It's been a busy, busy summer. A houseful of friends and family, the pizza oven in full swing, the garden bursting at the seams, lazy beach days. It felt as if I had dropped the ball on getting work done for my upcoming exhibit at 2Origens. Yet here we are, end of summer, and seven new pieces have appeared on my easel. This work is bigger, bolder, and more involved than previous explorations. Working on canvas, they are a collage of textiles dyed with grape skins, painted over with pigments made from clay, ground slate, and charcoal, embellished with a splash of oil to complete the story. I view these as maps, of each cellar, their wine, the winding Priorat journey. Included in the series are: Clos Figueras, Alfredo Arribas, Bodegas Mas Alta, Fredi Torres & Antoine Touton, Meritxell Palleja, Mas Doix, and Ficaria Vins.
Ha sido un verano muy divertido. Una casa llena de amigos y familia, el horno de pizza en marcha, el huerto a punto de reventar, tranquilos días de playa. Se sentía como si hubiera dejado caer la pelota en realizar el trabajo para mi próxima exposición en 2Origens. Sin embargo, aquí estamos, al final del verano, y siete nuevas piezas han aparecido en mi caballete. Este trabajo es más grande, más audaz y más complicado que las exploraciones anteriores. Trabajando sobre lienzo, que son un collage de textiles teñidos con pieles de la uva, pintado con pigmentos a base de arcilla, pizarra suelo, y el carbón vegetal, adornado con un chorro de pintura oli para completar la historia. Veo esto como mapas, de cada bodega, el vino, el devanado viaje Priorat. Incluido en la serie son: Clos Figueras, Alfredo Arribas, Bodegas Mas Alta, Fredi Torres y Antoine Touton, Meritxell Palleja, Mas Doix, y Ficaria Vins.
Color Map of the Priorat/ Mapa de Colors del Priorat
The languid month of August has come and gone, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of my favorite time of year in the Priorat, the vendimia, the grape harvest. September is a month of tractors rolling along the mountain roads, loaded down with both almonds and the first grapes. If all goes well, it is a month of bounty, when the year long hard work of tending to the grapes pays off with crate loads of lush fruit.
This year Mother Nature was good to most of us. There were a few unfortunate vineyards that suffered dearly from a freak hailstorm in June, but this the game you play living in a micro climate zone. We have yet to plant vines on C'an Do, that will begin in spring 2015, but the almond trees we have been lovingly reviving were bursting with almonds. Kilos and kilos of almonds have occupied us for weeks, the clack clack clack of cane against almond trees resonating in the morning air. We have a bumper crop this year, enough to sell, and husks aplenty for color experiments.
The husks this year have a peachy rose tone, promising interesting color. After removing, I follow the standard routine of creating an infusion, husks placed in a glass jar and left in the sun to heat up. It is still quite hot in September, no further steps are needed to heat the water. Then it is a matter of a day or two, sometimes three, allowing the color to manifest in the bath, before experimenting with fabric soaks.I also make a bath with the hard shell. The colors are similar, but I am interested in extracting subtle distinctions.
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Also on the dyeing menu for the week are a variety of fruits and flowers that show themselves this month: figs, both fresh and dried, wild rose hips, quince, and wild hops growing along the river bank. The figs I am experimenting with are both green and purple, the quince not yet ripe but a splendid crisp yellow, the rose hips a deep red orange, and the hops a fresh green. These are some of the varieties growing in and among the vines that help add to what makes each vineyard so unique.
Without a doubt, however, the central character in this months adventures is the grape. I am collecting skins from a variety of grapes, and working with various winemakers to catalog colors particular to their vineyards. This week saw the harvesting of the white grape, and the beginning of merlot and syrah. I have begun baths for the macabeu grape from the Monstant of Antoine Touton & Fredi Torres, harvested in El Molar, the white garnacha, and red syrah and merlot from Bodegas Mas Alta, and the white garnacha from Ficaria Vins. The baths are prepared the same day the skins become available, and will sit for a minimum of one to two days.
Stay tuned throughout the month as the vendimia gets going full steam to include the cariñera and red garnacha grapes, as well as the results from the variety of items I am experimenting with. I will be comparing colors from the same grape variety taken from different vineyards. Should be a fun, wild month!
It has been a long, hard winter. Unexpected events stopped me dead in my tracks; birth, death, unfinished business, loose ends. In early August I returned to the US for what I believed to be a month, with every intention of returning to the Priorat by the grape harvest. Unexpected events kept me there until December, four long months of being away from home. Needless to say, it took some doing to stabilize. And in attempts to pick up the thread of this project, I stumbled on an idea that took re-energized me.
The olive harvest had begun as early as the end of October, so I felt sure we had missed any opportunity not only for oil but for color experiments as well. Quite the contrary. Our first weekend back we scrambled to pick the necessary 300 kilos the mill requires in order to press your own oil. We came in at 280 kilos, and were able to get 47 liters of our own C'an Do organic unfiltered oil, a real treat. And we left olives on the trees. These became the test ground for jumping back in to the Colores del Priorat project.
I gathered olives not only from the trees but those that had fallen to the ground. Their plumb black flesh promised a color of some sort. We have a variety of olives, mostly aberquina, DOP Siurana. But scattered in amongst those trees are a few that produce a large olive. And it was these that intrigued me.
I was sure the oily deep purple flesh would yield a beautiful color.Using a variety of silks, bathed in an alum bath overnight, I filled a glass jar with boiling water and crushed olives, and placed the silks to soak for 24 hours. Depending on the olive variety, I extracted a variety of colors, from a deep coral to a rich rose.
Now, to add a bit of spice in to the mix, I had read about a Vietnamese natural dye technique that piqued my interest, an ash after bath. Every morning I clean out our fireplace, dumping the nights ashes in the compost bin. However, I decided to put the ashes in a bucket of water, and experiment with this idea, using my olive soaked silks.
The roses and purples of the olive bath turned instantly green in the ash bath! It was not what I expected, but the alchemical magic was breathtaking. Within fifteen minutes I had an array of subtle colors, all derived from the olive.
With the ash after bath I have found a host of greys that are rich in their subtlety. Like glorious complimentary greys, when partnered with their original hue, I am building a library of tones and shades only nature can create.
Stay tuned as I begin the new year delving further in to the rich subtleties of natures color. It is January, but there is a trove to be had. I am gathering colors to present at the 2014 Tast Amb Llops, a celebration of Priorat wines. The rosemary is in bloom in January, the birds are arriving for mating season, and nature never fails us with her treasures.