Interview with Tom Hill founder C2 Paint

by admin on November 18, 2013


This interview with Tom Hill Founder of C2 Paint was filmed at Shearer Painting in Seattle, Wa.  July 2013



Tom Hill: Do I sound like I know what I’m doing?

John Shearer: Silly as I feel

Tom Hill: Yeah, Yeah

John Shearer: I’m going to start right up

Tom Hill: Sure

John Shearer: Tell us your name.

Tom Hill: Thomas Evan Hill the third

John Shearer: And Thomas, you had to start as a chemist at Pratt and Lambert.

Tom Hill: Actually I started as a chemist with Mary Carter Paints in Tampa Florida. And then I worked for Harris Paints in Tampa Florida. And then in 1975, I was recruited to go to work for the Pratt and Lambert Corporation in Buffalo New York from Tampa Florida. When I took the employment physical, the physician, there was a section for intelligence, and he wrote “questionable” because I moved from Tampa to Buffalo.

John Shearer: (short laugh)

[1 min]

Tom Hill: So I started at Pratt and Lambert in 1975 yes.

John Shearer: How many years at Pratt and Lambert?

Tom Hill: Let’s see, Pratt and Lambert was sold in 1996 so it would have been 21 years at P and L, and I started as a research chemist and had a number of different positions, actually I never had the same job for 2 years straight. And when the company was sold I was the group vice president for research and I had responsibility for all the trade sales businesses.

John Shearer: Can you tell me your relationship with Cellutel and Vitrolight?

Tom Hill: I actually was a chemist responsible for formulating them.

John Shearer: Hm

Tom Hill: Now they had been introduced well before I went to work for Pratt and Lambert but in my first job with Pratt and Lambert I was responsible [2 mins] for oil based coatings. They’re a clear finish, far more cellutone vitrolight parmelized effect of those finishes.

John Shearer: You know we did a historic home here in Seattle last year. It’s called the Norvel home. It’s a Swiss Chalet and when it came down to test products, we actually used cellutone.

Tom Hill: Yeah

John Shearer: because it’s really the last of the animals that gives us the sheen that we want in performance.

Tom Hill: Yeah it’s funny, I always felt that cellutones name was pretty humorous…because its name is cellutone satin, a semi-gloss enamel.

John Shearer: (laughs)

Tom Hill: That’s the official name, it’s cellutone satin. So the names didn’t really mean anything in terms of the sheens or anything like that. But yeah, Pratt and Lambert made [3 mins] manufactured our own alchid resents. So that was one of the reasons we were able to design a product that fit what we wanted them to do. A lot of other people, you buy commercial alchids and then you try to get them to work. We manufactured our own so we could tweak them to do anything we wanted to do.

John Shearer: So after a long run at Pratt and Lambert, working at different coatings, and obviously seeing what a VP and a chemist has to deal with, what the market will bare, what buyers are interested in buying and then developing those products, obviously that led you down the road of starting, you know…

Tom Hill: C2

John Shearer: C2… so can you talk briefly about what led to the inspiration about C2 because that’s what people are interested in?

[4 mins]

Tom Hill: Well in 1996, you know I was there as part of a management group of 14 that ran the Pratt and Lambert Corporation. We were a $550,000,000.00 company and I was one of that management group. And when Sherwin Williams bought the company, they got rid of all but 4 of those people immediately, like the day they took over. 10 of those people were gone immediately. And they kept me and said they wanted me to continue to work for them. I worked for Sherwin Williams for about 9 months with a sign on my forehead that said redundant resource and a target on my chest. So 9 months later they called and said we really don’t need you anymore. You know, thank you and here’s your severance. So I needed to do something.

I had noticed through the years that the brewing industry consolidated fairly rapidly and that spawned a bunch of microbreweries. [5 mins] And the most successful of those microbreweries was Sam Adams. And I felt that there was room in the trade sales portion of the business for a specialty company like a microbrewery. And since I knew what sold, you know I knew where the costs were, I knew everything about the intricacies of manufacturing, I felt that we had an opportunity to create this kind of a niche business.

So we got oh, 8-10 dealers together in Chicago, talked about it and said okay let’s put a business plan together. Three to four months later we got together in Calgary Alberta and said look, if we’re going to do this, each of us is gonna throw in 50 grand and we’re gonna get moving on this company. [6 mins] And we decided to do that so the company started in January of 1999. So we just grown from there. We didn’t start selling any paint until probably the end of 1999. And the first paints we sold were contractor line. The color system came out in about what 2000, 2001, and you know we’ve been successful since then.

