Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Paints from Local Clay Pigments

These drawings are of little clay pigment pots that I made to keep watercolors that I've made from local clay pigments in.  They're small, around an inch in diameter, bisque fired, unglazed.  I put a paint swatch near each pot.  These are just a few of the many, many paints I've made.  At the top left is a dark purplish brown, a caput mortuum, that my friend Sandy and I gathered from the banks of a lake near a dam near her house.  Below the caput is a bright orange from the same location.  As is often the case, stripes of different colors lie adjacent to each other in the exposed bank of the lake when the water level is down.  We needed teaspoons to gather the clay in order to keep the colors pure.

At the top middle is a color that my grandson Jacob and I gathered and processed several years ago.  Some friends (F & J) were building a house, and we found four distinct colors on their lot while they were digging the foundation.  The brown orange and the beautiful light egg yellow at the bottom left were two of the colors.

At the top right is a clear yellow that Sandy and I found in the middle of a switchback on her road early one morning.  We named it Switchback Morning Sun in honor of the sunny morning when we found it.  The bright red-orange on the right, under Morning Sun, is one Jacob and I found in a building site along one of the main streets in Asheville.  It has remained one of our favorite colors, and we can't get any more because a bank now sits over the site where we found it.  We named it Merrimon Avenue Tomato Ochre.

On the bottom row, to the right of egg yellow, is a pinky mauve that my granddaughter Maya and I found up on Jones Mountain at sunset one day.  We named it Jones Mountain Sunset Mauve.  It has a nice pearlescence, thanks to the mica that abounds in that area.  And to the right of Sunset Mauve is a rare green from some olivine rock that Jacob and I found on the campus of UNC Asheville near the botanical gardens.  We had to break up the soft rocks with a hammer before grinding it in a mortar and pestle.

A great source for information about every aspect of clay paints is Sandy Webster's book Earthen Pigments (Schiffer Books, 2012).

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