Broustoù, a brush with French spirit

Broustoù means ‘’brushes’’ in breton, one of the Brittany local languages. It’s about a shoe polish brush made in Denmark with French horsehair. Today, the horsehair comes mostly from South America or China. It can be weaved, or used for brushes or mattresses. France has a wide variety of working horse breeds such as the Trait Breton, the Comtois, the Ardennais, the Mérens and more. Some breeds are endangered and all are maintained by passionate breeders. So Broustoù wants to keep the knowledge of preparing horsehair alive and give value to those horse breeds through a hand-made product. Let’s be clear: no need to kill a horse to collect its hair. For this project, only 1/3 of the tail can be cut out, so the horse keeps all its splendor and can ward off the flies. 

After a long research and beautiful encounters in France and also in Denmark, Broustoù, in order to start up, needs some help. Read on below.

01. To prepare horsehair

Before producing the brush, the horsehair has to be prepared.
Broustoù can prepare it thanks to a knowledge passed on by a upholsterer and his daughter, formerly owners of the Manufacture Française du Crin, now closed.
In contact with the French Institute of Working Horses, Broustoù can start. No need to kill a horse to get its hair: the hair is collected on healthy horses. It is then washed, combed, steamed and sorted out. It’s a natural fiber that can be weaved or stuffed into furniture or mattresses. The technique used here is to prepare horsehair for brushes, weaving or jewellery.  

02. To produce the brush

Why a shoe polish brush ? Because it’s a simple and humble utilitarian object that offers a transparency in the materials: a wood handle, a steel wire and horsehair. It can be used by everyone, horserider or not.
When the horsehair is prepared, the brushes will be produced in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a workshop where they are hand-made since 1929. The horsehair of each breed will be enhanced through the design: the focus is on identifying the breeds. The opposite picture shows a first prototype made with black Mérens horsehair. The wood handle is dyed in black with linseed oil.


03. To tell the story

As you have now understood, this brush is not just a brush. It’s an object through which is told a story, that of French local horse breeds, their engaged and passionate breeders, and a knowledge that disappears. In order to show the context of the horse farms and the faces behind, Broustoù asked a professional photographer to take their portrait. His name is Marc Cellier and he is very good in portraying farmers and craftsmen at work. Once the horsehair prepared and the brushes made, they will be available online together with the story of those breeds.


Behind Broustoù

I’m Anne, I’m a designer from Brittany. After studying Textile at Duperré in Paris and at Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands, I now live in Denmark. It’s a bit like Brittany: a country of 5 millions inhabitants surrounded by the sea and the weather that comes with it. The danes are francophiles and strongly believe in crafts. That’s why the link between France and Denmark comes naturally.
I’m a process based designer who likes to understand how things are made and to collaborate with different trades. My work consists in the visual communication and the development of local and sustainable brands.

Broustoù needs you
Today, Broustoù launches a crowdfunding campaign through Kengo to finance the tools and the communication. The project is also supported by Brittany with the Accelerator of Youth Initiatives, and was a resident at the Danish Art Workshops to create a first prototype.
If you want to help the project and participate in preserving a crafts, you can donate here (excuse my French).
If you are a horse breeder, even not a French one, and if you want to donate horsehair, you can contact Broustoù here.