John Shearer: So when you were doing your original business plan, did you create a spot for strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities?

Tom Hill: Yes we did.

John Shearer: And this is the first I’ve heard of the Sam Adams model but it totally makes sense. Where did you think when you had your original 9 dealers, in getting them to buy in this launch? What did you see as the first 5 years of C2, who would be your clients and how you guys would be different?

[7 mins]

Tom Hill: We felt that the clientele would be designer focused dealers, independent dealers and only independent dealers who were, who were interested in selling a really high end product. And we felt that those, we didn’t think that there was a lot of room in the channel for that kind of a business model. And the reason I say that is you look at the, if you think of a bell curve okay, and here on the left side of the bell curve is low price, right side of the bell curve is high price. There’s not a lot of area under the curve on the details on either side. So we knew there was not a tremendous amount of space available under there. [8 mins] But we felt there was probably a hundred million dollars worth of space available for us. There was probably five hundred million dollars total, and maybe a hundred million dollars for us is what we thought.

So that’s who we were targeting, that’s what we were looking for and those were the kind of, those were the kind of businesses that we attracted. In the first, we were growing very very nicely until we ran into, until Benjamin Moore discovered we were alive. And you know all of a sudden they decided that they didn’t want a, they sent a letter out to all of their distribution channels and said if you take on the Coatings Alliance, we’re gonna pull the brand from you. That kind of was a, it kind of put some water on our camp fire.

[9 mins]

John Shearer: So Tom, this is a beat up copy but it’s my favorite and I know pretty soon it’s going to be outdated because there are brand new colors that are going out which we’ll talk about in a second but I’d like you to dive right into what makes C2 unique which is clearly these colors. From a brief background just here in Seattle, we know that Dailies is the exclusive dealer of C2 paint in Seattle. And I’m kind of an old school painter. It takes me awhile to change so we were embedded with using the color key ameritone at the Benjamin Moore because those two decks were in every architects and designers drawer.

One of the strongest design build companies in Seattle is J.A.S. Design Build and probably around 2001 they began to, their designers began to [10 mins] specify C2 colors. Number one, it’s right up the street from Dailies Paint. Sometimes it takes me awhile to kind of notice what’s going on but what I initially noticed was that the C2 color deck, which is much smaller in the number of colors, versus like I won’t name any names but some of the color systems that have 800 colors. What people don’t realize is that out of those 800 colors, it’s really only 20% of the colors that are used all of the time.

The C2 color system, which I’ll let you take the floor and talk about, all of these colors are individually selected by color people. And there’s not that discrepancy rule where only 20% of them are used. Obviously some of the whites, cotton, wedding cake, stout is a strong color, C2 barnacle is a color that we use a lot. Can you just speak to…

[11 mins]

Tom Hill: Well let me tell you about the Genesis of the color system.

John Shearer: Thank You

Tom Hill: When we were putting the company together, my background is I am a chemist. I know how to formulate paint. I also manufactured colorant at Pratt and Lambert. Those people reported to me as well and I recognize that anybody can spend the amount of money to make a really good paint and that’s kind of what a number of our competitors have done. They’ve introduced super premium paints that are very, very good paint. But they’ve spent more money on raw materials. We felt long term, the way we could compete is on color.

We also recognize that the majority of the color systems that are out there are generally let down color systems. So you have, maybe, 20% of the colors that are lighter, darker, [12 mins] but they’re the same color just lighter or darker. We decided that we wanted to have 496 colors, and the reason it’s 496 is that’s how many fit in the color center. I mean it’s no you know, it’s no deep dark secret or anything like that.

John Shearer: There wasn’t anything to the number 496?

Tom Hill: No, we wanted chips to be a certain size, and the color center had to be usable by a 5 foot 2 inch woman, so as far as you could reach up and reaching down, and as wide as you could do to get two people to the center, it worked out to 496 colors. So we developed 496 individual colors. We always, we started from a perspective of what we defined as complexity with color. And what we define complexity to mean more than 3 colorants plus white.

[13 mins]

Now I don’t know if you call what goes into them pigments or colorants. In the east coast they call them pigments, I call them colorants. So it’s individual colorants plus white. So it’s more than 4. The reason we did that is because it’s more interesting to your eye. Alright, you know as the light changes throughout the day, it’s more interesting to you. My son refers to this as an interesting pallet. It tastes better. The more flavors in the pallet, the individual flavors, the better the taste. I kind of referred, I talked about it as music.

