For the last few weeks I have been collecting pigment from the earth of Downland woodland.  This comes in various guises – from clay bases to sand, to pebbles to sodden mud.  However all of these earths are beginning to produce a beautiful range of earth shades from light yellow ochre (clay base) to dark red sienna (sand based).  Nearly all of these have dried to form sample amounts of ink, and my next mission is to heat some of them to create the burnt range of earth pigments.  For instance, Burnt Sienna is purely derived from carefully burning standard Sienna pigment.

When I was about 14 I remember visiting Rousillon, in the South of France, which is famed for its ochre mines.  The mines, now out of mainstream action but still open to visitors, consist of mountainous dunes of soft undulating ochres ranging from pinks to yellows to deep reds.  I, probably illegally, went round and collected small bags of various shades of earth to take home to process into pigment, in that instance, for watercolour paint.  I still vividly remember the instruction that were in the tourist shop on how to correctly process the earth into ultra fine pigment that requires little grinding.  It is this method that I have been using, very successfully, to collect the pigment from the woodland earths.

It is also the start of the major fungi season and on a friends advice who makes natural dyes, I am on the hunt for various types of fungi that can be converted into pigment.  Apparently a rather noxious and smelly affair, but if it works…