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Turning Dust into Art: How a Donaldson Customer Marks Earth Day

If you’re a visual artist, you’re probably familiar with Gamblin Artists Colors, a premiere paint brand known for silky textures and rich hues. Gamblin’s factory in Portland, Oregon, mixes hundreds of thousands of tubes of fine paint each year, distributed through art supply stores across the U.S. and Canada.

A year of Gamblin’s airborne pigment dusts all combined create the hue Torrit Grey.

In paint-making, dry pigments are suspended in a linseed (flax) oil base. It’s a dusty business. To reduce dust in their factory, in 1993 Gamblin installed a Donaldson Torit® Dust Collector. Soon, the filtration system was so efficiently capturing the airborne pigment that the company began saving it in large drums.

As a landscape painter who cares about the environment, it didn’t take owner Robert Gamblin long to strike on the idea of recycling the dust into a new color. It would be a unique grey that occurs naturally when dozens of hues are combined. He decided to give a tube of the recycled paint to each customer during the month of April, in celebration of Earth Day.

"Pigment dust shouldn’t go into the earth, water, or landfill, but into paint," says Gamblin. "Earth-friendly Torrit Grey not only recycles our own pigment dust; it also helps artists focus on recycling, studio safety, and responsibility for the environment."

Since 1993, Donaldson Torit air filtration equipment has been reducing the airborne dust in Gamblin’s facility.

Every spring since 1993, Gamblin has produced an average of 50,000 tubes of this paint from a year’s worth of salvaged dust. And every time, the hue is slightly different because of variations in 12 months of paint orders filled at the plant. 

"If you take a scoop of the harvested pigment, it looks like ash from a fireplace," says Carrie Judah, marketing director for Gamblin Artists Colors. "But if you look really closely, you can see beautiful layers of colors that record the hue family mixed over a year’s time."

For years, Gamblin sponsored a painting competition with the recycled paint, which garnered thousands of entries. While the contest has been phased out, art still posted on Instagram and Pinterest is a display of what talent can do with industrial dust. Today, the paint is used and requested by such renowned artists as Kit King and Charles Edward Williams.

Paintings featuring this paint, by artists competing in Gamblin’s past annual competition.
2015 Torrit Grey painting competition winner

"The volume of pigment dust that Gamblin recycles shows how much airborne dust even a small operation can generate,” says Grace Ngunu, Manager of Product Management, Donaldson Industrial Air Filtration. 

"On Earth Day and year-round, we’re pleased to play a part in helping our customers filter dust. When that dust can be re-used or re-purposed, it is even more rewarding."

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