I mean if you hit middle C time after time after time it’s boring. You add another note it’s more interesting. You add more notes it’s even more interesting. You know we look at this as a concerto for your eyes. Now we’ve moved from what I refer to, what we refer to as…

[14 mins]

John Shearer: Tom can you give me one second? I’m gonna grab a color again.

Tom Hill: Sure

John Shearer: That little section over again. Tom Hill, John Shearer. Tom is the founder of C2 Paint and I want to drill down directly into why C2 is unique. So as a little bit of background, I am a painting contractor here in Seattle. I buy C2 paint directly from the exclusive dealer of 2 paint in Seattle, Dailies Paint. And it was probably around the early 2000’s that I began to see the color being pinged by designers.

A firm that we work with a lot, J.S. Design Build, began to specify some of the C2 colors and I had a long run at using Ameritone, the color key system, and of course the Benjamin Moore classics which is in every architects and designers drawer. [15 mins] But the C2 paint started coming around and what I first noticed was that there are not nearly as many colors. And I’ve always known that some of the bigger color systems, I think from a business perspective, these companies like to show lots of colors because it gives clients the idea of “options”, all though in my opinion most of them are confusing and when you look at a system that has a thousand colors, only 20% of them are actually used.

C2’s color deck, lightweight compared to the rest. Also, 16 colorants to get to different color spaces. You are the most qualified, as the founder of the company, to speak to that. Would you please?

Tom Hill: When we put the company together, we believed that there’s two things you can compete on. One’s the quality of the product, the other’s the color system. We felt that that if some competitor wanted to spend enough money, they could match the quality of our products [16 mins] and we’ve seen that happen over the years where, when we introduced our products we were like this much better than everybody else and now, well now we’ve reintroduced, we’ve redone some formulas so we’re better but it’s not, it’s not this much better.

They’ve improved the product performance however in terms of the colorant, the color system, we felt that we could do a better job. And because we had no legacy systems, we had no dispensing equipment in the field, we could do what we felt was best. So we did a worldwide technology search for colorants, and we chose colors that come from the CPS company who are headquartered in Citard in the Netherlands, actually the companies headquartered in Finland. But the colorant portion is in Citard in the Netherlands.

It’s 16 colors, 16 individual colorants as you can see…

John Shearer: And those are the older system one’s correct?

Tom Hill: Yeah, yeah. 16 individual colorants [17 mins] and we use these colors to produce 496 individual, handcrafted colors. Handcrafted meaning that we didn’t just take some specterphatometer and match them. We did these things manually. We looked at them, we tweaked them. Did we like them, didn’t we like them? And that’s how we put them together.

Now the colors, our philosophy was to be complex. Complex means that we use more than three of these pigments plus white to produce a color. That’s what complex means. We now use a full spectrum approach, a complex full spectrum approach which means we use more than three pigments plus white [18 mins] but we also do not use black in tinting these things. So it’s more of an artist pallet.

And we do this because my son would say it’s a blend of flavors which is more interesting to your mouth. I talk about it as more of a, in terms of music. If you hit middle C time after time after time, it’s kind of boring. You add another note, it’s more interesting. A couple of more notes, it’s even more interesting. So it’s kind of like a concerto for your eyes while it’s on the wall.

John Shearer: Is it a fair statement to say that you and your team, the original founders of C2, introduced the term full spectrum to the color lexicon?

Tom Hill: Not really because that full spectrum terminology really started on the east coast.

John Shearer: There is no official definition?

Tom Hill: There is no official definition of full spectrum, there isn’t, but it really did start, it did start on the east coast [19 mins] with Donald Kaufman, Donald Kaufman colors. That’s really where it started. And everybody was doing something a little bit different alright. Now one of the reasons, one of the other reasons we did this is we recognized that, you know, we can get a color spect and someone can take it down the road to a competitor and try to knock off the color.

But if you have a color, you know one of these colors like this that let’s say there’s seven different colorants that make up this color, it’s virtually impossible to knock off. If you don’t have a real good color sense, and you don’t care [20 mins] about color, yeah you can knock it off. But if you care, it’s almost impossible to knock off.

The other thing we did when we put this color system together is fan decks and color cards and all of those things historically have been made out of lacquers. So there’s all these disclaimer on these things that this is a representation of the color. The actual color is what you get in the can dadadadadada. Well we made our color tools out of our paint. So this is our paint, so now it’s our eggshell enamel, so what you see is what you get.

