The Paintmaker


[paint with a purpose]

With 28 years in the trades, I’m well aware that constructing our built environment is often a wasteful, toxic, and polluting endeavor. It feels unavoidable these days; progress often equals pollution.  Having access to building materials that stand the test of time without polluting on their way from factory to landfill, while important to me now ,wasn’t always the case. When I started out, I was pushing a brush as a painter in Boston. I knew some of the finishes and paints were toxic during application, but long term and widespread effects were never discussed. During this time, I didn’t know that the solvent-borne finishes contributed to smog and acid rain. VOC wasn’t a term we used and the environmental impact of the products we were working with wasn’t on any of our radars .

At the same time, I got into furniture making and oil painting on canvas (or whatever boards and panels I got my hands on). Artist’s oil paint out of the tube and linseed oil seemed classic, healthier, and I could paint on canvas without thinners and a respirator in a small room. Alternatively, reading endless pages on furniture finishing introduced me to a spectrum of toxic finishes. Noxious indeed, the claimed benefits of them seemed valid, so I donned the respirator to verify these claims myself. After all, there’s no substitute for experimentation quite like one’s own furniture. I put up with the toxicity for many years, but the VOCs in the toxic finishes were awful, and I found myself desperately trying to avoid using them. 

I have applied thousands of gallons of latex paint to homes, and it never occurred to me the amount of plastic I was putting into the environment. Those paints were (and still are) filled with forever chemicals and forever plastic that will eventually make a journey into our soil and waterways and eventually our bodies.

 I was trained by professional painters, but I doubt they ever thought about the chemistry of what was in their pots. Most people today don’t think about it either. We use the products available to us, hope for the best, and rarely think long- term. Plastics never biodegrade.  They are on this planet forever and can only break down into smaller particles. The coatings I applied, the paint our parents threw on our houses, all break down eventually. They crack, flake, peel and shed onto the ground, eventually becoming microplastics. These easily spread to us through our food, water and air. We eat, drink, and breathe it.

There are around 142 million housing units in the US and the average paint job lasts 5-10 years before starting to fail. That’s a lot of broken down plastic littering our environment. It’s no wonder that recent studies have found that paint particles account for around 58% of all the microplastics that end up polluting the world’s waterways and oceans every year. That’s 1.9 million tons of plastic from paint slipping into our surroundings annually. Nearly half of that 1.9 million tons is from architectural sources, like our homes. That reason alone is enough for me to start this company. We’re plastic free. Zero Plastic. NONE.

When I transitioned from painting houses to my real passions, woodworking and carpentry, my eyes were opened to the real damage modern coatings can do to a home. Being able to think of a home from element to element, layer by layer, without paint in the equation it becomes easier to see paint for what it is, a sacrificial coating. We seem to have forgotten that simple fact. Its job is to protect the substrate it’s on, to prevent premature deterioration of what it's protecting. It has a lifetime, and it needs maintenance or replacement. It's only one part of a house system but it's typically the first in line. 

When we think of paint as only decorative or reflective (sealing everything out) we forget that there’s the chance of sealing things in as well. Without constant maintenance, water always finds a way in and even if not catastrophic, rotten windows, trim, doors, siding, balusters and even framing can silently rot away behind the impermeable plastic coating.  The sun warms the side of the house, water wants to be pulled back out into the atmosphere, but it’s trapped behind those layers. The failure that allowed the water in remains, more water moves in and thru capillary action the water migrates, increasing its reach. It’s trapped even further away from an exit. It’s expensive  to fix these avoidable mistakes. It’s also costly in time, valuable resources,  and carbon. It’s all energy wasted. I’ve looked at seemingly intact window sills, plinth blocks, rafter tails and  casings and pushed a screwdriver thru the paint into deteriorated spongy wood on the other side. The paint hid the problem from view. We over-encapsulate our homes, we spend gobs of money patching the problems with inferior products and the cycle continues. We can do better.


Houses rarely had problems with rot before modern coatings. Prior to WWII most paint was linseed oil based. The paint breathed with the house, with the environment, and worked its magic as a trustworthy sacrificial coating. Post WWII saw an explosion of cheaper acrylic and latex petroleum-based products. The US was swimming in it, and the coating industry put it to use. It’s really all we know today. Even now, when people hear “oil paint” they’re thinking of an alkyd coating which is an oil modified polyester resin. In order to make those synthetic resins brushable, high VOC solvents are used. They’re so toxic to our environment that they’re rarely used anymore.  These days Acrylic petrochemical paints have swamped the market in their stead, and it’s just more plastic.


Linseed oil paint protects by allowing the wood to breathe. Moisture never gets trapped behind the painted surface, avoiding rot to siding, trim, windows and framing. This also means the paint never peels or cracks from the surface which can allow even more water ingress.  The linseed oil in the paint is also absorbed into the wood, limiting water intrusion and adding to the overall long term integrity and stability of the wood it protects. Since linseed oil has lower surface tension than water and is molecularly smaller. It penetrates the wood deeper than water ever can, filling the spaces that pesky water wants to travel. This is all to say, it feels like a perfect confluence of passions and interests has led me to manufacturing this paint for the US market and our brothers and sisters to the north.  I hope it preserves and protects what you’ve toiled over for years to come in a more mindful way.

We can reduce and conserve the resources used, keep commodities in use longer all while limiting the toxins released. Linseed oil paint is a very small part of a larger circle we need to close. It’s produced from an ancient crop; fast growing renewable flax. The pigments are natural, and it's the only real environmentally safe paint on the market today. With an easily maintained, unharmful lifespan, Heron linseed oil paint is a small, yet effective way to protect your home while we share the planet.

-Travis V. Joslyn, Founder


Non-Toxic    Solvent-Free    VOC-Free    Plastic-Free    All-Natural
[paint with a purpose]