May 8th, 2017
With a 68 year family history in airbrushes, The Airbrush Company knows more than a little about the products. Back in 1947, artist, engineer and inventor Arthur Albert Connor launched the Conograph airbrush, followed four years later by the Conopois which had a unique, ergonomic, dual-action top lever. All the airbrushes were hand-made by Arthur himself and, as word of mouth got around amongst graphic artists and ceramics restorers about the performance of the airbrush, the waiting list lengthened.
To help the family business, Arthur’s 10 year old daughter, Rosemary, started to help her father making parts for the airbrush which lead her eventually to study at Art College. After a stint as an artist and illustrator, Rosemary returned to the firm, making the finest parts such as the nozzles, hand-turning these on a watch lathe.
On Arthur’s death in 1978, Rosemary and her husband, Ken Medwell, took up the baton. Ken gave up his career as a quantity surveyor and turned his manual skills and technical aptitude to learning the manufacturing processes. Between them they continued to hand-manufacture the Conopois airbrush to satisfy the demand from elite artists. Ken became an extremely experienced airbrush technician whilst also managing and expanding the business.
By the early ‘80s Ken and Rosemary moved Conopois Instruments Ltd to new premises, a shop which they named The Airbrush & Spray Centre in Worthing. There they started to sell other art and graphics materials, such as brushes and paint, also introducing a choice of airbrushes to their customers by selling Badger airbrushes. In the mid-eighties they started importing Iwata airbrushes, followed by Paasche airbrushes in 1987. They also serviced and repaired most major brands of airbrush, a service that to this day is still not rivalled by any competitors. By now the company had become known as the experts when it comes to airbrushes.
The Conopois airbrush gained such a reputation in the graphics world that German graphics products company Rotring bought the manufacturing rights in 1988 and Ken became a Products Manager for them. However, by the mid-nineties demand for airbrushes for graphics was diminishing dramatically due to increasing use of computer graphics. Rotring were heavily into the graphics market and did not venture into the beauty and scale modelling markets as The Airbrush Company does today, and sadly decided to get out of airbrushes and discontinue manufacturing the unique Conopois airbrush in 1994.
Ken and Rosemary had other ideas and bought back the shop premises from Rotring in 1992, forming The Airbrush and Spray Centre Ltd. Rotring had continued selling the Iwata and Paasche airbrushes after buying Conopois Instruments Ltd, so as Rotring came out of airbrushes completely, The Airbrush & Spray Centre picked up distribution for those brands again, also reintroducing Badger to the range. The Airbrush Company still sell all three of those popular brands today. Another change of company name in 2001 saw the firm become The Airbrush Company Ltd and in 2003 moved to an industrial unit to cope with the growth of the new expanding markets of nails, body art, make-up and tanning.
The next generation of the family joined in the shape of Ken and Rosemary’s son, Alex Medwell, in 2003 bringing his IT skills into the mix. Having undertaken most roles at The Airbrush Company, proceduralising and streamlining many of the company’s processes, expanding the product range, launching the company’s top-Google-ranked website Airbrushes.com, Alex’s main responsibilities now are purchasing and marketing. He comments, “I never thought I would end up working with my parents (or indeed be able to cope with it!), but working in a small company with so many roles to fulfil and so many varied markets makes it the most enjoyable and interesting job I have ever had. Now I regret I didn’t do this earlier, but I’m pleased to have had my own career first and other experience and skills that I was then able to bring to the company.”
In September 2012, Ken and Rosemary’s daughter Rachael Smith came back to the company having worked as an airbrush artist in the custom painting field. Rachael’s role as Training Coordinator ensures everything is in place for the smooth running of each class. And now the fourth generation of the family has joined, with Alex’s 13 year old son Samuel processing web orders at weekends.
Constantly innovating and striving to discover the best products for the job, the company has partnered with Airbase and is launching the Airbase HD Make-up range teaming them with their professional airbrush kits.
“We’re thrilled about our new partnership with Airbase,” explains Marketing Manager, Lisa Munro, “and are excited to add their HD make-up to our catalogue of airbrush supplies. With this high end make-up paired with our professional Iwata airbrushes and compressors, we can offer MUA’s the perfect kit delivering fast and flawless results.”
There’s a wide range of kits available, from the Sparmax SP 35C airbrush and baby compressor through Iwata NEO CN airbrush and compressor, to Ninja Jet, Silver Jet, Sprint Jet, Smart Jet Pro, Power Jet Lite, Power Jet Pro and Maxx Jet.
You can browse the full range of Airbase HD products here.