We also recognize that now these, these chip on the fan deck are larger than the normal chips on a fan deck. But even if these, being as large as they are, we recognize that it’s been very difficult for people to make color selections. So we introduced something that we refer to as an ultimate [21 mins] paint chip which is 18×24 inches. And that’s something you can tape onto your wall, and you can move to different walls and determine whether you like the color or not. And we were unique in doing that. That’s, nobody had anything like that.

John Shearer: An anecdote. Do you know what a B-role is? In a video, a B-role is when I superimpose an image so when you say that you know the super dried on, I’m gonna show a picture of it.

Tom Hill: I was gonna say I didn’t know if you had one or not. It would be good.

John Shearer: I have a really beat up one in the car that’s not…I’m gonna put them, I’m gonna introduce the image right on the video.

Tom Hill: Sure. Now do you want me to, do you want us to talk about, you haven’t even seen this.

John Shearer: I do, I’m actually gonna ask you a question, we’re actually filming, I’m gonna ask you a question.

Tom Hill: This will be the new ones.

John Shearer: And then we’re gonna, right after that we’ll cut it and then we’ll do one for the new one. I’ll ask you specifically so…[22 mins] I want you to address why no black? I think that’sreally important…Okay, and I think he’ll be able to answer it in my color so Tom I’d like you to, I think you’re best to articulate, I use my own explanation for how to get to different color spaces so I’ll use a real life story.

One of my, a project that we did last year for a Seattle high rise, on the twenty third floor, lots of natural light. I got a call from, she’s a customer now, a previous customer but her name is Professor Nancy Groat and she really likes yellow. Yellow was in her previous house and she wanted it on the wall. She wanted warmth and they had gone through a process of testing lots of colors.

So she actually did a web search and found us. When you do a search in Seattle for Ferrel Mall, you find my company and so she wanted some advice for colors. So I came out to help her and once I saw some of her samples, she had lots of yellows up, about seven of them. And most of them were really too [23 mins] acidic and I pointed her directly to a color within five minutes which is C2 moxy. I’m sure you’re familiar with that color.

And she asked me how come, can this be matched? And I said probably not. But the best explanation I could give her is that there are more colorants in C2. They don’t try to cut it with black and there’s also high and a low yellow. So we were able to get all of her cabinets, all of her walls painted in that but if that question were posed to you, “how come these colors can’t be matched?”, besides that we have unique colors, can you drill down and maybe give a better explanation so that owners and designers might be able to better understand that?

Tom Hill: Every color has a mathematical signature. And when you blend these mathematical [24 mins] signatures you end up with a final color. Now you can’t match that final mathematical signature unless you have the signatures that go into it. The way spectrophotometers work is they are generally a bridge spectrophotometer so between the visual spectrum they take 32 measurements and then they curve fit between those measurements okay. That’s the way they do it. Well you can have a point that’s between the measurement that maybe is up here instead of on the line. And that’s why if you don’t have the actual mathematical equations of each of these colorants, [25 mins] you can’t get something that matches.

John Shearer: So, essentially you’re saying that because from the ground up you’re building these unique colorants, and there’s a mathematical map…

Tom Hill: Yup

John Shearer: And these are certain points on the map with your colorants, and you’re trying to match them with the different colorant system, it just misses.

Tom Hill: Yeah

John Shearer: And you said earlier that there’s some people that close is okay? I find that a lot of my clients that close is not okay. (laughs)

Tom Hill: Well again it’s, you know I’ve looked at things, I’ve seen knock offs of our matches that I don’t think are even close and people have accepted them. You know so color is perception and some people are more astute in terms of perception than others. Just like some people have a real nose and pallet for wines, fine wines. [26 mins] Fine wines would be totally wasted on me. Okay, but other people can tell, you know they can say you know that’s a dadadada from dadadada. You know I can’t do any of that. I can do it for color, you know I have that kind of a sophisticated pallet for color but not for wine. And other people have different sophistications in their pallets.

John Shearer: So Tom there’s some big news, there’s a brand new color, there are new colors and a new color system. Will you tell us how it’s different?

Tom Hill: We have replaced all of these colors with new colorants and the new colorants are, the primary focus of the new colorants was we wanted to make sure we had low VOC per color products but at the same time [27 mins] we wanted to improve the performance of the colorants. So we now have, we’re using a green oxide, for instance, that gives us a nice muted space but it’s an oxide so it’s going to be really, really good for exterior durability.

John Shearer: It’s color fast?

Tom Hill: It colors fast.

John Shearer: All of them…The hide is incredibly imprisoning. Like you don’t even know that colorant can affect how the paint performs. So throughout the system, all of the colors are color fast?

