I have had an extended period of time off to gather my thoughts and to confirm my plans for summer research, dissertation planning and for third year making. An exploring of Cornwall during my time away from making work has confirmed my desire to travel to various places located on the Cornish coast for my practice.
However, I have been feeling agitated about the fact that I haven't made anything tactile in a long time, despite the theory and the learning that is going on behind-the-scenes. To try out one of the new techniques I have been reading up on, I purchased a heavy duty copper hammer and a large pestle and mortar to set about making my own pigment from rocks that I collected from Durgan beach a few weeks ago.
To make the rock powder pigments, I crushed the rocks down to pieces less than 1cm in diameter and transferred these micro-pieces of rock to the pestle and mortar. The crushing and grinding process took around 15 minutes from start to finish, using crushing motions with the pestle to break down the shards and then grinding the smallest pieces against the side of the mortar to crush them to a fine powder. The powder is then sieved, to get rid of any large pieces left in the powdered pigment.
The scope for these pigments is so much greater than that of natural dye. Of course, I will still continue to naturally dye fabrics, threads and yarns, but with these rock powder pigments I can go on to make watercolour by adding water, printing inks by adding oil or rice paste and paint pigment by adding water mixed with gum arabic.
As I have mentioned, I plan to use these rock powder pigments in a myriad of ways. Firstly, I would like to make a simple documentary series showing the transformation from rock to rock power pigment through smashing, crushing, grinding, sieving and mixing with gum arabic. I will be recording the final paint pigment onto homemade paper, made myself with recycled offcuts and odd materials found in the studio. Each colour swatch made would be numbered Durgan 1/50, Durgan 2/50 and so on.
I will then go on to make a series of mono prints using the pigment as printing ink. To make this I will mix the pigments with rice paste, water and a little alcohol such as vodka or gin to make the ink more archival and durable. These mono prints would echo the textures and motifs found in the original landscape through my photographic documentation on field-work trips, through raw and organic colours sourced directly from the site itself. There's something lyrical about the cyclic nature of this kind of working and making; contemplating the visuals and poetry of place and the hidden colours uncovered there.
More exciting news from the last couple of weeks is the announcement of my residency at Stiwdio Maelor in North Wales this coming November. I had originally planned to use a portion of the ACS prize I was granted to embark on a self-initiated residency to somewhere in Cornwall, for a week or so. However, after looking into UK based residencies, I found a little gem of a place called Stiwdio Maelor in Corris, North Wales.
I applied, not thinking much of it, but I was lucky enough to be granted a space there in November. I will be staying for a week - I wish I could stay for longer but dissertation deadlines do not allow... - living and working in the small village, secluded and away from the hustle of university life or London, at the the edge of the Snowdonia National Park.
On my micro-residency, I will make a series of works mapping daily field-trips around the area of Corris, exploring the fascinating topography of the landscape. The area in and around Corris is perfect for making a diverse range of natural colours to use back in the studio due to it being an old slate mining village.
My studio is in the attic of the Maelor building, giving me a vast space in which to really pursue the art of natural colour; using earth, slate, rocks, minerals and other materials to make organic, raw and historically enriched hues from the area through the process of crushing, grinding, sieving and mixing.
Having this residency ahead of my degree show and final year is so valuable - I can't wait to immerse myself in the hours of solo travel, intensive making and the deep exploration of a new, foreign place.