May 23, 2007 / 2:35 PM / 13 years ago

Portugal pencil factory creates new pencil-paint

LISBON (Reuters Life!) - A century-old pencil factory in Portugal, struggling to keep up with today’s needs, says it has invented a new type of paint from the graphite used in pencils that may change the way artists work.

Viarco, a small factory created in 1907 in the north of Portugal, teamed up with a painter to create an aquarelle paint from graphite that enables artists to produce the same colors in a pencil using a spray or a brush.

After stumbling into this new invention, art professor and painter Jose Emidio said he thought the new paint could help artists develop new techniques and bolster creativity.

“We were preparing a tribute to the invention of the pencil and I had the opportunity to go to the Viarco factory and try their graphite before the whole production process was over, which led me to this new paint,” Emidio said.

“This material can in fact allow for new drawing techniques, but only time and the creativity of the artists will prove that,” he said.

The family owned Viarco factory plans to launch the new ArtGraf paint in the coming weeks. Asked how he had come about this new invention Emidio replied: “Like Picasso said: I don’t seek, I find.”

The Viarco factory started producing hats a hundred years ago and only moved on to producing pencils in 1930. It has managed to survive the ups and downs of a small family business by innovating and producing high quality pencils.

The factory’s management team has been passed down from generation to generation. The factory produces about six million pencils a year with only 27 workers.

Viarco also boasts the best industrial machinery among the few remaining pencil factories in Europe, and its board is mulling the creation of a pencil museum.

“We’ve kept a large part of our old machinery. We don’t use it nowadays but it still works,” Viarco manager Jose Vieira said.

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