Tom Hill: Everything is color fast. We have a, you know again some…one of the things you have with trade sales colorants is you get a, like bright reds, we have the best bright red light fastness colorant you can get but it’s not as light fast as an automotive red. Because it’s about five times less expensive [28 mins] than an automotive red and it’s still very expensive, okay.

John Shearer: I would imagine five times more expensive than the traditional colorants. Perhaps two or three hundred dollars an ounce, I mean a quart or more.

Tom Hill: Well more than that. We have, well look we’re now looking at, we have a yellow that’s a bismuth vanadate yellow that is a…

John Shearer: Bismuth?

Tom Hill: Bismuth vanadate yellow, biva yellow, and it sells for a hundred and thirty five dollars a quart. Okay, but it is the most light fast yellow.

John Shearer: Can you give a comparison to…

Tom Hill: Pricewise?

John Shearer: Yeah, so if like that’s a hundred and thirty for a quart of yellow what’s a…

Tom Hill: Traditional organic yellow might go for about forty dollars, forty five dollars a quart. But it’s about 10 times as light fast. [29 mins] We did an exposure, we did an exposure on our test fence in Florida. We put a yellow out and there’s a measure of color difference that’s called delta-e alright. And the traditional yellow, after about nine months on the fence, the delta-e was twenty eight so the change in the color, from the original to where it was then was 28 which means the yellow had pretty much disappeared. The new bismuth vanadate yellow, the change was 1.2. And this is in, this is South Florida at forty five degrees exterior. So a severe, severe vague resistance test.

We also have in here a product called cobalt blue. If you’re an artist you know cobalt blue. [30 mins] And these things are much stronger. Every one of them, we’ve re- formulated all of the colors in this pallet. Every one of these colors will cover in a maximum of two coats. Most of them would cover in one coat. A good painter like yourself I’m sure you could get it covered, get it done in one coat.

John Shearer: So what you’re telling me is if I decide to paint a wall and curtain call, and it’s a white wall right now, brand new GWB and a coat of primer we were brought in to paint…

Tom Hill: Two coats max!

John Shearer: That or how about blue beard?

Tom Hill: Two coats max!

John Shearer: So it would be a dream for anybody who is painting.

Tom Hill: We’ve reformulated all of these things. You’re familiar, we had to come out with this accent color system primer because we had some of these colors that just didn’t look good. They didn’t cover real well.

John Shearer: There were a few points that needed three or four coats.

[31 mins]

Tom Hill: Yeah, and so we’ve replaced those, we’ve reformulated everything in this. And you know we upgrade our color system every four years or so. We take a look at it every two or three years but it takes another year to get everything done. So we’re introducing new colors in the fall. I think it’s what…

Robin: 88

Tom Hill: 88 new colors in the fall. So we are gonna retire 88 colors and introduce 88 new colors. You mentioned…

Robin: or 66?

Tom Hill: No, I think it’s 88. You mentioned earlier that a lot of color systems only 20% of the pallet works.

John Shearer: It’s purchased.

Tom Hill: We are able to gather data from our dispensing equipment, so we know exactly how many colors are purchased. And this system here, it’s 55 to 60% of the colors represent 80% of what we do.32 mins] So the old 80/20 rule, 20% of the colors would represent 80% of what you do. With us it’s…

John Shearer: Pareto Principle

Tom Hill: Yeah, with us it’s 60% of the colors represent 80% of what we do. So the color system works hard and the new system is gorgeous okay. At the same time we’ve developed a relationship with Barry Dixon. And Barry Dixons a well known designer in the east coast. I think he’s done some work, a decent amount of work through Farrow and Ball.

John Shearer: He put them on the map.

Tom Hill: And we are…

John Shearer: It’s my opinion.

Tom Hill: We are pleased to really introduce what we refer to as Naturals Collection of Colors by Barry Dixon. He put these, all of these colors together…[33 mins] from his farm in Virginia. That was the inspiration for all of the colors and this, this is hot off the press okay. It’s the only one that…that’s interesting…

John Shearer: We’re rolling oh yeah

Tom Hill: It’s interesting…Well as I was saying you make draw downs, in the laboratories we make draw downs over a chart that the half, the top half is black and the bottom half is white. And then we do a measurement over the black half and a measurement over the white half, divided them into each other and get what’s called a contrast ratio. Now if the color over the white half and the color over the black half were identical, the contrast ratio would be 1.00 alright.

