Friday, December 30, 2005

How Lori Polette took her studies of ancient Mayan paint and turned it into a business that's good for all of us.

Mayan Blue is a 2000-year-old, lustrous turquoise blue that can be seen in ancient Mayan ruins, even to this day. Until relatively recently, no one knew how they made such a vivid paint so resistant to weather, extremes of pH, chemical solvents and biodegradation.

Research conducted largely by PhD student Lori Polette revealed why the mix of organic dye from the indigo plant and inorganic clay is so long-lasting. The clay has a fibrous channel-containing structure. Normally, these channels hold water. What the Mayans did was heat the clay in order to remove the water in the channels. They then mixed it with the indigo. The newly-emptied channels filled themselves with indigo and the result was a paint made from clay which was supersaturated with blue dye.

Nano-technology in action, thousands of years ago!

Our "hero" Lori Polette took her discoveries and, with the help of angel investors, founded a new company, Mayan Pigments Inc. Polette's palette (pun intended) is hoped to generate $10 million in sales within five years by targeting the industrial paints market (plastics, printing, etc.)

Why should we applaud her? Because she is promoting:

  • Paints without heavy metals. Heavy metals are used to make paints stable (think: lead paint) and they are not so great for the environment or our health.
  • Sustainable agriculture. Indigo is a dye-crop which means that if demand can increase for this and other dye-crops, then farmers in third world countries will have another option for their farms.
  • Improvements in industry. These paints have been shown to keep their same color under different lighting conditions, which is a big plus for packaging folk.

You Go Girl!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Breath Palette -- 31 Flavors of Toothpaste

Japan offers an innovation to tooth brushing, with a 31 flavor set of novelty toothpastes for $9 per flavor or $160 for a full set.

The toothpastes use only all-natural and plant-derived ingredients and is being imported by entreprenuer Tracy Holland at her website

What happend was she was travelling in Tokyo and she ran across them in the store. The clerk told her the products were so popular they could not keep them in stock! According to Tracy, the best selling flavors so far include: white peach, cola, and bitter chocolate. In Japan, they are rose, white peach and Kyoto tea. Here's the complete list of 31 flavors:

Amajio, Tropical Pineapple, Peppermint, Freshness Yogurt, Green Tea, Rose, Monkey Banana, Honey, Kiwi, Cafe au Lait, Plum, Apple, Vanilla, Curry, Strawberry, Orange, Kyoto Green Tea, White Peach, Ume, Lavender, Darjeeling Tea, Cinnamon, Kyube, Lemon, Bitter Chocolate, Blueberry, Caramel, Espresso, Grapefruit, Pumpkin, and Cola.

There is also a flavorless style.

Takeaway from this post: keep your eyes peeled when travelling, you never know what import you might find!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tips on Naming Your New Products

Ever wonder what neat name to give your most recent blend of brown micas? How about Electric Mud? Or Moondance, or Coppertunity, or Currant or Jolt? If your brain needs a jumpstart on color names and color trends, check out The Color Marketing Group (CMG).

Every year, this trade association gets together and goes through a five-step process to come up with the palettes of the future. Fortune 500's and others eagerly await CMG's forecasts for what colors will be hot for the next one to three years. Not just for cosmetics, but for everything retail such as furniture, clothing, consumer electronics . . .

Remember 2005? Here is their predicted color directions for that year: The spa experience is adding a spiritual nature to color, resulting in a fresh, rejuvenating and clean palette. In fashion, the resulting color palette included Clay Pot (spice brown), Good Earth (rock red), Thistle Bloom (dusky purple), Late Night Blue (dark blue) and Sulpher (neutral khaki).

And . . . what's ahead for 2006? Warmer, clearer and brighter colors. In the home look for Asian Rose, Bliss, Decoesque, Elemental Gray and Flemish Gold. If you want to know more about CMG (or want to know what these colors are) or want some ideas for some neat names for colors, then visit their website!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Home Made and Natural Paint -- some resources

I'm always attracted to news stories about people who start up a boutique paint company. Maybe because in my heart of hearts, I'd love to do the same!

