• Michael Harding Art Formulas Ltd


    From Bedroom Batches to British National Treasure

  • In Michael Harding Art Formulas’ milestone 40th year, Michael himself sits down with Adelphi Manufacturing’s Dean Willis, to discuss the global phenomenon his business has become, and the stages of growth which got him there…

    A Relationship of Trust:
    > 30 Years’ Collaboration

    After purchasing his first tubes from Adelphi Group Chairman Stephen Holroyd in 1983, Michael first met Sales Director Dean in 1993, when increasing demand for his paints meant that the manual filling and crimping output was no longer sufficient.

    “I started the business in my bedroom, with batches of 15-20 tubes, and only 20 colours!” remembers Michael.

    Investing in an early Centrac filling machine was “a huge step forward, almost like getting electricity”, he laughs, whilst the FCC manual tube closer enabled him to crimp one tube every 3 seconds; a significant improvement. He takes the time to show Dean the original equipment; now a little careworn but still fully operational almost 30 years later!

    “Smaller scale machinery is vital, as it’s what enables businesses like mine to get going.”

    Above Left: The manual FCC Tube Closer, which Michael purchased from Adelphi Manufacturing in 1986.

    Below Right: The TGM E250Matic, purchased from Adelphi Manufacturing in 2021, which now infeeds,
    orientates, fills, double-crimps and outfeeds up to 8,000 tubes per day.

    Global Growth – “A Small Empire!”

    Now with over 350 colours in his portfolio, a global reputation for the very highest quality, and endorsement from the likes of Damien Hirst and David Hockney, Michael’s business boasts 14 dedicated employees, and exports to over 30 countries worldwide.

    Michael’s Production Engineer Jon Slatter laughs “it’s a small empire – we’re taking over the world!”

    The business was even featured in the prestigious Parliamentary Review (2016/17), which recognised nationally leading businesses of “opportunity and aspiration”, introduced by then-Prime Minister the Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

    “The finest quality oil paint”

    David Hockney – One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and an important contributor to the 1960s Pop Art movement.

    “Beautifully honest paints, for the beautifully honest act of painting”

    Chris Ofili – Turner Prize winner.

    “These are the best oil paints in the world”

    Sir Howard Hodgkin – A celebrated British painter, whose work is most often associated with Abstract art.

    Automation Enables Exponential Expansion

    Within the past five years, Michael Harding Art Formulas has invested in additional automation, to further increase production capacity as demands continue to grow…

    TGM S400 – At a Glance:

    • Fully automatic, filling Oil Paints into 40ml, 60ml, 225ml tubes.
    • Exceptional output of 45 per minute at Michael Harding Art Formulas.
    • 5,000 tubes of two colours are now being fully processed per day (infeed, sensor, orientation, filling, double-crimping and outfeed), including stripping and cleaning time.
    • When filling one colour per day, the output would be “easily 8,000 per day”, says John.
    • 316L stainless steel ‘wetted’ parts ensure durability and long service life, as the parts are cleaned using a Kerosene mix in between colours!
    • Production Engineer Jon says of the service they receive
    • “Whenever I have a query Dean gets back to me, he’s good as gold!”
    • Additional air-assisted rams on the upward stroke of the filling piston, due to the thickness of the oil paint.

    TGM E250Matic – the Most Recent Investment:

    • Fully automatic, filling watercolours into 15ml tubes.
    • Machine operator Leigh Carrick says  – “it’s really reliable. It puts a smile on your face to see it running so well  – it’s rare to get a problem now.”
    • With recipe recall, Lee says it’s “a user-friendly interface. I don’t really have to touch any of it now,” which saves a great amount of time getting each different fill set-up and running.

    Meticulous Craftsmanship

    Michael is now the only manufacturer in the world who creates the Stack Lead White colour using a technique dating back to 4,000BC! This involves “suspending lead strips over vinegar, and burying beneath horse manure for a period no less than 3 months.” Clients value the premium, proven quality of Michael’s colours, which enable their artistic aspirations to be realised more fully than a lesser quality product.

    Adelphi Manufacturing subscribes to much the same philosophy, manufacturing and supplying only the highest quality machinery and equipment, made from premium quality materials such as 316L pharmaceutical grade stainless steel. Both companies are differentiated in their respective industries by the standards which they uphold in their craftsmanship.

    Michael’s newest machines are now running 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, producing highly accurate and consistent fills, which are verified by his in-house check-weighing process. For both Michael and Dean, reliability, consistency and quality are key.

    A Traditional Approach, for Enduring Appeal

    Both Michael Harding Art Formulas and Adelphi Manufacturing are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2022; 40 and 75 years respectively. Revelries are being planned by both businesses, with Michael releasing 40 new watercolours to celebrate his 40 years in business, and Adelphi Manufacturing hosting a programme of celebratory events in support of their Charity of the Year – Martlets Hospice.

    Michael and Dean have a shared interest in the preservation of company history, and each fondly archives the most significant artefacts from their respective businesses. With Adelphi Manufacturing’s on-site historical displays growing weekly, and Michael’s plans to establish a museum with his pieces, it’s fair to say that an appreciation for tradition is highly valued.

    This extends to the traditional values with which each company conducts their business. Michael describes the trust he has in Dean and Adelphi Manufacturing’s team, as a result of their complete after-sale care and servicing back-up. “We haven’t received this with all companies!” he says, before adding “sometimes it takes a month or two of using a machine before you realise a feature that could make things more convenient. I know I can always speak to Dean and he will find a solution.”

    Dean and Jon discuss a potential convenience improvement for the TGM E250Matic (right).


    The Verdict

    “We’d obviously recommend the machines. If someone walked in the door today,
    we’d show them our tube fillers!” says Michael.

    Watch Michael Harding’s TGM tube filling machines in-action, filling Watercolours >>> and Oil Paints >>>

    Contact Adelphi