All of these colors in here have contrast ratios [34 mins] that are let’s say .994 or better. Alright, the accepted definition of hiding in the paint industry is .98 or better. These are all .994 or better in terms of how they hide, how they cover. So you’re gonna get one or two coat coverage at the maximum. So, I say two coats because no matter how good a painter you are there are always holidays…always!

John Shearer: Tell me the story of how you approached Barry Dixon. Have you weighed in the design industry? Definitely an original.

Tom Hill: We developed a relationship with someone in the Washington D.C. area whose name is Colleen Scully. [35 mins] And she did some work for one of our partners in the Washington D.C. area, Houseworks. And Colleen knew Barry Dixon. And Colleen was very, very excited about the color pallet. And she felt that Barry would be equally excited about the color pallet. So she presented the color pallet to him and he was very excited about it, wanted to meet us, wanted to see if we could set up a relationship together and we have. And we’re very delighted with the relationship. It’s, you know, he’s been speaking on our behalf somewhat now. He was at our annual meeting in Cancun in February. But we now have this color card, this color card is now, just now being introduced. Just now it’s being introduced.

[36 mins]

John Shearer: When will the world wide launch be?

Tom Hill: It’s going to be through Barry. So we have to ship, we have to ship a number of cards to him, like 500. And then set up when he’s gonna introduce it. I believe that we should be, we should have a notice out to Robin and our other partners by the end of the week that they can order these things. We have 4,000 of them in our office in Buffalo right now. So we’re just working through how we, the logistics of how we ship them and all that.

John Shearer: Let’s play guess a C2 bank color.

Tom Hill: Nah, Not me.

John Shearer: I’m just kidding.

Tom Hill: Robin would be the one…

John Shearer: We have stacks and stacks of these for all of our clients.

Tom Hill: Robin would be the guess the paint color.

John Shearer: These aren’t stacks but these are all C2 egg shell draw downs for clients.

Tom Hill: Yeah, I’m not the guess the paint color guy. Believe it or not I’m a paint chemist. I’m a purist as a paint chemist. [37 mins] And when you put colorant in my paint, you contaminate it. I don’t care how much or how little colorant you put in my paint, it’s a contaminant. So my objective in this, now I recognize that I’m probably the only one who wants to use white paint everywhere, alright. However, the more colorant you put in the more contamination there is. So my objective in designing colorants and color systems is to use as little colorant as possible in the paint so that the properties of the paint are not marginalized in any way.

Alright, and I kind of laugh about it being a contaminant because you know you have the, you have the artistic side of the company and then you have the technical side of the company. And there’s always a, there’s always a [38 mins] natural tension between the two of us. Alright, so, I’m probably more, you can probably more show me a paint film and I can probably tell you, you know what the paint is, what day it was made, and all that stuff. But if you tell me a color and you say you know what color is that, I don’t know. I would of say it’s a nice color. You know, but that’s about all I’m gonna be able to tell you. ..would know what color these things are.

John Shearer: Tom…Robin had asked a question earlier, I’m gonna have you address it. Let’s see here if I have one. Let’s talk about black.

Tom Hill: Yes

John Shearer: The absence of black. What is black? Is black a color? Where does it fit in the whole paint world?

Tom Hill: Well black is a dechromatizer okay, [39 mins] it moves more towards the gray scale.

John Shearer: There’s black, there’s black.

Tom Hill: Black takes you to the gray scale. Black, it’s beautiful. I mean if you like, if you like…

John Shearer: Hold on for a second. What does it mean take you to the gray scale for someone who doesn’t…?

Tom Hill: Well alright the, the…colors are 3 dimensional alright. And there’s a light darkness scale which is the gray scale. 100 is pure white, zero is the absence of white or black okay. That’s zero. And then you’ve got an L scale, LAB, L is lightness darkness, A is red and green, B is yellow and blue. On either side of those things are yellow and blue. And depending on where a color is in color space, [40 mins]it has this LAB signature alright.

Now what black does is it takes the color from let’s say it’s real light and bright to muted and grayer. So it moves it down on the gray scale. That’s what black does and it’s referred to as a dechromotizer. Now artists generally don’t use black. Because they prefer to dechromotize by blending colors to get down, to get down in color space. That’s why artist use all the compliments, split compliments. You know and they try to get, they try to do that to get down in color space.

They use a lot, there’s a lot of umbers. So you’ll find in our new color system there’s a lot of umber that’s used as a dechromotizer as opposed to black. [41 mins] Black kind of mutes a color. It really, it really has a affect on the color. And we’ve tried to design the system from an artist perspective

John Shearer: Can you speak about the team at C2, the dealers? What do they bring and what happens when you guys meet when you pick the colors?