This month, there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle which showcased two Portland, Oregon women who started out as a "Custom Finishes" company (the kind of people who come in and paint your interiors in interesting ways) and ended up making their own line of paints. You can visit their website at to read more about their mission, their products, and their prices.

Reading the article reminded me of 2004, when I got it in my head to write a book about natural paints, and so promptly tore through the house testing out ideas. My family was very patient as I painted my bedroom using a natural paint made from curdled milk. This required gallons of milk and bags of lemons. The result was very close to exactly what I wanted: a completely flat wall finish, with a soft yellow/beige/coral hue that was complex and ever changing as the daylight traveled through the room. Sometimes, in the early mornings, I swear it is green!

I loved working with natural paints with regard to the complexity of hue and tone, but the actual "making" of the paint was a real pain, and each batch varied with regard to texture (how thin or how thick). So, while I'm still a huge fan of natural paints, I definitely suggest you consider a premade product backed by a paint professional -- maybe even the Yolo Colorhouse paints (I haven't tried them so I can't say for sure).

If you want to read up on natural paints, here is my shortlist of great books:

The Natural Paint Book by Lynn Edwards and Julia Lawless. This is the book that I was trying to write but never finished. Julia Lawless is also famous for her encyclopedias of essential oils.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. I can not say enough about this book! I keep shoving it under the noses of anyone who makes it to my coffee table and once I get them to start reading, they are fascinated. Doesn't matter if they are into paint or not. It is like a travel book and history book and color book all rolled into one. I love this book so much I should probably sell it. Maybe I will.

Anything written by Annie Sloan. She's a pro and has been at this for years. I want to save up my money, go to England and take one of her workshops just so I can kneel at her presence. Alternatively, I'd settle for growing up to be her, except that I'm already grown up.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

What are Organic Pigments and Dyes?

What are Organic Colorants? . . . How about I start by explaining what they are NOT.

I get lots of queries from well-meaning customers who want to make their products with only organic ingredients. They want to make sure they only purchase natural, organic pigments from TKB Trading! "No," I explain to them "You really don't!"

The confusion comes from the use of the word "organic".

In the natural products world, "organic" refers to agricultural products (like fruits, veggies, oils, etc), which have been produced in a sustainable system of farming without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. (here is a hyperlink which defines organic:

Agricultural products can definitely be used to color things (example: blackberry juice is great at staining your shirt), so you could definitely use certified-organic color additives in non-cosmetic products such as soap or potpourri.

However, only three agricultural products are approved by the US FDA for use in coloring cosmetics. So there are only three things which you might use in your cosmetic products which you could might be able to source as being certified organic: annatto (a yellow dye), caramel (brown dye from sugar), carotene (yellow/orange as from carrots). I'm not even sure if these are available in a certified organic format. There is one other natural ingredient use in cosmetics which is approved by the FDA, and that is carmine. Carmine is a red dye made from squished insects. I have no idea if there is an organic bug farm out there, but I kind of doubt it.

The rest of the color additives used in cosmetic products are generally synthetic dyes or pigments. And here is where the confusion sets in. In the world of color chemistry, we speak of colors as being either "organic" in origin or "inorganic" in origin. The use of the word organic has an entirely different meaning than the one discussed above

In science, "organic" colors are simply colors which are "compounds which contain carbon". Most of the organic colors used in cosmetics are exactly those colors that the naturalists try to avoid. For example, the FD&C and D&C dyes are "organic" dyes; but they are also considered irritants and allergens by natural cosmetic manufacturers.

Inorganic colors are colors which don't contain carbon. For example, all those lovely minerals which natural cosmetic manufacturers like to tout in their natural mineral makeup products -- these are all inorganic color additives.

If this has confused you even more, email me! I'll take another stab at it.

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