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Herman Kron invented and manufactures Bristle Magic, a paint brush cleaner out of recycled oils. (Scott Manchester/The Press Democrat)

Kron bottles his brush cleaner at a plant in Concord.

Herman Kron invented and manufactures Bristle Magic, a paint brush cleaner out of recycled oils. (Scott Manchester/The Press Democrat)

By KATIE WATTS / Petaluma Towns Correspondent

It all began for Herman Kron in a most unlikely way.

Now 52, Kron grew up in New Orleans. When he was in college studying industrial tech and engineering, he was offered a job. Not in his chosen field, however, but in something as different as possible, as a rock ‘n’ roll merchandiser for ZZ Top. It was a good fit for him, a “nice life,” he said.

He moved on to other big companies and equally popular bands, including INXS and Aerosmith.

Altogether, Kron spent an enjoyable 15 years in the music industry. Thinking about it, he shook his head, acknowledging that the downside was a lot of traveling. “I had a place in New Orleans,” he said, “but I rarely went there.”

Everything changed 18 years ago with the birth of his son, Kaenan. Kron tried to continue his life on the road but after a year knew he needed to go another direction.

“So I started an art gallery in New Orleans.”

Although the leap from music to art may seem wide, musicians are also artists, Kron explained. “I had a good rapport with artists, a connection. I just migrated into a different kind of artists.”

It just sort of happened after he became an apprentice welder for Colombian father-son sculptors Roberto and Luis Colmenares.

“I learned so much from those two,” he said, “both building and welding. I wanted to use the walls of my place as a gallery space, so we cleaned up the studio a little and my welding studio became a gallery for a couple of years. Then I moved into the French Quarter for five more years.

“Then 9/11 killed the business. We lost tourism. I stayed on two more years, then closed it.”

One might think Kron would have continued in the arts, but with his college background he was hired to build a biofuel plant – Bay Area Biofuel in Oakland. “One of the founders was my brother. I was the only employee for the first two years,” he said with a smile. After that it grew into a big thing.

Kron bottles his brush cleaner at a plant in Concord.

Six years ago, Kron sold out of the company. He had made a discovery he hopes will revolutionize the art world. He calls it Bristle Magic, a paintbrush cleaner and reconditioner. He can’t talk about the precise process because he and his partner, chemist David Weller, have just filed the official patent, Kron said. But he can say it’s made from recycled cooking oil and is an improvement on traditional brush cleaners because not only is it recycled, it’s fume-free, reusable, nontoxic and biodegradable, a far cry from paint thinner, turpentine, mineral spirits, acetone or diesel fuel. It also works on oils and acrylics, wet or dry.

Surprisingly, he said, one of his toughest sells was his partner, painter and nurse Christina Juran.

“She wouldn’t try it,” he said, shrugging. “I believe in free choice, so I had no problem with her not trying it.” He also understands artists. “They’re set in their ways, they already have their methods, even when they’re painful.”

It took Juran about a year, but now she has joined the club. Other members are the staff at Riley Street art supplies in Santa Rosa. “If you go there and try to buy another cleaner, they ask, ‘Are you sure?’”

Two years ago, he started heavily marketing the product. Sales are growing, he said, along with hopes for the future. What’s not to love about a product he describes as “more biodegradable than sugar?”

One artist friend quipped, “You know, I haven’t been using it too much, but my wife does put a little behind her ear when she goes out.”

For a demonstration of Bristle Magic, visit Petaluma Art Supply from noon-4 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at 515 E. Washington St. To learn more about Bristle Magic, visit bristlemagic.com.

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