Tom Hill: Well let me explain what C2 is like right now. C2 is a virtual company and when I, I mean a virtual company, I do mean a virtual company. We have marketing resources that are headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and we have them on a retainer. They’re not full time employees, we have research and development in Clearwater, Florida that’s on retainer. We have manufacturing in Andover, Mass.[42 mins] That sets its capacity from a paint manufacturing company. We have PR’s in New York City, legal’s in Buffalo New York, accountings in Buffalo New York. And we coordinate everything in Buffalo, New York.

Now the way we’re able to do this is each of our partners in this business serves on a different committee if they choose to. For instance, Robin Daily is the chair of our marketing committee and they handle everything we do marketing wise. Phillip Reno with GNR paint in San Fransisco’s the chair of the color committee so when we’re selecting new colors and doing all the color work, his committee’s focused around doing that. We have a product committee, Shawn Clark in Waters and Brown outside of Boston [43 mins] is chair of that. So we look at new products, we look at how the products are performing, how the products are selling, what are we need to do, what don’t we need to do. We have a finance committee, we have a executive committee and that’s how we run the company.

So we essentially have a focus group every day. Because these people are dealing with the end users all the time. So it’s not like a big company where you, you know, it’s the independent dealer talks to their sales person, who talks to their district manager, who talks to the area manager, who talks to the VP of this, who talks to…you know. You get right to the top right away.

The other thing is generally if you have problems with anything people call me. You know everybody has my cell number. [44 mins] Everybody you know they call me and we get things taken care of very quickly. We don’t , there’s not a lot of bureaucracy in our decision making process so were relatively nimble.

John Shearer: Tom, talk to me about C2 cabinet and trim paint. Definitely unique. I know there’s a regional association with the university. You know the research that went into the, how to use that byproduct. I’ve used it it’s definitely unique.

Tom Hill: It is unique yeah, we stumbled across this. I mean this is one of these serendipitous things that occurs if you’re open to other opportunities. [45 mins] A company in Vermont from Natural Coatings did some work with the University of Vermont and what they were trying to do was find a utilization for whey which is a waste product in cheese manufacture. So there’s an organic dairy that produces all this organic milk that’s used in producing organic cheese. But then there’s a waste product that’s called whey.

Well the University of Vermont came up with a way to produce, a means to produce a whey polymer and this whey polymer was used in a clear finish for floors and wood furniture and things of that nature. Well, a couple of our partners started to blend this clear [46 mins] in a specific ratio with our satin finish and came up with a really unique feeling, smooth, great flow and leveling, positive curing finish that really works great for cabinets and trim. And we did a significant amount of work with them to try to get this thing working because there are always little things going on.

For instance, they were blending this 25% to 75% paint or 50% to 50% paint. Well when you do that you reduce the hiding of the finished product. So it would be a lot better if we could get this blended in the manufacturing stage and not reduce the hiding. So we did a lot of work to do that. We found that there were some [47 mins] incompatibilities between a number of things. You know there’s just all the things that happen in R & D.

Well we ended up with this cabinet and trim finish that really does a nice job. It’s a unique product. Right now it’s in a satin finish, we’re working on a semi-gloss finish currently. I don’t think we’re gonna have a gloss finish with it because unfortunately the product when it’s blended with our paint lowers the gloss a little bit. So there’s a natural limit to how high you can go in gloss. Products that are similar, you know have another unique story with this.

So it’s a, you know you’re getting rid of a waste product and it’s a sustainable product. I mean, you know we’re still gonna always be drinking milk, and everybody’s gonna be eating cheese, so they gotta get rid of the whey. [48 mins] That’s a phenomena that’s called blocking. Alright and if you put colors together face to face, you know sometimes they’ll block depending on how new they are. I mean we have a, the old way of removing, getting rid of blocking is you put some talc, talcum powder on it or you rub it with wax paper and then it doesn’t block anymore.

Alright, but it would be, with latex paints it would be much more desirable if they didn’t block initially. The problem is that traditional resins, well even non-traditional resins generally are gonna provide some blocking unless you run them through an oven. And the whey polymer, the whey product in our paint [49 mins] eliminates the blocking problem.

