My friend Leah Fanning Mebane has produced kits of non-toxic water-soluble paints for children and kits of non-toxic oil paints for adults and professional oil painters.
Leah, herself, is a professional oil painter. She found out she was pregnant with her first child at the same time she was invited by a local gallery to hang the largest one-person show of her career. She needed to create 25 new large-scale oil paintings. Being pregnant, she did not want to be breathing the fumes from toxic paints every day throughout her pregnancy. Luckily she had already begun researching natural paints and eco-friendly oil painting techniques for environmental reasons and had already started taking steps to reduce these toxins.
Leah got rid of all her toxic solvents and resupplied her studio with natural clay pigments and walnut oil. Turpentine, paint thinner, mineral spirits and varnish emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as they dry, so out they went. Long-term exposure can lead to cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.
Leah painted with her non-toxic paints throughout her pregnancy. She even went out and dug up clay to make some of her paints. Her show was a success and the reception was a week before her due date.
After Leah’s son, Django, was born, she discovered that most commercial “non-toxic” kid’s paints contain biocides such as pesticides and fungicides. Some paints contain formaldehyde to extend the paint’s shelf life and yet are still called “non-toxic.” She also learned that conventional paints may contain hundreds of different chemicals, many of which contain carcinogens or neurotoxins. After more research she was delighted to find out that natural earth paints are not only eco-friendly, but have a far better track record of quality, archival durability and UV-resistance than any synthetic paint on the market.
Leah found that other mothers were asking where they could find truly non-toxic paints for their children. She realized there was a market for safe, healthy paints for children as well as adults. Thus, she launched Earth Paints.
Earth Paints are created in much the same way that our ancestors made their paints. The clay pigments are collected from the ground, and they are crushed, sifted, and sieved into a very fine powder. There are a surprisingly large range of earthen colors in nature, including blues, greens and violets. Look out your window as you’re driving down roads that have been cut into the earth. You can sometimes see the layers of colors formed over millions of years. I was reminded of Leah’s Earth Paints when I took a trip through Eastern Oregon this past summer and stopped at the Painted Hills.
Leah’s children’s paints can be used on rocks, paper, fabric, wood, shells and more. They have a creamy, tempera-like consistency that is easy for toddlers to use. Unlike many other children’s paints on the market that are transparent or dull because of added fillers, preservatives and low quality pigment, these are very high quality, opaque and can be enjoyed by older children and adults as well.
Leah’s Earth Paints Eco Oil Painting Kit is designed for artists from teens to professionals. Included in the kit is a booklet that tells how to eliminate every single toxin from the oil painting process.
To find out more about Earth Paints, nature-inspired art projects, DIY natural art supplies, recipes and move, visit Leah’s website at www.NaturalEarthPaint.com.