Art Material Scarcity
COVID has had a huge impact upon art material supplies at a time when demand has also surged as more people have had time to engage with their creativity. I thought we should look into why problems with some products still persist.
Raw Materials
Art supplies are the definition of the global economy. The sourcing of raw materials for art supplies manufacture is global and changes in one company can disrupt the entire chain without a pandemic. This time we face a worldwide pandemic resulting in supply chain and labor constraints that impacted pigments, drying oils, resins, polymer binders, gums, linens, cottons, wood all at the same time. Added to this is the fact that many ingredients vital for making art materials are used in other global industries like automobiles that gobble up resources- stressing the supply chain, leading to shortages, delays and price increases for all art supplies.
Most Notable Shortages
There is currently a notable shortage of pigments, monomers and resins used in the manufacture of artists’ acrylic paint. The shortage is due to a number of factors like a fire at the BASF SE plant in Germany, which produces a large percentage of acrylic emulsion products, the winter storm in Texas and recent hurricanes in Louisiana which impacted the petrochemicals needed to make paint. The damage to the physical buildings and machines is not easy to replace, so the disruptions continue.
Manufacturing Processes
Art materials manufacture may involve big machines, but it can rarely be described as mass production. It takes time and attention to detail to produce quality art materials, and in many cases the manufacturers have limited machinery and so can only produce paints one color at a time.
There is major shortage in packaging materials such as plastics, paper, and metals to store and move art supplies. The containers needed for art supplies are hard to source as items like hand-sanitizer purchased huge quantities of bottles and lids.
Quick Facts
  • Raw materials that have historically had lead times that ranged from just-in-time to two–three weeks for imports have increased to multiple weeks for domestic materials and three–four months for many imported materials.
  • Production for virtually everything cannot keep up with demand.
  • Shipping costs doubled and, in some cases, tripled.
  • The American seaports are being taxed beyond their capabilities—ships are waiting weeks to be unloaded.
  • When ships are finally unloaded, the lack of gate appointments on the docks for trucking companies to load goods and transfer them to other parts of the country creates even more delays moving goods from the seaports to the interior of the country.
  • Even when trucking companies can obtain gate appointments, and goods are finally ready to be loaded for land transport, there are insufficient trucks (especially tankers) and drivers to handle the volume of goods.
What to Expect
Unfortunately, the art supply market will continue to feel the effects of the supply chain issues for some time to come. The materials we need to produce art are truly global and the issues discussed cannot be fixed quickly. The good news is that we are creative and will find a solution that works for us - new materials and new ways to express ourselves. Can't wait to see what you create!