John Shearer: A question you probably didn’t expect. Most people think of C2 colors, low VOC water base. We discovered last year working on a older home, that your oil based primer is pretty good. Now I know, I can probably put two and two together. You’ve worked on cellutone, you have a long history of working on those paints, that, I don’t want to call it a control primer because that’s not what you’ve labeled it. But the C2 exterior primer is been our favorite for when there’s a problem we want to treat brand new with. Speak to how that’s different…it is different…I know that.

Tom Hill: The oil based primer is what’s referred to as a very long oil alchid. Alright, and what that means is that the percentage of oil [50 mins] to the product that converts it to an alchid, it’s a higher ratio of alchid, of oil to the alchid okay. And that gives you better penetration into the wood. It gives you better sealing. Now, the down side of the longer oil length alchids is sometimes they take a little longer to dry. So that’s the down side to them. But they penetrate better and they have terrific adhesion. So that’s what they are good at.

Now the other down side of these things is as a, VOC regs get tighter and tighter and tighter, they may disappear.

John Shearer: Were you the driving force behind that?

Tom Hill: What, the oil base the way it is?

John Shearer: It’s definitely different, I notice that for sure.

[51 mins]

Tom Hill: Well we made sure, what we did is made sure that the product did that, okay I made sure it did that. We don’t look, our research laboratory in Florida doesn’t do any alchid research okay. I’m probably the only one left in the company that knows anything about making alchids. So I know what to look for alright so, yeah I point us in the right directions but there aren’t that many people in the country anymore that are making good alchids. And it’s going to, again as the regs get tighter and tighter, they will sooner or later unfortunately they’re gonna disappear.

Although because this is a specialty product okay, and we, well you may want to edit this but, [52 mins] we put on the label that it’s a stain blocker so putting it on the label as a stain blocker gets us into a different VOC category so we can keep the VOC’s up.

John Shearer: John has the same..heart VOC’s

Tom Hill: Well you don’t even want to get me into that discussion at all, I mean that’s a…well look, you know there is no definitive science that proves that VOC’s cause ozone. There is no definitive science. [53 mins] It goes, see the problem, you know I’m a, actually I’m an organic chemist by training alright. The number of equations that it takes for to get to a something that’s gonna cause a problem, it’s like 20 different steps it has to go through so.

John Shearer: I’d like for you to take this home with you. This is our Shear shirt. The front of it says, “We heart…”. Thank you for coming. Thank you for coming out.

Tom Hill: You’re welcome.

John Shearer: Thank you for spilling the beans on the oil base.

Tom Hill: Oil base stuff is great stuff. Now let me tell you what I think the down side to oil base stuff is.

John Shearer: Okay

Tom Hill: You know it flows and levels great. It gets as hard as can be. You know and it gets harder and harder as it cures and it washes well and now it cracks. [54 mins] It’ll, you know if there’s dimensionally unstable sub-strain it will crack. My real hang up with oil based products is they yellow over time. That’s my big hang up with oil based products and acrylic products don’t yellow.

So, now if you again, when I was with Pratt and Lambert, we manufactured our own resins and we made like vitrolight out of coconut oil and coconut oil doesn’t yellow. And we made 38 clear out of safflower oil, safflower oil doesn’t yellow.

John Shearer: Is that why vitrolight smelled different 10 year, 15 years ago?

Tom Hill: Yeah,

John Shearer: It had a sweet smell to it.

Tom Hill: Yeah. And we made it out of those oils because they were non-yellowing oils. You know like, like the finishes that you put on [55 mins] refrigerators and washing machines, they’re all made from those types of oils so that they are non-yellowing. Soy, Lin Seed Oil, those are yellowing oils. Those are yellowing oils. So that’s my only hang up with alchid finishes.

John Shearer: Thank you.

John Shearer: Why is it called C2?

Tom Hill: We started wanting to call the brand Collections of Colors. Unfortunately Collections of Colors was already trademarked by someone else. We then tried C Squared, that was trademarked by someone else. We then found that C2 was not trademarked. Now this is after we had gone through about 30 potential names. So we wanted something that was kind of short, clever, easy to remember and one of our partners in Providence Rhode Island early on was interviewed for an article in the U.S. Magazine [56 mins] and they asked him why did you call it C2? He said we wanted something our customers could spell. And I said you didn’t say that did you? But he did say that so he, so if you know him, he’s very tongue and cheek so ah. But it was, we started collections of colors, CC we couldn’t do that, C squared we couldn’t do that, but C2 we could trademark so we did.

[56:31 mins]



  • jane

    I love this discussion. In my life as an interior designer, the only people who insist that complex colors that can be matched are painters and contractors who are cheap and cutting corners and people selling the cheaper paints.

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