This is one of the very unique places I have been looking forward to visiting for this project. Kettle Point takes it’s name from the round boulders, or “kettles”, that emerge from the underlying Devonian shale beds of Lake Huron. These natural wonders are actually concrentrations of calcite crystals which grew over many centuries around a nucleus of marcasite. Such formations are unique for this area and are not found anywhere else in all of Canada.
But when Reiner, Maggie and I traveled there we weren’t looking for the calcite kettles. There are other smaller formations also at this point which I am hoping will be useful as pigment. These nodules only grow to about 2 inches in diameter but instead of calcite crystals, these are made of pyrite (iron sulfide – FeS2).
The lake at this location is shallow for a long way out and so we walked out into the water looking for small spheres. After a while, I began to worry that this trip might not be a great success; the water’s gentle waves made viewing the floor a somewhat dizzying experience and after the first hour we had only collected a single specimen. But we continued on, hoping for more.
Then suddenly we found a couple more; then more still; until we found a spot where the little spheres of pyrite appeared like gravel. Our little tin bucket began to fill and one property of these little nodules characteristics became very apparent: They are heavy! Even when picking them from the lake’s floor, you knew as soon as you touched a rock whether it was, in fact, pyrite because of it’s weight. In the end, with our bucket full and a little deformed by the weight, I happily slogged it back to shore.
My pyrite nodules aren’t much to look at presently, but I’m hopeful that they will be very useful.
Mars pigments are a group of synthetically produced iron oxide colours which can range from yellow-red-violet-black. They represent a purer form of the same material that gives colour to the ochre pigments because they don’t have any clays associated with them. Because of this purity, they are also typically brighter and more opaque.
This is very exciting for me, but wholly unexpected. After I had finished calcifying a sample of the pyrite I opened the crucible and saw that the whole mass had turned black. I thought it was ruined! I’m not sure what possessed me to put a magnet to the mass. Pyrite is not magnetic at all, but perhaps inspiration whispered in my ear …
Once the magnet got close enough, the whole mass of black powder jumped around it and formed a mane around it’s head. Then I suddenly realized that I had created the mineral magnetite, or in pigment lingo, Mars Black.
So why are they called, ‘Mars’ colours? The whole group of these pigments comes out of the eighteenth century and today we take the title Mars from the latin, martius, which orginally described this pigment. To the alchemist, Mars symbolised iron; what could be more appropriate to describe this group of pigments?