In life, it seems to me that there are two kinds of people: Those who eat their favourite bits of supper first, and those who save best for last. I guess I belong to the latter group, because I’ve been really enjoying the anticipation of harvesting the yellow ochre pigment that Reiner and I collected on our trip to Madoc before the snows came. These goethite rocks are the brightest yellow I’ve seen from Ontario so far, and I excited to see the pigment they create.
My first surprise in this process was that the goethite turned out to be a coating on these rocks only about 1/4 of an inch thick. When I broke open a sample, the rocks central mass became obvious and I realized that I needed to change my approach in harvesting. I had been prepared to pulverize the rocks I collected, but that would make a less bright colour, so I changed my tactics.
Instead, my assistants and I washed the rocks by putting them into a large bucket with water and mixing them around. The water turned a bright yellow (as did the little hands that were mixing). The pigment is so fine that you can’t feel it on your hands and it acted more like a dye (although I’m sure it isn’t soluble in water, and therefore really a pigment). Once this was done we decanted the water into another bucket, leaving the undesirable rocks behind.
Now the pigment needs to settle before I can start to remove the extra water. I might also use this method to separate the finest pigment from some of the courser (one of which might prove to be the brighter). For now, I’ll wait …