New colourful places

My studio desk

It’s been a colourful couple of days for me … Red, green, blue, and black have all come walking into my studio over the weekend!

I recently visited Robert Hall Originals in St. George, Ontario to check out some possible pigment-able rocks (which I recently heard about). While Robert’s storefront is full of fine specimens and jewelry, behind the shop are a wide assortment of rough stock which he didn’t seem to mind me digging through. Two particular sources were especially interesting to me—haematite from both Temagami in Ontario and Wabush in Labrador, which were sourced as iron-ore by the Stelco plants in Hamilton. While the Ontario mine is now abandoned, the Labrador site is still active. Both should create a good red, but the ore from Temagami has wide bands of bright red running through it, and I’m especially excited about seeing the personality of the resulting pigment.

The next day, while I was working outside, I happened to noticed that a number of woad plants had produced some healthy leaves over the fall. This was a surprise, both because the field is on its second year and because we’ve had an exceptionally cloudy fall. Only the leaves from the first year plants are a significant source of indigo blue, and so the field went to seed this year and I wasn’t expecting another harvest until next season. Also, it’s my understanding that the woad plant requires a minimum of 15 bright, sunny days to produce good leaves (and by extension, good colour). Still, many of the plants I saw were of a good size, so I thought there was a chance of some blue appearing …

I also noticed at the same time that it was beginning to snow. Once the woad leaves freeze, the indigo inside them is lost, so I quickly got to work. Together with my children, we froze our hands harvesting the plants and filling two large baskets with leaves. Afterwards, while washing these leaves, I noticed that there was layers of ice between many of them and I worried that perhaps I was too late … With a large bucket full of woad leaves, we added our hot water and allowed it to steep into an infusion. While my son, Michael, stirred the mix, the surface bubbles began looking a little blue—something new in my experience at this early stage! And, after creating our regent and aerating it, the surface exploded into a beautiful blue froth. Filtering the regent took some time, but when it was all done the results looked really good.

While all this was going on (and on that same afternoon) Riener and Maggie dropped by with some additional rocks samples. They shared some old favourites, such as green glauconite from Lowbank, but also came with some arsenopyrite from Deloro in Ontario, which is a mineral I’ve been interested in pigmenting into black for some time. Receiving such rocks is my favourite kind of present, and talking with my friends was even better—I truly cherish their continued enthusiasm and support of my local colour projects.

My table is full of potential colours … I guess it’s time to get to work!

2 thoughts on “New colourful places”

  1. Wow this is so exciting, I have been working a bit with walnut oil and pigments, but need to grind a little more. Hopefully locate a muller.


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