I am besotted with Helichrysum stoechas, commonly called straw flower. My first attempts at extracting color from this humble, ubiquitous flower was in May, when the plant was just beginning
to burst forth. The near neon vibrancy of the flower's color gave me the impression I would realize a color more akin to a lemon yellow. What I pulled from the bath was a hue so complex and deeply saturated, that I immediately dubbed it Priorat Gold.
Since the early showings, I have been creating a tea with this flower throughout it's many phases. When I left for two weeks in early June, to attend to my sarasutton event at Lincoln Center, I was sure that was the end of the Helichrysum harvest. By the third week of June, the bright yellow crop had been replaced by the grayed caps of a fading flower. Out of respect, I decided to see this humble plant through to the end of its phases. The now straw like flower was easy to pick, and with a few swipes of my hand, the bucket was full.
I have been experimenting with making my "teas" in a big black bucket, as the 5L glass jars, though aesthetically pleasing, don't have the yield I need. The black of the bucket has proved to be an equally good conductor for the heat I want from the sun. It's hard to believe that from such a soup can come glorious color!
Next step, the straining. When I first began experimenting, I was leaving the plant in the tea. Though I really love the mottled effect you can get from the fabric coming in to contact with the solids, it is very difficult to control, and there are often areas that may be too dark or blotchy. So I've begun straining. The refuse then heads back from whence it came, the earth. From bloom to compost, full cycle.
And where better to decant in to but an empty jug of wine from the La Figuera cooperative, another way of recycling!
So , I sing the praises of the humble straw flower, whose tenacity throughout the one month of the year it graces us with it's bloom, relentlessly continues to turn straw in Priorat Gold!
On the summer solstice 2012, I embark on a new adventure. I have spent the last four years preparing for the moment I could make a permanent move to my beloved La Figuera, in the Montsant region of Spain's Tarragona province. The abandoned olive farm we purchased, named C'an Do, is well in to renovations, the olive trees producing once again, the little stone cottage close to habitation. The dream is being realized.
Part of any dream is the day to day sustaining of it. Dreams are free. Making dreams a reality comes at a price. As an artist, I am always seeking new ways to manage my life, employing the tools of my trade. For the past five years I have been developing a line of one-of-a-kind wearables, under the label sarasutton. The explorations and adventures I've had in creating this label have been extraordinary: meeting fantastic people who have championed my work, searching for new ideas and materials in my travels, keeping the creative brainwaves flowing. And I believe that due to this engagement, this constant search for new possibility, I was receptive to the bounty the Priorat countryside has to offer. From first meeting remarkable friends, like Cristina and Waldo, who own the fabulous Cal Llop hotel in Gratallops , and having the unique pleasure of of learning about the art of wine making from adventurous souls like Fredi Torres, of Saó del Coster, it has been an adventure. Finding a landing spot while renovating our stone house, living in the amazing, tiny village of La Figuera, we happened upon L'Ermita, and have been nesting in the first floor apartment. A genius move really, because it has allowed us to become part of our village, meet great friends, like our neighbors Montse and Jaume of Ficaria Vins. Truly a remarkable experience. Becoming part of any community is the first step to making change fruitful. Because I am so very comfortable here, thanks in great part to the fore mentioned friends, my eyes and, more importantly, my heart is open. The wheels are turning.
And so, walking through the countryside upon my permanent arrival May 2012, I saw clearly the bounty. Spring was in profusion, the countryside side awash with wild red poppies, the green of the grapevine shimmering in the sun, the bright yellow caps of the Helichrysum stoechas. In a flash I felt the need to harvest what I saw, and began making infusions, teas if you will, by placing the flora in 5L glass jars purchased at the Spanish equivalent of The Dollar Store, the Asia Bazaar. (Love those stores!). And what came out of the baths in those first experiments left me speechless. In a frenzy I started experimenting with everything I could find on walks through the countryside. That led to keeping a journal of my discoveries. From there I began forming garments, which led me to this moment, establishing a brand that could tell the story, Colores del Priorat. So stay tuned for daily updates as I continue to explore what each month offers. Already in sight: the almonds and figs in August. Preliminary results are proving exciting!