxic’ paint may contain fungicides and bactericides that not only cause headaches and dizziness when inhaled but can contribute (little by little) to greenhouse gases. I decided to call a very large commercial children’s art supplies company, whose paints are labeled ‘non-toxic’, and ask what the ingredients are in their paints. They were very nice but said that they could not tell me anything about the ingredients. This was very surprising to say the least and confirmed my resolve to spread the word.”
Okay, so we know what’s cool about these paints, but how do they actually work? The pack comes with six packets of powder in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and brown, as well as six mixing cups made from plant-based bioplastic. You mix approximately one part powder with one part water to make a paint with a texture similar to tempera. If you want something thicker you can use less water, if you want something thinner you can use more. If you don’t use all the paint at one go you can cover it and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, although I found that mixing small quantities to use in one go is better. If you do want to store it, I would suggest getting small jars with lids to make that easier.
Once it’s mixed the paint is a good consistency, and it spreads well. I did find that my daughter had a tendency to under-stir the paint, but once she was actually painting with it, the lumps worked themselves out. The colours were good, and far more vibrant than the watercolour pints we use, although not having white or black was somewhat limiting for my daughter. Black and white are available on the website, and so is violet, but they don’t come in a paint kit, so you would need to order them separately. My final observation was that the paint goes pretty far, so the kits should last you a while. And I made sure to ask – Leah will ship anywhere in the world from her home in Oregon.
Of course, I’m not the intended audience for the children’s paint kit, so I asked my daughter Hannah what she thought. She gave the paints two thumbs up. She enjoyed getting to mix them together, and she immediately painted several pictures with them. She’s asked to use them several times since. The downside is that it’s more work on my part, because we need to mix them before we use them, but I’m on the hunt for some jars so that we can keep them for longer, which should eliminate that. Then she’ll get to paint more, I won’t have to be as involved, and we’ll both be happy.
Do you have a budding artist on your hands? What kinds of paint do you use? And how important is it to you that you know what’s in it?